Black Women's Health and Happiness

Insights into physical, mental, and spiritual health for women of color.

Substance Abuse, Whitney Houston and Bodyguards

Kevin Costner was Whitney's best bodyguard.

Never let your guard down. Never let her out of your sight.

These are two of the lines on the original poster for the still-wonderful movie, "The Bodyguard," starring Kevin Costner and the now late songbird, Whitney Houston.

As we embark upon the one year anniversary of that sad day last year when Whitney died, I recall my emotions as I just happened to be watching CNN’s Don Lemon. With a stunned, pain voice, he interrupted whatever he was reporting to share the breaking news: “Whitney Houston is Dead.” I remember seeing his pain, and him telling his producer “I don’t need the teleprompter because I already know what her song titles are.” And I remember the pain and dread I felt, if not the disbelief. (For me, it was a double whammy that Feb 11th, because earlier that day I'd attended the funeral of a very well-to-do "sister" who "reportedly" committed suicide, when, to all accounts, she was living a fine life of "high style." Oh the private hells of man.)

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Might we have still enjoyed Whitney's acting skill for many years to come? Yes. But I believe that Whitney had already given us her best singing voice. The damage she caused her vocal chords was severe, and I’m positive she would never have returned to her previous skills. But what a God-given talent. What a voice. THE Voice. One that I doubt will be replicated in my lifetime, although Jennifer Hudson comes as close as anyone alive today. (And like Whitney, Hudson doesn’t have to take her clothes off for us to appreciate her stellar vocal skills.)

As pictures surfaced of Whitney’s last night alive, we saw blood on her legs, and her being disheveled. Stories broke of her having been totally out of control the night before her death: Drinking. Arguing. Acting erratically at the hotel’s poolside that morning. DIdn't anyone see the signs?

But those around her—in particular, those who were there to “manage” or care for her, her team—allowed this conduct to continue, even though they were well aware of her demons and battles with drugs and alcohol. Yet Whitney was allowed to remain, do what she was doing, and was later left alone in her suite. I wondered then, as I still do…did her handlers fail her?

This brings me back to Kevin Costner, who played "Farmer" in the movie: Costner was Whitney’s best bodyguard.

When Costner spoke at her funeral and he mentioned his “anger,” I wondered if he was referring to this very point: If only those in “Nippy’s” real life had gotten the message and taken the hint from the movie: "Never let your guard down. Never let her out of your sight."

But what has society, and the Houston family learned in this past year? What about her and Bobby Brown’s daughter, Bobbie Kristina? Sadly, we hear of the allegation of drug use, and the “not-quite, but seems-to-be incestuous” relationship. In my very community, Bobbie Kristina and her significant other have had recent run-ins with the law. Is there anyone to set her on a positive path, so she doesn’t end up like her mother...dead from the effect of drugs?

I remember feeling upset (angry, even) that both Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry sought to engage Bobbie Kristina with early interviews and spots in television programs when, to my assessment, she’d have been better served in counseling and some off-camera family sharing.

But apparently fame is just as much a drug as is cocaine, crack, marijuana, alcohol and methamphetamines.

For those not in the public eye, the effects of drug use is likewise great. Substance abuse is associated with so many problems such as poor education, crime, STDs, health problems, mental issues, family dysfunction and yes, death.

In Cissy Houston’s new book, Remembering Whitney, she reportedly gets real about Nippy’s battles with drugs, and how yes, she—Cissy—and some others tried to help Whitney. But we all know that no one can really make someone change if they aren’t willing to do so themselves. Ask families of drug addicts. Ask drug addicts, if they are alive.  (Reportedly Bobbie Kristina is unhappy about Cissy's frankness, but someone needs to tell it like it is...or was.)

But as for February 10th and 11th , 2012, I know that if I had been her manager, or she was in my charge, I would not have let my guard down. As Costner did in the movie, I would have gotten her out of there, and she would just have to be mad at me the next day. But at least she would likely still be alive, at least for one more day.

As many of us play her music and remember Whitney this weekend (and often throughout all years), many of us can only hope that Whitney’s example will yet motivate someone afflicted by drug abuse to seek help. There is still time to get help. See a short list of resources far below.

Be Healthy, Be Blessed…and make sure you are Living Well!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Melody T. McCloud. All rights reserved. Any excerpts reproduced from this article should include a hyperlink to this—my original post on Psychology Today, with author credit. Feel free to post the link to any of my PT posts, to your social network pages. Follow me here at PT; and on Twitter: @DrMelodyMcCloud.

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White House Initiatives: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/strengthen-efforts-to-prevent-drug-use-in-our-communities

Health & Human Services Office of Adolescent Health: http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/substance-abuse/

CDC, People Who Use Drugs (PWUD)http://www.cdc.gov/pwud/addiction.html

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services: http://www.samhsa.gov/

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., is an obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of First Do No Harm: How to Heal Your Relationships Using the Wisdom of Professional Caregivers.

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