Opinion: From Amy Winehouse to Demi Lovato... We're still not doing enough

Amy to Demi.jpg

From Amy to Demi

It feels painfully fitting that almost on the anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s death, another female singer with a well reported history of substance addiction overdoses. This time it’s not fatal, but can we say we’ve really offered enough support.

After watching the documentary 'AMY' which portrayed the life and tragic demise of Amy Winehouse, one scene, in particular, refused to leave me. That was the haunting image of watching a management and industry forcing a clearly unwell and clearly intoxicated Winehouse to go out on stage in Belgrade, Serbia for what would inevitably be one of her final performances.

By this point, Amy Winehouse struggling with alcohol and drugs came as a surprise to no one. It was now seen as part of who she was, for the casual music listener it was simply a defining characteristic, this was no doubt down to the fact she was offered little support from tabloids who vilified her. Even when she was seeking recovery the Daily Mail were quick to sabotage with a report back in May 2011 of Winehouse presumedly throwing up in a local salon due to be heavily intoxicated on her way to The Priory, a well-known rehab. While it may have been true, that small story is enough to add a layer of doubt of a successful recovery not just in the public's mind but also hers.

It was this stint in rehab which was to be Winehouse’s last as she checked out after only a few weeks in the clinic, this was to make sure she fulfilled tour commitments. One such date was the previously mentioned Serbia performance. Why on earth her team would think just a couple weeks in a professional program would be enough to see her through the trials and tribulations of a full-blown international tour is beyond me. After this disastrous evening, the tabloids once again leapt onto the singer, whilst even professional music publications ran articles that offered little support, notably Alex Needham who whilst writing for The Guardian simply declared that the performance "wasn’t that bad" and her being heavily inebriated was “what made it Rock N Roll." 

Despite being an unfortunate tragedy, you could have at least hoped that lessons would have been learned in the years that have followed. Addiction, of course, is a terrible disease, addicts need to want to help themselves before they can find the willpower to make a change, however, even then, some of the most successful recovering addicts can stumble and quickly fall back into its pitfalls. A strong support network is certainly needed. This should consist of non-judgemental, strong and caring individuals with the addicts best interests in heart. When I read this evening that Demi Lovato was rushed to hospital due to a heroin addiction my heart sunk, we’re still not doing enough, how can an addict who admitted to falling off the wagon only weeks ago not be having the vigilance support around her to prevent this.

Demi Lovato has been an outspoken, recovering addict. Always open to sharing her insecurities and struggles with a variety of subjects, from sexuality to her addictions and eating disorder. Even going as far as to release a documentary on the topic last year on YouTube titled ‘Simply Complicated’. This delved into deep childhood issues with a heavily addicted father, depression, being obsessed with death and a cocaine addiction all by the age of 17. 

The documentary at points is very intense, she’s openly talking about incredulous situations. One, for example, sees Demi rushed to a local hospital after nearly overdosing, when inside she proceeds to steal and take more pills whilst verbally abusing her attending nurse. Even following this incident she struggled to finally get back sober, it wasn’t until her entire management threatened to walk away did she turn around and try and fix her life. In her own words “You really have to lean into the people that are trying to support you… you have to surrender because that’s when the change is going to happen.” Over the next six years, up to 2018, Demi would remain sober and strong. Even in the documentary, Demi would describe that despite it being difficult she was incredibly proud of remaining sober.

However, back in April cracks started to emerge as two photos were uploaded of Demi at a friends party. At first seemingly identical, one by close friends Matthew Montgomery and rapper Sirah which seemed innocent enough. (see below)

wait so can u be in love w three women at the same time? #20gayteen

A post shared by matthew scott montgomery (@matthew_scott_montgomery) on

Until this compared with the same photo taken by Hayley Kiyoko (below), which included Demi holding a drink (Lovato has since claimed its Red Bull) but admittedly it’s more than suspicious that her friends felt it necessary to manipulate their photo and remove the glass from her hand. Surely, this should have thrown up a few red flags within the singers camp?

On June 21st, Demi would subsequently admit to relapsing with the aptly titled new single ‘Sober’ featuring lyrics that talked about battling withdrawal symptoms before concluding in the chorus that in fact she’s once again using. 

"Wake me when the shakes are gone / And the cold sweats disappear / Call me when it's over / And myself has reappeared," she sings. "To the ones who never left me / We've been down this road before / I'm so sorry, I'm not sober anymore.”

It’s more than a cry for help, for someone who early on in her career couldn’t face her issues instead taking the route of trying to hide her drug use, to now fully openly admit it, to not just her team but the whole world that she’s struggling with her demons once more, is, in fact, a scream for help. When an addict relapses it can be absolutely soul crushing, after six years to feel like you’ve made such incredible progress to then have to restart is indeed a heavy blow to take. 

This overdose is no surprise considering recent situations but that doesn’t make Demi's current predicament any less heartbreaking. I won’t call myself a fan of her music, I’ve got no gripes with her songs but then again I don’t find myself choosing to listen to her. Personally, I believe to come through all her hardships, to be so open, and to be an advocate for everyone from the LGBT community to recovering addicts is incredibly inspiring. I can’t even try and understand what’s happening behind the scenes with her team right now or if she was indeed receiving enough support but it’s clear that from an overall industry perspective she hasn’t been.

To conclude, it’s clear that something isn’t working, the deeply upsetting demise of Amy Winehouse should have been a wake-up call to the industry but even since then we’ve just watched the cycle repeat itself, continuing to lose artists at upsettingly young ages. We are all culpable, the press needs to start more positive conversations, specifically tabloids. Instead of glamorising a downfall such as in the case of Amy and Britney we need to celebrate their achievements, offer out support and helplines. I’m fed up of hearing “They have money, they can afford the professional help” instead it’s the complete opposite, substances are regularly available and passed around at high profile parties. Incredible pressure is placed on artists, especially former child stars who haven’t had a regular normal lifestyle to balance them, meanwhile, the controversy-hungry vultures known as tabloids just circle the stars waiting for the right moment to swoop.

At one point in her documentary Demi is talking about her idols, pointing out one specifically “I looked up to her, I wanted to be her so badly… I wanted to be as thin as her, to sing like her, I wanted to be just like her”, That idol she’s talking about? Amy Winehouse, I just hope Demi doesn’t meet the same fate.