The title of this blog is harsh; but it rings true. There are two predictions we can make about most celebrities – one is that they will most likely get divorced if they marry another celebrity; and the other is that they have a high likelihood that they will die as the result of an addiction or overdose. So when someone like Cory Monteith, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix or Philip Seymour Hoffman (the list goes on…) succumbs to such a tragic ending, does it really come as a surprise?
Many times addicts will “recover” temporarily; but all it takes is the one DUI to crash their car, popping one too many pills, shooting up one too many times, that ends it all, for good. You can just pray that they have more than nine lives, and if they don’t, they don’t take out anyone else with them when their time comes.
I think the word “recovery” is a fallacy when it comes to addiction. Addicts don’t recover. Addiction is not curable. An addict’s propensity to crave their be-all-end-all drug of choice may go into remission, but they can never truly become immune to the forces of their substance desire. Addicts say that they have “recovered” before…but the inverse of that statement is that the addict has relapsed before, and chances are they will relapse again.
Addicts are selfish. The addict that denies this is in denial that they are an addict. Addicts know that they are not in control, and the drugs or alcohol that they can’t put down is what is in their driver’s seat. Even if unconsciously so, they choose their vice above all else – above their friends, families, jobs, and even God when they’re hooked. An addict in withdrawal will do ANYTHING to get more of the juice that pulses through their veins to get them high or achieve that calm. It doesn’t matter what the cost is to his personal life, professional life, anyone else’s life, or his life, period.
When an addict is doing drugs or drinking, they’re not thinking of the others they love. They aren’t thinking of the tragic aftermath and how it will affect those around them, if and when they die of an overdose or an accident that results from being under the influence. They aren’t thinking of the torment that they cause the people who care about them, who have to sit by and watch them suffer every day, drinking or consuming drugs destroying their lives. Addicts don’t care about the fact they are pawning off the responsibility of raising children, running a household, or in some cases earning an income, on someone else. They are hooked on being high – and nothing and no one else matters. They justify their behavior during their unsober or denial periods by saying that they need their drug, that it’s like a non-addict being deprived of the air they breathe if they can’t get their drug. (Sorry, but they won’t die if they can’t get their fix. Getting their fix is what will ultimately cause their death.) They have extreme tunnel vision that revolves around their constant craving. This is selfish.
This selfishness should not be missed or tragedized. Celebrities that meet their demise through addictions should not be honored and idolized. Sure, we will miss their talented contributions to our world, and those who knew them personally may miss the sober version of them; but the reverence surrounding their drug-overtoned deaths encourages others to follow in their footsteps. Those who are easily influenced feel that they can get their 15 minutes of fame by dabbling on the drugged dark side, too.
Where was the applause for Hoffman’s sobriety? He didn’t light up my twitter feed until his death by overdose. He had his moments in movies, but will he be remembered more now for the way he went out than for what he did? I don’t support honoring the addict, which historically propels them to a post-mortem popularity greater than they achieved while living.
People can spot addicts...but many are enablers...not trying to get help to them, or get them to someone who can help. Many friends and family are usually in denial that there is a problem when they look at a loved one with an addiction. They don’t want to upset the addict more and cause them to dive deeper into drugs. They are afraid of what others will think if they find out that their mother/brother/husband/friend is a “druggie”. They want to shelter their children from the knowledge that mommy or daddy has a problem and it’s really bad. (My belief is that there is a genetic component to addiction, and education of children rather than camouflaging the truth about a relative with a drug or alcohol problem, is the start to making a younger generation self-aware and observant of the signs that they need help, from the first sip - or prevent that first dip into drugs entirely.) Forcing an addict to get help is futile in most cases anyway - because if the addict doesn't want help, there's not much hope for recovery.
The approach of “tough love” doesn’t always work. If it does work, it doesn’t come with a permanent promise that they will never fall back on the path of self-destruction again. Sometimes the toughest love you can give an addict is to walk away. If they won’t make a choice, you have to – for self preservation, and in some cases, the protection of yourself and your family. While a choice like that seems selfish on the part of a non-addict, if an addict is not capable of seeing beyond the drinks or pills, you as the friend, the brother, the mother, the lover, the son, the wife, or the mentor can only control your own actions, and after doing what you can, hold onto the fact that you have done everything within your power to do the right thing. It’s ok to choose self-preservation over an addict’s selfishness. After you’ve thrown out the half empty bottles, and flushed the pills, begged them to go to AA meetings, and feel hopeless, the only thing that you can do is take control of your own actions and stop trying to curb theirs. It’s not fair to you to wait for the resulting abuse, the suffering at the hand of an addict, the emotional torment, the financial drain, and more. And if there are children involved – that’s when the protective mommy claws or the daddy fangs should come out to protect them from the disintegration that lies ahead, when the person you love isn’t that person anymore because they are a drugged up vicious version of themselves.
Addiction isn’t a celebrity disease. It affects the person down the street from you. It’s the face of your next door neighbor or your co-worker. It can take the form of your father or your brother. There are so many more closet addicts who cover-up their addictions more than any of us realize, until they can’t hide it anymore because it reaches the point where the person loses control and the drugs take over. We just hear about the famous people crying, dying, and getting caught in the cross-fire of booze and pills because, well, they’re famous; but infamously, addiction makes its mark in the lives of many outside of the spotlight, too.
So while my heart goes out to the families and friends affected by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, I have a hard time conjuring up sympathy for the choices he made, and for the times that those close to him chose to brush off the fact he had a problem. Granted, many people who know that someone is an addict try to help, and I have respect for them and share sadness with them, too. But there are enablers. Enablers can be forgiven for past choices to ignore that their loved one has a problem, only if they take the toughest stance that they ever had to, and don’t sugar coat the fact that drinking in excess daily, or drugging up isn’t the norm. There’s no shame in calling it like it is. If people don’t break the cycle of enabling, and instead bide their time watching their beloved addict self-destruct, the end result will break the cycle for them - when their loved one is gone, and their hearts will be broken, too.
Even if you don’t enable an addict, the choice for someone to do or not do drugs is their own. To be the friend or relative of a do-er is not easy. Addicts will place blame on the people they surround themselves with stating that they are the cause of their stress, their unhappiness, depression, or whatever they surmise is the cause for them to turn to drugs or alcohol. They will justify that their vice is the only thing that makes them feel better. It’s not your fault. You should never accept blame for someone else’s addiction.
When you know an addict, you have to always live with one eye open and with a doubt in your back pocket, waiting for the other shoe to drop. With a lot of luck it won’t – but there are no guarantees. As an addict takes their life one day at a time, we need to take theirs in the same manner, not holding onto a promise of sobriety that may never last. Sadly, that’s probably the most sobering reality there is when it comes to addiction.