(Warning: addiction and depression triggers)
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the usual spectrum of responses in cyberspace, some of which both angered and wounded me deeply. Among the responses I read:
- How selfish
- We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others
- He needed Jesus
- Why do people care what celebrities do?
I didn’t know Mr. Hoffman, but I know a bit about addiction. I am an addict. I’ve been addicted to drugs (alcohol, crank), sex, food, love, religion, drama, bad choices, pain, and many combinations thereof. I am still addicted to some of these things. I often say I am glad I was never a smoker because I believe that’s one of the most difficult addictions to break. I have been clean and sober for 25 years, 7 months, and 2 days as of this writing, one day at a time, and sometimes one moment at a time.
I am doubly blessed–or doubly cursed–depending on one’s perspective, to also have depression. In my case, there is a definite connection between some of my addictions and the depression. In my case, there is a definite biochemical component to both my depression and my addictive personality.
- How selfish.
This is a common refrain when reading that someone has committed suicide or come to a bad end that was seemingly preventable such as in the case of a drug overdose. If you’ve never been suicidal, I can see where you might think committing suicide is selfish. Having been there, I can tell you it is not. It is actually a selfless act. When you are there, you think you are doing the rest of the world a favor in relieving the world of the burden that is you.
- We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others.
This is laughable on many levels. The only truths in this statement are that we all have demons and we are all weak. The only reason these are truths is because we are all human. I am not into comparative suffering (i.e., a person who lives in a wooden shack in a third world country is automatically “worse off” than someone who lives in a mansion in Manhattan), and I am not a demonologist per se. Let’s just say we all have our struggles and our battles. Being an addict or being depressed are not signs of weakness. They are signs of medical conditions. This is despite what you may be taught at church or at school.
- Predictable. Some believe Mr. Hoffman was destined to die of an overdose because of some combination of his previous history of use and his celebrity. This does great disservice to those who have maintained sobriety as well as to those celebrities who do not have addiction issues. It is also snarky and pessimistic.
- He needed Jesus. This is the response I found most offensive, for several reasons. First, I doubt the authors knew Mr. Hoffman and therefore did not know his relationship with Jesus. Second, just because someone is an addict or is suicidal does not mean the person does not know Jesus. In fact, I would say that being an addict or suffering from depression as a Christian may be more difficult than it is for a non-Christian because of the judgment and stigma many Christians attach to it. People assume others use drugs or are depressed because something is missing and Jesus is the missing thing. This may be true for some, but is not true for all. You can no more pray away the addiction or the depression than you can pray away the gay.
- Why do people care what celebrities do? Many people do not. Those who take time to ask this question must on some level, otherwise why are they taking time to comment? People who care deeply about people care about all people, whether or not they know them personally. Such people care about the lost potential. Such people care about those left behind, particularly children. Such people typically grieve when natural disasters hit, even though they do not personally know any of those people either.
For me, at the root, my diseases of addiction and depression are diseases of loneliness. In my moments of greatest despair, I believe there is not one person on earth who knows how it feels to be me. There is not one person who hurts as much as I hurt. The world would be better if I were not here to mess it up further. Intellectually, of course I know these things are not true, but my addictions are of my soul, not of my head.
What saves my soul? My family. My friends. That which I consider Holy. Those who have gone before me–my guardian angels–my Grammie, my Nana, my Auntie Mo, my bestie Greggo. Good doctors and therapists. Good medications. Journaling. AA. Gratitude.