Usually at the start of this paragraph, I would go on to list all the ways she changed sports entertainment, about all the ground she broke for people like Natalya and for Beth Phoenix. Or perhaps this is where normal tributes stray off into the well-publicized and sordid details of her personal life – from her dabbling in adult film to her stints on Celebrity Rehab. But Chyna was something more for me and it started in 2008.
That year after two years of baby step recovery from alcoholism I was at the crescendo to a crisis I didn’t think I could get over personally and for two years it had tortured me night and day. A particular situation that I had created with much guilt and could not fix. It was then I watched my very first reality show in the form of Dr. Drew and Celebrity Rehab. At the time I was seriously considering drinking again to deaden the pain inside over this situation. After watching back to back episodes my precious affection for Chyna connected me to her in a new way. It was during the few weeks the show aired that I noticed something about Chyna. Her stage name – as ironic as it once sounded – was fragile. Like a Chyna doll. In one particular episode they discussed walls that we as addicts put up to protect others from the whirlwinds that are addicts, and to protect tender parts left damaged by misplaced trust.
A lot of TV Mumbo Jumbo, right? Pop psychology sold to corporate masters, right?
Not for me. What it instilled in me was gratitude. This is a trait no recovering addict can live long without and stay off the bottle. Seeing Joanie as a venerable and broken person willing to accept help moved me to gratitude because I had made it out so far, I was lucky and to throw it away over a life situation (no matter how foul) was unacceptable, since that day every time I am tempted or weakened by selfishness I always remember that Joanie was out there trying to get what I had, and I was rooting for her. She became a vicarious metaphor for what waited for me the second I surrendered my gratitude.
Today I awakened to the news that she had passed away at the age of 45.
I wept for her and her family and for myself…because I really want her to finish on top.
One year younger than myself. It is a new perspective in a line of perspectives I can thank Chyna for. You see Chyna in the years after her wrestling for the WWE was over became something else that can’t be quantified by what she did in the ring. While we await the details of her tragic passing nothing can tarnish the immense impact that so many who suffer from this debilitating disease, and a constant reminder that the disease claims far more than break free and that the only defense is the willingness not to give up. I don’t know all the details of her life the last few years, nor do I know how it came to an end but I know this…
…when I look back at Chyna’s life all I see is an unbreakable wall of persistence and inspiration. Rest in Peace Chyna. Wrestle Eddie and Roddy for me will you?