This week the news has been filled with commentaries on the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Oscar winning actor was found dead in his apartment with a needle sticking out of his arm. Another casualty of addiction. The picture that has emerged is of a life full of talent and accomplishment gone wrong after picking up again.
A few days ago, he was seen drunk in Atlanta. Then looking disheveled sleeping on the plane back to New York. The day before he was found dead, his ex girlfriend and mother of his three children saw him and thought he was high. And at least one of the reports said his apartment looked like a shooting gallery.
When I first came into the rooms of AA, I heard people say that on the road to recovery you step over bodies. I didn’t get it at the time. After a few years sober it has deep meaning for me now.
For every one that has found sobriety, there are dozens that have not. Many will not. And many of those who do not find recovery will die from the disease.
There are also those who find sobriety for a time and lose it. Hoffman, apparently, was one of these.
Husbands, fathers, sons, wives, mothers, daughters, and friends, who will never recover from addiction. Some of them appear put together on the outside. But without recovery, they are sick and decaying on the inside.
In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “We are sure God wants us happy, joyous, and free.” For so many in recovery, this is their life experience. But there are so many that will wrestle with demons and never find this life experience. Or find it for a time and then lose it.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of these. For him the road to recovery is over. And unfortunately, his story doesn’t end with being happy, joyous, and free. The story emerging is the opposite. It’s the story of misery, bondage, and death.
During the past week I’ve seen dozens of responses to Hoffman’s death. Some are angry about him wasting his life. Others bashing him for his lack of self control. Some have claimed that better actors wouldn’t die like this. And others that this is just a series of bad choices on his part. Some are certainly empathetic and take pity.
Some of these things are true. Of course, Hoffman had choices. Made bad ones. And he threw away his incredible life.
But most outside of recovery circles lack this simple understanding: the disease of addiction is a powerful, horrendous, consuming, beast. The beast wants the addict dead. Those without the disease simply don’t understand the lack of power the addict has while under the influence of the beast.
Escape is rare. Possible? Absolutely. But those who escape the beast are the fortunate few walking a narrow road.
Unfortunately, for Philip Seymour Hoffman, the beast and his power won. The beast had previously taken his relationship with his partner, damaged his relationship with his children, wreaked havoc in his personal life. Now the beast took his life. He is now another body on the road to recovery that the rest of us will step over.
For me, in my recovery, Hoffman is another reminder. The beast wants to destroy my marriage. Damage my family. Wreak havoc in my business and personal life.
Like Hoffman, the beast wants me dead.