Death is so final. When I learned of Whitney Houston’s untimely death I was greatly saddenedone more addicted person lost their life. The loss of this great icon shadowed my own personal tragedies of people I loved who died before their time. As I reminisce in my mind there are so many losses.

I’ve said too many good byes to friends, family members, acquaintances, and patients but none touched me so deeply as the loss of my best friend Yvonne, which Whitney Huston’s death so mirrored.

I moved to Chicago when I was one notch above adolescents with not a penny to my name, no vehicle, job, or a place of my own to live. After countless attempts to work in an office as a secretary, I landed a job as a hostess in a family owned Italian restaurant and soon graduated to a waitress position followed by bar tending. A quirky, feisty blond with a loud boisterous laugh caught my attention. I knew no one in Chicago and this upbeat, positive blond bombshell named Yvonne, who reminded me of Bette Midler with her looks, voice, and personality, was the first to welcome me and embrace me as her friend.

Yvonne and I were inseparable from the first encounter when I timidly ordered a drink for one of my tables and she sported a toothy grin in response, we clicked—soul mates. Yvonne was a total blast. She laughed easily and cried freely—she felt and expressed her emotions intensely. She brought the fun out in me. We were like Oprah and Gayle King. I was the serious one (like Oprah) yet, if prompted, I had quite the funny bone when I let down my guard and trusted a person into my personal space. Yvonne, on the other hand, was smiley and friendly (like Gayle) and open to anyone and everyone. She was very social, while I preferred to be alone when I wasn’t working or studying.

Our plan was to grow old together and sit in rocking chairs on a front porch, sip on lemonade and recall the “good ole days.” 

And then Yvonne died at the young age of 44.

According to Yvonne’s two sons, their mom mixed alcohol with anti-anxiety medication before going to sleep and didn’t wake up. I was shocked.  This was nearly 15 years ago and yet it seems like yesterday.

Yvonne and I were yin and yang—total opposites, yet our core was the same. We both believed in the Divine Source, psychology, addictions, and family. She had a tendency to over drink and use prescription medication and I was a total “foody”.  Although our family of origins were completely different, we both had very difficult childhoods and coped with our emotions inappropriately. I couldn’t stop eating. She couldn’t stop drinking. When she drank it was excessive (whiskey on one rock!) and she dabbled with cocaine. When I ate it was a bag of cookies followed by doughnuts, and topped off with candy bars.

I didn’t understand her disease and she certainly didn’t get mine.

Yvonne’s body was svelte and her blond main blew in the wind. She laughed easily and effortlessly. I had medium length light auburn hair and a plump body and I was ultra conservative and serious. You could say I had a low grade depression while she was hyped.

Yes, Frick and Frack we were.

The death of Whitney Houston brought the death of my dearest and best friend to the surface, although it’s never too far from my mind. Listening to the talk radio hosts poke snide remarks about Whitney made me think about my own addiction (food) and Yvonne’s  addiction (alcohol and prescription medication).

I don’t think anyone on planet earth signs up for a life of total misery with cravings, indulgences, and crashes.  Whether we are born with it or pick it up from our environment, or a combination of the two—it’s devastating. It’s devastating for everyone, the addictive person certainly, and their friends and family, who watch the slow suicide helplessly.

I was one of the fortunate ones—I hung up my food addiction and turned to recovery while around the same time Yvonne took her last breath. I knew I had to get off the merry-go-round and nip this problem in the bud or risk health consequences. I chose abstinence from sugar, flour, and wheat and turned to a Higher Energy  Source(God)—and it worked.  It wasn’t that I was an overnight success but rather it was a process.

Today, only a few short weeks after Whitney Houston’s death, the tabloid buzz has died down—people moved on. How sad one more addicted person’s life taken by the lost battle with addictions. The end of a great icon and the end of my best friend Yvonne, to never hear their laughter and voice, though it’s forever embedded in our memory.

Death is so final. Or is it?  Sometimes when I look up at the stars late at night I find the twinkle mirrors the sparkle in their once wide eyed brown eyes.  Perhaps Yvonne and Whitney are angels—and they’ll live on through us                                                                              

Photos by: Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

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