The actor and writer lived her life so unapologetically open: it’s irresponsible to ignore her addictions and struggles
Since Carrie Fisher passed away in December, speculation has circulated surrounding the circumstances: more specifically, whether or not she had relapsed, and if so, what exactly she was taking. When her autopsy revealed that yes, she did in fact have hard drugs in her system when she died, tabloids plastered the news proudly (and insensitively) across their pages, as if it somehow invalidates our grief. For one, toxicology reports are not 100 percent conclusive – we don’t actually know exactly which drugs Carrie took or how close her ingestion was to her death. The report says itself that, “multiple drug intake, significance not ascertained.” We do not know how big a role, if any, drugs played in her death – and we may never. Ultimately, though: it doesn’t fucking matter. Fisher’s drug use is not something to be made into sensational headlines. It is a cold, hard fact of her life – and one that she fought to keep in the open.
So apparently Carrie Fisher's autopsy showed high levels of NONE OF OUR DAMN BUSINESS.— Annalee (@leeflower) June 19, 2017
Some have taken offence to the fact that this news has been released – and well-meaning as that outrage may be, it isn’t how Carrie Fisher lived her life. This is a woman who wrote multiple books about her battle with drug addiction: who tweeted, candidly and with a sense of humour, about her struggles. She saw no shame in her addiction, something that formed a part of her and our image of her: and nor should we. Obviously it’s none of our business. Obviously the Daily Mail shouldn’t provide a timeline of Fisher’s drug abuse as if it in any way blunts the sharp, hilarious woman that she was. The slant of, “oh, what a shame” attached to these stories is insulting. Of course it would have been better if Carrie could have been happy and managed to live drug-free – but that wasn’t the case, and we can’t pretend any other way. Carrie lived to the end of her life being frank and brave about that her struggles, memorialised forever in a Prozac-shaped urn.
And of course, it isn’t our place either to determine what Fisher would have wanted – but anyone with a shred of knowledge about her likely knows that she wouldn’t want her drug use to be pushed aside. She would want it to be used to help others. Following the toxicology report Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, echoed these sentiments in a statement to People magazine. She said: “My mom battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases. She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure.”
Carrie’s brother, Todd Fisher, told the Associated Press on Friday that the family did not want a coroner’s investigation into his sister’s death. He said: “I would tell you, from my perspective that there’s certainly no news that Carrie did drugs,” noting that his sister wrote extensively about her drug use, and that many of the drugs she took were prescribed by doctors to try to treat her mental health conditions. “I am not shocked that part of her health was affected by drugs,” he added. “If you want to know what killed her, it’s all of it”. The most sobering of Fisher’s comments was, “without her drugs, maybe she would have left long ago.”
Secrecy about drug use and addiction only benefits those who feel uncomfortable being around it. To brush Carrie Fisher’s addictions under the rug is to only accept her as half a person; a whole, brave, stunningly hilarious woman with the edges sanded off for the comfort of those who want to think about Star Wars and ignore the at times ugly truth. To take her example and make an effort to be more open about drug use and mental health battles, and to cultivate an environment of openness for others, is to potentially save lives. We must never lose sight of the importance and benefit of someone with her reach and scope speaking about these issues the way that she did, and we cannot ever act like she wasn’t who she was for our own comfort.