The recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman rocked me to my core. It’s been about a month since his death, and I’ve finally had time to gather my thoughts regarding this unspeakable tragedy. As someone who struggled with heroin for six years and admired Hoffman’s work in movies like The Master, The Big Lebowski and Pirate Radio, I feel an intense sense of closeness to this story and an overwhelming amount of sympathy for his family.
What really resonated with me about this story was how young he was and how long he had been in recovery before suffering relapse. Hoffman was clean for 23 years and could, by all accounts, be considered a success story, right? Especially since he got help at such a young age, right? Among other things, the story reinforces that you can’t take your recovery for granted, no matter long you’ve been sober. This is a lifelong process, and once it puts its hooks in you, it’s with you-to some degree-for life. This is the bargain we must make when take our first hit of heroin.
Hoffman’s death not only shocked me; it scared me as well. If he could relapse, than it seemed like anyone could relapse. I was lucky enough to get help in a heroin rehab facility that offered next-level relapse prevention skills and a strong network of support whenever I felt vulnerable to temptation. This was a Godsend, particularly in my first few months when the world was still scary and confusing and my family wasn’t sure if I was going to last in recovery. As time goes on, it’s gotten a little easier and a little more comfortable, but enough for me to think that I’m magically cured.
I started abusing heroin when I was 19 and after a while, it didn’t look as though I was going to come out of it alive. My survival is owed entirely to my family who wouldn’t give up on me and my treatment facility that gave me everything I needed to take my second chance and run with it. Hoffman’s death is a harsh reminder that some aren’t so lucky, no matter how brilliant, talented or wealthy they are. I wish his family all the best during this incredibly painful time in their lives, and the strength to keep living in a world without him. Addiction stays with you even after you may think it’s over. If you don’t build a new life for yourself dedicated to the pursuit of recovery, you will always be vulnerable to relapse.
Long Island, NY