As most of you probably know by now, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died February 2, 2014 as the result of a drug overdose.
It’s reported that he was found with fifty bags of heroin.
On Facebook, I saw someone post “Philip Seymour Hoffman, I’m sorry that addiction took you away from your life, your family, your art and us.”
This is a beautiful sentiment. And I’m one of those who think Hoffman was an extraordinarily talented actor But let’s be clear: Addiction didn’t “take” Hoffman away from us. Addiction isn’t some conscious, evil entity that lurks in alleyways, hotel rooms, bars or dance clubs.
To think this way is akin to saying “The Devil made me do it”. You know, blaming some dark, malevolent, “out there” energy for temptation at best and possession at worst.
No, Hoffman was “taken away” from us by…Hoffman.
He chose to use drugs.
In fact, unless a person is forcibly restrained and forced to snort, smoke or shoot up at gunpoint (or some other lethal threat) and becomes addicted—it’s a choice.
It all starts with one pivotal choice.
I am not judging Hoffman or his choices. And he is certainly deserving of our compassion, our sympathy for his loved ones and our grief that he will no longer entertain us with his acting brilliance.
But to ascribe his death to the consequence of his choices—in this case, addiction—as if it were an external, self-aware predator not only excuses dangerous behavior, but removes personal responsibility.
I mean, when Hoffman (or anyone) wins an Oscar, we place the accolades at the actor’s feet. When Hoffman (or anyone) is nominated for a Tony, we sing the praises of his talent.
If Woody Allen proves to be the child molester that most of us think he is, and ends up incarcerated (or perhaps commits suicide), would we say “He was taken away by his addiction (to underage sex)"?
Regardless of what precipitated the first injection, it all began with a choice. Hoffman’s choice.
And with Oscar season fast approaching, you can bet that Hoffman will be celebrated in memoriam during the ceremony much like Cory Monteith was “honored” at the Emmys after his drug overdose.
Which sorta sends the message that if you go out via addiction, you’ve earned eternal rock star status—not for your accomplishments, but by the way you left this Earth.
Someone else posted on Facebook about Hoffman, “Unfortunately, if you have lots of money it’s easier for your demons to get you.”
I find this interesting, because The Devil in Tarot is often associated with materialism and consumerism, as well as addiction. It’s akin to “mammon”, aka “dirty money”.
But I disagree with this sentiment. It’s yet another excuse, or bogeyman by proxy: “Money made me do it”.
Then, a doctor was quoted on the AP as saying that Hoffman was the “epitome of addiction victims”. Which brings up another dynamic: the abuser and the victim.
Can a consequences of choice be an “abuser”? Or is the “abuser” and the “victim” one and the same
There is no prowling red devil named “Satan” ready to ensnare you (regardless of what fundies tell you), nor is there a big, black monster called “Addiction” lying in wait to trap hapless passerbys.
What do you think, dear readers, about symbols of “evil” (including “demons” and “the devil”) used in association with drugs and drug addiction?
Does wealth make individuals more susceptible to addiction or poor choices? What is a “victim”—and do those who OD qualify as such? Is addiction a part of the creative temperament? Or, a result of a weak mind…or self-contempt?
Would love to hear your thoughts on addiction, The Devil card, symbols of “evil”, the term “victim” in relation to street drugs, the influence of money (or lack thereof)—or all of the above.