I remember the year Amy Winehouse’s CD, Back to Black came out: I was given the CD by a patient who said you must listen to this. I did and was pleasantly struck by the innovative way Mark Ronson fused that early Motown sound with contemporary beats under scoring Winehouse’s smoky voice. And those lyrics with nods to pop culture!

Anybody that can weave a James Bond reference in with Stella and fries had me at hello.

I recall singing, Rehab in my office after all the patients had gone. My then receptionist and I would sing along to the CD, dancing and creating our own choreography, waving our index finger at each other as we sang, “No, no, no!” That receptionist incidentally ended up in rehab.

As life often imitates art it was clear that Winehouse wasn’t just singing about her refusal to attend rehab. She wasn’t going. “No, no, no.”

I suppose if you believe in freedom and civil liberties then you have to agree that a person has the right to live as they see fit. Even if it isn’t how you would.

What bothers me most about Amy Winehouse’s death is that we won’t have any more music from her. “No, no, no.” And that unfortunately is the biggest tragedy.

But if you ever knew anyone who was addicted to drugs or alcohol it would be easy for you to understand that you CAN”T make someone go to rehab. They have to decide for themselves. The awful truth is that if you are dependant on either drugs or alcohol or both, your view on life is skewed. Your vision of how life really is can be described as myopic. I’ve been around many people in my career who were either addicted or used drugs recreationally. Most of the time they thought they were in complete control.

My worst memory is when I visited a friend in the hospital after she overdosed. I offered to go to her house to fetch some of her personal belongings. She pleasantly refused. Later she confessed that she didn’t want me to find her stash of drugs fearing I would dispose of them. Thankfully, she did go to rehab and has been sober for two years.

Yet, rehab is not for everyone. That much I know is true. Your choice of rehabilitation is a decision you should make with professionals like a therapist, doctor or a drug counselor.

Today I was watching television while listening to Amy Winehouse’s Love is a Losing Game. The announcer stated that Winehouse’s death at age 27 added her to an infamous group of artists who all died at 27 years old. This list includes Kurt Cobain, Jimmie Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I don’t know if that is an honor or a curse.

I suppose if you believe in immortality then it was for the best that Amy Winehouse check out now. I don’t agree. The tragedy is that she was an artist who let her own personal demons get in the way of living her life. It takes a strong person to admit they have a problem. It takes an even stronger person to get help and stick with it. The fact is that most people who enter rehab fall off the wagon. That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get right back up and try it again.

There is no glory in being included in a group of artists that died tragically at age 27. Instead we should celebrate the ones that choose to live. I hate when the media glamorizes this live hard, die young mentality.

When Alexander McQueen died tragically, I spoke with a friend who knew him. He told me that McQueen’s death wasn’t a tragedy. Tragedy would imply that we should be sad. McQueen’s death left him angry. When I attended the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit, Savage Beauty, which showcased McQueen’s work, I understood why he was so angry. We’d lost a great art.

For me it all goes back to the root of the problem, which is we don’t see addiction as a disease. We see it as a choice, and that’s why many people who are dependant on drugs and alcohol don’t want to go to rehab. It reminds me of the Nancy Reagan years. Her solution to the problem was simply to say, “No, no, no.” Not much has changed.



  1. Posted July 25, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Very well written Dr.

    I am/was a huge Amy Winehouse fan and was eagerly awaiting her next cd. I had actually made several jokes about her dying before it was finished and pleaded with her to finish it before dying on her fan page…

    Too little too late. It was not unexpected and reminds me of the Billy Joel song “Only The Good Die Young”.. we lost an unknown treasure trove of musical talent.

    I’m saddened by her death. I am saddened by the fact it was possible to anticipate it and saddened by the fact that she represents uncounted numbers of people struggling with addiction and mental health issues that modern medicine has yet to even scratch the surface of.

    I totally agree, having known addicts, that they are the only people who can make the decision to heal themselves from the inside…

    Intervention may temporarily help but if the addicted personality does not make the decision to change the addiction, it will forever remain prisoner of the preferred substance..

  2. Posted July 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Well, this was a train wreck I saw was about to happen; inevitable and still I was shocked at the news. And I had the same thought as you: “Just say no” is a meaningless phrase to anyone with an addiction. It’s just not that simplistic; it’s moronic to even think that it’s any help at all.

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