Whitney Houston: Didn’t She Almost Have It All?

Wikipedia says it this way: In 2009, Guiness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act [performer] of all time. Her list of awards includes two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, 30 Billboard Music Awards, and 22 American Music Awards, among a total of 415 career awards as of 2010. Houston was also one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide.

So, didn’t she almost have it all?

Like all addicts, she knew what was missing – big time.

Rabbi Shais Taub in his wonderful book, God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction, says it this way: Our somethingness is not our true essence. Oneness is our true essence. Not that it bothers all of us equally. Some people can live with it. Some people can’t…The real problem that lies at the core of addiction is that addicts are people who are in dire need of a relationship with God but are able to substitute fulfilling this need with a behavior that is essentially self-destructive.

The real problem is that a hollow sound reverberates within our souls once our awards get placed upon the shelf. Awards, applause, and notoriety only take away the loneliness very briefly.

The drugs, the alcohol, the whole bag of potato chips, illicit sex, and gambling can take the pain of loneliness away oh so briefly too. The yearning for that elusive unconditional love only grows more and more intense afterward, though. And the search gets ever more frantic, with the pain being so unbearable that it needs to be kept numbed, so that it can’t be felt anymore…at all.

Addicts are those who can’t live feeling alone, which really means, apart from God, the only source of unconditional love there actually is. Some people, it seems, can handle the separation, but those more sensitive, with their souls more exposed, and aware of the great love that is missing in their lives, cannot.

We may think that babies or pets can love us unconditionally, but that’s not real love; they are just trying to get their needs met. Physical beings can’t love unconditionally, only spiritual entities, with unlimited capabilities, truly can.

If we acknowledge the loneliness that is widespread, and then mine beneath the loneliness, we can discover that each of us is never actually alone. We are all on this amazing journey TOGETHER – with all of our souls connected and amazingly intertwined. We are all here to help each other through, revealing the full potential of each of our souls. Whenever the Oneness becomes clear, the love keeps reverberating.

Whitney Houston, a sensitive and very gifted person, felt what was missing in her life strongly, like many of us have. Being extremely talented, beautiful, powerful or wealthy can lead to extreme anxiety, however, if the source and purpose of one’s great gifts are not embraced, over and over again. Whenever we forget, and get cut off from the source of all our blessings, we experience a similar estrangement. This time, we saw it magnified to superstardom size. The pain from feeling isolated, instead of spiritually in union with the origin of all blessings, became unbearable.

The cause of all of our addictions is the suffering we experience when our souls become blocked off from the infinite whole of which they are an essential part. Abuse causes that blockage to occur, as the intrinsic value of those victimized, their godliness, becomes negated. When that connection gets obstructed, addictions are the desperate attempt to seek whatever temporary relief can be found. Relief is sought to escape the despair that results from the perceived loss of that vital bond.

Even all the awards in the world can’t make that kind of hurting end.

We thrive when we experience the deepest pleasure from the most intimate relationship possible – the one between our essence and its Source. When that relationship is viewed as severed, our gratitude dries up too, as we no longer understand from where all our gifts come.

A powerful G-d-given voice flowed through her. A stirring message can still resonate.

Bracha Goetz leads a spirituality group at Jewish Recovery Houses, coordinates a Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program in Baltimore, Maryland and is the Harvard-educated author of sixteen children’s books, including Remarkable Park , The Invisible Book and Let’s Stay Safe! You can reach Bracha Goetz at bgoetzster@gmail.com.

5 comments on “Whitney Houston: Didn’t She Almost Have It All?

  1. Whitney Houston had an addiction problem, but that isn’t necessarily what killed her. From all reports, she was doing well that day. Also, she was actively pursuing a relationship with God, had just finished making a movie, was working on getting herself back into good physical condition, etc.

    I think we must remember the book of Iyov, and be humble enough to recall that sometimes, we cannot know why things happen. We seek to understand, in our limited way, because we want to make sure bad things won’t happen to us or our loved ones. We think that if we just do the right things, all will be well. But who knows — maybe it was Whitney’s time. Maybe worse things would have happened, God forbid, if she had stayed alive. We don’t know.

    I think we must avoid the temptation to be like the friends of Iyov at these times. We should try to acknowledge that only God knows why things really happen, and trust that all is working out for the good, even when they seem very bad to us. “Baruch Dayan Emet” is about all we can really say, hoping that Whitney’s soul is at peace, and that her loved ones are able to recover from the pain of losing her.

  2. Women, particularly in the entertainment world, are terrified of getting older and no longer being slim and gorgeous. They fear being rejected for younger and prettier women.

  3. That’s the thing. People in active addiction are feeling disconnected from G-d, or they wouldn’t be in active addiction. No guesswork needed. :)

  4. We like to think we really know the people in the news. Maybe we do to some extent, but…

    Nearly everything said about Whitney Houston’s personal thoughts, and particularly about her personal relationship with G-d, is guesswork—maybe educated guesswork in some sense, but still guesswork.

    This doesn’t take away form the valid general points in this article.

  5. Quote:

    Whitney Houston, a sensitive and very gifted person, felt what was missing in her life strongly, like many of us have. Being extremely talented, beautiful, powerful or wealthy can lead to extreme anxiety, however, if the source and purpose of one’s great gifts are not embraced, over and over again.

    Very well put. Fame and adulation, especially of the direct, practically unfiltered kind that occurs in the entertainment field, can become addictive, too. The pleasure that the approval of an audience bestows on a successful performer is a high from which withdrawal can be painful indeed, and, as you say, coupled with the artist’s heightened sensitivities — and needs — “almost” having it all is usually “all.”

    Very few show business stars, whose lives so many think they wish were theirs, end those lives with peace of mind. On the contrary, only the strongest and most well-balanced ever live down their “glory days,” when they were funnier, prettier, slimmer, more in demand and almost had it all.

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