I began writing this after I heard of the untimely and unnecessary death on August 11 of former Warrant member and one of the pioneers of the ’80s Big Hair Days (of which I was a high-ranking member) Jani Lane. (At time of publishing, cause of death had not been determined, but it is a known fact that he struggled with addiction.) One of my friends in high school was his first wife, but that’s not what this post is about. This is my venting of the public’s callous reaction to the untimely deaths of people (celebrities and regular folk like ourselves) due to drug addiction. The icing on the cake for me was a couple of recent posts on Facebook saying (and I’m paraphrasing) that it’s been three weeks that Amy Winehouse has been sober; we need to congratulate her or give her a chip (or some such nonsense) or the post I read about how Pfizer was going to have to declare bankruptcy after her death. I actually just read a Twitter post asking the over/under on “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away” jokes today. Okay. I have monstrous issues with this. That shit is not humorous in any way! I did not reply to these posts or tweets because I will not get drawn into drama. This blog is my outlet for my opinions, not Facebook, and people can post whatever the hell they want on Facebook even if it is heartless and ignorant.
I have been in love with an addict, so I know of what I speak. (The title of this post is a song that he said expressed exactly how he felt.) I know the feeling of the dreaded phone call any day informing me of his death. I know the lies. I know the manipulation. I know my own self-compromising. I know my anger, frustration and exhaustion. I also know the optimism about their newly found sobriety (oh, the endless, possible things we can do NOW that he’s sober) only to have that hope extinguished within a ridiculously short period of time of them being in the real world outside the confines of rehab.
What I want people to realize is that the death of a person resulting from drug addiction deserves the same respect you would give a person who dies at a ripe old age of natural causes. It is still a loss. Yes, the addict’s death is senseless and could have been prevented if only the addict would’ve gotten sober. Ask any addict and they will tell you that is so much easier said than done. If sobriety were that easy, there would be no addicts in the world and the rehab business would cease to exist because no one wants to be an addict. No one wants to be a slave to a substance that renders them homeless, friendless and with a family that doesn’t even acknowledge them any longer. It is their choice to continue doing the drugs knowing full well that they will probably die because of them. Yes, it’s a bad choice. They know this. It seems like a fucking insane way to live to people like me who, fortunately, are not addicted to anything more harmful that those damn Magnum ice cream bars. I’m not justifying the addiction. At one point, I took the “live by the sword, die by the sword” attitude. I felt that if they wanted to do these drugs and die as a result, then they got what they deserved. I looked on them with pious pity and antipathy. This was before I understood just how overwhelmingly difficult it is to attain continued sobriety on a day-by-day basis. Do not get me wrong — I most assuredly do not feel sorry for the addict and am not defending the heinous behavior. Every addict has the ability to make the right choice at that critical moment. It’s all on them.
My point is that the death of an addict is nonetheless a death of a human being whom someone has loved, invested their own fragile emotions in hoping that they will turn over that leaf to begin their new life, and probably has been through the nine circles of hell with them fighting that battle only to realize one sad day that no one can win except the addict himself. They’ve given their time attending countless rehab “family days” and Al-Anon meetings attempting to understand the disease. They’ve had to practice detachment from the addict which is a titanic test of will and self-control when you truly love them. They’ve had to learn to not enable the addict which is “tough love” that makes your heart hurt knowing that you must say no when all you want to say is yes. They’ve felt so helpless in their inability to have any effect on the situation to the point that they even lose hope for themselves in their own life. It’s disappointingly heartbreaking for this person because they know that besides the demon living in that person, there is also an intelligent, hilarious, and worthy person who can love himself again as much and more than they love him.
Is an addict’s death worth less compassion than a smoker’s death of lung cancer? No one would dream of saying that Marlboro was going to have to close their doors because of the death of Joe Smoker. Both of these habits have consequences. All of our actions have consequences. Our lack of compassion has consequences. But then, thankfully, so does our compassion. More compassion please, dear world; less hate.