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Russell Brand's Heartfelt Blog About Amy Winehouse

7/24/2011 5:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Russell Brand, who famously battled addiction for years, wrote a long and touching blog about his friend Amy Winehouse -- whom he called both a genius and a junkie.

Russell Brand Eulogy
Russell says he finally conquered his addiction at the age of 27, the same age Amy was when she passed away. He says he'd known Amy for a long time before he had ever heard her sing ... calling her voice "entirely human yet laced with the divine."

Here's his blog, in its entirety

For Amy

When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they've had enough, that they're ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it's too late, she's gone.

Frustratingly it's not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene.

I've known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma. Carl Barrat told me that "Winehouse" (which I usually called her and got a kick out of cos it's kind of funny to call a girl by her surname) was a jazz singer, which struck me as a bizarrely anomalous in that crowd. To me with my limited musical knowledge this information placed Amy beyond an invisible boundary of relevance; "Jazz singer? She must be some kind of eccentric" I thought. I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable.

I was myself at that time barely out of rehab and was thirstily seeking less complicated women so I barely reflected on the now glaringly obvious fact that Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction. All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they're not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his "speedboat" there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they're looking through you to somewhere else they'd rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.

From time to time I'd bump into Amy she had good banter so we could chat a bit and have a laugh, she was "a character" but that world was riddled with half cut, doped up chancers, I was one of them, even in early recovery I was kept afloat only by clinging to the bodies of strangers so Winehouse, but for her gentle quirks didn't especially register.

Then she became massively famous and I was pleased to see her acknowledged but mostly baffled because I'd not experienced her work and this not being the 1950's I wondered how a "jazz singer" had achieved such cultural prominence. I wasn't curious enough to do anything so extreme as listen to her music or go to one of her gigs, I was becoming famous myself at the time and that was an all consuming experience. It was only by chance that I attended a Paul Weller gig at the Roundhouse that I ever saw her live.

I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I'd only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound. So now I knew. She wasn't just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a f**king genius.

Shallow fool that I am I now regarded her in a different light, the light that blazed down from heaven when she sang. That lit her up now and a new phase in our friendship began. She came on a few of my TV and radio shows, I still saw her about but now attended to her with a little more interest. Publicly though, Amy increasingly became defined by her addiction. Our media though is more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising her gift to chronicling her downfall. The destructive personal relationships, the blood soaked ballet slippers, the aborted shows, that youtube madness with the baby mice. In the public perception this ephemeral tittle-tattle replaced her timeless talent. This and her manner in our occasional meetings brought home to me the severity of her condition. Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. I was 27 years old when through the friendship and help of Chip Somers of the treatment centre, Focus12 I found recovery, through Focus I was introduced to support fellowships for alcoholics and drug addicts which are very easy to find and open to anybody with a desire to stop drinking and without which I would not be alive.

Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy's incredible talent. Or Kurt's or Jimi's or Janis's, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn't even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.
218 COMMENTS

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136.

chimein    

The more I see from Russell Brand, the more I LOVE HIM!

I hope some people really reach out for help and get it!

1189 days ago
137.

DeeWA2010    

WOW Russell well said. I have 27 yrs clean time. I started using heroin for energy to clean my house (20 YRS OLD w/2 kids 4&2, & going through a divorce). Once a wk turned to EVERY DAY, many times a day. Lost my kids... 9 yrs later. I put myself into treatment. I am a MIRACLE, I really believe that. SOOOOO... many folks I knew are DEAD. I even had a plot picked out. BUT... I graduated business college w/3.86 GPA, hired by state, promoted 3 times in 2 yrs ... 9 yrs later I founded a nonprofit; a home for teen mothers & a club type program for gang affiliated youth. I am SO.. saddened by Amy death. Such a talented soul.... I wish I could bottle how I got clean.... I'd be a millionaire! :(

1189 days ago
138.

w    

wow, that was an amazing blog, so beautifully written.

1189 days ago
139.

I don't eat chips    

Russell, I thank you for showing us there is still compassion in this world where ugliness is so prevalent. Your words moved me.
Well done!

1189 days ago
140.

Robin     

Beautiful ~ RIP Amy.

1189 days ago
141.

Kim    

bambam4LSU 41 minutes ago
F Russell Grand he's just a wannbe, and never will be anything.. yes he has some B movies out, yea and I dont, but he will die before 35 from drugs/or AIDS.. cuz he has suck many...
***********

He's 36 right now you idiot. Before you go posting stupid stuff like this, at least check your facts. Moron.

And as for Russell, that was extremely well put, easily the best thing I have written regarding this tragedy.

1189 days ago
142.

Matt Tracker.    


Man,the way you put it Russell, your right,addicts do carry such a stigma,a hatred by society,we are thought of as evil,devious,careless people,and granted some of us are,but most of us are just people trying to numb it all out,trying to numb out all the overwhelming fears,doubts,and self inflicted BS we've lived with everyday of our lives.trying to drown out the voices in our heads and our ears telling us we are not good enough,smart enough,talented enough,good looking enough,rich enough,funny enough,capable enough,human enough. and before we know it the thing we use for just a few moments of ridiculously precious peace becomes a weight chained around our necks constantly pulling us down,when we notice how tight the chains grip is,its already got us in a whole so deep and so dark with walls so steep its often near imposable to get out.and all to often we become comfortable to this deep dark pit,like a prisoner that gets institutionalized,at first we hate it and hate ourselves for letting it get this far,but then we just do what is so easy for us,we say F it,hit the plunger,flick the lighter pop the pill or empty another bottle and carry on.

Amy i believe was one of those that grew too comfortable with her deep dark pit,grew to rely on it,and perhaps even grew to love it as so many of us do, its the only thing in our messed up lives we can even half ass manage,...i mean who doesn't love it when the pain stops,if even for a few short moments.

I grieve for the lost of your friend,and hope she finds eternal peace on the other side,along with all the others lost to the seductive demon called addiction.


Peace,Love and Happiness...

1189 days ago
143.

MelRose    

WoW,,,Brand is kewl.N what he said about the fact that NO ONE CAN INTERVENE,,,AMEN.ANd thats COMING from a former addict is big ect- I lived w/ an ADDICT and we tried everything in gods green earth to get him help, including at one point literally physically foceing him out the door to a Rehab! We begged , we pleaded,prodded ,cried,hoped ect And finally I,, Gave up.The drugs mean more,,,end a story and if i hear one more idiot say that her friends or family should of done more for Amy i will scream bc it is nottttt anyones fault ,,,but AMY's.And if they the former addict's and other want to call it a "Disease" knock ur selves out but it's NOT one- Cancer is a Disease and many others-thats such bullshi*- I know the diff between a disease and a person that cares about nothing or no one except their drugs or booze and themselvez ect.The addicts i have known even when sober were/r THEE MOST self centered a-holes on the planet-a scant few are like Russ-Oh well RIP WineHouse,,,,,there is no dope in heaven but i do hope she acheives peace and happiness NOW.

1189 days ago
144.

CM    

@ Carrie Addiction is most certainly a disease. Like mental illness (such as depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.), a mixture of neurotransmitters, genetics and environmental factors play a role in whether or not people will become addicted to a substance.

Addiction is like most major diseases. Consider heart disease, the leading cause of death in the developed world. It's partly due to genes and partly due to poor life style choices such as bad diet, lack of exercise, and smoking. The same is true for other common diseases like adult-onset diabetes. Many forms of cancers are due to a combination of genes and life style. But if your doctor said that you had diabetes or heart disease, you wouldn't think you were bad person. You would think, "What can I do to overcome this disease?" That is how you should approach addiction.

Addiction is not a weakness. The fact that addiction crosses all socio-economic boundaries confirms that addiction is a disease. People who don't know about addiction will tell you that you just need to be stronger to control your use. But if that was true then only unsuccessful people or unmotivated people would have an addiction, and yet 10% of high-functioning executives have an addiction.

In addition, since you asked for scientific evidence supporting that addiction is a disease, here is some scientific evidence that genetics, which we do not have control over, plays a large part in developing an addition. Please keep in mind that an addiction, by definition, is completely different and much more severe than a "bad habit."

First, it has been shown that addiction is due 50-60...... percent to genetic predisposition and 40-50 percent to poor coping skills. This has been confirmed by numerous studies. One study looked at 861 identical twin pairs and 653 fraternal (non-identical) twin pairs. When one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of being addicted. But when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not necessarily have an addiction. Based on the differences between the identical and non-identical twins, the study showed 50-60......% of addiction is due to genetic factors.(1) Those numbers have been confirmed by other studies.(2)

The children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction. One study looked at 231 people who were diagnosed with drug or alcohol addiction, and compared them to 61 people who did not have an addiction. Then it looked at the first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, or children) of those people. It discovered that if a parent has a drug or alcohol addiction, the child had an 8 times greater chance of developing an addiction.(3)

(Please note that the numbers appear small, but when doing statistical studies, researchers tend to use the lowest number of participants that would successfully illustrate statistical significance)

Why are there genes for addiction? Well, if you look at the evolutionary perspective, you could argue that we all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to that. When an animal eats a certain food that it likes, there is an advantage to associating pleasure with that food so that the animal will look for that food in the future. In other words the potential for addiction is hardwired into our brain. Everyone has eaten too much of their favorite food even though they knew it wasn't good for them.

Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others. Some people drink alcoholically from the beginning. Other people start out as a moderate drinker and then become alcoholics later on.

How does that happen?
Environmental stressors play a large part in developing the disease. You could run a high risk of having skin cancer in your family, however if you make conscientious decisions (like staying out of the sun, applying sunscreen etc.) you reduce your risk of developing cancer. However, you could still potentially get it.
Addition happens in very much the same way. You could be at high risk, but never encounter any external factors that would lead you down the path to addiction. Maybe it only takes one drink, maybe it takes 120, each person is different.

Either way, whether by genetic predisposition or bad decisions, repeatedly abusing drugs or alcohol permanently rewires your brain (by "rewire" I am referring to causing a permanent neuro-chemical imbalance). Similar to other neuro-chemical imbalances (like depression), the imbalance can make it incredibly difficult to reach out to others for help, or to change their behavior. Any behavior change must be made by the individual themselves. With hard work, dedication and a proper treatment plan, it is possible people suffering from addictions can overcome them, however, they must always work to overcome their addictive tendencies. It doesn't just vanish.

Similarly, an obese person who is diagnosed with type-II diabetes must also come to the conclusion and be dedicated to a healthier lifestyle before positive changes (and likely the ability to reverse their diagnosis) can be made.

I could go on, but I digress. I hope that next time you post about a serious, strongly misunderstood, illness you take time to do research and post facts, not opinions. It is a tragedy what happened to Amy Winehouse, but it is also a tragedy for all of the non-famous addicts out there going through the same struggle. Russell Brand was writing from the heart, and, personally, I do not feel like I can judge anyone negatively for that (especially when it was so well written).

References:

1) Prescott CA, Kendler KS. Genetic and environmental contributions to alcohol abuse and dependence in a population-based sample of male twins. American Journal Psychiatry. 1999 Jan;156(1):34-40.

2) Enoch MA, Goldman D. The genetics of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Current Psychiatry Reports. 2001 Apr;3(2):144-51.

3) Merikangas KR, Stolar M, Stevens DE, Goulet J, Preisig MA, Fenton B, Zhang H, O'Malley SS, Rounsaville BJ. Familial transmission of substance use disorders. Archives General Psychiatry. 1998 Nov;55(11):973-9.

1189 days ago
145.

John D    

The whole Russell blog is touching. But cmon people, she had chance after chance after chance, etc. We all knew this was coming so get over it. The only reason she belongs in the same sentence as Jimi & Janice is she died at 27. Thats it. Dont even think of comparing her legacy, if there even is one, to theirs.

1189 days ago
146.

kaylee    

Jesus Christ, that was beautiful and so well written. A piece of Russels heart fell out into that blog, and I agree with every word that was said. There will be a call, good, bad or irrelevant .. there WILL be a call.

1189 days ago
147.

Annie    

Very powerful, Russell, the last sentence says it all.

1189 days ago
148.

rose    

I don't think anybody could have put this situation in better perspective. It is a shame her addiction overshadowed her talent. May she finally rest in the peace she sought after.

1189 days ago
149.

DrumNZ    

In this day and age with CCTV Cameras on every street.. S***bag Paparazzi camped on ones doorstep 24/7 .."NO PRIVACY" ..Is it any wonder she just wanted to curl up into the fetus position .. Also of the fact that some of Amy's so called friends and hangers on did nothing to help break the dependency but only to encourage it

.. Who the f**k would want to be famous!!!

1189 days ago
150.

Dana    

Brilliantly written Russell! My father once told me that addiction is stronger than anything in life, including love. In his case he was right. I got the phone call in January and wouldn't wish that moment on my worst enemy. I truely hope other addicts decide to make the call before someone else has to.

1189 days ago
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