Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death has hit me hard. Inexplicably so. Or maybe not so much so.
Like he was, I’m an addict. To cigarettes and nicotine, for sure. And to sex, and secrecy, to the extent one can be addicted to those things. He was just about my age. And my own mortality has been very much on my mind lately, for a variety of reasons.
I’ve written lots about my thoughts about the semantics of addiction, but there’s no question in my mind that my experience leaves me with much in common with Hoffman.
I was talking with a friend, a woman who describes herself as a food addict, who had nothing but scorn for Hoffman. She didn’t feel bad for him, had not an ounce of sympathy. “He had millions of dollars, a family that loved him. He could have been in rehab. He selfishly chose not to be.”
The notion of addiction as selfish is ludicrous to me. Addicts are miserable, lonely, self-loathing, and rarely enjoy their “highs.” Rather, their highs are momentary tolerable moments between the torture that is life.
As awful as addiction is for the families and loved ones of addicts, the experience of an addict is, I would wager, differently, but also terribly, awful. Addicts don’t get high, smoke, fuck, because it’s fun, because they want to.
We do it because we can’t not. Because the pain of our lives demands more of us than we can summon. Because as bad as it feels to take another hit, another drag, to dive down yet another rabbit hole, as much as we know the meaning and consequences of our actions, even that – even the pain we know we are causing with our actions – feels to us like the only alternative, like if we don’t, we’ll die.
I stopped acting out sexually because of an uninvited, uninvitable, moment of clarity and perspective. I’ve quit smoking three times in moments of similar great good fortune.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was fatally lonely. And worse. The love he lacked wasn’t that of his wife, or children, or friends. It was something internal, something that would have made it possible for him to tolerate their love, rather than escape it.
My heart goes out to him. And his family both.
(T sent me this article, which helped me think about this a bit, and whose basic point I shamelessly plagiarized.)