New York Times reporter Jack Healy was sitting in a diner in Newtownsville, OH enjoying a piece of German chocolate cake when he received a tip about a father in nearby town who had lost two of his three adult children to opioid overdoses. On Twitter, Healy detailed how he approached the family with only an address in hand that he had looked up on Google. The result of his reporting, “2 of a Farmer’s 3 Children Overdosed. What of the Third—and the Land?” is an incredible portrait of a national addiction on a personal scale.
The younger Mr. Winemiller said that being back in the farmhouse had helped save his life by yanking him away from old patterns and temptations.
He started working on the farm when he was 12, driving tractors even though his father had to attach pieces of wood to the pedals so his legs would reach.
“I want to get back to it. That’s the whole idea,” he said. “It’s in my blood. It’s the family name. I’ve done enough to disgrace our name. I want to do everything I can to mend it.”
Death has pulled the men closer, but at home, arguments erupt over whether each understands what the other is going through. The son says he is grieving just as much as his father. The father says he is in recovery just as much as his son.
If you live long enough, you create some regrets. Some people also make the difficult choices that alleviate their regrets. In Oregon Humanities magazine, Loretta Stinson writes about her moment of clarity, the night when she saw her fifteen-year relationship to an abusive alcoholic for what it was, and decided to walk out on him, her self-deception and her hopes, and to quit putting her own life on hold while he drank and injected his paychecks away. No more abuse. This is how she left him:
It’s best not to say too much and not to look at him for too long when he’s been drinking, kind of like running into a bear in the woods—you just back away slowly and try not to piss him off. The fights can start just by the way I look at him. He says it’s my face. My face shows too much of what I’m thinking no matter how little I say, but maybe that’s just what he needs to believe because he has to be mad at some-one and I happen to be available. Tonight I’m just watching him start to spin. I can see by the way he’s crashing around pissed off about nothing that it was never my face that pissed him off, never anything I did or didn’t do. He needs a reason to fight with me so he can leave to drink more, and that’s what he intends to do no matter what I do or don’t do. This idea is a revelation.
Like Senna’s, Winehouse’s family co-operated with Kapadia, but unlike them, they are displeased with the film, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as a welcome portrait of the frequently caricatured Winehouse as an (exceptional) artist and as a person, Amy is an indictment of those around her, especially her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, with whom she developed a set of addictions that derailed her life, her manager, Raye Cosbert, and her father, Mitch, all of whom are portrayed as prioritising her career (and thus theirs) over her health. It is rare to see a non-fiction film in which the goodies seem so good and the baddies so bad, and the effect can be confusing, especially for those of us whose existing assumptions about what happened to Winehouse align with what is shown here. Are we being pandered to? Footage of Fielder-Civil, both from before and during his disastrous relationship with Winehouse, is difficult to watch, and I wondered several times whether the expression of smug, bratty cunning on his face was at least in part a projection of mine, or the director’s. (Having said that, if there’s a more appealing side to Fielder-Civil, it’s not obvious. ‘I can’t sing, so therefore Amy’s life is the only one that is ever valid,’ he recently complained to an interviewer. ‘I almost feel like I’m being punished.’)
Heroin use and related overdoses have been increasing in nearly every demographic group in the U.S., a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report posted earlier this month shows. In obituaries, “a growing number of families are dropping the euphemisms,” instead describing the painful realities of addiction. David Amsden’s April 2014 Rolling Stone story, “The New Face of Heroin,” examined the drug’s connection with pharmaceutical painkillers, and its spread into Vermont and other seemingly unlikely parts of the country:
The portrait of the governor’s native state that emerged was severe, conjuring up images more commonly associated with blighted inner cities than a state with the nation’s fifth-lowest unemployment rate and a populace that is 95 percent white. Since 2000, Shumlin noted, Vermont has seen an eightfold increase in those seeking treatment for opiate use, with an almost 40 percent spike in the past year for heroin alone, and every day hundreds are languishing on waiting lists for understaffed clinics. Deaths from overdoses in 2013 had nearly doubled from 2012; property crimes and home invasions were on the rise; and close to 80 percent of the state’s inmates “are either addicted or in prison because of their addiction.” The same major highways where tourists routinely pull over to take photos of rustic vistas had, in the governor’s description, become pipelines of heroin distribution, with organized gangs setting up outposts across the state, where a six-dollar bag of heroin in their home cities can fetch as much as $30. As a result, an estimated $2 million worth of opiates were now being trafficked into Vermont each week – a staggering amount for a state that, with only 626,000 residents, is the second-least-populated in the country, after Wyoming.