THE LOVE ADDICT: 2 Portraits

She's Hot. She's Sexy. She's Dead.

You want to know what love addiction looks like? I refer you to two recent documentaries, one about Janis Joplin (LITTLE GIRL BLUE) and the other about Amy Winehouse (AMY.) Singers who could lift your spirits and then break your heart. Songwriters who could see your soul. Superstars who burned brightly until they burned out at the age of 27. Hard-partying drug and alcohol abusers. Love addicts.

The similarities between the two run deep. Outsiders who felt let down by their parents and peers... at the same time they feared they were letting them down. Insecure about their weight and appearance. Willing to sleep their way to some semblance of popularity, or scrap of affection. Propelled to acclaim by a combination of vocal power and the ability to project raw emotion through that voice. And a burning desire to achieve that acclaim, because then, then everyone will have to love me. Right? RIGHT???

And when it turned out that the love of strangers still didn’t make up for the boyfriend who left, the father who turned away, the yawning pit of need... well, there are ways to numb that existential disappointment. Chemical ways. 

“Piece of My Heart” and “Back in Black” tell the same story: You take a part of me when you leave. I am not whole without you. In life as well as in lyrics, their romantic relationships mirror one another: Tempestuous, obsessive, destructive pairings, each one surely a soulmate fated by the Universe. You know how love addicts always pick up their crush’s hobbies? This tendency can be a problem when his hobby is heroin. Janis and Amy had that in common as well.

People make fun of sex and love addiction. “If I have to have an addiction, I’ll take sex, please!” Or, “Everyone should be addicted to love; it makes the world go ‘round.” I explain to them that no, sex and love addiction are are lethal as alcoholism or anorexia or compulsive gambling. And while neither movie calls it by its name, love addiction killed two amazing women with incredible talent. 

Janis Joplin would be 72 years old today. Amy Winehouse would be 32. Two generations, one broken heart. Addiction kills.

(originally published January 2016)