the things that can drag you back

As you may know, Amy Winehouse died on Saturday, and, though it hasn't been confirmed by toxicology yet, the public assumption is that she died from a drug overdose.  Her use of drugs was widely publicized and when her death was reported, several offhand comments popped up on my facebook news feed.  One person in particular, someone close and dear to me, posted a particularly dismissive comment about how unsurprising her death was.

Whenever a celebrity dies of a drug overdose, which has happened a few times since Greg died, there are inevitably these types of comments in the media and in general conversation.  I am in the habit of blocking out these discussions, as it brings forward some difficult feelings for me.  I know that these people used drugs of their own accord; in a way, they "brought it upon themselves," as is often said.  I also know that addiction and its struggles, in reality, are far more complicated than that.  These addicts - these people - they have families.  They have friends.  They have lives and issues and struggles and joys and sorrows.

Even if they are celebrities, this is true.  Even if the media has shown only one side of them.  Even if it's so easy to dismiss them as worthless addicts you've never met and won't think twice about. 

I force myself to block out these comments, because I am hyper-sensitive to this issue.  If I let it in, every single offhand comment about drugs, addicts and overdoses makes me question how people view my family.  My brother died of an overdose because he made some bad decisions, and because of addiction.  I am in no way denying that.  But that is just a small part of his story.  That is what happened to him, but that is not his story.  That is not his legacy.  That is only a small part of him. 

Amy Winehouse's family, right now, has to deal with the media (not just news, but blogs, magazines, social networks, tabloids, and countless other outlets) making assumptions about their daughter, their sister, their cousin, their friend.

I dealt with, and still deal with, enormous internal struggles regarding how to present my brother's memory.  I am not trying to make him a saint, because heaven knows he wasn't.  I am not trying to hide the fact that he died of a heroin overdose, because he did.  That's what happened.  I just don't want people to forget the rest of his story; I don't want the rest of it to be overshadowed by the way he died. 

When that facebook post popped up the other day, I closed facebook and ignored it.  But it ate away at me, dragging up all those fears that people just think of my brother as a druggie, and no wonder he died, oh well, tough break, life goes on.  It made me remember hearing through the grapevine that many high school classmates of mine - people I never called friends - were gossiping about Greg and digging for juicy details about his death.  It made me realize how incredibly painful that was, and on such a small scale.  Imagine being under that kind of offhand scrutiny in front of the general public?

I went back into facebook and told this person how I felt.  This person responded, we talked about it, and it ended with an apology and the post being taken down.  I explained that I know I am hyper-sensitive to the issue, and I wasn't trying to censor.  I just wanted another perspective included.  But as I said, this person is dear to me, and understood where I was coming from.

I've been secretly bothered by these types of comments from many different sources since Greg died - some related to him directly, but most of them not.  I don't know what made me confront it this time, but I'm glad I did.  It dragged out a lot of residual pain, hurt and fear but it was worth it.  It was therapeutic, in a way.  And I sincerely thank the facebook friend in question for listening to me and understanding. 


Jennifer said...

Amy,your an amazing and brave person. Thank you for sharing this and opening up people's eyes to the other side of addiction, those left behind. Love you!

Elena said...

I hope you know that people do not regard Greg or his death that dismissively -- at least not those who knew him even a little. Yes, he died of an overdose, but you're right in saying that it was such a small portion of who he was and what his memory is all about. I totally understand your view, and you're right to feel offended, but I want to try to provide some reassurance if at all possible.

In a way, his death really taught me that addiction is a struggle that ropes in even the best of people. I know he worked hard to overcome it, and I do not look at him as having "failed" at this task. He just made a tragic mistake is all. We all make mistakes. It's beyond horrible (and a huge loss to everyone in his life) that one of his had to end in death, but it sure doesn't make him a worse person, or "deserving" of what happened.

And I also hope you know that his death is not the way in which I remember him. I remember him as my childhood playmate and friend, and I wish I'd spent more time with him in adulthood.

And, having gone to the same high school, I've never heard a bad word said about him. This could be because most people know we were related, but still. Not a word. People loved him. Anyone who attempts to gossip about him would lose my respect instantly. He deserves better.

I hope I didn't say anything out of turn. And I hope you feel better soon and that the media find something else to talk about.

maresi said...

I'm sorry I'm just now commenting on this. But I agree with every single word Elena wrote. hugs, cuz.

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