I am heartbroken over Whitney Houston’s death, but I am just as saddened by the press her death continues to receive. This is not because I am a huge Whitney Houston fan (though I agree, no one ever sang “The Star Spangled Banner” better). It’s because her death has created a debate about stars who ruin their lives with drugs and alcohol. Her death has refueled a rather heated discussion between her fans and those who aren’t, about Whitney’s lifestyle, about Bobby Brown, about other stars who have had drug and alcohol addictions.
The truth is, alcoholism and drug addiction lead to piss poor behaviors. The things you do as an addict, you cannot imagine doing when sober. Running the past scenarios of your life on your brain’s projector, you cringe in horror, seeing yourself starring in a role so repugnant to all human senses. How could you have been that wretched person?
I recently made the decision not to write a book, at least not at present. This has nothing to do with my complete and total lack of discipline, though my inner taskmaster breathed a sigh of relief at the news. I realized that I am not ready to offer up all of my darkest secrets; and if I wrote a book, and it became popular, the evil-doers who know my darkest secrets would most assuredly step forward to share with the world just how base I had become during my crack-cocaine usage.
It’s not that I worry about blackmail, because I have nothing to give, and would never pay a blackmailer; choosing instead to reveal all that I had tried desperately to keep hidden. Why would I, a self-professed ex-crackhead, who has revealed many instances of despicable behavior on my part during the drug years, try to hide anything? I don’t see it as hiding the past to spare myself. I do believe I am sparing my children from knowing so much, that they will never be able to get past it. I think I am saving my loved ones from irreparable pain. Or maybe it is true, that I am just scared to let everyone know what a monster I really was. What monsters we all can become when vexed by the enslavement of addiction.
I have discovered that there are many people, some of whom I had considered friends, who feel that drug addiction is a sign of moral turpitude. I have read, from famous news people and the average man on Facebook and community websites, that Whitney was no good because she continued to use. They concede that she tried to get help, but that she died before the help took hold shows that she didn’t have the desire to change.
I think for you to understand how much I resent that stance, we need to do a quick recap of my life:
- I smoked pot for the first time when I was 11.
- I started using hard drugs when I was 14.
- I started going to bars and drinking every day when I was 16.
- I started using cocaine when I was 18.
- I started using crack cocaine when I was 45.
In between these addiction milestones, I tried numerous times to change, and sometimes I did, for a while. I became a Born Again Christian when I was 22 years old. I went to A.A. when I was 23 years old. I went to A.A. again when I was 36 years old. I went cold turkey several times. Some of these fixes only lasted for days, some for months, some for years. I tried! I tried to change, and just when it seemed I had, I went back to the addictions that made me feel like so much less than a person. The addictions that made me act like so much less than a person.
When I was 45 years old, on September 6, 2005, I smoked crack for the first time. I don’t know why I remember the day so clearly. Zach and I had just moved out of my boyfriend Johnny’s house, and were going to begin to have our own lives, just the two of us. When I think back, he must have been so full of hope. As an alcoholic, drug addict mother, I dragged him down some dark paths, and he must have thought, maybe this is the change we need. I think he must have held that futile hope throughout his entire childhood.
We got our very own little apartment, and Zach started school in Lyndhurst, NJ on that very day. I was at a funeral in the morning, where I saw the thug that I had a crush on two summers before, when I was still with Johnny. I wasn’t with Johnny anymore though, so I made my moves, and The Scum (my Dad’s favorite nickname for all the men I dated) came to call on me after Zach returned home from his first day of eighth grade.
I sent The Scum out for coke, but he came back with crack. All my friends who had tried crack, or were addicted to crack, had made me promise I never would touch the stuff. But, The Scum said, “One time won’t hurt you”, and of course, I believed him.
By December 1, 2005, I was checking into The Sunrise House in Lafayette, NJ for my first in-patient rehab. I stayed in detox for seven days, during which time Zachary stayed with Johnny, my ex-boyfriend. I had lost my job just days before, since I never showed up for work, but continued to collect a check, which was going straight to The Scum and crack, not to rent and food and Zach. As soon as the job was gone, The Scum was gone, too.
I stayed at The Sunrise House for a seven-day detox period, having fun, but really not grasping the gravity of my situation. It’s as if once I was removed from the physicality of the insanity of my life, I forgot that it was so bad; and I missed it. I missed the drugs and The Scum and all the drama and my heinous behaviors. I also missed Zachary very much, and convinced the staff that I needed to be home for him. Zach told me later that my week away was great, the best time he ever had with Johnny. Of course, I had to rush home to destroy everything. I was using again one hour after returning home. I called The Scum, and we went to Newark to get our hook-up.
After that, there came a series of rehabs, out-patient, in-patient, therapists (who said they wouldn’t see me again until I completed treatment). I lost my job, my car, my apartment, my son, my family, my friends. Everything. Those of you who have followed this blog know how desperate my life became. Lucky me. Lucky me, because I was left alone with myself, and I had to make a decision about what to do. Die as a crackhead, and have Zachary and my family have to tell everyone, “Meg died as a homeless crackhead?” Or, live? Live my life, pull my act together, and try this shit one more time?
I checked into my last in-patient rehab on October 23, 2007, and my life began its drastic and dramatic change, that continues to this day. I have a job, an apartment, my son, my family and friends. I have a life. I was lucky. I lived long enough to get it.
Whitney had two strikes against her:
- She was rich and famous.
- No one would let her fall.
Whitney’s struggle had to be so much harder than mine, because no one around her would allow her to find a bottom. And even though bottoms can drop out, and lead to even lower bottoms, if you live long enough, you just might get it. Whitney’s bottom could never drop out, because someone was always there to catch her when she fell. Someone was always there to tell her she was right, to give license to her baseness. You can see that Whitney wanted to be free from the dependence on drugs and alcohol. Anyone who has walked this path can hear the sincerity in her voice. She didn’t get that wish. But, not because she didn’t try.
People tell me they respect me more than Whitney, that I am different from Whitney because I “got it.” I contend, and will stand by my belief that the only differences between Whitney and I concerning drug addiction, is that I was lucky enough to live long enough to just finally stop. That I was lucky enough to have people around me that stopped being around me and left to me to, yes, basically die. That is what gave me life.
RIP, Whitney Houston, and all those we knew who didn’t get the time to get it.