There are other deaths and sadness in the news this weekend -- I've heard a plea for blood donors to get to Ullevaal Hospital in Oslo if they can -- but this is one that I can more easily wrap my mind around at the moment. Here's where my mind went:
Addiction probably came close to killing Stephen King.
I say "probably" because we can't always be sure how close to the edge someone came. There's the risk of being melodramatic, of overstating it, and hey, he's still with us and still writing, so what's the big deal? Except he wrote, harrowingly, about living with addiction -- not just in his non-fiction work On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, but indirectly through his fiction. Which has many addicts, Jack Torrence of The Shining perhaps the most famous. King knows that terrain. On Writing is where, eventually, he opened up about it and spoke as directly as he ever had about it:
...[in the mid-1980s] my wife, finally convinced that I wasn't going to pull out of this ugly downward spiral on my own, stepped in. It couldn't have been easy -- by then I was no longer within shouting distance of my right mind -- but she did it. She organized an intervention group of family and friends, and I was treated to a kind of This Is Your Life in hell.
...The point of this intervention, which was certainly as unpleasant for my wife and kids and friends as it was for me, was that I was dying in front of them. [My wife] Tabby said I had my choice: I could get help at a rehab or I could get the hell out of the house. She said that she and the kids loved me, and for that very reason none of them wanted to witness my suicide.
I bargained, because that's what addicts do. I was charming, because that's what addicts are. In the end I got two weeks to think about it. In retrospect, this seems to summarize all the insanity of that time. Guy is standing on top of a burning building. Helicopter arrives, hovers, drops a rope ladder. Climb up! the man leaning out of the helicopter's door shouts. Guy on top of the burning building responds, Give me two weeks to think about it.
King then described the start of the long, long -- really still going -- process of getting clean. It's a process with damage. It's probably something he'll never completely get over. Amy Winehouse wasn't able to get as far through that process. Now she'll never do so. And that makes me sad. Soon after I was first turned on to her music, I talked about her with an online friend -- then on LJ (electrcspacegrl), now on LJ and Twitter -- about both her amazing voice and her already-clear problems. "Whatever her issues," she said, "she's got talent beyond her years." Interestingly, some of my thoughts in that journal entry echo what I'm saying now; I brought up King then, too, and hoped for Winehouse to get, eventually, to a better place. She didn't. Maybe she could have. Maybe she couldn't. Now we won't know.
I realized this as I read reactions on Twitter today: I've been lucky. As far as I know, I've never lost someone to addiction. I've lost people for other reasons, other difficult reasons. I'm thinking of some of those who I have lost, and even the word "loss," at the moment, seems heavier. The sense of void, the knowing one can never know what would have happened had their lives not ended when they had, and when I've aged to the point that even someone dying in their 60s seems too young, dying in one's 20s becomes even heavier and more tragic. Would there have been years of potential that was lost? Would there have been decades?
Stephen King is still with us. So are others who have survived addiction. Many aren't. Too many aren't.
Too many aren't.
Rest in a peace you weren't able to find here, Amy Winehouse.