Photo Credit:
Whitney Houston

Wikipedia says it this way: In 2009, Guiness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act 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, writes:

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 on the shelf. Awards, applause, and notoriety only take away the loneliness very briefly.

Drugs, alcohol, , illicit sex, gambling – and of course that whole bag of potato chips – can take away the pain of loneliness for only so long. And then the yearning for that elusive unconditional love only grows more and more intense. And the search gets ever more frantic, with the pain being so unbearable it needs to be kept numbed, so that it can’t be felt 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 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 extraordinarily gifted person, felt what was missing in her life strongly, as indeed many of us have. Being extremely talented, beautiful, powerful or wealthy can, however, lead to extreme anxiety if the source and purpose of one’s great gifts are not embraced over and over again.

Whenever we forget and are 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 that comes from feeling isolated – as opposed to feeling 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 God-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, and has written sixteen children’s books including “Remarkable Park” and “Let’s Stay Safe!” She can be contacted at


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Bracha Goetz is the author of 37 children’s books and a new memoir, “Searching for God in the Garbage.”


  1. Bracha – you lead a spirituality group and that is nice but addiction isn’t just a spiritual disconnect. Certainly not in Whitneys Houstons case. Whitney had a strong connection to G-d even in the thoes of her addiction. It was the pain that kept her going back – the pain of the critics saying her singing was, “too white.” The pain of dimming her own light within her marriage in order that her husband shouldn’t feel less b/c he was not as successful and instead of cheering her on, he took advantage of that light being dim and added to her feelings of less then, even tho she was on top of the world when she met and married him. It was that old voice from the critics and most probably from her husband as well that said, “Whitney, you are not good enough, you are not enough.” It was the pain of people accusing her of being somehow powerful when all she did was a job she loved, a job she did extraordinarily well, a job that brought so much joy to so many people all around the world.

    I am a nurse and an addictions therapist and I just can not believe you minimized any pain that Ms. Houston felt and simplified her addicition by saying she had a spiritual disconnection when that is simply not true. People are more complicated than that and someone in the public eye as Whitney was, that comes with it’s own negativity and constant violations of privacy as well. Whitney had concerns about her voice not being what it used to be, the press writing about that and some audiences reacting to that. She was healing from a broken marriage with a husband who was not faithful and afterwards, she had legal trouble from her ex-husband as well who was looking for spousal support even tho their pre-nup specifically stated that neither one would recieve spousal support in case of divorce and she was trying to raise her daughter, whom she loved with all her heart and soul – Whitney loved being a mommy. When did this woman get to exhale?

    If you iisten to her last album, you will hear her connection to G-d shining through in the song, “I Look To You.” And also, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” both songs which had a significant influence on me and gave me strength at a low point in my own life. Being “beautiful, powerful and wealthy” was not Whitneys downfall and I don’t think she thought herself as “powerful.” I think she knew she was pretty but she also had self doubts, as we all do.

    Addiction has many pitfalls and it is a disease of falling off the wagon and getting back on – most folks need more than one rehab in order to get it and stay sober. One also has to change people, places and things surrounding them – Whitney needed to change her environment, who was around her, who worked for her – who always had their hands in her pocketbook looking for more. Last but not least, you did not address how some doctors need education in addiction. If more doctors had this education, the ones who treat celebrities wouldn’t be so star struck and interested in the person liking them – giving out perscription drugs inappropriately (or as in Michael Jacksons case, sugery anesthesia for sleep). Doctors who treat celebrities need to be their medical doctor not their friend and they should know – when someone has been to rehab once, twice, three times – they can not have narcotics of any kind and that includes drugs like valium and xanax. It also includes OTC drugs like benedryl.

    What an addict and or alcoholic needs in order to heal are daily 12 step meetings, a sponsor, therapy and yes, a spiritual connection. However, a spiritual connection alone is not enough to help keep one sober; one also needs *human* connections and support within a recovering community, the love and support of family and friends.

    We like to lay blame at the feet of the rich and famous and say that it is some kind of selfishness, greed, and or “power” that “makes them” addicts. This is simply not true. Addicts/alcoholics are poor, middle class, black, white, Jewish, etc. When we take the time to educate ourselves, then we can start to understand this disease of addiction much better than we do now. When we start to view celebrities as people, human beings like you and I who have their own issues, problems and concerns, joys and pains, then we can let go of that pedastal of celebrity and our own resentments about that. We might begin to truely understand that people in the public eye are just that, people.

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