The Winehouse in Our Houses

I must admit to a fair amount of angst over the reaction to the loss of Amy Winehouse.

She had an awesome talent; her voice brought to life just a small part of the pain she obviously carried. When listening to a Winehouse CD, you’re transported to a jazz club where a sister simultaneously ministers and self-medicates with a shot glass in one hand, a mike in the other.

Her death (joining Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison in Club 27) reminds us that in the midst of fame or anonymity, wealth or poverty, ballin’ or project livin’, it’s all irrelevant when it comes to the plague that is drug and alcohol addiction.

People are quick to share their opinion that addiction is a deal-breaker, a non-conversation, a reason to get up and go. But how many of us have a brother, father, ex-husband, or friend with the same struggles as Ms. Winehouse?

Addictions tear marriages and families apart every day. The heroin scourge that tore through Harlem in the 1950s hit my family hard and the vestiges of that drama are still at play today. If I post that my Uncle Bubba died from a drug overdose, will you respond with an outpouring of concern or will you share a kind word while quietly wondering how “one of them” ended up in my family?

Families are hurting because of the shame and the stigma of addiction. Children act out in school, rather than share the root of the problem. Women go to work, holding on to their sanity by a wing and a prayer, in fear of revealing that the monster of addiction is wreaking havoc in their home.

The next time you hear of a brother struggling with addiction, say a prayer. Understand that his pain is no less tragic, his walk is no less painful to watch, his need for grace and mercy is no less warranted than that of any media celebrity.

Take a minute and look for the good in him, too.

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