So of course, on hearing of this terrible news about people I don’t know, I made it all about me.
They both used cocaine; they both died of heart issues; they both died before their time. Could that also happen to me?
I used a lot of cocaine in my 20’s. And because cocaine, like all illegal drugs, is unregulated I have no idea what I was putting in my body. Of course the thought horrifies me now. But back in the day when I was young, foolish and addicted I really didn’t care. I knew cocaine was cut with some bad s**t and I knew it could cause heart problems, but I couldn’t equate that information to my own need to use it on a nightly basis.
When I heard about George Michael’s death a chill ran through me. I am now of the age, that 53 really doesn’t seem all that old and certainly seems too young to die. My first thought (‘cause it’s always, all about me) was, ‘what if that happened to me too? What if my heart gives up in a decade or so. What if I hardened my arteries and I don’t know it and I’m living with a time bomb? What if I haven’t really escaped the consequences of addiction?’
Am I being irrational?
The irony now, of course, is that I really, really want to live. Even though I was often suicidal in my early 20’s I didn’t really want to die, I just never knew how to live and now I’ve figured that out, I’m scared the consequences of my drug use may still, one day, creep up on me. Those were my first thoughts whenever a celebrity, who had a history of addiction, died this year. Addiction casts a long shadow.
Carrie Fisher and George Michael were both artists who produced incredible work despite their addictions. They still had so much life to live. There is a view on the internet that 2016 is killing all our childhood icons before their time, that for some reason 2016 is out to get us. This may be some kind of defense mechanism so we can avoid talking about the real issues, let’s blame it on 2016 being a bad year rather than talking about how addiction and mental health problems have real and preventable consequences. I would prefer us to be talking about how we still need more, much, much more resources to help those who are still struggling. That mental health and addiction services are still underfunded and *sigh* addiction is still seen as some kind of moral failing rather than a brain disease. Because so many of these deaths are unnecessary and trust me when I say, we’re not done yet.