The lives of Whitney Houston and Casey Anthony have one thing in common only- opportunities to shine the light of awareness.
The recent death of Whitney Houston has brought out the very best and of course the very worst in media and humanity. Let’s get the worst out of the way first. Whitney Houston, even with all of her issues and demons, was not a woman of ill character. So, those in media who are USING Ms. Houston’s name solely to get press are way off the mark. She certainly should not even be thought of in the same sentence as the likes of a Casey Anthony. It is clear that many media mavens miss the ratings bonanza that Casey Anthony brought them.
But, we can use both stories as teachable moments and to shine the light on serious issues. As you all know, I am primarily known as a true crime insider and commentator on all things criminal justice, prison and most importantly re-entry into society. My goal with the Casey Anthony case is to highlight how our court system works and what needs to change. Further, I think the Casey Anthony case must be used to shine the light on America’s dirty little secret, child abuse and neglect. The fact is that FIVE children die every day in this country from abuse or neglect. So, while I empathize with Caylee Anthony I try to keep the conversation going by talking about all of the other abused children we must take care of.
This brings me to the story of the day and Whitney Houston. The only similarity between Casey Anthony and Whitney Houston is the gigantic platform these cases have presented us with. The responsibility of how to handle that platform is a large one. Whitney Houston should not be used as a case where we point fingers and make assumptions. Facts are facts. Addiction kills and there is hardly a family in America that is not affected by substance abuse. Here is where we must be careful. As many of you know, I write about my own experiences in Federal Prison and probation. I have written about everything from daily prison life to how the FBI conducts investigations to alternative sentences and yes, even how to “pee in a cup” for probation and what that is like. I write from my heart in the hope that my experiences will help others. I will do the same with this post.
Many headline grabbers have very big catch phrases and are good at stirring up junk science. From Nancy Grace to Dr. Drew, none have gotten the addiction piece right. As a former drug abuser I do not believe that once an addict always an addict like Dr. Drew says, nor do I believe that AA works for everybody and that a “sober” person can never take a medication or have a drink. Every case and medical history is unique. Otherwise, we would not have so many people who fight this demon and die from this issue everyday. The same goes with how to solve our mass incarceration problem and what many of us call our Incarceration Nation. Is it a coincidence that our jails and prisons are full of addicts? In fact, over 75% of people incarcerated have some form of mental health issue or substance abuse condition.
Let’s keep it real. Addiction turns victims into victimizers. It is a thief in the night that takes away common sense, dignity and often leads to crime and then punishment. I do believe that some addicts benefit from time in prison if only to sober up for a prolonged period. I also believe that many of the in prison programs for addicts work. I participated in a Federal prison program called the RDAP program that not only teaches about addiction but criminal thinking and self-realization. After all, addicts exhibit criminal thinking errors. Addicts lie, sometimes cheat and always suffer from low self-esteem and shame. ALWAYS.
Addiction turns moms into children and children into care takers. It is a vicious cycle just like that of domestic abuse and crime. Addiction, like prison, does not discriminate. It is an equal opportunity condition. Yes, some may use more expensive drugs or alcohol, but the result is the same. But, just as one can overcome prison and re-enter society with success, so can an addict. I know. I have been there and done it. Desperation is desperation. And just as prison affects the entire family, addiction affects does as well.
Yes, my thoughts here are deeply personal just like when I write about prison and our court system. I know that we can change things. I know that name-calling and finger pointing is useless and harmful. It may be uncomfortable, but we must empower each other not tear people down. So, to the media whores who are desperate to keep themselves in the news by calling Whitney Houston a “crack whore” or a junkie, watch out. This type of non-journalism will not last. We must demand more from our media personalities. We do not all have to agree but we all, including me, must offer solutions and in times of need- respect.
If you are suffering from addiction or know somebody who is, reach out. Always remember that you are worthy. I always say that change is possible- once you admit you need to make that change. For a list of resources please note my previous post. And never give up on yourself or anybody you love. Please let’s use the death of Whitney Houston to look at what we can all do to prevent other such tragedies. Yes, there is a link between substance abuse and crime and the time is now to find solutions.