This past week one of my favorite actors was found dead. I thought Phillip Seymour Hoffman had an incredible talent. Much as the media makes it seems as if we know these famous people - reality is that we don't. It is a loss for acting, for his family and it is tragic. His death was due to a drug overdose. This has led to the usual chatter - "how could he?", " he had everything", "selfish" and the other side "tragic", "sad" and "how could he?"- change the tone on that last one and it is a different than the first one in this line.
I don't know how he could - couldn't - did or didn't. I know heroin has always been a scary drug, others were scary too crack/meth/coke, but not in the same way for me. I know they are all addictive but the thought of putting a needle in any part of my body (if you were ever to talk to my doctor he would tell you how he has to gently/not gently push me to have blood tests - am fine once I get there but the thought ewww) is just a whole other level. It was a drug of bad 70s movies - we all know the nasty physical withdrawl from movies (if not personal acquaintance) like Trainspotting (yes it is that gross). It seemed that it was the line in the imaginary sand that most people would not cross. Yet that line seem to have gone - heroin has become cheap, available and more deadly then ever due to the stuff they cut it with. Not cut it without buyer knowledge but selling it as such, since the high is that much stronger - and the chances of death that much more likely (but am pretty sure the dealers do not necessarily add this to the sales pitch - nor would some of the buyers really think it applied to them). It is killing our talented people, our poor, our rich .. and most disturbing the children and young adults who are drawn to it.
As I read about him what I thought is what usually comes to my mind - addiction is difficult. The pull of dark thoughts, self-doubt, risk taking behaviors that you know you should not do .. I applaud those of you reading this that have never had them but ask you to not judge the rest of the population that has. I have felt the pull at different times of my life but something in me has usually been able to not push so far that I can't bounce back. I learned from bad choices and am lucky to have a great support system that they were things that I could get over. I never struggled with addiction, if anything I tend to be able to walk away from things once I decide to with some ease. I gave up smoking just because I decided I didn't want to smoke anymore, left men who I adored because they were not the people I wanted to be with and generally cannot see any activity that I cannot live without if asked to. I feel this way for drinking too - enjoy it but if I can't do it no biggie. This is who I am - but the self-doubt, the lack of appreciation for who I am, what I look like and a host of other things - yeah I get where that comes from. I just learn to cope in different ways.
I used the death of this man to talk to my 9 and 7 year old about drugs. I told them how he died, why he probably tried it, told them of the demons that he had mentioned and that if they ever felt so little love for themselves to tell me first. We talked about how it is easy for them to say they would never try these things now but that friends may make them think otherwise at later times and that again I may not like it but I will help them deal with saying no. Saying no .. the campaign that everyone laughed at Nancy Regan for - I didn't laugh. It was simplistic for a complex issue in the midst of a crack epidemic but it is actually perfect in so many ways. Teaching my kids how to say no in situations that I will not be in is essential. The pull of peer pressure is to say ok ... even when you know it is not. I have been there but I knew when that rubber band would snap if I pushed a little further - good job to my parents on that one.
So in memory of a man who gave us the chance to view him inhabit many characters but who by all accounts could not inhabit his own comfortably I wish the dialogue about drugs would continue. The "war on drugs" has not really worked out so it is time for the government and law enforcement to think of a different approach. It is a monumental problem that has far reaching very, very lucrative backing. I used this sad news to try and teach my own kids how hard it is to say no but how easy it is to have a support system when you do as well as when they said yes. As parents we owe our kids the strength and courage to be the best they can be not for the world's accolades but for their survival and happiness. Just say no and walk away - so easy to say and write takes such courage to do.
And all the politicians makin' crazy sounds
And everybody puttin' everybody else down
And all the dead bodies piled up in mounds... "Heroin" The Velvet Underground
Carmelita hold me tighter
I think I'm sinking down
And I'm all strung out on heroin
On the outskirts of town
Well, I pawned my Smith-Corona
And I went to meet my man
He hangs out down on Alvarado Street
By the Pioneer chicken stand....................."Carmelita" Warren Zevon