Opinion

It’s not just incorrect to blame Ariana Grande for Mac Miller’s death: it’s incredibly dangerous

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Kayleigh Dray
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Ariana Grande wishes she could have taken Mac Miller’s pain away – but we must remember that it was not her responsibility to do so.

Mac Miller died on Friday 7 September of a suspected drug overdose, it was confirmed last weekend. He was 26 years old.

Now, one week after her ex-boyfriend’s death, Ariana Grande has posted an emotional tribute to the rapper on Instagram

She wrote: “I adored you from the day i met you when I was nineteen and I always will. I can’t believe you aren’t here anymore. I really can’t wrap my head around it.”

Grande continued: “We talked about this, so many times. I’m so mad, I’m so sad, and I don’t know what to do. You were my dearest friend, for so long.

“Above anything else, I’m so sorry I couldn’t fix or take your pain away, [because] I really wanted to.”

The singer finished: “[You were] the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved. I hope you’re OK now. Rest.”

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Losing a loved one to addiction or other mental health struggles is always difficult, and it’s natural to feel feelings of guilt or spiral into the “what ifs” of how you could have saved them.  However, on this occasion, Grande’s words feel all too raw – particularly as so many people have blamed her for her ex-boyfriend’s death. 

Fans of the rapper – who first entered the spotlight in 2010 with his mixtape K.I.D.S – will no doubt be aware that Miller has struggled with substance abuse for much of his life. Describing drugs as being “dangerous but awesome”, the rapper readily admitted to Billboard that he began using at the age of 15 – and, indeed, that every song on his 2014 album, Faces, is about cocaine.

And yet, despite this information being readily available to members of the public, many people chose to ignore the fact that Miller did not get the help he so desperately needed. And, rather than channel their energy into creating an open dialogue around addiction and mental health, they decided to blame his ex-girlfriend instead. So much so that #ArianakilledMacMiller has become a trending hashtag on Twitter.

US tabloid TMZ, who broke the story of Miller’s passing, included a (now-edited) line claiming he “had trouble recently with substance abuse… in the wake of his breakup with Grande”. 

Similarly, countless fans flooded the singer’s Instagram and Twitter accounts with accusations – so much so that Grande was forced to disable her Instagram comments.

“This is your fault,” read one such comment.

“You did this to him,” alleged another.

The comments were vicious, hateful and relentless. None acknowledged that Grande and Miller had remained on good terms following the end of their two-year relationship in May, and all asserted that Grande should have remained in the relationship and encouraged him to find sobriety.

It should go without saying that comments such as these are incredibly dangerous. Not only do they trivialise the power of addiction and depression (as much as support and help from loved ones are vital for recovery, no one can save another person: they have to save themselves), but they also set a poor example for others who are afraid to remove themselves from toxic relationships. They suggest that it is our responsibility to take on the role of emotional caretaker for another human being. That it is possible to “love” someone out of addiction. That we should put their needs above our own, no matter the cost.

That we should always choose to remain in a vulnerable situation, no matter how much we know it’s time to leave.

Instead, we should be reminding one another that it’s important to take a step back if a relationship becomes more than you can handle. That taking care of yourself does not mean you love your partner any less. And that you must always put your own oxygen mask on before you can help someone with theirs.

As the “three Cs” of addiction recovery state: you didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it and you can’t control it. Because, while you can get educated on drug addiction, you can’t make someone quit – nor can you do the work of recovery for them. Most importantly of all, you cannot accept behaviour that violates your own boundaries: not only does doing so put you at risk, but it also diminishes your credibility and perpetuates your loved one’s addiction.

“If you don’t follow through with consequences when someone violates one of your boundaries, your word is like quicksand,” says Carole Bennett, MA, author of Reclaim Your Life: You and the Alcoholic/Addict.

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She adds: “You shouldn’t babysit someone’s recovery. You can be a participant in their healing, but from arm’s length.”

It is a point which Grande herself has made, time and time again. 

Earlier this year, Miller was charged with a DUI after being involved in a car accident. His fans immediately placed the blame onto his ex-girlfriend, but – as reported by the BBC – Grande replied calmly to the comments.

“Blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his s**t together is a very major problem,” she wrote on Twitter at the time. 

“I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be… I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety. Of course I didn’t share how hard or scary it was while it was happening, but it was. I will continue to pray from the bottom of my heart that he figures it all out.”

In short, Grande was not Miller’s caretaker, and it was not her responsibility to endure hardship and unhappiness for his sake. To suggest otherwise isn’t just incorrect, it’s grossly irresponsible – and fuels unhelpful stereotypes about drug addiction. 

So, instead of gossiping about Grande’s role in Miller’s death, let’s instead shift the focus to opening up a conversation around drug abuse – and equip ourselves with the tools we need to recognise the signs, and encourage those suffering to seek professional help.

If you are struggling with addiction, Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

This article was originally published on 10 September.

Image: Getty