The Tragedy of Addiction

Yesterday saw the death of Amy Winehouse. Cause of death unknown. Suspected drug overdose. The Daily Telegraph put it as ‘The silencing of a British songbird’ – it seems that too often great talent is coupled with great demons and great pain. But why is it that certain pains and struggles elicit more sympathy than others?

The deaths of Karen Carpenter and Isabella Caro after her long battles with anorexia were met with great sadness and regret at the waste of lives and talents. And whilst to some extent this is true for the death of Amy – there is a not-so-subtle undertone of disapproval, a ‘she had it coming and she did it to herself’ attitude. Of course, it was her own choice to take drugs – but to be so ravaged by drink and drugs and eating disorders is not a life choice. It is a tragedy.

Addiction is so often understood as a lifestyle choice, but it is an illness. Perhaps it is the illegality of drugs that changes peoples’ attitudes towards it, that makes it harder to understand. Yet any addiction is dangerous to the body and mind, destructive to relationships and wreaks havoc in the lives of addicts and their families.

I can offer no answer to the problem of addiction, the pain it causes. But we can change our attitudes towards addicts. That is not to condone their addiction and aid it – but to come alongside, being supportive, a challenge, an encouragement with perhaps a dose or two of tough love. Any addiction, whether it be to drugs, food, starvation, drink or shopping drags disrupts our true worship, takes up time in our day and space in our hearts. It isn’t easy to face. It can be done.

And next time we may be tempted to sneer at an addict – let us examine our own lives and commit to prayer – not prejudice.

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