The death of Hoffman Panics The Lives Of Others

There was a deluge grief on Facebook, twitter and in columns by recovering addicts and alcoholics, in the first few hours and days that followed Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s’s death from an apparent overdose of heroin. Some of the columnists were the journalist Seth Mnookin and the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who contributed their own struggles with sobriety and the fear of relapsing back into active addiction. The overdose had been given to the actor which had been widely reported as 23 years without any addiction either to drugs or alcohol. His addiction was discussed in meetings in church basements downtown and in the attics of synagogues uptown. Around Times Square, and the nearby Theater District, creative types in recovery debated what his death meant to everyone else. “I’ve been to three meetings since it happened,” said Rita, who was sitting in a restaurant on West 10th Street on Monday following a recovery meeting, and who, like others interviewed for this article, requested that her last name be left out in accordance with A.A.’s tradition of anonymity. “There hasn’t been one meeting where I haven’t heard about it. People in the public eye see it as ‘We lost a great talent.’ People in recovery see it as ‘We lost a brother in arms.’ ” A woman from Los Angeles who attended an A.A. meeting on Sunday said that Mr. Hoffman was “all anyone could talk about,” though she added that none of the participants, mindful of the second “A” in A.A., actually spoke Mr. Hoffman’s name aloud. However the 24-hour cable news coverage of a celebrity’s death is not surprising, and also are the extemporaneous memorials created outside the dead person’s home, or the editorials. It happened with Michael Jackson. It happened with Heath Ledger. It happened with Whitney Houston. It happened not too long ago with Cory Monteith. But it was not the same with Mr. Hoffman’s death, which seemed to reverberate more deeply with people who struggle every day to keep their addiction out of their life’s. Their views quickly turned from sorrow to shock over Hoffman’s death: What does this mean for me, the recovering alcoholic or drug addict? Can all my years of sobriety, years I have fought hard to maintain, slip away more easily than I acknowledge? If it happened to someone universally respected by his peers, and one who had been open about his own years of sobriety, could it also happen to me? “I cried when I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman, The news scared me: He got sober when he was 22 and didn’t drink or use drugs for the next 23 years. During that time, he won an Academy Award, was nominated for three more, and was widely cited as the most talented actor of his generation. He also became a father to three children. Then, one day in 2012, he began popping prescription pain pills. And now he’s dead.”Mr. Mnookin wrote in an essay in Slate last week. Mr. Mnookin then wrote about how his own years of addiction — first alcohol and then heroin — began when he was still a teenager, and how, no matter that he was now clean, and a husband and the father of a young daughter, he worried almost every day about the kind of temptation that seems to have snared Mr. Hoffman. “There’s a lot we don’t know about alcoholism and drug addiction,” Mr. Mnookin wrote, “but one thing is clear: Regardless of how much time clean you have, relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth.” Mr. Hoffman seemed to be an ideal role model for Gregory who added. “He was a tremendously talented actor and everybody knew he was sober,” who revealed that he had worked on a play with Hoffman and mentions him as a person who helped him get clean. “But he wasn’t saying, ‘Hey, I’m in A.A., man.’ ” Gregory continued, Mr. Hoffman was a “power of example” to him rather than some sort of “program-pushing spokesperson” or someone who “seemed to get off on the idea of being publicly sober in the vein of a celebrity rehab cast member.” “I remember hearing him speak at a meeting,” said Chris, another person in recovery. “My understanding is that he sponsored a ton of actors, and I thought then: I’m so glad he is getting famous instead of yet another pretty face. He got sober young. He really got his life together and was able to cultivate this nascent talent even though he was not your leading man. It was over 20 years he was sober, and in that time, he was super present and accounted for. There are other people who are in and out [of recovery] with the seasons. But he was there.” Hoffman’s death hit people who bounced back after struggling after achieving long term continence and struggled to get back. “He is me,” said Jim, an addict who said that he relapsed after more than two decades in recovery, and who has been sober again since 2006. “His story is so similar to mine. I had 21 years [clean], I had terrible back pain, I was on Martha’s Vineyard and somebody said, ‘Would you like a Fioricet?’ It’s mostly a migraine medication, and I took that little blue pill and I became perfect in a way I hadn’t been in 21 years. I had that wonderful feeling you don’t get sober. Suddenly, I’m at a party and someone says, ‘You want a hit of rock?’ I didn’t even know what crack was. The next day I was calling that guy’s dealer.” “Why did I have a moment where I could get back and he couldn’t? That’s just mysterious,” Jim said. “I’m sure we were doing comparable amounts of drugs. I was trying to die as fast as I could, and I’m here and that guy is gone.” Henry, who has been continence for a long time, said, “We all know of close friends who after many years have for one reason or another been unable to hold onto this lifeline. “I knew a great actor,” he continued, “who had 20-something years sober and went out and basically disappeared off the face of the earth. When he came back, his brain was shriveled. And he died sober, but the damage done was debilitating. And he was somebody who had never stopped going to meetings. He sponsored people in A.A. “All of us know people that this happened to. It’s exceptional, it’s unusual, but there’s also a rattling frequency to it.” Via: NewYork Times

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