Yesterday, a wonderful actor was found dead in his apartment in New York. Philip Syemour Hoffman‘s 23 year career (that started out on Law and Order) came to an abrupt end, and he will be missed on screen. However, because of these events, we are left discussing who (or what) to blame for his death. It has been reported that he overdosed, and an autopsy will confirm or deny this soon. My personal Facebook and Twitter was overwhelmed with conversations about him, and about drug addiction.
As addicts, we know what it’s like to live with this physical plight. As quitters, we know what the hard truth is: Hoffman was a victim of his own actions. He chose to use despite seeking help and getting “clean” recently. He chose to put his addiction over his needs, and he paid the ultimate price.
According to Wikipedia:
In a 2006 interview, Hoffman revealed that he had suffered from drug and alcohol abuse after graduating from college, and went to rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, recovering at age 22. He said he had abused “anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all.” Hoffman relapsed over 20 years later, checking into a rehabilitation program for about 10 days in May 2013 because of problems with prescription pills and heroin.
Hoffman has struggled with addictions since he was young. Last May, he checked into rehab for 10 days. Hoffman knew he had an issue, and (more importantly) he knew what it’s like to be free. Now, not knowing the man, I cannot comment as to when he started using again after his first bought. But, if he acknowledged this in 2006, I wonder if he had managed to stay clean until that point. Like most addicts, he may have been proud and thought “I have this” and let down his guard. His last attempt at rehab may have been a flailing attempt from a man who still thought “I have this”.
Unfortunately, I cannot hold this man blameless. Needles did not appear in his arm by themselves. This man cannot claim ignorance of his issues as he sought help multiple times. He chose to use. It’s sad, but it is a hard truth that all addicts have to face: There are consequences to our use. Some drugs work quicker than others (heroin vs nicotine), but they still ultimately lead to the same place with continued abuse.
I’m no saint, and I have my vices (pasta, not enough exercise). But since I’ve become a quitter, I know that small moments of euphoria are not worth the consequences that are attached to them. I know what it’s like to run around as a slave feeding my habit, and I know the physical pain that exists when I quit. I know how hard it is just to NOT do something, but to have every molecule of my body scream for it. Addiction is a sickness, but the physical feeding of it is not.
And I know how to say no to that.
Ultimately, every addict has to realize a few things:
(1) The pleasure of using is temporary, and your body builds up a resistance to the drug requiring more to get your fix.
(2) The pain of quitting is temporary, and life does resemble “normal” again.
(3) Addicts are never cured, and they are one bad decision away from the gripping claws of slavery (or death).
Hoffman will be missed, but don’t think that he’s blameless. We are not feathers in the wind in our lives. There is one thing and one thing alone in this world that I can control: My actions. You yield the same power. So did he.
And he chose to use.
Wastepanel, 950 days quit