Choosing death

Lacking Power by Will Lion

Andrew Sullivan offers a more sympathetic version of the free will meme:

Tragically, Amy Winehouse finally got what she sought for so long: death. It must in some ways be a relief for her. Her addiction was so obviously overwhelming she couldn’t bring herself to master it and made a decision not to. She even wrote a song defending her desire to die. If someone suffering a terrible disease refuses treatment for it, they are choosing death. That’s what she chose. We have to respect that decision even as we mourn the loss of a brilliantly original artist.

Two thoughts.

First, she may have given up (I honestly don’t know enough about her to have an opinion.), but if all it takes is a decision to overcome addiction we would lose very few people to it.  Addicts make the decision to quit all the time but the illness itself makes it very difficult:

  1. It compromises their will in ways that make it impossible for some of them to execute and sustain that decision.
  2. It clouds their thinking about what is necessary to quit.
  3. It robs them of recovery capital that makes the path to recovery a little less difficult.
Second, Sullivan, of all people, should know the power that culture plays in decisions related to treating or recovering from an illness. (He’s lived with HIV for nearly two decades.)
  • Within the context of the culture, what does it mean to accept a diagnosis of the illness and be identified as having the illness?
  • What are the cultural narratives about the illness?
  • What are the expectations for recovery or relapse?
  • Is there going to be adequate support for an adequate duration of time?
Finally, I think the choice of the word “master”, rather than treat or recover, says a lot. Why is viewing addiction as an illness so repellent to so many people?