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David Cassidy: Drinking, Not Dementia, Killed 1970’s Idol

DISCLAIMER: David Cassidy lived a life largely in the public eye, and his struggles with alcoholism—the disease that ultimately killed him—are well-documented. This an attempt to provide context to that battle and hopefully, help someone who might currently be facing comparable problems. For a generation of people “of a certain age” David Cassidy will always be the youthful singer who represented another era on the television program, The Partridge Family. That show catapulted him to “teen idol” status and launched a performing career that lasted almost 50 years. But privately – and at times, not-so-privately – Cassidy struggled mightily with chronic alcoholism. And over time, this progressive disease hurt his career, ruined his finances, entangled him legally, and ultimately, destroyed his health. Because he was so beloved by so many people, let’s take a closer look at the life, struggles, and lessons we can learn from David Cassidy. Perhaps by doing this, we can give his death more meaning and help others who might be dealing with similar addictive issues right now.

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Enduring Success Starting at a Young Age

“Man, don’t call me a former teen idol. Don’t call me a heartthrob. Don’t call me a sex symbol. Call me a writer, a singer, a producer, an actor. Tell me I’m bad, tell me I’m lousy. But don’t call me that.” ~ David Cassidy David Cassidy was born in 1950 into an acting family. His father, Jack Cassidy, was a Tony-award-winning Broadway actor, and his mother, Evelyn Ward, had both Broadway and television credits on her resume. Because his parents were frequently on tour, David lived with his mother’s parents during his early childhood. When he was four years old, Cassidy’s parents divorced, but he didn’t find out about it until he was six, and that same year, his father remarried. Interestingly, his new stepmother, Shirley Jones, would later co-star with him in The Partridge Family as his mother. After obtaining his high school diploma, Cassidy wanted to be an actor and musician. He debuted in a short-lived Broadway play at just 19, and this early exposure caught the eye of a TV casting director. After appearing in a few episodes of various TV programs, he was cast in the show that would bring him his greatest fame. His role as “Keith Partridge” shot  him straight to superstardom. From 1970 through 1974, he not only acted on The Partridge Family, he also performed on multiple best-selling albums, both solo and show-related. His concerts set attendance records and he received 3000 fan letters a day. At 21, he was the highest-paid entertainer in the world. Even after his hit TV show ended, Cassidy still successfully acted, wrote music, and recorded songs. In the 1980s, he had sold-out tours in the UK and returned to Broadway. In the 1990s, he had another Top-40 hit, had a hosting gig on MTV, and for two years, headlined a popular show on the Las Vegas Strip. And in the early 2000s, he wrote and starred in a Vegas show, released an album that went platinum internationally, and made appearances on several TV shows and films. Not a bad career for a former mailroom worker who went on to make “bubblegum music”.

Alcoholism as a Detachment Disorder

“I had a lot of rejection from my father when I was young. I never saw him after he divorced me and my mother. I wouldn’t hear from him for a year. I don’t feel any hostility towards him. I’m a friend of his now. But a little boy shouldn’t have been shunned like that.” ~ David Cassidy in 1972 Before his parents’ divorce, Cassidy saw little of his busy parents, and afterwards, he saw even less of his father, Jack. This was bound to have a profound and lasting psychological effect. This is extremely relevant, because it is during the first three years of life that environment has its greatest impact on the structure and function of the brain. According to psychoanalyst John Bowlby, parental absence during the early formative years can prevent the construction of close and reliable bonds. But these interpersonal bonds are biologically necessary for survival, and if they are not made, the person may not be able to properly function later in life. In fact, interacting with someone with whom we have bonded triggers a neurochemical response within our brains, resulting in increased levels of:

Of special significance for Cassidy’s later life, for genetically-vulnerable people—like him—alcohol and illicit drugs also affect the same parts of the brain as healthy attachments. In other words, someone without those bonds will still biologically need and seek out what they are missing, and in intoxicants, they find an acceptable substitute.

Early “Experimentation”, Later Troubles

“I didn’t know who I was, and I did a lot of f-ing around, experimenting – not smack, but grass and speed and psychedelics. I had some bad trips – tripping for kicks in the worst, most paranoid places… But I wasn’t taking drugs seriously. I didn’t want to be a junkie. A few of my friends died, committed suicide actually.” ~ David Cassidy Like many young people at the time, Cassidy experimented with a variety of mind-altering substances. At 16, he even made a pilgrimage during the “Summer of Love” to the Mecca of counterculture at the time, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. Within the context of his later problems, this is notable because during the adolescent and teenage years, the human brain is still developing, and continues to do so until the early to mid-20’s. This means that any substance use will have a magnified effect on the underdeveloped and vulnerable brain. Some of the consequences to brain health and function include:

  • Teenagers who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop an Alcohol Use Disorder during adulthood.
  • Adolescents who initiate marijuana use by the age of 14 have reduced brain volume in the region responsible for decision-making.
  • The use of marijuana before the age of 17 is associated with lower IQ scores and an increased risk of psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
  • Stimulant abuse – cocaine or methamphetamine, for example – reduces activity in the area of the brain associated with emotional regulation. Use also damages the brain region responsible for the ability to judge right and wrong.

This research clearly demonstrates that by “experimenting” with drugs as a teenager and young adult, David Cassidy set the stage for addictive disorders as an adult.

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Overwork, Burnout, and Excessive Drinking

“I feel burnt up inside. I’m 24, a big star … in a position that millions dream of, but the truth is I just can’t enjoy it…I was definitely the most isolated I’ve ever been. I’d be working seven days a week for most of the year and it never let up. When I got home, I isolated myself, just so I could rest.” ~ David Cassidy After four almost non-stop years of “Cassidymania”, the young star was exhausted. He wanted to stop doing live tours and even quit his TV show, so he could focus on songwriting and in-studio recording. Four decades later, researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki conducted a study looking at the connection between working long hours and excessive drinking. They analyzed 61 separate studies involving 330,000 people from 14 different countries, including Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, and the United States, and their findings were revealing. Compared to those who just worked around 40 hours a week, those who put in longer hours were:

  • 13% more likely to drink at “risky” levels.
  • 11% more likely to be “heavy” drinkers.

Significantly, the association was consistent across socioeconomic, geographical, or gender boundaries. Dr. Mariana Virtanen, who led the study, said, “We think that some people may cope with excess working hours with habits that are unhealthy, such as using alcohol. The symptoms they try to alleviate with alcohol may include stress, depression, and sleep disturbances.”

A Haunting Tragedy

Get back, get back! They’re going to stop the show, they’re going to pull the plug on me. Cool it!” ~ David Cassidy, during the White City Stadium incident After Cassidy made the announcement that he intended to retire from touring, his gigs sold out even faster – weeks in advance. One such concert was to be held at London’s White Stadium, which had originally been built to host the 1908 Olympic Games. On the day of the event – May 26, 1974 – the 35,000-seat stadium was filled to capacity. Some fans had waited in line over 12 hours in hopes of jockeying for a prime view. And when Cassidy took the stage, the overexcited crowd surged forward, trampling and crushing those closest to the stage. Nearly 800 people were injured, including 30 who were taken to the hospital. But one fan, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, never regained consciousness and died four days later. The coroner ruled the death accidental and called her “a victim of contrived hysteria”. Out of respect for the family, Cassidy didn’t attend the funeral, but he did speak personally to her parents. When he faced the press, a deeply-affected Cassidy said the tragedy would haunt him until the day that he died.

Trauma and Alcoholism

“While psychological trauma is characterized by disruptions in a person’s sense of control, addiction can also be viewed as a disorder of control, or more accurately, an inability to control. The loss of control is insidious, often unrecognized by the addict until, in Alcoholics Anonymous terms, life becomes unmanageable.” ~ Dr. Bruce Carruth, Ph.D. – Psychological Trauma and Addiction Treatment Trauma refers to experiences that are emotionally distressing or painful and beyond the individual’s control. Examples might include

  • Divorce
  • As a child, witnessing parental substance abuse
  • Suffering child abuse in any form – neglect, physical abuse, molestation, etc.
  • Experiencing or witnessing incidents of domestic violence
  • Natural disasters – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, etc.
  • Severe injury, disease, or illness
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Death or prolonged illness of a loved one
  • Surviving or witnessing a serious accident

Following such an event, many people suffer from ongoing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and this in turn can increase their risk of substance abuse. Often, people with PTSD will use intoxicants – especially alcohol – in an effort to ease painful memories or emotions. But this “self-medication” by drinking can lead to the development of an addiction to alcohol—properly called Alcohol Use Disorder. This dual diagnosis of AUD and PTSD complicates recovery from either and occurs with alarming frequency:

  • 52% of men with PTSD meet the clinical criteria for an AUD diagnosis.
  • 35% abuse illicit or prescription drugs.
  • 28% of women with PTSD have co-occurring AUD.
  • 27% abuse drugs.
  • 3 out of 4 survivors of violence or abuse battle alcoholism.
  • 1 out of 3 survivors of traumatic accidents, illnesses, or natural disasters have AUD.

How Trauma May Have Affected David Cassidy

Some might ask. “What traumas did someone as rich and famous as David Cassidy suffer?” That’s just it—fame and fortune do not make someone immune to painful tragedy and trauma, and every person is affected differently. And despite his good fortune, Cassidy suffered several emotionally-difficult experiences:

  • Separation from his mother and father
  • His parents’ divorce when he was very young
  • Abandonment from his father
  • His father’s alcoholism
  • The White City Stadium incident
  • The alcohol-related death of his father in a grisly fire in 1976
  • The drug-related death of his long-time agent and friend in 1980
  • A divorce in 1983
  • Another divorce in 1985
  • Financial ruin and overwhelming debt by 1986
  • Lifelong estrangement from a daughter born in 1986
  • The death of his mother in 2012, after a long battle with dementia
  • A third divorce in 2014
  • Bankruptcy in 2015

Let’s take a closer look at each of these might affect someone.

ACEs and Addiction

…the compulsive use of nicotine, alcohol, and injected street drugs increases proportionally in a strong, graded, dose-response manner that closely parallels the intensity of adverse life experiences during childhood.” ~ Dr. Vincent J. Felitti, MD, Department of Preventive Medicine, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program The trauma during Cassidy’s childhood can be labelled as a series of Adverse Childhood Events. Per the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, roughly 1 out of 4 US children experience at least one ACE before becoming adults. When these issues remain unresolved, they push many teens into coping/experimenting with alcohol and drugs—just as they did to young David Cassidy. Furthermore, research shows that for every ACE witnessed or suffered, the risk of initiating substance use becomes between two and four times greater. David Cassidy experienced at least four different KINDS of ACEs.

Alcoholism within the Family

It’s clear to me that David is extremely like Jack. David has his charm, but also his dark side.” ~ Shirley Jones, Cassidy’s stepmother David Cassidy’s problem with alcohol warranty unique within his family. His father, Jack, was an alcoholic who burned to death after passing out  while smoking, and his paternal grandfather, Willy was also a drunk. This is so relevant because genetics has been determined to be the single largest risk factor for addictive illnesses like AUD. In fact, up to 60% of a person’s vulnerability is due to genetic predisposition. And a brand-new study just published in late May 2018 sheds even more light on the matter. Researchers at Columbia University found that the brains of healthy, non-alcoholic people who have a history of AUD within their family start releasing an excessive amount of dopamine when they merely expect an alcoholic drink. In other words, just the thought of taking a drink triggers a pleasurable response. It’s not a surprise that people with AUD have greater dopamine response when anticipating a drink. But it is shocking that non-alcohol-abusing people with a family history of AUD release even more dopamine than current alcoholics without such a genetic history. Dr. Cameron Carter, MD, the editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, says, “This research finding exemplifies how advances in imaging brain chemistry…can provide new insights into how differences in brain function in people with a family history of alcoholism can explain their own potential for addiction.”

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The Effect of Alcoholism on Relationships

“I’ve never had a relationship with her. I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father, but I didn’t raise her. She has a completely different life. I’m proud of her. She’s very talented. It’s hard for me to even accept how old she is now.” ~ David Cassidy, talking about his daughter Katie Cassidy was married three times, each ending in divorce. Problematic substance use, such as excessive drinking, can be one of the major factors that causes the relationship to deteriorate to the point of divorce, especially when one spouse drinks heavily and the other doesn’t. After a nine-year study involving 634 married couples, researchers at the University of Buffalo research Institute on addictions concluded that marriages in which only one spouse was a heavy drinker ended in divorce at a rate that was 20% higher than those marriages where both spouses either didn’t drink at all or had similar drinking habits. But while alcoholism can contribute to divorce, divorce can also precipitate excessive drinking. Per a 2017 article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the loss of a spouse through divorce or death is linked to a greater risk of AUD. Significantly, the risk is even higher among individuals with a family history of substance abuse or who have demonstrated any antisocial externalizing behaviors – aggression, physical violence, or vandalism, for example These findings coincide with 2016 research suggesting that marriage protects against AUD. Dr. Kenneth Kendler, M.D., with Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, concluded that the findings “strongly suggest that marriage does indeed directly and substantially reduce risk for onset of alcohol use disorder. It is also especially intriguing that this effect is largest in those at highest risk.” But alcoholism also severely impairs parent-child relationships. Cassidy has two children. His daughter, Katie, born in 1986, but he was absent for most of her life, to an even greater degree than what he experienced as a child. His son, Beau, was born in 1991, but Cassidy’s battle with the bottle took a toll there, as well. In 2014, told CNN, “The greatest regret I have is that my son does not trust me any longer.”

DUI Arrests

I am most definitely an alcoholic. And the interesting thing about it and the way you end up with multiple DUIs—I never got arrested for anything until I was basically 60 years old.” ~ David Cassidy in 2014 Like a lot of people, David Cassidy did not admit that he had a drinking problem until he was forced to by circumstances. In his specific case, he was arrested for Driving Under the Influence multiple times:

  • November 2010 (Florida)
  • August 2013 (New York)
  • January 2014 (California)

Of special relevance, the criminal penalties and the consequences increased with each subsequent DUI charge – fines, suspension of driving privileges, the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device, community service, mandatory alcohol rehab and detox program, and even lengthy probation. Yet in spite of these escalating repercussions, Cassidy continued to drink. According to the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , his behaviors were indicative of two of the symptoms of AUD – hazardous use (drunken-driving) and continued use despite negative consequences (DUI arrests). On that alone, he met the criteria for a medical diagnosis. Every year in America, approximately 10,000 people die in alcohol-related car crashes. That’s one every 50 minutes. And just as concerning, Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that the average drunk driver just behind the wheel while intoxicated 80 times before their first arrest.

Court-Ordered Rehab

“I will remain in treatment for as long as necessary and I am getting the best care I can possibly get anywhere. I am working as hard as any human being to live a sober life.” ~ David Cassidy’s message from rehab, February 2014 For his 2014 DUI, Cassidy was sentenced to 90 days  of inpatient rehab and another nine months of alcohol education. He completed both requirements by early 2015. Some people criticize “forced treatment” sentences, saying that it is a violation of the offender’s civil rights, and that the decision to receive treatment for their disorder should be theirs alone to make, without coercion from the court. But it is hard to argue with success. Look at what Drug Court – another sentencing option for substance-abusing defendants – has been able to accomplish:

  • 60% of defendants successfully complete treatment.
  • That is over DOUBLE the completion rate of offenders merely given probation.
  • Every $1 spent on monitoring and treatment returns $2.21 in benefits to society.
  • Recidivism drops from 48% for nonparticipants to as low as 4% among those who complete the program.

Why Denial Feeds Alcoholism

“Part of alcoholism is lying. When you’re an addict, you know you can’t be honest with people. You say what you want them to hear. I can’t be mad at David for that, but it’s still a tragedy.” ~ Danny Bonaduce, Cassidy’s friend and co-star on The Partridge Family If you listen to David Cassidy talk about his substance use over the years, you see a trend of minimization – from the very beginning, he said things like, “I wasn’t taking drugs seriously”. Or, when he was pulled over for a DUI, he blamed his erratic driving on a pain pill, even though he had a half-drunk bottle of liquor in his car. Because his public persona was generally squeaky-clean, it was all-too-easy to believe his excuses. But that sort of denial is exactly what helps alcohol abuse worsen into full-blown addiction. So, his “isolated incident” became a self-destructive pattern. Addiction in any form is a disease that thrives on denial, deception, and deflection. As long as the alcoholic it is unable – or unwilling – to admit that they have a problem, their disease will progressively get worse. There are several types of denial:

  • Minimizing – making it seem as if their alcohol-driven behaviors are “no big deal”
  • Rationalizing – making excuses for their behaviors
  • Blaming—saying that someone or something else is responsible for their drinking
  • Hostility—pushing away others before they can interfere with drinking
  • Self-delusion—thinking that they—NOT the addiction—are in control

In their book, Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics, Julie Bowden and Herbert Gravitz wrote, “Alcoholism is a devastating, potentially fatal disease. The primary symptom of having it is telling everyone – including yourself – that you are not an alcoholic.” The First Step of Recovery lays it out clearly – before a person can move forward, they must admit that their drinking has gone beyond their control, and as a result, their life has become unmanageable.

Lying to the Public

“And when you have spotlight in your eyes and you have five eyes surgeries as I’ve had… And I’ve talked a lot about it. You’ll see me there, I tripped on that. But I certainly wasn’t intoxicated, and it has nothing to do with why I’m leaving.…certainly my dementia has a, has contributed to the reason why I don’t want to go out and I don’t want to hear, “Well, he looked like he was drunk or he looked like he was” – I, I wasn’t.” ~ David Cassidy on Dr. Phil, trying to “explain” why he slurred song lyrics and fell off the stage in February 2017 Days after falling off the stage during a show in Agoura, California, Cassidy went public with the real reason for his disastrous performance—he had dementia—the same disease that had also stricken both his mother and his grandfather. “…part of me always knew this was coming,” he said poignantly. It was easy and heartbreaking to believe him. After all, he watched this terrible disease slowly rob his mother of her memories over a period of years. He was so emotionally impacted by his mother’s losing battle that he actively campaigned for Alzheimer’s research and prevention. During the announcement, he also said that his touring days were over, remarking, “I want to focus on what I am, who I am, and how I’ve been, without any distractions. I want to love. I want to enjoy life.” But it was all a lie…Cassidy NEVER had dementia.

The Last Session

“The first few days I was unconscious and near death. The last week or so my memory has come back. That’s such a blessing. That means I’m cognizant of my surroundings. That I’m alive, and it’s daytime, and I know what day of the week it is. There is no sign at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning. And the fact is, I lied about my drinking. The head doctor at the hospital, she said, ‘I believe that your dementia was directly related to your alcoholism.” ~ David Cassidy The real truth came out months after his death in November 2017: Dementia didn’t kill David Cassidy, alcohol-related organ failure did. His memory loss and erratic behavior was due to drinking. Prior to his death, Cassidy was working on an A & E documentary entitled, David Cassidy: The Last Session. During one recording session, he became extremely ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. During his hospitalization, Cassidy told one of the program’s producers the truth. “I have liver disease. There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was complete alcohol poisoning,” he said. Cassidy had never stopped drinking, despite what he had proclaimed in 2014. This bombshell revelation stunned producers, because the intent of the program was to focus on Cassidy’s music, not his personal demons. But in the end, they decided to add it to the documentary, reasoning, “I think it will strike a chord with people. He wanted to share this very private part of his life, and to be honest once and for all. And I think he succeeded in doing that.”

How Excessive Drinking Ruins Your Health

“If I take another drink, I’m going to die, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I’m dead. You know, they say it’s a slippery slope. It’s not a slippery slope. It’s from 12 to six on the clock and the whole face is ice.” ~ David Cassidy Cassidy’s health decline highlights the devastating toll that chronic alcohol abuse can take on a drinker’s physical and mental well-being. The World Health Organization has identified more than 200 illnesses and injuries that can either be directly caused or exacerbated by drinking, including:

  • Accidents
  • Anemia
  • Anxiety
  • Autoimmune diseases – hepatitis, HIV, pneumonia, tuberculosis
  • Brain damage
  • Breast cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cirrhosis
  • Colon cancer
  • Delirium tremens
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Disordered eating
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Gynecomastia
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Infertility
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • Memory loss
  • Menstrual cycle disruption
  • Mouth cancer
  • Nerve damage
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Obesity
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Periodontal disease
  • Psychosis
  • PTSD
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Suicide
  • Tracheal cancer

In fact, 1 out of every 4 deaths in the world can be attributed to the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Substance abuse results in a lifespan that is shortened by an average of 7 years. Alcohol specifically is involved 3.3 MILLION global deaths every year – about one every 10 seconds. In the United States alone, 80,000 people die annually because of alcohol-related causes. Alcohol ranks as the fourth-leading cause of preventable death in America. On November 21, 2017, David Cassidy died of kidney and liver failure that was directly related to his chronic alcoholism.

Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the most used – and abused – intoxicating substance in the world.

  • Nearly 90% of US adults self-report drinking at least once.
  • Greater than 70% admits to past-year alcohol use.
  • Over half reports past-month use.
  • Within the past 30 days, 1 out of every 14 alcohol users drank “heavily”
  • More than 1 in 4 engaged in risky binge-drinking.
  • Right now, 15 million US adults have AUD, diagnosed or not – nearly 10 million men and over 5 million women.
  • Tragically, however, just over a million receive specialized professional treatment in any given year.

How to Get Help for AUD

It is important to understand that alcoholism is incurable – it is a lifetime condition. However, like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, the disease can be effectively managed with a combination of:

  • Professional education, counseling, and long-term aftercare
  • FDA approved-anti-addiction medications
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Peer group therapy
  • A strong personal support system
  • 12-Step fellowship

Successful recovery means living with alcoholism, instead of dying from it. It involves more than abstaining from alcohol, however. It requires daily vigilance to avoid falling back into dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

What Are Some Anti-Alcohol Medications?

When psychosocial behavioral counseling is combined with anti-craving/recovery medications, that is considered to be the “gold standard” of alcoholism treatment. Anti-alcoholism medications include:

  • Buprenorphine (sold under the brand-name Naltrexone) — Blocks alcohol’s “pleasurable” effects, thereby eliminating the motivation to drink.
  • Acamprosate (Campral)—Stabilizes brain chemistry during alcohol withdrawal.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) — Used in “aversion therapy”, because it makes the user violently ill if even a small amount of alcohol is consumed.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac) – Used primarily in the treatment of co-occurring AUD and depression.
  • Ondansetron (Zofran) – Reduces frequency of drinking and increases abstinence length.
  • Topiramate (Topamax) – Reduces drinking frequency, thereby increasing abstinence length.

What Can We Learn from the Life of David Cassidy?

I did this to myself to cover up the sadness and that emptiness.” ~ David Cassidy The most important takeaway from the life and death of David Cassidy is that ANYONE can struggle with substance abuse, even people who appear to “have it all”. Cassidy was rich, famous, handsome, talented, and adored by millions of people around the world, but he still felt an “emptiness” that only alcohol could fill, albeit only temporarily. Next, the powerful influence of genetics cannot be ignored. With two close relatives who were alcoholics, Cassidy was at heightened risk of AUD before he ever took his first drink. Also, Cassidy’s lack of connection with both his father and his own daughter, as well as his three failed marriages, highlights the importance of having a strong persona support system. Maybe if he had been able to forge closer bonds with others, Cassidy wouldn’t have needed alcohol to ease his sense of isolation. Further, at the end of his life, alcoholism had faded Cassidy’s looks, damaged his memory, sapped his energy, and destroyed his health. In a very real way, he served as a warning, by resembling his own “Before and After” picture. Finally, we see the value of honesty over denial. If Cassidy had been able to honestly admit to a drinking problem decades ago, perhaps he would have gotten the help he needed way back then. And that could have saved his life. In the end, we’re left with questions about a talented life that deserved a better ending.  The lyrics to “Junked Heart Blues” seem like an appropriate epitaph— “Reached so high, almost made it, didn’t I?”

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