Yes, Carrie Fisher would have wanted us to know about the drugs
There’s a wonderful sight gag in Postcards from the Edge, the movie based on the novel based on Carrie Fisher’s life. The Fisher character, just released from drug rehab, is in the kitchen having an argument with her mother. Personifying her cleaner-than-thou attitude, the mother is making herself a smoothie, filling the blender with the healthiest fruit and veggies you can imagine.
And just before hitting the go button, blink and you’ll miss it, she adds a generous splash of vodka.
That’s it, right there — the kind of societal hypocrisy that Fisher noted and skewered throughout her life, hilariously. Sure, I have drug problems, she said. I self-medicate, and I’m not alone.
She wanted to stop this kind of stuff — mental health problems and their medications — from hiding in the shadows where it does the most harm. She named it, all of it: the too-strong pot she smoked with Harrison Ford during the filming of Star Wars; the cocaine problem she brought to Empire Strikes Back (she had plenty of jokes about snow on the Hoth set); and yes, the booze that causes just as many problems as any illegal or prescription drug.
When the official coroner’s report on Fisher’s untimely death was released Monday, there was a move on the part of some fans to draw a discreet veil over parts of it — specifically the fact that she had cocaine, heroin, codeine, oxycodone and MDMA in her system.
Especially given that the nearest thing to a cause of death was sleep apnea, they reasoned, wasn’t this just invasion of privacy from beyond the grave?
So apparently Carrie Fisher’s autopsy showed high levels of NONE OF OUR DAMN BUSINESS.
— Annalee (@leeflower) June 19, 2017
But as other fans swiftly pointed out, Carrie never wanted to draw a veil over anything involving substance use, abuse or her mental health. She wanted it all out there, the pain and the things she used to alleviate the pain. She wanted everyone who struggles with these matters to know they are not alone.
After all, lest we forget, this is a woman who left strict instructions that her ashes were to be interred in a giant Prozac pill.
Yeah. Carrie was pretty open about her issues with substance abuse for a reason. Maybe don’t try and gloss over it.
— Brian ⚽ (@LaneWinree) June 19, 2017
“Without her drugs, maybe she would have left long ago,” her brother Todd said in a statement last week. Let’s be honest: Nobody would be splashing vodka into their smoothies if they didn’t at least feel like they needed it.
“I used to refer to my drug use as putting the monster in the box,” Fisher said in the book of her one-woman show, Wishful Drinking. “I wanted to be less, so I took more.” Later in the book comes this gem: “You know how they say that religion is the opiate of the masses? Well, I took masses of opiates religiously.”
Drugs have always been with us; it’s only society’s attitude to them that changes. Yes, cocaine is a damaging and addictive drug. And 9 milligrams of it were in every bottle of Coca-Cola until 1903. Heroin was once considered less dangerous than aspirin (the same German chemist synthesized both). Small trials have even suggested that MDMA can alleviate symptoms of PTSD.
Oxycodone and codeine are currently legal; they are also partly responsible for the largest opioid epidemic in American history.
I have personally met many people whose lives were changed by Carrie Fisher’s desire to talk openly about every aspect of her mental health struggles, from the suicidal thoughts to the electroshock therapy. Millions more could be helped if we started having an open and honest discussion about drugs.
That starts with not sweeping them under the carpet. We all have something to alleviate the pain of living (and if you don’t think that includes you because you don’t use “substances,” I’m willing to bet that food, caffeine, tobacco, TV, shopping, sex or religion has helped ease your troubles).
Could we possibly admit to ourselves that it isn’t really about what we use so much as the quantity? Could we identify the fuzzy line where self-medication ends and abuse begins, and talk about when and why we cross that line? If we could, it would be one more victory to chalk up to Carrie Fisher — a woman in full, who was not just a princess, but a hypocrisy-seeking missile.