26 July 2011

Self-medicating, self-destructing

Drugs are rough.

I'm more affected by Amy Winehouse's death than I probably should be. I tend not to be bothered by celebrity deaths -- I don't dig mourning someone you never knew personally, even if their art affected you deeply, though I do dig marking the passing of the life of a performer or creator who gave back to the world, like Paul Newman, or whose work formed the development of the medium itself, like Lillian Gish. When a young or mid-career artist self-destructs with drugs (Rainer Werner Fassbinder), alcohol (Margaux Hemingway), food (John Candy), or sex (Eazy-E), it's a shame for art, and it's a tragedy for the families; but it's as much of a concern to me as any one of the other 6,675 complete strangers who die every day in the U.S. (PDF).

It's not a "27 Club" thing, though I confess that was the immediate idea that sprang to mind. On the other hand, the last time we had one (Kurt Cobain in 1994), I was in a very different place in my life and didn't know a lot of people with extreme problems outside of my own family drama. Also, I was closer in age to the celebrity deceased. In 2011, I'm raising my own child, a musical, artistic daughter who's probably a candidate for a performing arts high school. And I'm the veteran of a relationship with an alcoholic who, when I quit the relationship, was clearly on his way to death by drink (Billie Holiday, unless he lasts as long as Richard Burton) or drunk driving (Ryan Dunn).

Coincidentally to Winehouse's death, I learned that an old internet acquaintance is in the hospital, in a coma, suffering from end-stage liver disease after a couple of decades of alcohol use and attempts at rehab that didn't take. The acquaintance is about my age, maybe only a little bit older. So what's striking me is that I'm at the age when the self-medicating, self-destructive members of my cohort are starting to defeat their bodies' best efforts to keep them alive despite all their drugging, alcohol-soaking, gluttony, and ill-considered sex. Yes, we lost a few people here and there unusually early -- a bicycling accident, muscular dystrophy, a suicide following chronic pain -- but now we're entering the years when long-term, intense poor treatment of our bodies will start to take its toll. Not the buckets of drugs and stress, likely paired with mental illness, that take younger people who burn out at around age 27, but fewer drugs, stress, and illness, over a little bit longer.

I should have titled this post, Member of Generation X Approaches 40; Film at 11.

No comments: