There is no rulebook on how to love an addict. There is no fundamentally sound way – forget what Dr. Phil or Dr. Drew says – on how to adequately handle a person who’d rather curl up to their drugs than cuddle up to some hugs. If you’ve ever been around someone like that, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then you’re one of the small army of folks who is still holding out hope that Whitney Houston might have somehow met her end through natural causes. I don’t take away any happiness when I say that you’re all sadly mistaken.
I’m no different than most of you when I admit that Whitney was somewhat of a Goddess when she burst on the scene. The fact that she hailed from Newark, or “Down Neck” as my Jersey friends proudly call it, meant (in a weird way) that any of us who lived nearby could possibly make the big time one day. When a girl with a golden voice like that lives only 40 or so miles from you, you start to think anything is possible. And then, when Eddie Murphy (Roosevelt, Long Island) and Jerry Seinfeld (Massapequa) and Rosie O’Donnell (Commack) do the same, I can tell you it changed my life. And suddenly I wasn’t wiping away the “stars” in my eyes, I was trying to use them as navigation.
The first time I saw Whitney in person, the whole persona of her being this gilded child blew away with the wind. It was a summer night in the late 80’s, when I was a cub reporter for Newsday, and was trying to sneak into Eddie Murphy’s giant house party in his Jersey dwelling he called “Bubble Hill.” There was no way I was getting in, but just being on his driveway was enough. But when I saw a crazy, black woman climbing on his wrought iron gate, screaming and cussing to get inside, I was taken aback. It was Whitney and she was acting crazy. This was the first time I knew Whitney had a “ghetto” side. The same personality that bonded so perfectly with her former bad boy husband Bobby Brown.
When Whitney and Bobby’s reality show hit the airwaves, people started to understand that the couple’s connection had more to do with just love and caring. It was obvious to anyone who knows anything about the drug culture that they were sharing a dependence for more than each other. And, if you had any kind of heart, you winced for their daughter Bobbi Kristina.
The last time I saw Whitney was some 25 years later, when I was – let’s just say – in my own relationship with certain kinds of drugs. I was in an after-hours house in a terrible section of Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Boulevard. A very far cry from Bubble Hill. It was there I watched Whitney indulge in alcohol and various different narcotics. She left the house in disarray. Two days later I turned on a morning show, featuring Whitney as a guest. When one of the hosts told her how “amazing” she looked and what she attributes it to, Whitney looked straight in the camera and said, “clean living, baby.” To this, the whole studio applauded. I was on my couch and almost spit out my coffee.
I was in no place to stop to judge her. But you all are certainly allowed to judge the friends she’s ran with for all these years and question why no one has ever stepped in. And this is where I am, unfortunately, somewhat certified to tell you that no amount of warnings from friends would’ve helped her. A drug addict quits when they want to quit. It wasn’t time for Whitney to quit. But all these powerful friends of hers – many of whom you saw at The Grammys who cried and prayed for her – better jump to their senses and do all they can to stop Bobbi Kristina from the same fate. All those friends of Whitney’s, who open their mouths wide and sing beautiful words, might want to do the same thing with meaningful ultimatums. They don’t have to be on key. Just on point.