Since Amy Winehouse’s tragic death in July 2011, I assumed she had passed away from a drug overdose.
Stories of her turbulent relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, a broken marriage she subsequently explained “was based on doing drugs” – in combination with her reported heroin and crack cocaine addiction – informed my belief the songwriter overdosed on illicit substances.
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I never gave the circumstances of the iconic singer’s death much thought until Autopsy: Amy Winehouse began playing on Channel Seven late last night.
“She had made huge progress,” the documentary’s specialist in forensic and legal medicine, Dr Jason Payne-James, said. “She was clean from drugs and she was tackling her alcohol dependence, so why did she suddenly drink herself to death?”
I had been so ignorant.
In reality, Amy Winehouse was not taking drugs at the time of her death. She was in a new, healthy relationship with film director Reg Traviss. She was even on Librium, a medication to control her desire for alcohol. And yet, all alone in her bedroom, the superstar relapsed, and reportedly went on a three-day-long drinking binge.
Her heart stopped beating by the time paramedics arrived at 3:54pm. Two empty vodka bottles were nearby her lifeless body.
But there’s a side to Amy Winehouse’s story we rarely heard: From the age of 17, the Londoner’s life had been marred by eating disorders and self harm. Long periods of starvation would be followed by binge eating and then purging; the singer would empty the contents of her stomach into the nearest toilet bowl. The toxic pattern continued for a decade.
In the years leading up to the 27-year-old’s death, she looked emaciated. According to close friend and stylist Alex Foden, her diet consisted of nothing but high-cholesterol curry – which she’d later vomit up – and Haribo gummy bears.