I don’t quite know why the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has made me so sad. Maybe it’s because I really, really loved his work as an actor or maybe it’s because we were just about the same age. Maybe it’s because I am, like he was, an addict. Maybe it’s an amalgamation of those things and more. Whatever the reason, I’ve been sad since his death.
I didn’t know him, and for all I know the man could have been a complete jerk. But wow, could he act! He played some of my favorite characters. I wonder what it is, this connection between the highly creative and the addicted. We see it so often. Of course, they don’t always go together, but they happen often enough that surely there’s something there.
As for me, I’ve been lucky. My addiction to prescription pain medication was caught early on. It started early in my teen years, when I was first diagnosed with classic migraines. Back then, there weren’t a lot of preventative treatments, so the neurologists that diagnosed me just gave me a shitload of percocet. Not good for a young man who had a family history of drug and alcohol addiction a mile long. I’m very lucky to have had a mother who stepped in a few years later when things were getting really rough to help me get clean.
Here I am though, almost 44 years old, and the “rapacious creditor” of addiction still plagues me. I still have to be extremely careful with alcohol. It doesn’t take much at all for me to drink everything in site and black out. A couple of years ago, I developed pneumonia. The doctor prescribed a cough syrup with hydrocodone in it. I thought, yeah, i can take week’s worth of syrup as prescribed. It was gone in less than 48 hours. And god forbid I get a hold of an unlimited amount of money. I still struggle with smoking, having started that nasty habit at the age of twelve. I could go on all night, listing the addictive behavior I’ve been enslaved by, but I’ll spare you the gory details.
What is it that causes this craziness? As a former therapist, I know the theories, yet I’m still perplexed by this problem which plagues so many people today. And I’m even more perplexed why some people are able to get free of these demons and some aren’t. I had heard in a few placed that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was clean for over 20 years before his most recent relapse. For me, it’s been a cause of despair at times. When will the maddening temptations end? “Some say that the only way to be free of the desire is to give in,” we hear from some recovery literature. Yet that same recovery literature promises that a higher power can and will deliver you if he/she/it is earnestly sought.
I never found that to be true. God never showed up. At least not in a discernible way, a way that he/she/it seemed to for so many others (at least, the way they claimed). And that, in part, is why I don’t really believe anymore. It may sound sad to some, but it’s my story. To me, it’s not sad at all. It was very liberating to shake the dust from those sandals, to finally speak those words that, for so long, I was afraid to say: “I don’t believe in you.” So I found something else. Meditation does it for me now. I don’t have to rely on the whims and fancy of someone or something “out there” to save me from myself. In fact, I’m learning that I don’t even need to BE saved! I have an innate goodness, built right into me. I am a Buddha. I am recovered. Yet at the same time I am still wounded and broken. I am both, and. It’s when I sit, breathe, and I’m really connect that I am no longer plagued by the crazy compulsions anymore. It’s then that I’m really at peace.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation. I don’t know about that. Christians believe in Heaven. I still like that thought, to be honest, but I’m really not sure what happens after we die. My hope for Phillip Seymour Hoffman is that he continues on, but without the suffering that he had here in this life. The gifts he shared with us will certainly be missed.
I’m not sure any of this made sense, but if you stuck with it through the rambling, I thank you.