When someone dies due to substance abuse, many are quick to point fingers at whomever they regard as the culprits. Unfortunately (and I hate to quote him), John Galt had it right: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, July 23, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Who's Responsible for Amy's Death?
The writer of the song "Rehab" -- with the lyric, "They tried to make me go to rehab, I said 'No, no, no,'" -- has died at age 27 . And, although a senior London police officer has urged the media not to speculate over the cause of her death (which is very wise), almost everyone assumes it is substance related.
So, was Amy's dislike for rehab the cause of her death? Not only an addict, Ms. Winehouse was too stupid or too much in denial, in this view, to recognize rehab or a 12-step group would be her salvation.
Except Ms. Winehouse had been in rehab any number of times. In fact, she had just gotten out. According to the BBC: "She had recently finished a course of alcohol rehabilitation in London and at the time was under strict instructions not to drink."
Which reminds us that overdose deaths are much more likely after individuals leave institutions such as prisons or hospitals. They then return to accustomed levels of consumption of a substance after having lost their tolerance for it.
This story also reminds me that Ruth Fowler has recently revisited the vehicular homicides caused by Audrey Kishline, founder of Moderation Management. This incident occurred over a decade ago, in 2000. (Ruth has the gift of treating familiar issues as though nothing were known about them other than what she decided when she got out of bed that morning.) Ruth's piece -- in the ever-reliable The Fix -- leans towards the interpretation that Kishline's behavior was due to her efforts to moderate her drinking.
But, in fact, Kishline was going to her car to down massive amounts of alcohol out of sight of prying eyes. And this may have been related to Audrey's recent attendance at AA -- which she had announced over the MM list. Even Bill O'Reilly was able to cotton to this information when O'Reilly interviewed me.
It is tempting to ponder that, having no permission in AA to drink, Kishline was driven to all-out excess when she did drink. Only, now, she had no support group for drinking with caution, only people who had told her (like Winehouse was told), "DO NOT DRINK." And, so, failsafe policies (called harm reduction ) -- such as, "You need to hold my car keys" or "I will be using/drinking and I need someone there to keep me safe" -- were not put in place.
Relapse is sad, but can be reversed. Death is forever.
Of course, neither AA nor MM was responsible for Audrey's drunk-driving.
And there is no one left to blame for Amy's death. Because the person in charge of her life is nowhere to be found.
It's a damn shame.
Addendum: August 23. Amy's parents revealed that the toxicology report on their daughter showed that she had no drugs in her system, but had consumed alcohol. I regularly hear that Winehouse died from alcohol withdrawal, which (a) makes no sense, (b) is inconsistent with the data. She withdrew from alcohol in rehab, presumably under medical supervision. And she wasn't withdrawing from alcohol at the time of her death -- she was drinking. She either exceeded her tolerance level after abstaining through treatment, or else she had some other drinking mishap (if she had trouble breathing, drinking can further suprress oxygen inhalation). In either case, treatment did not prepare her for the eventualities she experienced.