‘What Amy Winehouse’s Birthday Means to Me’ by Beth Burgess

london recovery coach.jpgBeth is really getting prolific at the Huffington Post. I’ll keep pushing her blogs out as I like her writing. So here we go again.

‘I was 27 when I decided to stop drinking; the same age at which Amy Winehouse sadly died while in the throes of her own battle with the booze. Although I didn’t find immediate recovery after my initial decision to quit, I was already sober when Amy’s death was announced in July 2011.

Even though the rest of the world seemed to be expecting the news, I recall feeling shocked to hear of the British singer’s death. It’s part of the mental block among alcoholics, where you downplay the consequences of drinking. I never thought the worst would happen to me. I never thought it would happen to her. She probably never thought it would either. It’s classic denial.

On 14 September, Amy would have turned 30 if her life had not come to such a tragic end, a fact that is especially poignant to me, as I sit here aged 33, sober, in recovery from addiction and very much alive.

It could easily have been a different story. I had been an alcoholic since my teens, drank as least as much as Amy, and had lived in a similarly chaotic way. I remember thinking as I heard the news of her passing, “That could have been me.” And finally I sensed that in a very real way.

As a young woman, I identified with Amy Winehouse, having suffered similar mental health issues, including anxiety, bulimia, self-harm and depression. I knew what it was to be in the grips of addiction, to be unable to solve my own problems, and yet to kick against some of the proposed solutions. I also protested “No, no, no” against going to rehab, much to my family’s dismay.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get better, but rather that I couldn’t picture my life without drinking when I had other issues to cope with. Not only that, but I didn’t understand addiction back then, or the complexities of what it took to recover.

When she died, Amy was at a stage that I, by some kind of grace, managed to survive. I remember that frustrating pattern of achieving a few weeks abstinence and then falling back into a horrendous binge. That is unfortunately where her battle ended, and my own recovery began.

What is the difference between our fates? Some luck, undoubtedly. But to me, the talented singer was stuck in her own way of doing things. Amy was feisty and determined, and she wanted to fight her problems on her own. But alcoholism is a confusing and deadly illness and sufferers need to be open to learning and outside help if they are to recover. I learnt that for myself in a most painful way,

For Amy’s family and fans, her birthday is a chance to celebrate her life, her music and her unique personality. For me, it will forever remind me that I was given a rebirth, another chance at life. And one that I only got by surrendering my pride and asking for more help.

It is also a chance to share my own story, to let others suffering from addiction know that there is recovery out there. It is not easy, but it is possible with the right treatment and support. Some of us do make it out alive, grateful and happy to be sober.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation is running a series of events to celebrate Amy’s birthday. In a bittersweet twist, it is a charity that offers vulnerable people the help that they need. I can not think of a better legacy to be born from the ashes of such a tragic death. I’ll be showing my support.