I think I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t know who Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a week ago, And I didn’t think much about addiction. That’s changed now.
The news of his death is so sad for his family, his friends and fans who will be deprived of his presence and potential. They have to live this every single day, and that kind of pain is not healed by time… it stays with you for the rest of your life. It’s even sadder when the reason for the death, a terrible, life wrecking drug like heroin, is known to be a despicable thing that does nothing but destroy people. All kinds of people.
Even people who look like they have it all.
One of the best pieces I saw on the subject of addiction comes from DeBie Hive and makes a compelling case for how our society doesn’t do well with addiction and the mental health issues often behind it. Pain in all its forms causes us to look for relief… and some, sadly, find it in the wrong places.
For most, the death of Hoffman is just another celebrity passing. Nothing to see here folks, move along.
Like many, Hoffman got hooked on heroin after abusing prescription pain medication. It may startle you to know that heroin use in America (according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) is up a remarkable 75% in the past few years.
If there is anything positive to come from such a loss, it’s this. The chance to think about, maybe expand our own understanding of, addiction. Open up those minds… just a bit and dispense with the stereotypes and judgements. Nobody starts out wanting to be an addict. Nobody wants to die, to have their kids grow up without them or their family live with pain and guilt.
Addicts are just trying to feel better. To cope with their own pain in the only way they know how.
Drugs (legal or illegal) are an accessible way to self medicate… to escape the pain of your inner life, or your outer circumstances. The mental health issues, as DeBie points out, are the ones that don’t get addressed, get pushed aside in our rush to judge. So the stigma lives on and keeps those who struggle feeling alone, unworthy and somehow at fault.
Not exactly the best frame of mind for getting better, is it?
Maybe if we start thinking less about the criminal aspects of addiction, and more about the driving forces behind the need to escape the pain, we’ll prevent the next great talent (or unknown son/daughter) from losing their life.