Out of the millions of words thus far that have been used to discuss and dissect the tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose, perhaps the best I’ve seen are those from Jeff Deeney, a sober social worker and writer who wrote a piece for The Atlantic about Hoffman and the recent rise in heroin deaths. The part that really struck me is when he said that “overdoses become advertisements for strong product.” It’s the same thing Cliffside Malibu founder Richard Taite wrote about in his blog—that the heroin addict “tries to get as close to death as humanly possible without actually dying because that’s what feels the best, that’s where the euphoria lies right there at that edge.” A cynic could say that the desire to be as close to death while still being alive is perhaps the last thrill for a person who seemingly has everything. But addiction is more complicated than that.
When you’re doing drugs, getting close to death doesn’t actually seem like that big a deal. You simply can’t do hard drugs and think that dying or nearly dying is a big deal because if you’re going to be that sane, how then can you justify using hard drugs?
A Tragic Lesson in Relapse
It can be easy to forget, when many sober addicts seem to thrive, that many of us are as crazy as we were before; we just sometimes have years between today and the last time we had a compulsion to do something that mimicked or risked death. Hoffman’s death is horrible—because of his talent, because he had been sober over two decades before, because he had small children…take your pick. But maybe it doesn’t have to be solely tragic. Maybe it’s a loud enough message that it can become an advertisement, too—for the fact that no one is immune from falling back into forgetting.
Photo Courtesy of Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons