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Amy Winehouse: No, No, No to Rehab, Yes, Yes, Yes to Drugs?

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What is big entertainment news this week? Amy Winehouse. One more suddenly famous artist collapses from an alleged drug overdose. Yawn. Come on, what is news about that really? Drugs are as inextricably tied into the music world as peanut butter is to jelly in the sandwich world and it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon.

The case of Amy Winehouse is only funny in a sick humor sort of way because of the title and theme of the song "Rehab" on her recently released album Back to Black. In the song she says, "They tried to make me go to rehab,I said no, no, no". And then after her (rumored but denied) overdose where did she finally end up? Rehab.

Ironically the video of her song "Rehab" was the last thing I saw on TV this morning around 5:30 am as I was falling asleep. I remember thinking at the time that that was a wicked song to write if you were doing it from experience because it had the danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure enough there she was in the headline news when I woke up this afternoon.

But both Amy's albums, Frank (released in 2006) and Back to Black (2007) are said to be explorations of herself lyrically and if that is the case, then Amy reveals quite a lot. Many of her lyrics deal with love and loss and depression and most have thinly veiled drug references throughout. I think maybe I can understand her though and so instead of copping some holier than thou moral tone in this story, or being hiply condescending or apologetic for drugs why don't I tell you about how someone as successful as Amy is ends up where she is? Maybe it is something you ought to know and maybe just one more meaningless bit of information flying along the information superhighway that runs through your head. Doesn't really matter to me either way.

My thumbnail analysis of Amy based on her photos and her music is that she has enough intimacy with the things she writes about (negative emotions and drugs) to have known them both for quite a while. I don't just mean the drugs here either, drugs aren't really a problem in and of themselves, they are a means to and end.

Some people can use drugs in a recreational sense for years without ever developing a problem with them. Other people can't because the drugs they use essentially treat the symptoms of something deeper. This second type of user is the one who will end up with a problem, the self-medicators.  These people usually have something within themselves that they are running away from or hiding from or both. This may be some childhood trauma, a tendency toward depression or even just low self esteem. For people like this the drugs are their vehicle to escape themselves and, for just a while, to be like everyone else, like they wish they were themselves.

In Amy's case I would guess that she is one of the latter types. I do not know her personally and can only speculate but based on my own experience and those of many people I have known I would say she is down on herself for some reason. Another interesting thing that I noticed which helps to support this conclusion is in the first photo in this story. If you zoom in on her left forearm in the photo you will notice that that forearm is laced with what look like tiny red scars from numerous cuts. Could these be remnants of a troubled adolescence? Could be, many teen girls who have emotional problems do cut themselves as a way to externalize the pain they feel inside. Often these girls are looking for the attention and love that they feel is missing in their lives and this often leads them into having many bad relationships and usually this leads to a bad reputation which just further intensifies her low self worth and it becomes a never-ending cycle. Often these girls seek an escape through drugs.

If you look again at the two photos in this story it seems as though you are looking at two totally different girls. In the first photo you see Amy as she appeared in her video. She looks pretty, healthy and normal. In the second photo, taken soon after her recent incident, you are seeing what appears to be the product of self-medication gone wrong. To be really blunt she looks like a Junkie in that photo. 

I guess the big question is why does someone who has found success in life and has many devoted fans continue to need drugs or to even increase their usage until they crash? That is probably a pretty complex question and the answer varies from individual to individual but despite what you may have heard, success isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure the money is great. You no longer have to worry about whether or not the rent is getting paid on time or if you can afford to go out tonight. But in the end money does nothing to resolve anything else in your life. Maybe it is just another drug. When you get rich your old demons just move into your new crib right along with you.

Being a star means you no longer have any private life to speak of and your schedule is incredibly hectic but you can't stop for a breather because you have to ride the wave of success while it lasts. Your record company wants to recoup their investment in you fast as they can and make as large a profit as they can so they drive you into the publicity machine that Pink Floyd wrote songs about and it is relentless. Your life becomes a blur of planes and buses and hotel rooms and stages and faces you will never see again. And throughout all of that insanity you have to hit the stage every night with a big smile and give the people what they want so they buy more CDs and everyone is happy. And the drugs are there to ease the new stress and the old pain just like they always were.

Back to the drugs though, does rehab even work? Sure it can as a tool to help you stop your self-destructive behavior. But it is like anything else, you have to want to stop. Forced rehab is worthless because drug addiction is a life of denial. You just don't think there is any problem, i.e. "I drink, I get drunk, I fall down, no problem." You don't even see the slow changes that are happening to yourself when you look in the mirror any more than an anorectic does despite what everyone else around them sees. Nothing is effective as an incentive to change except waking up one morning and realizing that your life is in the toilet and it is time for a change.

Even when you reach that point it takes a hell of a lot of determination to really fix your problems because you usually have a circle of friends who are very much like yourself. So to escape your own problem you really have to ditch your friends and your hangouts and start your life over. On top of that you have to finally face whatever it is that you have been using the drugs to overcome and finally beat that without the drugs or at least come to some amicable living arrangement with it or else the cycle will never end. That isn't an easy thing to do.

Hopefully Amy does whatever she needs to do, though, and gets her shit together. I wish her luck. If you want to keep up with Amy and what she is doing you can do so through her MySpace page.

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About Mike Johnston

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Drugs are as inextricably tied into the music world…”

    Yea, I guess if you wanna call this sh!t “Music”.
    These asses should feel lucky that they can do this type of work for a living, BUT, that’s the problem. These supposed “Musicians” don’t quite grasp the concept and expect us to cry when they can’t hack it.

    No pity from me! Move her out so we can hear a real artist perform..

  • sorry brian, but Winehouse is a great singer, even if you don’t like her brand of soul.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, Mark, I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    My “Brand of Soul” would have to be Brandi Carlile & I would much rather see more positive coverage on her than the 2 cents from every hack columnist about every “artist” that isn’t so great & has a drug addiction. And on top of that, thinks it’s a fact that Drugs & Music go hand in hand. The seventies are calling, they want their retarded cliche back!!

  • Brian, Amy Winehouse is an absoloute wonder. both her records (although she and most everyone else seem to ignore the first one nowadays) are amazing pieces of work, they sound like someone dry-heaving twenty-seven consecutive lost weekends o’er the shoulders of The Ronettes – she has a voice like no one else i’ve ever heard. astounding woman. these escapades are very very distressin to observe. and enki, you mention the cut marks and what not as possible eremnants of an adolescence. remnants of last week, heart-breaking as it is, is more likely. her self-harm has been makin great copy for the last while here in the UK. the other day much was made of photographs wherein both she and her husband were careering down the streets pissin blood from eyes and chest and toes. she claims she cut herself after he found her trying to “do drugs.” doesn’t explain HIS wounds though, which were fairly fuckin shockin also.

  • sal m

    she’s a 23-year old who has had drug problems and she has a lot of experience in dealing with the negative emotions associated with them. her success is due to her problem and her problem is due to her success, so why is her complete immolation a surprise? look at her and listen to the lyrics.

    decent voice aside, other from 20-somethings with drug problems, who really cares about what she is revealing?


  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Amy Winehouse is an absoloute wonder.”

    Which is fine if you believe it. I don’t…
    And as for her personal dilemma,putting her in the spotlight won’t make the outcome any better and I would much rather hear what 5-10 other worthy artists are doing in the time span that they are wasting on this!

  • boyo boy, don’t we all have an enormous chip on our shoulders this evening. hey whatever. but my ears don’t lie and neither do the duke’s. Winehouse’s voice is a singular one, and i hope she can get over her issues because her record was easily one of the best of the year.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “…don’t we all have an enormous chip on our shoulders this evening.”

    No Mark, there’s no chip on these shoulders, I just don’t buy into the collective. That’s all. The mainstream,nowadays, is inandated with poor quality so that when a decent voice comes along people feel it is “An Absoloute Wonder”. Brandi Carlile’s latest release is a much stronger effort with alot more “Soul” & doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. I have always been a proponent,on BC, of talent that should be noticed.

    So she,in my opinion, is a stronger singer. Plus, she has no drug related issues. Win/Win in my book…

  • sorry, i don’t buy it. things that happen to be popular can also be very good. i bought the Winehouse disc on the strength of one very good song and her voice….and had absolutely no idea that she was popular. in fact, i don’t care.

  • I wrote this piece as commentary on a news story. It really had nothing to do with Amy’s talent as a performer. She just happens to be in a situation that I have seen repeated many times with many people.

    On the other hand, I do like her song “Rehab”. It has the right sort of tune to make it get stuck in your head for a while and I tend to judge songs individually rather than as a body of work. Her voice fits that song perfectly. The song deserves to be popular.

    I look at the art not the artist for the most part. Van Gogh was pretty crazy but his paintings are some of the best known in the world…

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, obviously, there has to be an interest in the artist or you wouldn’t have written such a long “commentary”. If that’s really not the case, you could’ve summed it up in one sentence(Do I need to supply that sentence?!).I’m not going to debate wether or not you can truly appreciate music if you don’t examine a musician’s body of work.I personally feel that there is no depth to a person’s experience with music if they only “Touch & Go”. As for Van Gogh, that’s why his body of work is still overlooked compared to Salvador Dali & Michaelangelo.Ultimately, you could never make a comparison because I don’t believe Ms. Winehouse will make that kind of impact on the world of music.

    Well, Mark… I wasn’t pointing at you when I was talking about mainstream. Anyways, it’s rather hard not to notice that she’s popular when you see her vids on MTV/VH1. I was just commenting on how most mainstream acts,nowadays, are pretty mediocre. Again, that’s my opinion…

  • Otis B. Driftwood

    So let me get this straight, Winehouse’s music is shit, Van Gogh is overlooked compared to Dali & Michaelangelo, and you still watch music videos on MTV. Actually what you’ve shown is that your opinion is what’s pretty mediocre.

  • Well, Mark… I wasn’t pointing at you when I was talking about mainstream. Anyways, it’s rather hard not to notice that she’s popular when you see her vids on MTV/VH1. I was just commenting on how most mainstream acts,nowadays, are pretty mediocre. Again, that’s my opinion…

    they still show vids on those channels? didn’t know that. i happened to hear about her because she was on letterman.

    and yea, true about mainstream acts, but is that really anything new?

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    So, Mr. Driftwood, tell me how my opinion is mediocre? Honestly,your remark doesn’t make sense.
    *BTW*, I didn’t call Winehouse’s music “shit”. You are sounding a bit too defensive.

    Mark, it just shows my theory – in which,the mediocre acts that have been blazing up the Billboard bolster a musician that is one of few that actually sings decent.

  • Otis B. Driftwood

    “I didn’t call Winehouse’s music ‘shit'”

    Your first comment to an article about Amy Winehouse: “Yea, I guess if you wanna call this sh!t ‘Music’.”

    Pay attention.