Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)
Most of us were stunned Sunday when we learned of the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was truly one of the great character actors of my generation. He was an amazing talent on both stage and screen. He was an Oscar winner. He was an addict, and so am I.
Like Philip, I developed an appetite for drugs early in life. By the time I was a sophomore in college, I was using drugs on a regular basis. Oh sure, I thought it was soooooo much fun at first because it meant I could stay up all night to party and still make it to class, but ultimately, drugs were just a way for me to escape all the painful memories of being sexually abused as a child.
After a while though, it stops being fun. It doesn’t take long to realize the pain you are trying to escape is still there and it now accompanied by a myriad of other issues all related to your drug use. It’s no fun waking up lying on the pavement in a parking lot having no idea where you are or how you got there. It’s no fun being awake for days on end because you’re so amped up on stimulants that you can’t come back down. It’s not fun realizing you are quickly losing control of your life.
Thankfully, once I came to the realization that the drugs weren’t actually working for me, I got help. I made the decision at 24 years old to get clean. It wasn’t easy, especially since my husband at the time was still doing drugs, but I did it and I’ve been clean ever since.
For many years, I attended 12-step meetings a few times per week because I knew they were an important tool for me to remain clean. Once I moved to California in my mid-30s, I just gradually cut back on the number of meetings I was attending until I eventually just gave them up completely. It wasn’t that I felt they were no longer important, but other things in my life just became more pressing as I went about living my life. While I know one is never truly “recovered” from an addiction, I just kind of felt that I’d reached a point in my life where drugs simply weren’t an issue for me any longer.
Yesterday’s news reminded me again just how insidious the disease of addiction really is for those who suffer from it. Philip had been clean for 23 years before picking drugs back up again last year and started using again. Sadly, that’s what also cost him his life apparently as it is believed he died of an accidental heroine overdose.
His death reminded me that while I’m grateful for all my years of being clean, I still need to be ever vigilant about my own disease of addiction because I could fall back into it at any moment. While I no longer think about drugs on a regular basis, I have had other addictions in my past (smoking, cutting, sex, etc.) as well, some of which do still haunt me on a regular basis,. For me, the one that haunts me the most is food.
I suffered many years with bulimia and binge eating disorder. It’s actually my oldest addiction (for lack of a better phrase) because I have vivid memories of sneaking and hiding food even as young as in my tween years. Since I was too young to use drugs or alcohol to cope with the abuse I was suffering, food became my drug of choice. In my young mind, I think I believed that if I stuffed myself with enough food, the pain I felt inside would be forced out or something because there would be no room for it any longer. Logically, I understand that it doesn’t work that way now, but as a 10 or 11 year old, it’s the only way I knew to cope.
At this point in my life, it’s been many years since I’ve actually purged. However, there’s still not a week that goes by that I don’t think about doing it. Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, it’s there. It’s especially in the forefront of my mind if I’ve eaten too much and I’m uncomfortably full. That’s definitely a danger zone for me.
I think one of the reasons my food-related addictions have always continued to be a problem for me is that, unlike with drugs or smoking, I have to face my addiction on a daily basis. With most addictions, you just abstain completely from the trigger. That’s not an option with food. We all have to eat on a daily basis which is why it’s so difficult to overcome.
So, while I am saddened by the tragic and needless death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’m grateful for the pause his death has given me to think. I’m grateful for my 26 years of being clean. I’m grateful for the people in my life who helped me find the path to recovery. I’m grateful to be alive to fight my disease for one more day.
My name is Melissa and I’m an addict. Rest in peace, Philip.