Toni Cornell, daughter of late singer Chris Cornell, said her father’s death was “completely preventable” as she launched a campaign to educate people about addiction.
The Soundgarden frontman’s death in 2017 was ruled a suicide after he was found in his hotel room following a concert in Detroit. He’d struggled with addiction issues and depression for years. In an open letter launching the website StopStigma.org, Toni wrote that lives will continue to be lost needlessly until people understand that addiction is a “disease and not some moral flaw.”
“My dad never expected life to be perfect,” Toni said. “He came from a family where both of his parents suffered with alcohol use disorder and he was often subjected to an abusive environment. At the age of 14 he started experimenting with different drugs, including PCP, which caused a panic disorder. He didn’t share that with his parents when it happened and for the next two years he suffered from this alone and without support. He explained to us that up until that moment he felt he could do anything and that life was great and full of possibilities. Then all that changed.”
She continued: “He learned from his mistakes and shared those lessons with us. He shared how he overcame his own anxiety, but then also shared that alcohol had dragged him back into drugs. He explained how that led to depression and using other drugs because it took away the fear associated with it. He taught us the importance of understanding addiction. Addiction education is so very important. Yet it is something that is not taught and not discussed enough.”
Toni said Cornell likened addiction to suffering an allergy, making the point that “addiction [is] genetic” and that anxiety affects “everyone at some point in some way.” She added: “This is why it is so sad that he lost his life when, in a tragic moment, drugs altered his reality. This tragic moment does not define who my father was nor should this tragedy be distorted to fit other people’s stories. Speculation is irresponsible, it robs my father of who he was, and tarnishes the memories of those who truly knew him and loved him. Worse, it perpetuates a dangerous lie that can hurt others.
“My dad’s death was completely preventable,” she stated. “We need to stop the stigma that does not allow us to see that this is a disease and a mental health disorder, not a moral flaw. The former perspective saves lives, the latter ends them. I miss my dad every second of every day and I know he would not want his death to be in vain. I hope others can learn from our pain and experience and I hope that we can stop the same thing from happening to every other family affected by this disease.”