By the Way

What we can learn from Prince's death

By JEFF CLARK

jclark@sunherald.com

We are now left to face the truth that Prince was an addict, that he was possibly addicted to painkillers (opioids) and maybe even cocaine and that his addiction contributed to his death. And while it is sad, it doesn’t diminish the life he led or the contributions he made.

He was a beloved musical genius and he is gone forever, regardless of the circumstances surrounding his death.

The reality of his death is that Prince was one of the almost 25 million Americans that suffers from an addiction to drugs and alcohol, which, according to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, means that 1 out of every 12 adults has a chemical dependency issue.

Many members of the modern medical community support the “addiction as a disease model,” meaning addiction and alcoholism is progressive, it cannot be cured and it can cause great harm if not treated. The disease model recognizes the significance and impact of cravings and it requires complete abstinence from the drug of choice in order for the disease to placed in remission.

Addiction is a deadly disease. Prince is the latest casualty in an endless of people that have died from drug and alcohol related deaths including Amy Winehouse, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and my friend and former Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon.

I have known more people who have died from issues with addiction than I have cancer -- friends, acquaintances and even family members.

This includes my father, who suffered with and died from alcoholism.

I think about Prince’s handlers who tried to revive him after he fell out at Paisley Park. I, too, tried unsuccessfully to revive my father with CPR on the night he died.

If I could, I would tell them it’s not their fault -- you did all you could do, although it took me many years to come to this realization.

I have read that Prince suffered from chronic pain. This makes sense, as most people that enter the realm of full-blown addiction are trying to stop some form of pain, be it physical, emotional or mental. Sometimes people are trying to stop different types of pain simultaneously.

It’s a shame that Prince and many others never escaped  the throes of addiction and that death was the only way out. Addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence; people are recovering every day and living meaningful, full lives.

I know the living hell that is addiction quite well, as I spent many years battling it, myself and a host of other demons. But I also know the joy and peace of mind that sobriety brings and that's the realm in which I choose to live.

It’s heartbreaking that Prince died at age 57 from an apparent drug overdose, but he won’t be the last to die from addiction.

Jeff Clark is a staff writer for the Sun Herald.  Follow him on Twitter @thejeffclark.

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