Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

I recently watched seasons 1-5 of “Weeds” on Netflix streaming.  SPOILER ALERT: When U-Turn dies and Nancy gets a U-Turn sign tattooed on her ass, I was inspired.  I actually considered doing the same.  It just seemed like a funny message, and a clever/convenient double entendre.  Similarly, I’ve always been moved and energized by the (now classic) “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake.  You knowHere I go again on my own! Going down the only road I’ve ever known! Like a drifter, I was born to walk alone… You get the point, there’s a lot to be said for travel euphemisms?  I don’t know. I figured I should start my first post in a while with something nonchalant and silly.  But the truth is, I’m writing tonight because of a realization I had today.  I figured, at this point, if I have an audience, I don’t know who they are, and I’m a lot less concerned about that. I don’t have an agenda, besides telling my story.  For a moment there, I got so caught up in delivering a hopeful message, and doing it a certain way, that I lost myself, and stopped writing.

This morning, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead.  The rumor is that an overdose is what finally did her in, at the ripe ol’ age of 27.  It startled me for a second when I realized she was 27, and then saw her birth year.  I’m 27.  I too, was born in 1983.  We all know the rock star references that are made here… Jimi, Janis, Jim, Kurt, etc.  I’m no rock star, but I’ve been calling myself one for about a year now.  I grew a little worried after proclaiming such a title and then realizing my age.  My blog before this one was called “Musings of a Self-Proclaimed Rock Star.”  It was amusing, but also cathartic, and often raw.  I’ve decided to make it public again and you can find it.  Even since closing the blog, I’ve been tweeting under the name @RockStarMusisings.  Yes, I’m coming out.  I’ve come to realize you either hide nothing, or you hide it all.  Hiding shit is far too much work, and I’m far too lazy to work that hard to keep other people comfortable.

Amy’s death jolted me into this moment in a way nothing else has.  I read the parts of Russell Brand’s blog post on her, that were shared on msnbc.com, and I realized that Winehouse and I have a lot in common.  As for addictions, mine have come and gone, and the only one that has ever REALLY threatened my life, is food.  Mainly because cocaine is expensive; alcohol can be miserable; and sex become tedious.  Man!  Whew!  I had forgotten how refreshing honesty can be.

All that aside, I felt like Brand was really making an appeal to non-addicts to realize that addiction is a serious illness that kills people, and otherwise saying little about Winehouse besides the fact that she was distant, and a genius that we only saw at a glimpse.  Now, I know you’re wondering where I am in that description, but I’ll elaborate.  I don’t think I am a genius, but even now, it breaks my heart to realize that I, much like Winehouse, have  held the world at such a distance that if I died, the world wouldn’t realize what it had lost.  I agree with Brand.  I think Amy Winehouse was incredible, and the media reveled in her slow demise, and mostly missed the light that she brought to the world.  And this is our world.  It is shitty.  But what hurts me about what we have lost with the death of Amy Winehouse, is that we have no idea.  That sultry voice, that deeply rich, dark soul.  She had such a wealth within her, and we will never get to know it.  We can joke all we want.  When I first heard of her death, I blah blah blahed about who was next, Lindsay or Charlie.  But Amy wasn’t just another troubled soul, and musical genius aside, she was a human being.

I’ve heard through social networking that Amy’s mom commented about making mental preparations for this day, knowing it would (or thinking it might) come.  This takes me back to the days after my suicide attempt, when my mother was staying with me.  During a heated argument one day, she admitted that it is hard to move forward, and stay involved, because on some level she knew I would do it again, and I might just be successful next time.  She voiced to me that her distance was an attempt to keep herself safe, and to cope with that remaining chance that I won’t survive.  As inexcusable as that may be to many of you out there, who have no idea, I understand it.  Amy probably understood that.  As much as she probably wanted to be sober, and not let herself and her loved ones down over and over again, she probably understood their distance.  She probably knew that they had to keep themselves safe.

Tonight I was reflecting on addiction and I realized that it is a thin line between giving up on, sticking by, and enabling an addict.  You have to love them unconditionally, but you have to set boundaries.  You have to draw a line, but you have to let them know that you always want what’s best.  I know that a lot of times, to an addict it looks like loved ones are walking away, when in reality, they’re doing all that they can to save the addict’s life, and maintain their own sanity/safety.

I was truly blessed to have dodged hard addictions, but as I type this, I’m sitting in a chair in the corner of my room, next to a stain on my wall.  The stain is from my last suicide attempt, and the vomit left behind.  My walls are a pale purple, but around the stain, you can see an aura of pale blue, where friends came and tried to wipe away the evidence before I got out of the hospital.

I get that Amy Winehouse was one of those whose death was “bound to happen,” out of all of us… I get that.  But I also agree with Russell Brand: She didn’t have to be.  I know there is a misunderstanding about artists.  Most people think that your best work is done while you’re in the pits of despair, but one can only survive down there so long.  I get that you can’t enable, but I wonder who was fighting for her.  From where I’m sitting, there were jokes about her condition, just as there continue to be, but little else.  Of course, I don’t know about her personal life, but usually the people who are consistently surrounding an addict, are also addicts.  Generally speaking, addicts, when battling head-to-head with their condition, have one priority, the drug.  All others are simply extras in the movie reel of their lives, just background music.  Life isn’t lived as a series of moments, goals, accomplishments… life is composed of getting high, and the plans that you devise between highs to achieve the next high.  Funny how something so simple can completely consume you.

So, I’m not a musical genius.  So, I’m not in the public eye.  So, I’m not wealthy or producing records that are going platinum, or performing in front of thousands.  So, I’m not hooked on heroin.  So, I’m not caught by the paparazzi, wandering the streets at night, disheveled and distraught.  Do I need to be?  Frankly, I feel that this world knows more of me than it did of her, despite her fame and notoriety.  She was a ghost to us, and now the presence that we felt subtly, though oft ignored, is gone.  Will we realize the void, no matter how quiet, that remains in her absence?  Perhaps, not.  But this little earthquake that has left me thinking, and sometimes speaking out loud, to myself and those around me, “I can’t believe Amy Winehouse is dead,” perhaps there is something to be said for that.  I believe it is possible for our souls to ache for something that we don’t even realize that we’ve lost.  When someone accomplishes so far below their potential, we all lose something very great, especially in the way of art, which can inspire us so deeply and undoubtedly change the world.

I am 27.  For so long, but especially so over the past few months, I have held the world at a distance.  I am uncertain of why.  I suppose it is mostly out of fear.  There is always the fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.  As a survivor of sexual violence, there is also a fear of being revicitimized.  We fear trying, but not reaching our potential.  And to the contrary, there is a fear of reaching your potential and being disappointed.  I’ve feared losing people, only to push them away in the end anyway.  There is a fear of living, and all that “living” entails.  The rush of love, and the pain of loss; two things that, as hard as we try to force them apart, are always packaged together.  And there is a lot of pain, and certainly plenty of loss to be experienced out there.  People leave because they want to, or leave because time rips them away from us.  There are stubbed toes, broken bones, burns, cuts, and bruises.  There’s rejection, and dismay.  There’s fear.  Oh!  The crippling fear.  It all comes full circle.

I realize now that there are people out there, who are so gifted, constantly stuffing down their potential, for whatever reason.  I imagine Amy had something inside of her that haunted her.  It could’ve been huge, or just a twinge of pain that she couldn’t stand to feel.  She wanted to shut it up, numb it out, or kill it.  And eventually she succeeded, but for that, what did she lose?  And on a universal level, what have we lost?  Another little bit of hope that could’ve inspired the next step in improving this damned world?  Perhaps it was her voice on a tattered CD out there, that was playing on repeat for the kid who would grow up to do something great for this world, simply because her voice kept her/him going.  What voice will that kid hear now?  Or maybe Winehouse’s voice was the last of its kind, an endangered soulful echo that has now become extinct; and because of our blatant  lack of appreciation, the voices of generations to come will resemble that of Ke$ha or Rebecca Black. Dear God, the horror.

I understand that there are parts of my spirit that ache, but I’m willing to withstand it for the sake of something good.  If I have anything to offer, no matter how great or small, I do not feel it is my right to destroy any remnants of hope this world may have.  For all the fear, for all the pain, I have to believe that there is purpose.

Do I believe that there’s a reason that I (or any other troubled talents out there) am alive and she isn’t?  Well, besides the fact that heroin is like playing russian roulette with a nearly fully loaded gun, no.  Eating yourself to death takes more time.  I attribute my failure to stick with addictions to a short attention span, an empty wallet, the fact that I’m easily bored, and a fear of commitment.  In the grand scheme of things though, she and I have both toyed with our mortality, and any way you look at it, the game can only end one way.  When the game is over, one fact becomes blazingly obvious, there was a human being who is now gone.  On top of that, she was a human being who held a wealth of talent, the depth of which we can never know.  I think that’s what frightens me the most.  If I have more to offer, as I believe I do, it is scary to think that being entangled in fear and doubt could stifle that gift.  I too, could die without having shared of myself, or utilized my opportunity to contribute goodness to this desperate world.

We all have the potential to offer beauty to this world; in the end the big question is whether we will fight it or let it flourish.  I’d like to think that this realization is a bit of something good coming from tragedy, but I suppose only time will tell.  It is nice to believe that every screeching halt in one life’s potential, can cause a u-turn in another.  If someone was headed towards an early end, another sudden silencing of greatness, maybe Amy can be a reminder that there are other options, and so much more to see along life’s detours.

My deepest prayer for you, Ms. Winehouse, is that somewhere out there, you’ve been blessed with a peace that you never managed to discover on earth.  And if you’re down, I’m hoping that even on your cloud, you’ll still step up to the mic from time to time.

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“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~Marianne Williamson

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One thought on “Back to Black: One’s Rock Bottom Can Be Another’s U-Turn

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