Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We Only Said Goodbye With Words

The coroner's report for Amy Winehouse just publicly released the verdict that Amy Winehouse did in fact die from alcohol poisoning.  I was driving through Massachusetts for a week-long poetry workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown when I heard the news that one of my favorite artists, perhaps of all time, was dead. Was I shocked? No. Nobody was. But this hurt more than the news of Kurt Cobain's suicide when I was a crushed 13 year-old, converse wearing "grunge" fan. It hurt more because I now have 17 more years of experiencing the often adventurous and flip-side devastating effects of alcoholism and drug addiction. I have now experienced friendships and relationships with people stuck on that same unmarked road. I even held the wheel for some of them. I have joked along with someone who talked of their fond of drink in self-deprecating ways.  I have been pushed up against a wall by a friend with glazed over whiskey eyes who then body slammed another friend into my glass coffee table and I have also comforted that same friend through his humiliating, profuse apologies to me the next day.  I have seen my mother get sober and then relapse and then get sober and then relapse again and then get sober, yet again, but the more important thing is that I stopped keeping track where she was in her sobriety. I've stopped keeping track of everyone's sobriety and am now just focused on myself. As for Winehouse, we all knew where she was headed but for her I held out a flicker of hope. She was just too talented, too passionate about music to let this addiction steal it from her, I thought. She had light inside her and I wanted it to conquer the dark. In May, I threw my hands up in the air with victory when I heard she had checked herself into rehab. I thought, Yesssss! Just in time. But when news of her death came to me, I felt my heart sink. Not this one, I thought. And then the media grouped her in the 27Club - artists including Brian Jones, Cobain, Jim Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix, all dead by 27, often with autopsy reports that read, "overdose," "suicide," or the most haunting "death by misadventure." Shouldn't there be another name for this group? There were rumors, started by Winehouse's dad that the singer had died from alcohol withdrawal by trying to quit cold turkey. I even relayed that news to a friend just last week, as if the tragedy were somehow mollified by the idea she was trying to get well. But hearing the news today that it was indeed alcohol poisoning was not shocking, but perhaps just a little bit more heartbreaking. I do not intend to keep writing about alcoholism, I promise! But, I had to at least post something on an artist who helped me get through my first really severe breakup, through the loss of a dear friend (See #99), and who inspired me to pick up the pieces with my writing life and get back to it. Amy, if only there were the right kind of words...

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