Billy Holiday on Addiction and Love in America

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Image retrieved from on October 2nd, 2014

Many a sweet time Louis has risked his own life to try to help me. Husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers of addicts do it every day. And in this country, this makes them criminals.
I can tell you about a big-name performer who had a habit and a bad one. There were times when he had it licked. And other times it licked him. It went around that way for years. He was well known, like me, which makes it worse. He had bookings to make, contracts to fulfil. In the middle of one engagement he was about to crack up and go crazy because he had run out of stuff. There was no way in God's world he could kick cold turkey and make three shows a day. There wasn't a doctor in town who would be seen looking at him. His wife got so scared he'd kill himself she tried to help him the only way she knew--by risking her own neck and trying to get him what he needed. She went out in the street like a pigeon, begging everyone she knew for help. Finally she found someone who sold her some stuff for an arm and a leg. It was just her luck to be carrying it back to her man when she was arrested.
She was innocent and clean as the day she was born. But she knew that if she tried to tell that to the cops it would only make her a "pusher" under the law, liable for a good long time in jail. She thought if she told them she was a user, and took some of the stuff in her pocket to prove it, they might believe her, feel sorry for her, go easy on her. And she could protect her man. So that's what she did. She used junk for the first time to prove to the law she wasn't a pusher. And that's the way she got hooked. She's rotting in jail right now. Yes siree bob, life is just a bowl of cherries.

by Billie Holiday, an excerpt from her autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues" (1956).. reprinted in "The Drug Experience"(1961) edited by David Ebin pages 217-218

Billie Holiday