Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin and the secret club of addiction

Categories: Breeality Bites

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For weeks after Heath Ledger's body was found in an apartment in New York City in 2008, curious folks would come into the store in SoHo where I worked and ask, "Do you know where Heath's building is?" Of course I knew where it was; everyone who worked or lived between Houston and Canal streets knew exactly where 421 Broome Street was. But I pretended I didn't know. Their intrusiveness made my stomach hurt. Whose business was it to know where Heath died -- besides the people who actually knew and loved him?

When Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment this past Sunday, I felt like those nosy people. I wanted to know everything. Mostly because, like many deaths involving circumstances of which people were unaware, his death felt unreal. How could this happen? How can someone who is under such a bright spotlight do heroin? These questions are complex. People are complex. Addicts are complex people.

See also: Amy Winehouse's passing a reminder: addicts are people too

The immediate information surrounding Hoffman's death was both murky and sensational -- he was found on the bathroom floor with a needle in his arm. There was evidence that this was not his first foray into the current relapse that had killed him. The amount of heroin found in his apartment has changed in size over the last few days -- it was 50 bags. It was 70 bags. It was a five- or ten-day supply.

I don't have a TV and I disconnected myself from social networking last Sunday to avoid the Super Bowl mania, but I did catch some of the Hoffman speculation/chatter Monday night on the television at the gym. Dr. Drew was on Anderson Cooper, spinning his theories around addict behavior and the possible scenarios of Hoffman's recent heroin usage -- apparently the actor entered rehab last year, relapsing after more than two decades clean and sober. Dr. Drew insinuated that maybe Hoffman wasn't sober that whole time. This made me mad.

I'm a recovering alcoholic. I can't pretend I know what it's like to deal with an addiction like heroin, because all addictions and the people who have them are different. But I do know what it's like to struggle with the idea of sobriety on a daily basis. For the past seven years and seven months, I have gone through many stages with my addiction -- at some points, I've thought I was cured and hated the thought of perpetually identifying as "recovering." Why couldn't there be an end to insobriety? I didn't drink at one point in my life, so why couldn't I just go back to being that person, the un-drunk one?

Just when I would get bullish and big-headed about being done with being a drunk, I would be wrestled back into reality, usually by a reoccurring nightmare where I was getting wasted and no one could stop me. I have had these dreams regularly since I got sober. In waking life, I still want to get smashed. When I first quit drinking, I was often asked if I would ever go back to drinking, because how could I enjoy holidays and family celebrations and all of the other usual events where we drink to celebrate without being a normal, glass-clinking participant? My response was and is always the same: When my desire to get completely obliterated disappears, I'll have a drink.

But that's the thing: It has never disappeared. I don't know how to drink like a normal person. I've never wanted to have a glass of wine with dinner or a champagne toast at midnight. I have wanted to down six bottles of cheap wine and tear through a few six-packs of Miller High Life. I don't know the idea of "one drink." I just know addiction and the constant, wobbling balance between invincibility and total failure.

I don't know where Hoffman was in his course of addiction and life when he died. But I do know that as much as addiction is discussed in a public way and as much as we try to remove the stigma of substance abuse, it still can feel like it has to be a secret. Heroin is especially secret.


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127 comments
YuriZhivago
YuriZhivago

This was a well-considered and soul-searching article well written by someone with an addiction problem themselves. I applaud their viewpoint and courage. Non-addicts do not understand that addiction is not a choice; it is considered a disease, one that in addition has a genetic component that we are just starting to understand. Perhaps some day in the future thousands of lives will be saved, as chemical brain receptors are better understood. A doctor I studied with once said, -- this is in 'layman's terms'- depression, addiction, cancer and other diseases act like a lock. There is a literal chemical 'key' that fits into that lock. Once we have found the matching key, we will have conquered these disastrous diseases than ruin lives prematurely. Until then, we are still in the dark ages of medicine. Keep up the good fight---

Evan Sandstrom
Evan Sandstrom

Really good article. Don't not read it because of the tagline!

Ryan Dearth
Ryan Dearth

Maybe one of the best articles I've ever read in Westword, but what a dumb tagline on the Facebook article...

Kevin O'Brien
Kevin O'Brien

when someone OD's on OXY does the CEO of Pfizer or some huge pharma-corp go to prison?

John Lambert
John Lambert

If by dealer you mean the DEA then yes but they are above the law thanks to tricky dick Nixon ;)

Zackary Ford
Zackary Ford

He didn't force him to do the heroin so no.

Jeffrey Grubesic
Jeffrey Grubesic

Absolutely not. I'm sure his dealer never forced him to buy and use it. It was his choice to use, which led to addiction. Not the dealers fault.

Kendra Bell
Kendra Bell

Drugs should be decriminalized and treated as a public health issue.

Ray Koren
Ray Koren

Anyone who said yes is an idiot, the user is responsible.

Deb DeShazer
Deb DeShazer

I think he should be held responsible for any damage to anyone who bought from him! The user is not the only one responsible!

Merna Brisbin
Merna Brisbin

If a bartender can also be held responsible for over serving someone who kills someone in a DUI then yes

שרי אורדאז
שרי אורדאז

No. Although he provided the stuff thay ultimately killed the guy, it's not the dealer's responsibility or fault how the drug was used. He should only be held responsible for selling. Period.

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

Unfortunately, there's no law to prosecute those who sling fast food and by the looks of things, the world has embraced it so McDicks and co. have succeeded in weaving their establishments deep into the fabric of society. I am an addict of fatty foods as a result of this but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who curses their name when our own kids start wanting to eat that shit because the parents do. We all know its bad but yet we still eat it? We all gotta draw the line somewhere and good thing I'm not a herion addict. If I was, I'd be fat and dead or close to it. RIP PSH!!! (didnt mean to use you as an example so soon but if its any consolation, your story could be used in a more positive light, just sayin!) So I guess I'm just fat. For that, I partly blame McDicks and Co. I'm pretty sure there's a special place in hell for all execs on Wall Street, the fast food industry, oil and gas industry (for frikkin fracking), pretty much any industry that continues to blatantly slap the average Joe in the face...and rape and pillage Mother Earth for short term gain at everyone's long term expense...but call me crazy

Ray Koren
Ray Koren

As someone who has been though it I have to say for you to propose its the dealers fault is insulting.

Sean Clark
Sean Clark

'Fat' is a known killer. Should those who 'deal in fatty products' such as ohhhhh say MEAT?! be prosecuted under the law?

Paul Miller
Paul Miller

No.... should you prosecute the parent's that bore a child that became the drug dealer that sold the drugs that the addict took... how far do you go..

Aaron Marquez
Aaron Marquez

Yes!!! Because PSH's life was more valuable than a normal human's

Rob Payne
Rob Payne

Yes, only on the circumstances that it because it killed this actor that I only knew about until this incident. Apparently he was an idol to be worshipped and any and all means should be used to rectify his death......

Jimmy Crane
Jimmy Crane

No! It's his own fault and his own bad choices

Andy Moon
Andy Moon

My two cents...Anyone who deals heroine is partly responsible for any death associated with something that is a known killer, just like guns, fast food and bullying. If you want a clear conscience, don't deal or do heroine! Do the right thing. Anything short of that, try not to get killed or arrested...maybe deal/smoke weed instead...A clear conscience seems to be a rare commodity these days as our moral compass is met with so many new societal challenges. But it seems clear to me...if you're gonna play with matches, you may get burned

Daniel J. King IV
Daniel J. King IV

You FUCKING LIBS are MORE UPSET about this LOSER who KILLED himself, not the Drug Dealer - THAN you Idiot Democrats are about Obama & Hitlery LETTING 4 Americans be MURDERED in #Benghazi with the Ambassador being BRUTALLY MURDERED & Sodomized by Obama's Al Qaeda 'brothers' who seem MORE IMPORTANT to the Treasonous Piece of Shit, Obama than Americans !!! zzz www.newswithviews.com/JBWilliams/williams247.htm zzz

Sandra Baker
Sandra Baker

No. Should we hold fork manufacturers responsible for those who die of obesity? Please........

Shawn Lee Minor
Shawn Lee Minor

Not sure why this question was proposed when it wasn't addressed in the article...

Marcus Netters
Marcus Netters

i would say kill yo'self.. but yeah "smack" is pun intended

Jay Baca
Jay Baca

Sadly nobody does what they don't want to do. For the purpose of getting it off the street- yes but will it go away no probably not ever and if so will simply be replaced by another substance to be addicted to. Addiction is addiction it's a person thing. This game is only won if the person wants it to be.

Raquel Ch
Raquel Ch

Did he put a gun to his head and make him do it

J.d. Brown
J.d. Brown

It looks like the vast majority says, "No." And I would have to agree. That would be like holding the gun dealers responsible for the shooting at the Century 16 Theaters.

Nicholas Richter
Nicholas Richter

So in other words the headline could read, "should someone other than Phillip Seymour Hoffman be blamed for his decisions and actions"?

Stacy Christine
Stacy Christine

Hold the dealer accountable for dealing. But, PSH was an adult and died as a result of his own decisions.

Leigh Ackerman
Leigh Ackerman

No unless he was the one who injected it into his body

YuriZhivago
YuriZhivago

If you did not know him, it is because he was a character actor who was very versatile and did not just play himself, like a 'tom cruise'. He starred in over 25 films and won and Academy Award for Capote. Please rent some of his films. He was brilliant.

YuriZhivago
YuriZhivago

is everything political with you folks? how about staying on topic?

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