Amy Winehouse – a real legacy

Amy Winehouse substance misuse addiction

My thoughts and prayers are with Amy Winehouse’s family today. I only met Amy a couple of times, but I have been friends with two of her close family members for many years.

Amy winehouse active addiction substance misuse4 years ago today, the world lost one of the most talented and gifted singers and songwriters of a generation. She is remembered every day – mostly positively, but sadly through stigma tainted media-tinted glasses on occasion.

At the time we lost Amy, I remember thinking what a tragic loss she was to music and how much pain her loss would cause to her friends and family. I remember wondering how she could do this to the people that loved her and wondered why she hadn’t taken advantage of help that had been offered. Looking back at that day, it’s hard to believe that I thought that of Amy whilst doing exactly the same things as her. I was self-medicating, taking drugs and alcohol cope with emotional pain, fear and struggling to cope with life. I was in the grip of active addiction.

I didn’t understand what that meant at the time, I thought I would stop when life got easier. I never for a second realised where that addiction would take me, realised the worry my family was going through, or the pain I would case them and others before I found the help I needed to turn my direction around. If not for the support of recovery services, good friends and experts, as well as my family – I could have put them through the same pain Amy’s family have suffered. The thing is, had I not asked for help and found the resolve to fight addiction, to turn my life around and to change the way I live my life, I almost certainly would not be alive today.

Amy Winehouse’s family and friends created The Amy Winehouse Foundation. It works to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people. We also aim to support, inform and inspire vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to help them reach their full potential.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Understanding how addiction works is difficult until you experience it yourself, and that is not something anyone should have to go through, yet thousands fall victim to addiction every day. Be it addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, illicit drugs, work, food, love, sex or anything else that can destroy lives if taken to extremes.

Today I’ll be thinking about Amy Winehouse, a beautiful lady that didn’t get the right help we all hoped for in time. Addiction, mental health problems and offending behaviour go hand in hand and few people or their families have the ability to fight them alone, no matter how hard they want to. Addiction does not distinguish based on race, affluence background or vocation. Drugs and alcohol take lives when they become forces of addiction.

There is often no-one true blame, only sadness and a desire to get the support structures in place that prevent such tragic loss in future. Many people die from substance misuse, others survive, there is no distinction based on how hard a family or loved one fights to save that person, only how strong their body is in fighting an allergy that takes root as an obsession of the mind. Amy Winehouse was a global icon, an incredible talent. but doctors, secretaries, street vendors, market salesmen, construction site workers, school teachers, army officers in every country all over the world find themselves dealing with their own struggles in the same way Amy Winehouse did.

I don’t want to see a film depicting a warped story based on half-truths and sensationally rewritten narratives created for profit-seeking motives. The true story can sadly now never be told because the one person able to tell it is gone.

Instead, I want to work with people facing the same battle that Amy Winehouse lost and give them a chance to win, to enjoy life and achieve their dreams. I want to help IF Group reach out to those that have experienced addiction, mental health illness, homelessness and offending behaviour and hear their story. I want to use that lived experience to change the way services are provided, to catch more people before it’s too late and to give more people the chance to live a safe and productive life.

Today I’ll be working harder than ever for IF Group and enjoying some of the magical music Amy Winehouse gave the world, helping to make it a better place. If we achieve system change, creating support services that effectively help people overcome active addiction, substance misuse, homelessness, mental health problems and offending behaviour, that would be a real legacy worthy of the talented Amy Winehouse.