The temptation is to try to explain it in scientific terms. We want to understand the mystery of a man's demise, particularly a man who had achieved so much in his career and who, by the nature of his work, was known across the globe. One thinks if this could happen to him with his successes and his fame, his family and all the blessings of his existence, then surely no one is safe. We are sobered once again as we face the misunderstanding that one's outer world is an indicator of happiness rather than their inner world, which is the only place where true success can be measured. If we have been in the habit of having and doing, we look at others who seem to be doing a lot and having a lot with envy. Wow, look at them go!
Part of what hit so deeply about this loss was the emotional depth that Hoffman had plumbed to show us something about ourselves. He regularly visited emotional environments that few actors will ever choose to visit in their entire careers. We, therefore, felt so much "with him" that it is almost as if we have lost a friend and a teacher. It is mystifying and disorienting to lose a teacher to a disease that people assume indicates moral weakness. On some level, many feel that he let them down. How could he do it? How could someone like him fall from the place we had appointed him to?
I'll give you one possible explanation of what happened. Maybe, like so many, he was simply enthralled to death by the feeling produced by heroin as it seduces the human nervous system into the illusion that this is somehow better than living. You think that's weakness? Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your background, you could not possibly stand toe-to-toe against this craving if it was initiated within you. Though you may not have experienced such a craving, doesn't make you better or stronger than another person who does. BUT if you have experienced this craving, you know what I am talking about. It's bigger than you. It's like having to fight a full-grown tiger with your hands tied behind your back.
So why now? How could something like this happen after such a long period of abstinence? I believe the answer requires a deeper understanding and respect for the addiction frequency, an energetic attunement, if you will, that holds a person captive and vulnerable to relapse unless it is dealt with on a regular basis (read: every day). Much the same way a diabetic needs insulin, people who have crossed the line into acute addiction seem to need a few things, even after long periods of abstinence. The two main ingredients are a spiritual path and a community to support it. This is the foundation. Then, with the foundation in place it is an absolute requirement that one spend one's life expanding upon that foundation. This can be the most joyous of journeys for it is a daily pathway to your heart. Some, like me, find it in the 12 steps and yoga, others find it in other spiritual paths or therapeutic processes. Addiction is a dis-ease of lack and we seem to need a spiritual experience to become whole again. It is also a dis-ease of isolation and so, we must come into community, common-unity, to draw upon necessary resources and to avoid being pulled down into morbidity. These are the first solutions to this problem. Whether you have struggled with addiction or care about someone who has, please bring yourself to accept this. In my experience, it holds as True.
Philip Seymour Hoffman died at 46 years old. I am 46 years old. Previously, he was 23 years sober. In June, barring the unseen, I will be 23 years sober. To say that his death hit home for me would be an understatement. Please do not let the message of his death be that the 12-Steps or other forms of recovery don't work. He is in a small percentage of people who stay sober that long and then relapse. The great majority of people who make it to 5 years of recovery (85 percent) will not relapse (source: http://tinyurl.com/mxkhcbq). Somehow, he got cut off from the light. Somehow, he drifted back into a behavior which kills people.
Strangely, I will miss Philip. It's strange because I never met him. I lament the loss of yet another brother to addiction. Along with the teachings he left us in his movies, please hear his final teaching: Stay vigilant on this path of recovery. Work your program, whatever that means to you, to the best of your ability. Keep your connection to each other and when you find the road to your own heart, walk it everyday.
R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman.
With Love and Gratitude,
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
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