Another day, another fatal overdose of a person with the sort of talent most of us can barely even fathom. That’s how it felt to me when hearing the news that Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead with a needle in his arm.
Shocking but Not Surprising
We are all shocked and dismayed. But why should we be? Addiction has proven, over and over again, that it is merciless in the way that it kills. It has no respect for kindness, gentleness, pure hearts or immense talent. Left untreated, it will kill. Many knew that Hoffman was an addict; he went to detox for heroin last May. Oh, good, most who heard the news thought if they thought about it at all. Taken care of. Talented guy. He’ll get out of rehab and get squared away and go back to being awesome in movies again.
But that’s not it, for most people. And the more we try to pretend it is—the more we act like addiction is something that can be tucked away and dealt with away from us and pretend that a person can just easily move through a pesky predilection for injecting needles filled with potentially fatal drugs—the more we spread that misconception. The more we worship bullshit, the more we suck up to powerful, famous people, putting them on pedestals so that we can be shocked or in denial about their behavior, the bigger the problem we have.
Facing, Not Debating, Addiction
If you’re reading this, that probably means you care about addiction—you either are an addict or you love one. So I say let’s tell people what it’s like. Let’s explain that this isn’t a problem that goes away once you get shipped off to rehab or even get a sponsor—that this is a lifelong affliction for many of us. There seems to be this misconception that people are hope-to-die addicts and then get hit by some sort of magical sunlight of the spirit and are transported into another existence where the problem goes away. That’s not the case. It’s a fucked-up disease. And please can we not get worked up about what doesn’t matter—say, whether it’s a disease or not? When people are dying so regularly, who really cares what you call the killer? And it’s not just famous, incredibly talented people, of course. Studies say that 100 people overdose a day. Yesterday, that was Hoffman and 99 others; today, 100 more. Can we keep talking about what this really is, please?
Photo courtesy of Chrisa Hickey [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons