Amy Winehouse: Death and Addiction

July 26, 2011 Kendra Sebelius

A few days following the death of Amy Winehouse, I am still at a loss for words. When I read comments like “Well she had so many opportunities to recover,” it makes it even harder to explain why that bothers me. I feel a huge loss, for her family, friends, and this is a tragedy, just as it is a tragedy when this happens to anyone, from any background.

Amy Winehouse Deathamy2

I was going to write this whole post as a biography of Amy Winehouse and talk about her sudden death, her being found dead in her apartment, and the speculation regarding the cause of her death being related to drugs and alcohol. (Since the autopsy has come back as inconclusive, we do not know the cause of death yet). I wanted to share what an incredible artist she was and how her voice will be missed. In the end, I can’t seem to write anything but how sad I am following her death and the comments that have followed in the past few days.

Addiction is a serious issue, one that requires serious discussions. I feel people still have the tone of “well, she had a choice to stop.” Choice is such a hard word to even address in this whole thing. When I was in the hell of my addiction, I didn’t see ANY choice other than the bottle right in front of me. I had no other choices because I didn’t know there were other choices I could make. It took a long time to learn and see a new way of living a life that was full of choices.

Rehab and Addiction

Rehab didn’t keep me sober, any more than it does for many people. When you get out of rehab, you are no longer surrounded by the structure, the treatment, therapy, people, etc. You are put back into the world, on your own, and hopefully the lessons you learned in rehab about staying sober stick. But sometimes they DON’T. This doesn’t mean a person is bad or a failure or unwilling to get better. It means it is hard to not only get sober, but to stay sober. I had to change my environment, ask for help, and find a new way of doing things. Rehab is just a starting point. You don't go to rehab and automatically get better.

I saw someone on Facebook write “Too bad she didn’t say Yes Yes Yes,” and a minute later said how much of a loss it was. I am confused by the messages of people saying, yes it is a tragedy, but then making jokes or light of the addiction.

With Addiction, The Blame Game Never Helps Anyone

I am also bothered by some people who are accusing Amy Winehouse's mom of being a horrible mother for saying she thought Amy’s death seemed sadly inevitable. My heart breaks when I read comments like this, as if the parents could have done more to help save their daughter. Of course her family has done a lot, and she has been in rehab several times, and also walked out of rehab numerous times. In the end, a family can do only so much. Blaming them for doing not enough is a cruel thing, especially following the death of their child. I am sure they will forever ask what else they could have done to help save her.

Why Do Some People Recover

People have asked me “why do some people recovery and some people don’t”. This is a complicated question, and there are many potential reasons. Obviously her environment was an issue, and each time she left rehab she went back into the same environment. “The short term concern of revenue can undermine the right long term decisions to have appropriate treatment,” said Dr. Marvin D. Seppala, the Chief Medical Officer for Hazelden Addiction Treatment Centers.

The Science Behind Addiction

Scientists are also starting to understand how substances affect the brain pathways in relationship to addiction. I also wrote previously about how people often underestimate their addiction struggles and are in denial.

Repeated drug use will cause lasting changes to the brain's neurons. The neurons have adapted and become accustomed to substances. A variety of advanced technology machines (such as: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), positron emission tomography (PET), etc) show that addiction can cause a brain malfunction by repeated poisoning of the brain. Alcohol and drug addiction is progressive. It can and does kill people. It affects the memory and neural pathways. While people can recover from addiction and develop healthy coping skills, addiction recovery can take time and isn’t a straight path. It often includes many slips and relapses.

The Response After Amy Winehouse's Death

When I saw Amy’s last performance in Belgrade it literally shook me to the core, and I had this feeling in my gut that something awful was going to happen soon. She had looked healthier in previous weeks and I had been hoping she could find her path through the darkness of addiction. But just because people saw it happening, doesn’t make it okay to make jokes or try to throw around blame. It is a loss of a valuable opportunity where real information and resources could be shared on how addiction kills. We could talk about how many people from all walks of life die from addiction and how recovery is possible, but may be a hard long path.

"No, the death of an addict who publicly displayed self-destructive behavior for years is not shocking. Yes, losing yet another person to the miserable and fatal grip of drug addiction and self-loathing is tragic.” blogger Alicia Sparks wrote. Another blogger, Russell Brand, wrote “Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.”

I just read quotes on her being called a fuck up and I personally feel kicked in the stomach, because I too was a fuck up, a mess, and made awful decisions; I went in and out of detox, rehab, and went from sober to relapses, and all-in-all I am sober and she is dead. I am no better, or special; I just made it through to the other side. For that I am grateful.

My thoughts are with all the moms, dads, family and friends who have ever lost a loved one to an addiction.

RIP Amy Winehouse.

APA Reference
Sebelius, K. (2011, July 26). Amy Winehouse: Death and Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Kendra Sebelius

Melissa S
July, 26 2011 at 4:36 am

Thank you for posting. Addiction is a disease that is considered neurologically based, and you can not will your way out of a neurological disease. Long time addicts sadly suffer changes in their brains. I hope that anyone in need of recovery can get the proper care and support to manage their disease.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
July, 26 2011 at 4:58 pm

Thank you Melissa. That is an important point. Addiction and the science behind it is an important topic.

Alistair McHarg
July, 26 2011 at 5:09 am

I was in my regular meeting last night and 3 - 3! - of the regulars had picked up over the weekend. Alcoholism and drug addiction are insidious and they kill every day. I for one am much more touched by the nameless nobodies that die than I am by Winehouse. Our society has such a sick view of celebrity. We didn't know her - she didn't belong to us. Many people talk about THEIR loss - how THEY will miss the music. - Winehouse is part of a new breed of celebrity - the public suicide. Look at Chet Baker, look at Hunter Thompson - the slow-motion public suicide was the juiciest part of the act, the part we liked best. Her death is not particularly sad - it was totally inevitable. What is sad, if not revolting, is how we all enjoyed watching the trainwreck. Can anyone say Anna Nicole Smith?

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey
July, 26 2011 at 6:44 am

Thank you for writing this. Amy Winehouse was a real human being beneath the public persona, and we sometimes forget this. Addiction is hard for anyone to overcome, and many of us who have battled addictions (I am including my struggles with anorexia in this) also have had chances that didn't necessarily help us, either. Each one of us battles with demons, including Amy, and money and fame do not quiet those demons. She obviously has been ill for years, and perhaps she didn't get the treatment that might have helped her. The media and others seem to find it easy to blame Amy Winehouse, but we don't know the whole story or what demons she was battling.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
July, 26 2011 at 4:57 pm

Thank you Angela for your thoughts. I thought it was really important to remind people this is a real person, who struggled with a serious issue, and had a family who is now mourning her loss. The media may forget that at times, but it is important to remember.

July, 26 2011 at 8:59 am

Great post. Thanks, Kendra.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
July, 26 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thank you so much Beth!

July, 26 2011 at 5:11 pm

Thank you for a well written post. My thoughts and warmest condolences to her family.

richard vetter
July, 27 2011 at 6:58 am

What a wonderful post you have written, my thoughts and feelings you put into words that make sense. THANK YOU!!
From a grateful recovering addict who is happy to have today!!
RICH from norristown Pa

July, 27 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thank you for for sharing your thought's regarding Addiction as a problem that is more serious than a "choice". I also resd many ignorant comment's regarding Amy's death. As a recoverinf addict myself, I have a 19 yr. old daughter who is an opiate addict. She overdosed in April, as for putting the blame on Amy's parent's, or finding their comment preparing for the inevitable, God Bless her parent's. As hard and harsh some people may think that statement was, sadly, Im afraid there are many parent's including myself who feel the same way, If I am honest with myself, and risk being honest in this comment, I am helpless in my daughter's opiate addiction, as I educated myself on opiate's, I have to somehow come to terms with the worst pain a parent will ever feel if she dosent get clean, my daughter will die.
God Bless Amy's parent's, and thankfully there are people like you melissa who post acticle's such as this one, and allowing reader's to comment!!!!!!
Darlene Cox, Buffalo,NY

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
July, 28 2011 at 8:32 am

Thank you Darlene for your thoughtful and honest response. My thoughts are with both you and your daughter. I can only imagine how it feels to be a parent, especially of someone in addiction, and I personally am grateful to my parents who stuck by me, and helped guide me towards getting better. But in the end, as you say, it was my decision and choice. A hard reality to face being only responsible for our own actions.

July, 28 2011 at 8:27 am

Thank you so much for a wonderful piece. There is so much ignorance and hate around the subject of addiction - these responses are based in fear, and I empathize, however these responses also set a social and cultural stage which sets back the recoveries of so many. Pieces like yours give me hope! Thank you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kendra Sebelius
July, 28 2011 at 8:29 am

Awe Kelly I feel so honored!!! That is a wonderful comment and response. I am so glad it resonated with you!

Joyce A. Anthony
July, 28 2011 at 8:17 pm

Thank you for this, Kendra, While drugs and alcohol weren't my addictions, they were the rest of the family--mine came out, as they are likely to do, in other ways. As I mentioned on my blog, rehab didn't work for Amy--because the drugs and alcohol weren't the whole problem--they were merely symptoms of much deeper problems. Her drug and alcohol use were merely ways she found to help deal with the dark pain inside, the sadness she couldn't rid herself of. Amy was loved, but she never felt that love, she tried to tell everyone of her pain, but people couldn't look past the addiction.
There was something about her that brought out the mother in me. I felt she was a young girl who needed protected and loved--no she was loved, she needed to KNOW she was loved. While others who are being nice (although I sure wish it were more) say they feel bad for Amy's family, I still feel the sympathy for Amy--for she was a sweet, pure soul who just didn't know how to live in the coldness of this world without "help".
Police have verified they found no drugs in her apartment (and she had said she'd been clean of drugs) and she had seen a doctor the day before and got a very good report. Whatever the outward cause, what killed Amy Winehouse was a heart that could no longer stand the internal pain.
Thank you for your wonderful tribute.

August, 4 2011 at 12:01 pm

At last, some sense. Please read new book 'Angel Just-Rights'. It's a previously untold true story of debilitating mental illness and could help sufferers, carers and friends, also in the research of Professionals. May Amy rest in peace now.

Zoloft Birth Defects
September, 29 2011 at 3:18 pm

Her death is certainly a loss to the music industry. She had issues and she dealt with it the only way that she can think of.

San Diego Churches
October, 26 2011 at 12:57 pm

Amy was so talented, she'll be missed. Definitely can appreciate her talent.

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February, 20 2012 at 9:53 am

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Sandra Cobban
August, 21 2015 at 2:30 am

I loved Amy Winehouse,beautiful & sweet starting her career...
What a voice!
A genius,
As one of us ( bipolar,not all of us know this..)
What I don't get is,
Why was she not treated for her illness?
That what was the crime.

Sandra Cobban
August, 21 2015 at 3:00 am

One special sign that I knew Amy was safe a bird would fly past my window whenever
I would ever be commenting upon her on a website,thinking of her,etc.
I cried,when she passed.
When I read few months later a cruel rude comment by Courtney Love saying that Amy
deserved to die I was horrified!!!
Look who's chatting????
Courtney couldn't hold not hold a candle to Amy's talent or beauty inside & out!
Sometimes when I listen to Back to Black I cry.
She only released 3 CDs here....
Maybe more in UK...hated that Blake guy.
What a idiot,even admitting on a UK chat show he gave Amy her first class A drugs!!
Nothing to be proud of,mate!

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