Some Words About Addiction

Yesterday, Philip Seymour Hoffman died. An extraordinary talent, he left behind an amazing body of work. Even before he was well known he was reliably entertaining, standing out in excellent movies like Hard Eight, and terrible ones like Twister. Watch his scenes in Almost Famous, watch The Master and Synecdoche, New York. Basically watch anything he put out and you’ll be given an acting masterclass. There’s no better way to mourn someone’s passing than by celebrating the things they did, and luckily for us Philip Seymour Hoffman left behind a lot to celebrate.

Every habit he’s ever had is still there in his body, lying dormant like flowers in the desert. Given the right conditions, all his old addictions would burst into full and luxuriant bloom.” – Margaret Atwood

I’m friends with an addict. I’ve known addicts before, but most tend to fall through the cracks. If they’re lucky some of them emerge again, most of them won’t. My friend is recovering, and has been clean for over two years now. We’ve engaged in long conversations about their affliction, what brought them there, what circumstances led them down that long dark path as self-destruction that even the self-destructive among us would shy away from. Sometimes you realise there isn’t any rhyme or reason to why people go down the way that they do. There’s no childhood trauma, no inciting incident. Sometimes it’s as simple as stepping foot into a party and staying there long after everyone else has gone. We’ve spoken about addicts we’ve known, people who have relapsed after years and the almost inconsequential events that led them there.

Over the last two years we’ve spent countless hours talking about it but the truth is I don’t really understand. How could I? Listening to an addict can be like talking to someone who occasionally uses words you don’t know but you nod along anyway. It’s not their fault and it’s not yours either. They just have the unfortunate luck of having had an experience that you couldn’t hope to share. It’s why the best support for a recovering addict is a recovering addict. We can know all the gruesome details, but it’s behind a wall, just blocking out our understanding.

Making the choice to stop using or to stop drinking doesn’t suddenly make things better. It’s just the first of many small steps along a destination that’s always just a little bit out of reach. Forming new relationships is frowned upon, at least to begin with. It’s understandable. Relationships can and often will crumble and what better emotional crutch is there than your old friend? They’d never hurt you. They’d never let you down. They’re the most reliable friend you have and they’ll stick with you until the bitter end.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was in pain. The type of pain that money doesn’t soothe, the type of pain that opening up about doesn’t ease. He was in the type of pain that troubles every day, pain that even on our darkest days you and I could not hope to share – nor would we want to. His death was tragic, but then so will the death of hundreds more today and tomorrow and the next day. Addiction is an illness that thankfully most of us won’t experience, but we should do what we can to help those that do.

Below are some sites for those that help with addictions, drugs or otherwise. If you want to then consider giving something to help.

Action on Addiction – http://www.actiononaddiction.org.uk/Giving.aspx

Add Action – http://www.addaction.org.uk/

CRI – http://www.cri.org.uk/

Alcohol Concern – http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/

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