The late Whitney Houston is a pop culture icon, so much so that even without using her last name, people know who you’re referring to. Her legendary vocals have left a lasting mark on the music industry, even in the wake of her tragic death in 2012. While her life looked glamorous to an outsider, Whitney struggled with substance abuse and addiction that ultimately resulted in her passing. It’s critical to shine a light on Whitney Houston’s addiction and the brave battles with addiction that public figures are fighting to start a positive conversation around seeking help if you need it.
The Incredible Life of Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was an American singer born in New Jersey in 1963. Her voice is her legacy, and she released the first of four iconic albums at the young age of 22 in 1985, starting off strong with three singles hitting No. 1. Whitney was born into a musical family, with both her mother and her cousin being notable gospel singers. Her mother, Cissy Houston, was the reason Whitney began singing gospel music in church from a young age.
The way the congregation reacted to her voice instilled confidence in Whitney and led to her passion for pursuing music as a career. “I think I knew then that [my singing ability] was an infectious thing that God had given me,” she told Diane Sawyer in an interview.
It was in 1992 that Whitney married Bobby Brown, and at this time, her career began to derail as a result of substance abuse. The pair ultimately divorced in 2007, but their relationship was thought to be toxic, tumultuous and a significant influence in Whitney’s drug addiction.
Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012. The official autopsy report declared her cause of death as accidental drowning, heart disease and cocaine use.
Whitney Houston Addiction: In Her Own Words
Whitney Houston’s addiction was not always in the public eye, and for a long time, it was a topic of speculation. While cocaine use played a role in her death, Houston once spoke about the fact that her addiction and drug use were not intended as methods of self-harm.
“I can tell you that I am not self-destructive. I’m not a person who wants to die. I’m a person who has life, who wants to live. And I always have. And I wouldn’t mistake it for anything else other than that,” she told Diane Sawyer in 2000 during an interview on Primetime. Houston’s love for life and simultaneous struggles with addiction make her death as a result of cocaine use even more tragic.
In a 2009 Oprah interview, Whitney spoke about her prior drug use. The singer went through three rehab stints in 2004, 2005 and one final time in 2011. “We were lacing our marijuana with base. We weren’t on crack. We weren’t on no crack stuff,” Houston told Oprah, “We weren’t buying $20 jumbos. We were paying money. We were buying kilos and ounces and ounces. We would have our stash.”
When Oprah asked Whitney if using drugs provided her with relief, she replied, “At times. Don’t forget, there were some times we’d laugh our tails off. We had a ball. Sometimes you do have a good time. But when it gets to the point where you’re sitting in your home and you’re just trying to cover what you don’t want people to know, it’s painful. And then you want more just so that you don’t let anybody see you cry. Or anybody to see we’re not happy.”
While she openly discussed her prior drug use in the 2009 interview, when Oprah asked Whitney if she was currently drug-free, Houston replied, “Yes ma’am. I mean, y’ know, don’t think that doesn’t mean I don’t have desires for it. There are times it take a minute to cleanse, get off, get off me — I have to pray it away.”
Houston speaking so candidly about her ongoing struggles with addiction is an important message to share. While a stint in rehabilitation or therapy can get you clean and sober, addiction is a mental illness that doesn’t simply go away. Though it can be managed to ensure you live an enriching life, it’s common for individuals struggling with addiction to relapse and to battle with the constant push and pull of the desire for the feeling substances give you.
Putting Addiction Into the Spotlight
In the same 2009 interview, Oprah asked Whitney if she thought she’d be tempted to return to drug use again in the future. “Oprah, I can only take today, one day at a time, one day at a time. Right now no,” Houston said.
This honest response highlights the short-term mindset that can be integral to recovering from and managing addiction. It’s a daily choice you make to resist the urge to use. There’s no permanent recovery solution but rather an ongoing process of monitoring and managing your mental health so you can live the life you want to. With professional support, it’s possible to make these daily choices over the long term.
Whitney evidently returned to cocaine use in 2012, with it playing a role in her tragic and untimely death. As a legend in her own right, Houston inspires millions of people around the world to pursue their musical dreams, but her message now runs even deeper. In her wisdom, Whitney taught that it’s okay to speak out about addiction and it’s a positive thing to seek professional help. She also led by example in knowing that recovery is an ongoing process that requires continual commitment.
If You’re Struggling, Seek Professional Support
If you’re dealing with drug addiction or substance abuse, you’re not alone. At FHE Health, we can help you create a treatment plan and support you through recovery to get back on track. Whether you’re struggling with drug addiction, behavioral addiction or alcohol addiction, our team is here for you. Call us today at (844) 299-0618. We can take your call 24/7.