For millions of people across the world, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was sad because we lost one of our generation’s greatest actors. For millions of addicts like myself, his death was sad because another one of us lost the fight.
I remember the first time I tried heroin vividly. What I instantly loved most about the feeling was, in fact, the lack of feeling. It was a perfect sense of effortless floating. It was amazing.
I only tried it because it was easier to get than yet another prescription from yet another doctor that I’d have to lie to about pain symptoms. Opiates like Vicodin are basically lower grade, laboratory made heroin. And who doesn’t love Vicodin?
The problem for me was I wanted to feel that high forever. I wanted that feeling of nothingness to never end. Not because I’m stupid. Not because I have no self control. Not because my parents failed in some way. No – I wanted that feeling because I’m an addict. I have a brain that tells me it needs more. Of everything. It tells me that despite the fact that chasing the high will cause me to lose anything and everything l love and cherish, including my life, it just needs a little more. It’s just how us addicts are built. It’s not our fault. It is, however, our responsibility to deal with it. And the only way for me to deal with it is to never stop asking for help. And sometimes that’s not enough.
I believe Philip Seymour Hoffman did not want to to die. At all. He wanted to live. But with just a little bit less pain. And, as an addict, his brain told him narcotics were the easiest way out of emotional pain. Even when we have incredible personal knowledge to the contrary, sometimes we just want to get high just one more time. The problem is we don’t ever know if that one more time will also be the one more time our body holds up. For Mr. Hoffman it wasn’t.
In less than a month, I will be 15 years clean and yet not a day goes by that I don’t think about and remember what it feels like to be high. I think about that more than I think about all the things my addiction cost me. That’s just how our brains work.
Addiction is real and it is not about weakness. It’s not a fight any of us can win by ourselves. If you are struggling with wanting to stop drinking or using drugs more than anything and not being able to – you’re not broken – you’re an addict. Ask for help. And then ask for help again. And then never stop asking for help. It’s here. We’re here and we live when we help each other and die when we don’t.
This piece was written by Andy Lassner
Photo credit: Aaron Sorkin