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Whitney Houston First Tried Cocaine at 14 Years Old Says Best Friend Robyn Crawford in New Memoir

Liz McNeil

In her new memoir A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston, the singer’s closest friend Robyn Crawford reveals, for the first time, the truth about their love story — one that began in 1980 after they met as camp counselors in East Orange, New Jersey.

Afterwards, the two quickly became inseparable. Crawford was by Whitney Houston’s side as she became a superstar, but she was also there to witness Houston’s descent into drugs, a downward spiral that only got worse after she left her job as her right hand in 2000.

As Crawford writes, the drugs were present early on. She says they smoked marijuana together during their first summer. By that point, she says, Houston had already sampled cocaine. “Whitney told me she was 14 when she first tried it,” Crawford writes.

As her friend’s career began to take off, Crawford continues: “Whitney would often say ‘Cocaine can’t go where we’re going.’ [But] we weren’t ready to give it up quite yet.”

And so the drugs continued. Says Crawford: “I’d say, ‘Nip we’re here already. And it’s [cocaine] still here. It shouldn’t be.’ And she’d say ‘I know, I’m going to stop.'”

But that never happened. “She admired that I could stop,” says Crawford, who saw the danger early on. “She said, ‘I’m going to stop but I’m just not ready yet.'”

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Whitney Houston and Robyn Crawford. | Courtesy Robyn Crawford

According to Crawford, Houston became more and more isolated, and her drug use increased, following her marriage to Bobby Brown in 1992. Crawford writes movingly that Houston was also worn down — by the demands of supporting an extended family, an exhausting tour schedule, the constant speculation about her sexuality and a drug addiction that was spiraling out of control.

“It was like a big machine and it never stopped,” she says of the constant pressure on Houston.

Sensing the singer was in danger, Crawford and Houston’s father, John Houston, asked her to go to rehab at Silver Hill in Connecticut. “I can still see her face when she said, ‘I’m not ready to go, I don’t want to go,'” writes Crawford.

“I had done all I could do,” she says, “and for the first time I realized that I needed to save myself.” Realizing she could no longer protect her, Crawford quit her job in 2000.

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A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston.

She continued to worry about Houston’s health, and would occasionally hear from a mutual friend who still worked for the singer. “I wouldn’t find out until years later that Whitney was behind those calls and often cried about my not being nearby,” she writes.

But as she knew through her own recovery, “I could only help her only when she decided she needed it.”

When Crawford learned Houston was going on the road when she was clearly in the throes of addiction, her concern grew. “When I heard she was going on tour and I looked at the dates, I knew she should not be doing that,” says Crawford. “She wasn’t in any kind of shape to do it.”

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Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. | George Pimentel/WireImage

After Houston died in 2012, she asked the singer’s agent why she had been touring when she was struggling. “She said to me, ‘Because she and her daughter would have been out on the street,'” says Crawford. “And my response was, ‘Is that what you guys have been telling her?'”

Looking back, she mourns the friend she lost and the fact she was never able to get the help she needed.

“I thought we had time,” she says, “but in an odd way, Whitney was waiting for me and I was waiting for her.”