Janis Winehouse Talks About Her Daughter Amy

3 months after Amy Winehouse’s death, Janis Winehouse talks about her daughter Amy to the Dailymail.

Since Amy’s passing, Janis Winehouse has been actively supporting the Amy Winehouse Foundation a charitable organization setup in honour of daughter Amy Winehouse.

Recently, the Amy Winehouse Foundation is launched in the US city of New York by Amy’s father Mitch, her mother Janis and brother Alex.

Amy Winehouse Foundation

‘Amy was so ashamed of being an alcoholic, she wouldn’t even drink in front of me’

In a revealing – and moving – interview, Janis Winehouse insists that her daughter DIDN’T have a death wish.

Amy Winehouse made a point of never drinking in front of her family. She knew she was an alcoholic and hated the fact. She told them she couldn’t bear how it made her feel, and what it was doing to her – but she promised them that she was going to stop.

Just as the 27-year-old-star had, in 2008, seemingly single-handedly conquered her life-threatening addiction to drugs, so she seemed determined to do the same with drink.

But she made it clear she wanted to do it on her own terms and in her own time, without interference. Taking the words of her favourite Frank Sinatra song, she told her family she wanted to do it ‘My Way.’

Amy’s mother Janis, 56, dabs at her eyes with a tissue as she remembers her daughter’s utter conviction. ‘I think Amy felt she was invincible,’ says Janis, in her first interview following last week’s inquest into the Grammy Award-winning star’s death on July 23.

‘Amy didn’t want to die; she didn’t have a death wish. She had a huge zest for life. There was so much she still wanted to achieve.

‘Amy was incredibly strong, both physically and mentally, but alcohol addiction seemed to creep up on her and then just took her by surprise.’

Three empty vodka bottles were found near Amy’s body in her bedroom, and a pathologist who examined her body said she had 416mg of alcohol per decilitre of blood — five times the legal drink-drive limit of 80mg.

The inquest heard that 350mg was usually considered a fatal amount, and that Amy’s binge-drinking session had followed three weeks of sobriety. Small traces of Librium, used to treat alcohol withdrawal, were found in her blood, but no illegal drugs.

Amy and Janis Winehouse

It is a cruel irony for Janis that Amy’s death came at a time when the Winehouse family thought the troubled star had turned a corner in her recovery.

Janis and her partner Richard Collins, 60 (whom she has since married in a quiet private ceremony) visited Amy on the afternoon before her death. They all drank Earl Grey tea and Amy excitedly chatted about the wedding she and new boyfriend, film director Reg Traviss, were attending that weekend.

‘She didn’t seem drunk or tipsy – she was completely normal and coherent,’ says her mother. ‘There was absolutely nothing that afternoon which left me worried about her. I had no inkling that I would never see her again.’

Janis, who visited her daughter at her Camden home in North London once or twice a week, adds: ‘When I left, she threw her arms around me and said, “I love you, Mummy,” and I said, “I love you too.” I never imagined for a second that would be the last time I would ever see her.’

Later that evening, at 7pm, Amy’s private GP, Christina Romete, saw the singer, who by then appeared slightly tipsy but still coherent. Ms Romete told the inquest she did not believe the star had deliberately drunk herself to death.

Amy, who won five Grammy Awards for her 2006 album Back to Black, told her GP: ‘I do not want to die … I have not achieved a lot of the things I wanted.’

Amy went to bed in the early hours of the morning, after one of her live-in private protection staff told her that she was making too much noise on her drum kit.

When he looked in on her at 10am the next day, he thought Amy was still sleeping. At 3pm, when he checked again, he realised she had not moved position and found the star was not breathing and had no pulse.

Janis now believes it was her daughter’s determination to tackle her alcohol dependency ‘My Way’ which ultimately may have contributed to her death.

‘I think what killed Amy was not just the alcohol, but the fact she was less than 7st and just over 5ft tall,’ says Janis.

‘Her body couldn’t cope with that amount of alcohol after three weeks of abstinence. It was the lack of consistency; the stopping and starting again.’

‘Everyone wishes for a peaceful death. My only comfort is that Amy’s was peaceful. I like to think she went to sleep and just didn’t wake up, so I hope she didn’t suffer.’

The cruel irony of Amy’s death is that both Janis and her ex-husband Mitch, Amy’s father, really thought their daughter had finally turned a corner. Previously, they’d witnessed her inexorable decline from beautiful rising star to skeletal junkie.

The couple divorced when Amy was nine. Over the years they’d sought out the best counsellors and clinics for their famous daughter — spending huge amounts of time and money in their efforts to help her.

All of which Amy, stubborn and wilful since she was a little girl, simply refused to accept. So, Janis and Mitch had no option but to let her make her own choices, and be there to support her when it all went wrong.

They were horrified by her marriage, in 2007, to film video production assistant Blake Fielder-Civil – a self-confessed junkie – which seemed to precipitate her own sudden descent into drug addiction.

The couple became a regular feature in the papers, pictured staggering through London’s streets; or a tearful Amy in blood-stained ballet pumps, distraught after another row.

‘Amy didn’t like to talk about her addiction,’ says Janis. ‘But it was there for all the world to see. To everyone else it was Amy Winehouse, but all I could think was: “That’s my baby.”

‘She used to say to me, whenever there was something about her in the papers, “Look, Mum, I’m still here! They said this and that, but look, I’m still here!”

When Amy started suffering seizures on account of her drug usage, and had to be hospitalised, Janis and Mitch again pleaded with her to seek professional help, but she refused.

Mitch repeatedly implored Amy to leave Fielder-Civil and their destructive marriage – which she finally decided to do, after he was jailed for 32 months for burglary and possession of an imitation firearm.

Janis recalls: ‘Amy loved Blake, but love can be blind. I don’t blame Blake or anyone else for what happened to our daughter. Amy was Amy. She did what she wanted.’

‘She used to say, “I know I can’t be with Blake anymore” – but that didn’t mean she didn’t want to be with him. ‘It was hard for her to leave him, just as it was hard for her to leave the drugs; but she wanted to turn over a new leaf. The divorce from Blake gave her the impetus to do that.’

In fact, Janis was amazed when Amy woke up one morning, shortly after she split from Blake, and simply announced to her father: ‘I’m not taking drugs again.’

And stop she did. ‘It was awful for her, the withdrawal, but she did it all by herself,’ says Janis. ‘She didn’t want traditional therapy or rehab because she hated not being in control.

‘Amy was a very determined person, and when she set her mind to something, she did it.’

Amy Winehouse

Amy, however, having stopped taking drugs, replaced one addiction with another. Janis says she was always a nervous performer, and used alcohol as a crutch to help her perform. Now, in the absence of drugs, her consumption of alcohol skyrocketed.

Jetting off to St Lucia to aid her recovery from drug addiction, reports filtered home of her drinking. Tourists said they’d witnessed Amy crawling under tables to get her hands on their drinks.

‘Amy hated herself when she was drunk,’ says Janis. ‘She liked being in control and she hated what alcohol was doing to her.

‘She could go for weeks without having a drink, but then she’d fall off the wagon. She was like a little girl who just couldn’t resist putting her finger in the fan, even though she knew it was dangerous.

‘But she never drank in front of me. She loved and respected her family too much for that.

‘She was the type of girl who, before lighting up a cigarette, would ask, ‘”Do you mind, Mum?”

‘I don’t think for a second she ever thought she would die, or that alcohol or drugs would kill her.’

Janis will never know what drove Amy to start drinking again the night before she died in her Camden home in North London after three weeks of determined sobriety.

Amy had sworn herself off alcohol after her disastrous comeback concert in Belgrade, Serbia, when she was booed offstage after appearing drunk, slurring through songs and forgetting her lyrics.

Before the Serbian concert, a relative had found a place for Amy at The Priory at Roehampton to help her confront her alcohol addiction – but Amy had walked out after two weeks, saying she wanted to give up alcohol on her own.

‘She’d thought she was strong enough to make a comeback without alcohol — but she wasn’t,’ says Janis.

‘She often used alcohol to help her cope with emotions, or to avoid certain situations, such as important meetings, but why she chose to drink the night she died remains a mystery to me.

‘She’d seemed so determined to stop. She’d built a gym in her home and was doing her best to look after herself. She’d even hired a private yoga teacher.’

It is three months since Amy died, and Janis has clearly not yet come to terms with her loss. She likes to put on a brave face in public, but in private there have been countless tears.

She and her new husband Richard were eating in a restaurant in Spain with friends recently when Amy’s rendition of the song Valerie started playing in the background.

‘The meal was over in that instant,’ says Janis. ‘We paid the bill and left. I still find it impossible to listen to Amy’s music.’

Likewise, Janis says Mitch and their son Alex are utterly devastated by Amy’s death. Both Janis and Mitch have been stung by criticism that in some way they failed Amy as parents.

Janis says: ‘I have seen Mitch close to breakdown over Amy. It nearly killed him. We have spent so much time and money trying to help her over the years, but Amy was Amy.’

She adds: ‘She was stubborn and wilful and wanted to do things her way. But in private, we shouted, cried, cajoled, pleaded with her.

‘We did everything we could. We never stopped loving and supporting her. We were so close, as mother and daughter, it felt as if we were two people wrapped into one.

‘Amy was a huge star, but she never acted that way with us. She was just Amy. She was just an ordinary girl. She never embraced fame, but because of her huge talent it embraced her.

‘She found that very restrictive and hard to cope with. She didn’t want to give up singing because she loved her fans. She enjoyed performing and felt she had more to give creatively.

‘She did feel she had so much more to achieve, and she was enjoying designing a new fashion range for the Fred Perry label.

‘She put other people first. She loved being with her family, making cups of tea, sitting on the floor with her little relatives, plaiting their hair.’

It was because Amy adored children – and often spoke of having a family of her own one day – that the Amy Winehouse Foundation was set up in her memory to support charitable activities for young people.

‘Amy’s legacy will live on long after we are gone,’ says Janis.

‘Amy was everything I could have wished for in a daughter, but she had her idiosyncrasies. She was her own person, who wanted to do things her way.’

Sadly, that was the trait which, in the end, would lead to her untimely and unnecessary death.

To donate go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation Website

Janis Winehouse talks about her daughter Amy with a heavy heart after losing her daughter to addiction.

Janis will never know what drove Amy to start drinking again the night before she died in her Camden home in North London after three weeks of determined sobriety.

Janis said she’ll now always remember her daughter saying, “I love you mum,” the day before her death. “They are words I will always treasure,” she said. “I’m glad I saw her when I did.”

Watch Mitch and Janis Winehouse accept Amy’s Grammy Award with Tony Bennett for their duet Body and Soul.

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