Amy Winehouse: A Warning
At her time of death, Amy Winehouse’s Blood Alcohol Level was more than five times the legal driving limit (.08 percent in both the US and UK), says the autopsy. Coroner Suzanne Greenaway reports the singer died a “death by misadventure.” Winehouse was found with three empty bottles of vodka in her room.
It’s a sad scene to imagine, and one that should serve as a warning to young binge drinkers. Granted, Winehouse’s problem was greater than one incident of bad judgment and measurement, but we’ve all dealt with the oblivion that results from too many shots. Close calls happen all the time, and we accept them as par for the course of development.
Charles Bukowski said, “I have the feeling that drinking is a form of suicide where you’re allowed to return to life and begin all over the next day. It’s like killing yourself, and then you’re reborn. I guess I’ve lived about ten or fifteen thousand lives now.”
But then, as Winehouse has shown us, there are times when we don’t wake up the next day. The risk is thrilling and its consequent survival invigorating, but the nature of risk is that it requires occasions when it is fulfilled. Drinking to excess is exciting because it contains the possibility of the most extreme escape, death. If all goes well, we’ll dance for hours and and wake up with a splitting headache. Maybe we’ll get lost on city streets and piece the experience together afterwards, fingers crossed against public humiliation or pregnancy. We promise ourselves it won’t happen again, but it will. After enough time has passed, the binge drinker, the lover of extremity returns. “It’s very all or nothing, you know. I like that. I like that mentality,” Winehouse said.
We want to almost die, to live just enough to find out more about ourselves in the morning. “What? I fell asleep in a gutter?!” Our drunken selves are more adventurous until a vague line is crossed and we become unconscious, incoherent and cold. Yet even the “misadventure” is appealing, and we support each other in its pursuit. For a moment, we are free from any responsibility; not even required to mind ourselves. We know it’s dangerous, yet we allow ourselves that release and encourage our friends to join. Some use death as a slang synonym for drunkenness. “Ohmigod, I’m so going to die tonight.” “Ugh, you always die first!” It’s a gross, upsetting terminology. When did dying become fashionable? Why is repeated binge drinking accepted and even encouraged?
Amy Winehouse is not simply a talented, troubled star who couldn’t handle the pressure (and was clearly predisposed to addiction), she is also the poster child for our generation’s attitude towards drinking. I may wake up in the morning without any idea of where I am or how I got there, but Amy Winehouse stopped breathing. Our decisions bear re-examination.
More from Ella Riley-Adams:
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