Film and TV

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heroin and the Secret Club of Addiction

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The immediate information surrounding Hoffman's death was both murky and sensational -- he was found on the bathroom floor with a needle in his arm. There was evidence that this was not his first foray into the current relapse that had killed him. The amount of heroin found in his apartment has changed in size over the last few days. It was 50 bags. It was 70 bags. It was a five- or 10-day supply.

I don't have a TV and I disconnected myself from social networking last Sunday to avoid the Super Bowl mania, but I did catch some of the Hoffman speculation/chatter Monday night on the television at the gym. Dr. Drew was on Anderson Cooper, spinning his theories around addict behavior and the possible scenarios of Hoffman's recent heroin usage -- apparently the actor entered rehab last year, relapsing after more than two decades clean and sober. Dr. Drew insinuated that maybe Hoffman wasn't sober that whole time. This made me mad.

I'm a recovering alcoholic. I can't pretend I know what it's like to deal with an addiction like heroin, because all addictions and the people who have them are different. But I do know what it's like to struggle with the idea of sobriety on a daily basis. For the past seven years and seven months, I have gone through many stages with my addiction -- at some points, I've thought I was cured and hated the thought of perpetually identifying as "recovering." Why couldn't there be an end to insobriety? I didn't drink at one point in my life, so why couldn't I just go back to being that person, the un-drunk one?

Just when I would get bullish and big-headed about being done with being a drunk, I would be wrestled back into reality, usually by a reoccurring nightmare in which I was getting wasted and no one could stop me. I have had these dreams regularly since I got sober. In waking life, I still want to get smashed. When I first quit drinking, I was often asked if I would ever go back to drinking, because how could I enjoy holidays and family celebrations and all of the other usual events where we drink to celebrate without being a normal, glass-clinking participant? My response was and is always the same: When my desire to get completely obliterated disappears, I'll have a drink.

But that's the thing: It has never disappeared. I don't know how to drink like a normal person. I've never wanted to have a glass of wine with dinner or a Champagne toast at midnight. I have wanted to down six bottles of cheap wine and tear through a few six-packs of Miller High Life. I don't know the idea of "one drink." I just know addiction and the constant, wobbling balance between invincibility and total failure.

I don't know where Hoffman was in his course of addiction and life when he died. But I do know that as much as addiction is discussed in a public way and as much as we try to remove the stigma of substance abuse, it still can feel like it has to be a secret. Heroin is especially secret.

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Bree Davies
Contact: Bree Davies