Anybody who has battled addiction knows all too often the demons inside us win. Too many times, no matter how hard we fight back, no matter how strong we think we are, the draw of the high is too much to leave behind forever.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that we, as a world, have lost actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. He died inside his New York City apartment, taking his last breath on the bathroom floor with a needle in his arm. He was only 46 years old.
Heroin has taken from us another talent, a magician of the movies who, through his craft, could take us all somewhere else courtesy of his God-given talent.
For me personally, Hoffman came into my world during the late 1990s, first in the role of a tornado-seeking backing player in the movie “Twister.” In his next film, however, he jumped off the screen in the uncomfortable role of “Scotty J” in the movie “Boogie Nights.”
From there, his talent and his gift became obvious in every movie in which he appeared.
It’s not like he needed the hardware to prove his ability, but he has it — including an Oscar, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in the title role of “Capote” in 2005.
Just like everybody else who admired his ability to become somebody else, I had my own favorite Hoffman moments and characters.
First and foremost was his role of music critic/journalist Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous” — which is perhaps in my top five movies of all time. But one of his most incredible roles was, believe it or not, in “Mission Impossible 3.” The movie sums itself up quite nicely, considering we all know it’s an impossible mission to put together a good third sequel to any movie. Hoffman, however, stole the movie, out-shining the movie’s superstar Tom Cruise (in the role of Ethan Hunt) by playing the role of a really, really bad guy, Owen Davian.
While there is plenty to celebrate in regards to his outstanding career, this post is about loss.
We lost another great one to the demons we rarely control, but the real tragedy is not thrust upon just his fans.
Three children have lost their father. A woman who saw what was happening to her lover has lost a long-time partner. A family has lost a son, a brother. And, people who knew him the best have lost a friend.
Now, he’s gone.
For me, though, the scariest part of the entire story is the fact Hoffman was clean for more than 20 years.
Twenty years and he still couldn’t beat it. In the end, the demons won.
I think that’s why his death hits so close to home this time around. At least more than it ever has before when others have fallen.
The world has lost many talented people to heroin. Janis Joplin. John Belushi. River Phoenix. The list goes on and on.
Last night, a very dear friend pointed out to me that Hoffman’s death occurred exactly 35 years to the day after punk rock musician Sid Vicious passed away in the same NYC neighborhood of Greenwich Village. Again, heroin.
The person who pointed this out to me has fought her own battles with the demons, with the drug that can steal you away in a second. I’ve seen the bruises in her veins, touched them with my own fingers as if reaching out to helplessly heal the pains of her past.
She’s been clean for four years now, but since Hoffman’s death I’ve thought about the odds of her relapsing. And, I’ll admit, I’m scared for her.
The demons don’t care if you’re a movie star, or a lost soul trying to find your way through the world. They don’t care if you’re black or white, blue or green. They don’t care if you’re rich or poor or in between.
They don’t care.
If you chase the high, they will chase you.
And, sadly, all too often it is the demons who will win, stealing from us the people we love and admire. They can be famous. They can be a friend.
And that scares me.
Now more than ever.