I think that like many people, I was shocked on Sunday to learn that Philip Seymour Hoffman died. All avenues of media went into a frenzy. In the bathroom, needle in his arm, empty heroin bags nearby, the whole ugly mess of his death. Why is it always in the bathroom? For as much as anyone can like another without knowing them, I liked Mr. Hoffman. I lost him in movies to his characters and I think that is the coolest thing about being in the audience, to lose the star in the movie because he or she is that great an actor. I read his interviews and was sure to check out talk shows where he was the guest. Beyond that though, I didn't seek him, didn't google him, didn't do more than appreciate what he gave.
But to be clear, I was a fan.
And Sunday, the news of his death. I've watched interviews where he spoke proudly of being 23 years sober. I did not know that he went into rehab recently, that he'd fallen off the wagon, as they say. I did not know the devil was after him again.
I do know that this has nothing to do with me, not a single thing. But. BUT. Sunday afternoon on Facebook, someone I know posted sadness at Mr. Hoffman's death. I read the comments and about seven comments down was this: Pure STUPIDITY. The comment was in reference to the overdose and I took offense. I commented right below that addiction has nothing to do with intelligence or lack thereof. Plenty of people liked my comment and that felt good.
I want to tell you why it felt good and what my connection is to Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman.
When I was nine years old, I was already loving a drug and alcohol addict, though her path had just begun. She was my hero. I remember the smell of her hair and the shape of her young arms. I knew the way her jeans hung low from her hips, the curve of the belt that held her jeans on her body. I watched her every gentle move with animals and I spied on her when she stole our parents' cigarettes. She wasn't an addict then, not yet, but the spark was lit and the flame was beginning to take hold. Her unraveling would go on for years.
I can tell you something about addiction. It is constant. It is a monster, a hungry beast that is never sated. We, we humans, are frail and beautiful beings. We can love and hate, heal and destroy. We are tender and mortal and yet powerful beings, but we are no match for addiction. Addiction will feed itself at the risk of life. Addiction is so fucking strong, such a cruel and savage beast, it will convince the brain to believe that whatever it wants is absolutely necessary for the body; it will incorporate whatever substance into the mind and body's sense of normal and, subsequently, the body and mind become dependent. And must have more.
Addiction might be a habit but it's not a decision or a choice. It's an override of the power to choose, a block to reason.
Yeah, I've seen addiction at work. I've seen it steal, starve, threaten, point a gun, destroy friends, family, neighbors and strangers. I've seen addiction reduce a healthy, vibrant being to a sickly and ashen shell. I've seen heroes fall and young dreams fail. I've seen addiction take everything and everyone in its path down a swirling tunnel of destructive hell. Ruined lives, ruined connections, destroyed trust, tortured hearts, wrecked cars, destroyed beauty, and destroyed minds.
Addiction has nothing at all to do with intelligence. It does not give a flying fuck if you are rich, poor, smart or otherwise. Not if you are male, female, a child or adult. Not what country you live in, neighborhood you live in or car you sleep in. Addiction does not care about your popularity, your net worth or your children. It doesn't care about your house, your promises, your confidence or your job. Not if you are an Oscar winner or struggling to get a spot in the school play. Addiction does not discriminate.
So, yeah, that's why it felt good to have the support on my comment to the person who could only summon up the word stupidity. At least in that conversation thread, more people were area of what addiction is than were not. I did click on the person who made the comment though and on his page I learned that he has lost friends to overdoses. It is a very real and current issue in his life. He is hurt and angry and I understand that. I hope that he can reach out past the anger for some comprehension. Without understanding the disease, he'll never be able to forgive the behavior.