This post was published in my masters’ thesis for the University of Texas School of Journalism.
Amy Winehouse won’t go to rehab. No no no. But we know she should.
“Rehab” is an undeniably contagious track. The defiant anthem of denial is the jazzy songbird’s personal motto and claim to fame, blurring the lines between creative expression and scandalous exploits, saturating both popular and alternative media. And in Winehouse’s personal life, each new debauchery exceeds the last. It is tragically inevitable she will abuse herself into some sort of treatment program, voluntary or not, and onto the cover of Rolling Stone. Or perhaps Wenner and crew will wait until she releases her third album, a painful yet mature reflection on her troubles and triumphs, glorious with emotional rebirth. As long as the main character survives, the story can write itself. If she falls, switch to the alternative ending that references Janis Joplin.
“I don’t need drugs or alcohol,” Winehouse told the British press in October. “It’s something to do when I’m bored.”
Apparently the 23-year-old is nearly bored to death. Winehouse is firmly enmeshed with the gossip columns, which means a very public record is kept of her various binges and outbursts, as well as her fluctuating weight and tumultuous relationships. During interviews she loudly declares she faces nearly every mental demon in the DSM-IV, from unmedicated manic depression to addiction to bulimia, while simultaneously insisting she does not need help.
I can certainly relate to the situation. Before I entered residential treatment for an eating disorder that was supported by a regime of pharmaceuticals, I did not plan on going to rehab either. As Winehouse said, “I don’t need help because if I can’t help myself I can’t be helped.” I could admit that I was sick, but it took two weeks of detox and stabilization to admit checking myself in was a good idea. After ten years of bad decisions it was hard to believe I finally made a good one.
That is one of the most difficult aspects of accepting help: giving up your old identity. Problems like alcoholism and depression become so pervasive that they predetermine your entire life. Every thought and every choice, it all falls back to that place of suffering, maintaining the sick circle. At least you know what is coming.
Who would Amy Winehouse be if she wasn’t a boozer and brawler? What would she do everyday? And what on earth would she sing about?
“I only write about stuff that’s happened to me, stuff I can’t get past personally,” she said in this month’s Blender. “Luckily, I’m quite self-destructive.”
And when there is nothing left to destroy, no fat left to burn, the ultimate decision arrives. All the excess self, the bad feelings and recurring nightmares, are gone. You are down to bones, the vital organs, pale skin that barely keeps the world out. Do you preserve what is left or push ahead, oblivious, disappearing?
If you have already worn yourself down to the heart, cannibalized the muscles that bind your soul, it is too late. The stories cannot be untold and the pictures cannot be erased. There is nothing to salvage, just tiny pieces of paper, floating aimlessly, bleeding in the rain, forgotten. The once persuasive record becomes a rallying cry of demise, a pathetic plea, a suicide note. The DJ won’t spin such sad songs on Saturday night.