This past Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose—with the needle still in his arm—in his Manhattan apartment. He was 43 years old.
What is not widely known is that Hoffman was clean and sober for around 23 years, having recently gone back out in 2012. Since then, he tried treatment, but, as the Big Book says, “it gets worse, never better.”
Unlike the recent string of heroin deaths lately, Hoffman’s was not laced with Fentanyl. It appears to be a “typical” heroin overdose—aside from the fact that a beloved actor was the victim.
It is notable, therefore, to point out that the police have arrested four people in connection with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The sad reality is that deaths related to drugs and alcohol, like Hoffman’s, happen every day. In this case, though, the victim was an Oscar-winning actor.
Call me jaded, but there seems to be a double standard when it comes to celebrity overdoses and the average, everyday addict. Public outpourings of sadness and grief pour out over people who, in the vast majority of cases, have never seen or spoken to when the person happens to be famous. Yet, when that fame is not there, suddenly the public sentiment from the public at large is either, “Oh well,” or, “Good riddance.”
When asked why, there is inevitably some facile argument that the famous person touched our lives, while “those other junkies” did “nothing” with theirs, and therefore “wasted their lives.”
Sorry, but I call bullshit.
Not to take away from the tragedy that it is when celebrities overdose and leave us too soon, but at the end of the day—in the way they contribute to our daily lives—they are not any more special than any other addict or alcoholic.
Case in point: every time I drive my girlfriend off at school, I ultimately end up driving past an elementary school close by on the way home. At one of the crosswalks nearby, there is a later-middle-aged woman crossing guard with whom I have never spoken. Every time I have seen her, despite never speaking with her, she waves and smiles to every single person who drives by—without fail.
Honestly, I look forward to it. I always get ready to smile and wave back, despite being cold, barely awake, and generally in a disagreeable state. Seeing someone that happy doing what they do and trying to improve the daily lives of others with a simple gesture has far more impact on me and my day than the latest box office hit.
Granted, I doubt she is a heroin addict, but the idea remains the same: you never know. Addicts and alcoholics come from all walks of life, and some of us are better at hiding the symptoms of our disease than others. For the sake of argument, lets say she is, and the same tragic fate befell her. Would her death be somehow less tragic, or—horrifyingly—smirked at?
Of course it wouldn’t. Yet, would there be an investigation for her if that were to happen? No. I understand it takes resources, but that is my point: until we as a society start treating addiction and alcoholism like the disease it is, as opposed to some moral degeneracy, we devalue the vast majority of those suffering from the illness based on something as absurd as their job and how our culture values it.
Irrespective of that, addiction is a tragic disease no matter who falls to it. We send our prayers and condolences to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s friends and family, and to all those who have lost a loved one to this disease.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death and Addiction
What are your thoughts on Hoffman’s death and how we treat addiction? Let us know in the comments!