My husband told me that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died. We were about to watch the Super Bowl. I had just returned from a memorial service for a beloved relative of mine. The Hoffman news felt like a bucket of cold water. He was such a powerful actor who held you in his grips every moment on screen. What a loss. But I didn't know anything about him as a person. Now that I do, I feel his loss even more.
There's been a slew of information about the circumstances of his heroine overdose, his previous sobriety, his family, and his art. I'm not a celebrity watcher, not too much anyway. I had to wonder what felt so heartbreaking for me about this actor's death. Knowing what I know now about him and the fact that I am in recovery myself, it all makes more sense. When you are in recovery from alcohol or drugs there is an unspoken connection to another human being in the same circumstances. It is a mutual respect. It is a beautiful compassion. It is a wariness that we only have this thing we call sobriety one day at a time, as as they say. I realize looking back on Hoffman's movie moments, that he was conveying the tenets of sober living deep within his acting. He was living by grace, knowing that he only had a daily reprieve. There was such a wistfulness to his presence on screen. He lived sober for 23 years. Then he stopped. Now he's dead. That's the way it is sometimes with recovering addicts and alcoholics. They don't have many second chances. When I read comments about his death, that's what many people focus on... the tragedy that addiction is such a thief.
The beautiful obituary by writer Aaron Sorkin in Time soothed my soul. He spoke of a conversation he and Hoffman had about saving someone else if either of them overdosed and died, because the news might interrupt someone else's using behavior. The latest media blast on the topic is Andrea Peyser's argument that Hoffman is not a victim of a disease called addiction. Aside from the fact that alcoholism and addiction are considered to be diseases by the medical profession, I could care less about her argument. Hoffman's death speaks deeply to those who have experienced the complete lack of control or personal power when in the throws of our addiction. It's an experience, not an intellectual argument. Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on that concept. Bill Wilson created it after he had an experience of being with another alcoholic and finding he was able to stop drinking.
This year I'm coming up on 25 years of sobriety. But I am not immune to the whispers of the alcoholism. And frankly, I've not been doing as much as I need to do to make sure I remain sober. Hoffman's death and Sorkin's obituary went right into my sober soul. This week I took more action to support my own sobriety. Hoffman's acting legacy is indisputable. But if you ask me, the last week of his life has dramatically impacted people who are in recovery and those who want to recover. As one of those people, I thank you, Philip Seymour Hoffman.