Sunday 19 May 2019

Comment: Ariana Grande didn't kill Mac Miller, addiction did - and to suggest otherwise is outrageous

Rapper Mac Miller and singer Ariana Grande pose backstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Rapper Mac Miller and singer Ariana Grande pose backstage during the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards at Madison Square Garden on August 28, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Mac Miller and Ariana Grande perform in Paris together in 2017 (REX).
In this July 13, 2013 file photo, rapper Mac Miller performs on his Space Migration Tour at Festival Pier in Philadelphia. Miller, the platinum hip-hop star whose rhymes vacillated from party raps to lyrics about depression and drug use, has died at the age of 26. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

Andrea Smith

We all know that social media has an ugly side, but seeing #ArianaKilledMac trending on Twitter and Instagram yesterday was a particularly shocking moment.

I was more than shocked by it though - seeing it and every misguided post that accompanied it deeply infuriated me.  

Ariana Grande, the beautiful 25-year-old American singer and actress, did not kill her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller by breaking up with him. Addiction is what killed the talented 26-year-old rapper, who was found dead from an apparent drug overdose at his house in California, and the blame for his untimely demise lies squarely at its door.

Mac, real name Malcolm James McCormick, was hugely popular and it is understandable that fans are distraught at his sad passing, but blaming anybody else for the demons that fuelled his addiction and ultimately apparently killed him is disingenuous and downright dangerous.

Mac Miller and Ariana Grande perform in Paris together in 2017 (REX).
Mac Miller and Ariana Grande perform in Paris together in 2017 (REX).

If break-ups killed people that easily, we’d all be dead long ago. Addictions though? They have had a long and nasty habit of claiming the lives of beautiful and talented people that we love and admire.

Heroin took Paula Yates in 2000 and Peaches Geldof in 2014, and alcohol killed Amy Winehouse in 2011. Closer to home, cocaine played a role in broadcaster Gerry Ryan’s heart failing in 2010, and an inquest revealed earlier this week that our own Dolores O’Riordan drowned as a result of alcohol intoxication.

These people, and a very long list of others, were famous, talented, creative, charming people that we admired. They were also all, for one sad reason or another, unable to break the cycle of addiction that openly or secretly impinged on their lives.

Mac Miller spoke and rapped about his difficulties with substance abuse, and revealed that he was only 15 when he first got involved with drugs. He was in such thrall to cocaine that “every single song” on his album Faces was about the drug,

He and Ariana dated for two years and broke up in May of this year. A fan tweeted blaming her for Mac’s subsequent arrest for driving under the influence and being involved in a hit-and-run, which gained 139k likes. Ariana publicly responded, giving an insight into the reality of the hardship and pressures of being in an relationship with someone caught in the vice-like grip of addiction.

"How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them, which btw isn't the case (just Cinderella is ab me)," she said. "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 & prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course) but shaming/blaming women for a man's inability to keep his s--t together is a very major problem."

"Let's please stop doing that,” she added. “Of course I didn't share about 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 and that any other woman in this position does as well." 

By blaming Ariana for Mac’s untimely death, each and every one of the #ArianaKilledMac posters is demonstrating their inability to grasp that nobody else is to blame for the tragic consequences of someone’s addiction, apart from the addiction itself. It’s an insidious and hugely devious illness that lures people in by promising to be their friend in good times and in bad, and ends up utterly destroying their lives and that of the people who love them.

That isn’t the addict’s fault because addiction is a master of targeting vulnerability, but crucially, it is not the fault of the person’s family and friends either. As anyone who has had a relationship with an addict knows, all the love and support in the world can’t save someone who is caught up in a world of drink, drugs, gambling or any other form of addiction.

There is wonderful help out there, but unless the addict chooses to seek it and work at their own recovery, nothing that anyone else says or does will prevail, unfortunately. They may not want to or sadly, they may not be able to seek help for myriad reasons, but the addict alone is the only one who can ultimately overcome the problem, supported by professional help.

And that’s what Ariana was really saying in that statement. Seeing that her efforts to help and support were not having any effect on the situation, she chose to leave. It was a wise and brave move, because she undoubtedly loved him, possibly thought that her love could save him and would have been heartbroken at how it ended.

She realised that she couldn’t protect Mac from the lure of addiction though, and in getting out, she preserved her own future and mental health, which is what she encourages others in that position to do. Was that callous or unkind? No! It was a wise and insightful decision that saved her from having her own life ruined by the tentacles of addiction and the havoc it causes to the people around the victim.

Addiction doesn’t care who it brings down, and those who love addicts always suffer the stress, worry and heartbreak of dealing with their loved one being in the grip of such a horrible enemy. Professional help is needed, and even at that, the addict has to really want to succeed and resist the ongoing temptation that lurks around every corner, which is difficult, of course.

Recognising that there was very little help out there for the families of addicts, singer and senator Frances Black set up The Rise Foundation, which offers support to family members in dealing with the impact someone else’s addiction has had on their own lives (

She did so because addiction doesn’t just destroy the life of the addict -  it devastates the life of everyone around them.

In the midst of dealing with the now-obvious turmoil in her personal life, Ariana had to deal with unimaginable horror in May 2017, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive after her concert at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 innocent people and injured 139 others. While utterly devastated by the atrocity, the singer, then only 23, halted her own tour and organised and staged the One Love Manchester concert less than two weeks later, reportedly raising more than £17 million (€18.98m) to aid the victims.

She drew on celebrity friends to perform, including Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Niall Horan, Little Mix, Take That, Robbie Williams, Liam Gallagher and, of course, her then-boyfriend, Mac Miller. Her strength and maturity and drive to make a real difference drew the admiration of the world upon her. It was not her fault that people lost their lives at her concert, but she put aside her own shock and grief to make a real difference and be a force for good at a time when evil prevailed.

Sadly, in her own personal life, her then-partner was struggling around his sobriety, and she supported him but wasn’t able to “fix “him. Mac was ultimately unable to slay the dragon of his illness and it claimed his life, far too young, far too soon and alas, far too predictably. "It's so heartbreaking," singer Ed Sheeran said when he heard, and indeed it is.

Also heartbreaking is the fact that anyone out there would choose to blame Ariana for the untimely death of a wonderful young man. There is no doubt that Mac’s death will have devastated her and she probably has regrets and doubts of her own mixed in with the sorrow she is feeling, but ending that “toxic” relationship was the only thing she could have done to preserve her own mental health and save herself from a lifetime of worry and unhappiness.

Sadly, when it comes to overcoming addiction, it’s a battle that one must go into alone, no matter how much love and support is behind you. Mac didn’t win the fight on this occasion, and that is very sad, but heaping blame for his death on an innocent person like Ariana is wrong, deluded and downright outrageous. Ariana has a lot to offer the world, and by choosing not to allow the horror of addiction to drag her under as well, she can continue to be the positive force that she has consistently shown herself to be.

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