Thursday, 16 February 2012

Alcohol, Drugs and Divas

Sad to say on the 11th of February of 2012, Whitney Elizabeth Houston, the artist who in 2009, the Guinness World Records cited as the most-awarded female act of all time; put her name to the list of other legendary female artists and performers that have lost their lives to the over excessive use of alcohol and drugs.

Why did these super gifted women punish themselves to such a degree that in the end the abuse cost them their lives? While women share some of the same root causes for alcoholism as men, there are several elements that are almost entirely exclusive to women, including:

Self-esteem and self-image issues. Women, especially those in their teens or early twenties, often suffer from significant self-esteem issues. The mainstream media bombards them with an unattainable, unrealistic picture of beauty. Depression and anxiety over the pursuit of this image leads many women to numb their pain with alcohol.

Co-dependent relationships. Many women develop alcohol addictions because their significant other has a drinking problem as well. These destructive co-dependent relationships have the woman trapped in a cycle of addiction because she fears that the relationship will fail if she does not take part in the behaviour.

Sexual or physical abuse. While many men also fall victim to abuse, the event takes a particular toll on women. Remaining isolated or unable to speak about the incident, women often become depressed-which can lead to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Recognise some of these traits in the latest tragic deaths of Whitney Huston and Amy Winehouse? Unfortunately, these life taking events happen to many gifted female artists, and remain hidden from the public eye.

Constant alcohol abuse exacts a greater physical toll on women than on men. Female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than those of male alcoholics. Further, a greater percentage of female alcoholics die from suicides, alcohol-related accidents, circulatory disorders, and cirrhosis of the liver. Findings suggest that the development of consequences associated with heavy drinking may be accelerated or "telescoped" in women. Along with these many psychosocial and epidemiological differences, the sexes also experience different physiological effects of alcohol. Women become intoxicated after drinking smaller quantities of alcohol than are needed to produce intoxication in men. Women have lower total body water content than men of comparable size. After alcohol is consumed, it diffuses uniformly into all body water, both inside and outside cells. Because of their smaller quantity of body water, women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in their blood than men after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol. More simply, blood alcohol concentration in women may be likened to the result of dropping the same quantity of alcohol into a smaller pail of water. Diminished activity of alcohol dehydrogenase (the primary enzyme involved in the metabolism of alcohol) in the stomach also may contribute to the gender-related differences in blood alcohol concentrations and a woman's heightened vulnerability to the physiological consequences of drinking. Add the use of drugs to this and you are gambling with your life.

Women are more apt, or should I say talented, at hiding their problems than men. First Lady Betty Ford, was an alcoholic and hooked on prescription drugs; however she managed to hide her problem from herself and the ever searching world eye; quote: "My makeup wasn't smeared, I wasn't disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?" Betty was one of the lucky ones, she fought her addiction and went on to open the world famous Betty Ford Center, which models its programs on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The road to the top is long and hard, on the way many lose their youth and personal freedom; it’s when they have reached the pinnacle that the shock of the cost suddenly hits. Whitney openly talking about her addictions, on The Oprah Winfrey Show, said "I had so much money and so much access to what I wanted, I didn't think about the singing part anymore. I was looking for my young womanhood.” Whitney Houston not only took drugs, and alcohol, her ex-husband Bobby Brown, was emotionally abusive during their marriage; another trait that is often found in the short, self destructive, lives of most of these, sadly silenced divas.

Billie Holiday,  died in her 44th year on July 17th, 1959 It is said that Billie changed the art of American pop vocals forever. In early 1959 she found out that she had cirrhosis of the liver; the doctor told her to stop drinking, which she did for a short time, but soon returned to heavy drinking. On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York suffering from liver and heart disease. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided by authorities. Police officers were stationed at the door to her room. Holiday remained under police guard at the hospital until she died from pulmonary oedema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In the final years of her life, she had been in abusive relationships, and progressively swindled out of her earnings. She died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person.

Judy Garland was one of America's most famous child stars. The yellow brick road led to torment, despair and loneliness. Garland sought refuge in alcohol, prescription sedatives, and stimulants. There were, however, short periods in her life when she attempted to get "clean and sober," but she was never able to stay off the drugs and alcohol. Garland spent her life struggling to overcome many personal problems, including addiction, to no avail. Judy died of an accidental overdose of barbiturates on June 22, 1969, aged 47.

Édith Piaf, born 19 December 1915 –  died 11 October 1963, was a French singer and cultural icon who became widely regarded as France's national popular singer, as well as being one of France's greatest international stars; her influence on French music can be felt to this present day.
In 1951, Piaf was seriously injured in a car crash along with Charles Aznavour, breaking her arm and two ribs, and thereafter had serious difficulties arising from morphine and alcohol addictions. Edith was in rehabilitation on three different occasions to no avail. Piaf died of liver cancer at age 47.  She had been drifting in and out of consciousness for several months. Her last words were "Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for."

Amy Winehouse, born 14 September 1983 – died of alcohol poisoning 23 July 2011. It is so sad that this amazingly talented artist had to die at the early age of 27. Sadder, though, was her inability to face the demons that hid in that endless pit of alcoholism and addiction

Whitney Houston, born August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012. Considered by many to be one the greatest female singers of all time, died at the Beverly Hill’s Hilton at the age of 49, cause of death excessive alcohol combined with prescription drugs.

Fame carries a heavy toll; and these female artists are just a few of those who have paid the full price-with their lives.

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