Monday, February 10, 2014

on drug abuse and dying young

When I first heard about Justin Bieber, I was decidedly uninterested.  The boy-band types that I fall for are all in their 30s now, and he was just a little too young for my taste.  (I'll admit this changed when I heard "Baby" for the first time about three years after the general population.  I was am still pretty obsessed).

I've been following the saga of his "coming of age" dramatics with slightly tired eyes for the past few months.  Torn, I've wavered between feeling grateful that when I was 20, my antics weren't splashed across the pages of celeb glossies.  I've felt a little shameful, voyeuristic almost, watching someones private moments made very, very public.  And I've felt a little uncomfortable, wishing that his mother or manager would step in and bring him home.

While we're watching Justin, there's a feeling of youthful indiscretion - he's twenty.  Twenty year olds cause trouble... it's normal.  But I can't help but feeling that fFom across the Internet, it's hard to recognize the difference between raising hell, and addiction.  And as someone who has lost a loved one to addiction, I'm afraid for Justin -rightly or wrongly - afraid that he's wrestling with something more significant than a young adult testing their limits.

A few days ago, I saw the news that Phillip Seymore Hoffman was dead, having succumbed to likely drug overdose.  The Internet quickly exploded - with messages from his fans and other famous people, sending condolences to his family, and notes of grief, and of remembrance.

I wasn't a huge follower of his, but I certainly remember when he won the Oscar.  I'd seen a few movies he was in, and as a Hollywood aficionado, I know of him.  Knew of him. 

When I heard of his death, I got sad - and while I certainly am sorry that his life was cut short, I'm mostly sad for the three children left behind, the children that his addiction robbed.  

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How do we tell the difference - in our loved ones, in ourselves - between someone who likes to have a good time... and someone who has a serious problem?  What's the cutoff, what's the hard line?  And how, and this is harder yet, do we help someone who doesn't recognize that they need to be helped?

Even harder, I think, is wrestling with how to classify addicts.  Is it a disease?  A lifestyle choice?  I sure don't know the answer, but as Mike's 14th death anniversary comes in to focus, I know that thinking of it as a disease makes it easier... on me.  If I think of it as a choice, it means that he picked his poison over me and my brothers, and I literally can't comprehend that.  I can't reconcile that who he was when sober.

High.  Sober.  Two sides of one man.  One face of addiction.

I don't know what the answer is, but here's what I do know: I refuse to throw stones at Phillip Seymore Hoffman.  I will not join a chorus of people calling addicts weak or blaming his choices for robbing his family of their father.  Instead, I will go for a walk out in the cold February air.  I will breathe deeply, and pray that he may now be at peace, smiling down at his family, along with other addicts - like Mike Maloney - who are gone too soon, the sufferers of a disease that grips so tightly. 

1 comment:

  1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman probably didn't, like other celebs as well as many quiet souls full of self-loathing and inner turmoil, make ongoing decisions to use or not. Those are words that we on the outside, those of us who are not saddled with the pain, those of us sitting in judgment and incensed with our self-righteousness, use. Those of us who are neglected, hurt, bewildered, left out to dry. The addict? They make one decision - to walk into the web - to step into the pothole. To not resist. To not recover. To give in. To use. Yes, it's selfish. It's maddening. It's baffling, really. But it's 100% about them and unless or until they are ready to get better, unless they are ready to become a friend of Bill W's, there is no fancy formula to make things better. Being a white American, albeit female - I have many advantages. Escaping the prison that must be a life-altering addiction (a life sentence) - I'm eternally grateful that I'm not trying to outrun that. PSH (as well as MIM and countless others) did not die of a drug overdose - they died of drugs. Period. Run like hell and say your prayers. Thank you for the post. I love you forever.

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