The thing that is getting to me the most about news of Carrie Fisher’s autopsy report is not the results themselves, but the way the media is handling it. Like it’s a Gotcha moment—like somehow we were tricked into thinking she was a better person than she actually was.
And that is profoundly bullshit.
Carrie was open about being an addict. Her opening line from her iconic stand up show (and book by the same name) “Wishful Drinking” was quite literally, “Hi, I’m Carrie Fisher, and I’m an alcoholic.”
She talked at length and in often brutal depth about her problems with substance abuse, her compulsive self destructive tendencies, and her dependencies to both illegal and prescription drugs. She wrote about it in her books, she talked about it on talk shows. She made an entire comedic stand up performance out of it, detailing the lengths she went to in order to try and regain some semblance of safety and normalcy in her life.
She was brutally honest that every single day was a struggle for sanity after years and years of attempting to self medicate a mental illness that for most of her life was mistaken for feckless lack of self control.
You know how they way “Religion is the opiate of the masses?” Well I took masses of opiates religiously! -Wishful Drinking
She was bright, and beautiful and bold about it. And she didn’t have to be.
Carrie Fisher didn’t have to stand there and take the shitstorm of criticism people launched at her for decades, let alone turn it into humor. She didn’t. She didn’t owe anyone outwith her immediate family an explanation for her erratic behavior over the years, nor the flack she caught for it. (Think of all the male actors in Hollywood who are in and out of rehab centers so quickly they could harness the revolving doors as a wind turbine. Then tell me the media press about her life and now her death are fair.)
But she did it anyway, because she knew it was important. And she took those bright lights of Hollywood shining down on her like a ruthless, malevolent child holding a magnifying glass under the sun—and she turned that merciless heat and pointed it at things that mattered, often at the expense of herself, opening herself up to ridicule and the severe cruelty of others who lambasted her for everything, ranging from her weight, her mental illness or her audacity to simply grow old.
Is it tragic that her addiction likely cost her her life? Yes, of course it is. Does it invalidate any of her achievements? The strength and vibrancy with which she lived her life and touched the lives of millions around her for the better?
“I call people sometimes hoping not only that they’ll verify the fact that I’m alive but that they’ll also, however indirectly, convince me that being alive is an appropriate state for me to be in. Because sometimes I don’t think it’s such a bright idea. Is it worth the trouble it takes trying to live life so that someday you get something worthwhile out of it, instead of it almost always taking worthwhile things out of you?”
-The Princess Diarist
Carrie Fisher mattered, her voice mattered. The things that she said and did, mattered. They still matter. And they are no less true and poignant in the light of these revelations.
Addiction is a disease. It’s a dysfunction of the brain’s reward system which requires constant management and care and often goes hand in hand with other mental health disorders. It is not simply a question of willpower or the perceived lack thereof. And while sobriety is to be praised and encouraged—of course it is, of course it absolutely unquestionably is—you cannot possibly know what may cause a person to slip or to feel like they can’t cope without that crutch. And shame on anyone who says it was therefore deserved.
Shame and my heartfelt wishes that you never go through the things that can lead to serious addiction. Or that you are ever abandoned, derided and regarded as less than human because of it and your death turned into a smear campaign against your memory for the sake of a sensationalist headline.
Yes. Carrie Fisher was an addict, she had drug dependency problems related to her mental health. There was a time she kept it hidden, but after she made the decision to come out about it, she stuck by that decision and became a champion, for herself and everyone like her who struggles. Because she never wanted anyone to suffer like she did in order to get help. And she did it with as much grace and humility as she could manage—and a whole lot more indignity, immodesty, crass humor and love as well. Because that’s who she was and she cared.
And that’s a hell of a lot more than can be said for those crowing over her death like it’s just deserts.
People do not exist to stand up to your demands of a perfect ideal of humanity. You do not get to place that burden on the shoulders of someone then tear them apart when they fall under that weight—famous or otherwise.
Fuck you and your whole pretense at moral piety and the horse you rode in on.
Carrie Fisher was not your unproblematic fave. She was in fact extremely problematic, and no one knew that better than she did.
“I heard someone say once that many of us only seem able to find heaven by backing away from hell. And while the place that I’ve arrived at in my life may not precisely be everyone’s idea of heaven, I could swear sometimes—if I’m quiet enough—I can hear the angels sing. Either that or I fucked up my medication again.”