With her career on hold and her husband in jail, the troubled British singer continues to spiral out of control

By Rennie Dyball
December 17, 2007 12:00 PM

The image was a desperate one: A bleary-eyed and barefoot Amy Winehouse, clad only in jeans and a bra, wandering outside her London home in the pre-dawn cold Dec. 2. Nor is it the first time we’ve seen Winehouse, 24, unraveling. Over the past year, her life has ricocheted from brawls to an arrest to apparent drug abuse (see box). Says a source close to the singer: “She’s in a pretty bad state.”

All the drama makes it easy to forget that the Brit—who shot to fame in the U.S. this year with her sobriety-shunning hit, “Rehab”—is a huge talent expected to get several nods at the Dec. 6 Grammy nominations. But Winehouse’s future remains uncertain. While her husband, former video production assistant Blake Fielder-Civil, 25, is in jail for conspiracy (he allegedly tried to tamper with a witness in his upcoming assault trial), she’s cancelled all appearances through 2008 to focus on her health. “This is a rough time for her,” says her rep. “She’s in a day care program under the care of physicians. She’s been writing nonstop. This is how she’s dealing.”

Some worry that it may be too late. Back in August, when Winehouse was hospitalized for exhaustion and later checked into an Essex, England, treatment center with her husband, Amy’s in-laws urged fans to boycott her records until she seeks treatment. “We believe that they are drug addicts,” Blake’s stepfather, Giles Fielder-Civil, told BBC Radio, while Blake’s stepmother, Georgette, said to PEOPLE, “We are in hell. People who take drugs don’t care about other people.” Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse, agreed, saying, “At some point, they’ll hit rock bottom.”

Winehouse may be used to testing limits. As a member of England’s National Youth Jazz Orchestra in 2000, she impressed director Bill Ashton, who called her “the best young female singer I’ve ever seen,” but he added that even at age 16, she would “sit in the corner, smoking competitively. Her mother said to me, ‘Can you stop her smoking so much?’ But you couldn’t talk to her about that. She was very stubborn.” Not much has changed. Winehouse’s older brother Alex told London’s GMTV Nov. 16 that if he begged his sister to clean up, “she’ll probably end up doing the opposite. But Amy does still have this self-control and a voice in the back of her head saying, ‘Calm down!'”

The question is, can she? Winehouse producer Mark Ronson told PEOPLE, “She’s upset—her man’s been taken away. But I think she’s hopeful. I can’t wait to get back in the studio with her.” She’ll have to battle her demons first. Says a source close to her: “Look, she’s a sick person. Right now, it’s impossible to plan anything.”