Former Birmingham, Ala. TV anchor Roy Hobbs, arrested in April 2010 for drug possession, offers some personal perspective on Whitney Houston and the twin devils of depression and addiction.
Like her, I am an addict. It was hard to accept that at first. It was not what my parents, my children, my friends or I thought I would become.
Addiction is a disease. I didn’t know that when I was in active addiction. I thought it was my lack of will or morals.
I fought for years with that mistaken belief. It took me to the bowels of society, and as a respected member of my community, I fought hard to hide it. But the disease took over and despite my every effort, I could not stop.
Addiction is a progressive disease. It might start out as fun, but the ends are always the same — jails, institutions or death.
I went through all three, except when I tried to kill myself, death would not take me. I thought death would free me from my pain, my shame, my hurt.
Today, I know I would only have passed all of that to my children and friends. They would have suffered all that I would have left behind.
Whitney and I could have shared that bleak outlook. But there is another significant difference between us. She never got into recovery. By the grace of God, I did. Otherwise, I too would be gone.
Something greater than me had other plans. I was fortunate enough to go into treatment. It was there that I learned that I suffered from major depression. I was put on medication and it made a difference.
I learned that addicts don’t have what “Earth” people have in their brains. “Earth” people have a green “go” button and a red “stop” button. Addicts have only a green “go” button. Once we start, we can’t stop.
Based on what I have learned about Whitney, she might not have had a red “stop” button. Recognizing that is the first step to recovery, I cannot do what “Earth” people do. I needed to join a self-help group to be around people like me and hear their experience, gaining strength and hope.
Hobbs said an important part of his recovery was making a spiritual connection with a power greater than himself — call it God, if you wish.
This is a fundamental part of 12-step programs. A book I’ve mentioned recently — the 10 Best-Ever Depression Management Techniques, by Margaret Wehrenberg — talks about the importance of enhancing the role of spirituality in one’s life.
“Don’t skip this section because you don’t consider yourself religious or because you are not much of a ‘God person.’ Spirituality has less to do with whether a person believes in God in a religious sense and more to do with how a person lives with him- or herself and others. …
“A life with meaning and purpose is a spiritual life, regardless of whether it includes religion.”
Towards that goal of a life with meaning and purpose, Wehrenberg recommends connecting with a community and practicing either prayer or meditation as ways to connect with your higher power.
Hobbs offered a few parting words on the role of hope and kindness in reporting on tragedies such as Houston’s death.
It hurt me deeply when I learned that Whitney Houston passed away. What hurts me most of all was that she was not in recovery, because I know she was experiencing deep pain. I pray that she has found her peace outside of her imperfect human body. I pray that she is surrounded with love.
I hope we as journalists write stories that give people hope that they can recover their lives. Show us people who are doing just that.
Who knows how many can be saved?