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Philip Seymour Hoffman – Commentary On A Tragic Loss

February 3, 2014
Hoffman as the music critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (2000). Photograph: Allstar/Dreamworks/Sportsphoto

Hoffman as the music critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (2000). Photograph: Allstar/Dreamworks/Sportsphoto

Since reading GUTS and getting to know Kristen Johnston, my life has surely changed. I have been able to find my own voice about addiction and inner struggles. The truth is, the secrecy is what kills. The secrecy is what keeps us in its grip. Addiction kills. Make no mistake about it. But the secrecy is the nuclear bomb of it all.

Getting to know Kristen has helped me break that secrecy. I have been clean off heroin over 16 years by the grace of God. But that doesn’t mean that relapse or death that happened to Philip Seymour Hoffman can’t happen to me. Or you. Or any one of us.

Addiction does not care if you are black or white, young or old, rich or poor. Addiction will seduce you, love you and then kill you. It is just that simple.

I met Phil many years ago. Over 20 years ago in NYC in fact. I doubt he would have remembered me, but I remembered him and followed his career closely. To me, he was one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, character actors of our generation. His work on stage and screen was simply brilliant.

But what I remember about meeting him was how quiet and unassuming he was. I was always mesmerized at how he transformed into such a giant on the screen or stage and truly owned the roles he took in contrast to the man I met.

He was loved by many including his long time partner and his kids. Not to mention close friends and adoring fans. But it doesn’t matter to addiction. He died alone in a bathroom. It breaks my heart.

His death hit me hard.

I had my own dance with drugs in my youth and it wasn’t long before I was snorting lines and popping pills. Within a year from getting out of my first stint at rehab I had escalated to straight up shooting heroin. I have never admitted that publicly until now. Yes, I used heroin.

Heroin gave my mind a peace, a quiet calm I had never known. My insecurities, Aspergers, troubled intellect, and addictions made my young head feel like it wanted to explode daily. Suddenly that angst all melted away when I used heroin. It felt like it was the only way for me to be “ok” and not feel like my own mind was against me. I somehow convinced myself that it was my “medicine,” and had nothing to do with addiction. (Can you say denial?)

At 20, I OD’d in a friends bathroom. I was in his bathroom because I was homeless and did not have my own. I ended up flatlining at Cabrini Hospital.

By the Grace of God I survived that incident (and many others) and, when I was 25, I found Jesus and also got clean off heroin. But I have always known that death was possibly next and could not understand how I lived even that long.

Maybe that is why PSH’s death hit me so hard. That could have been me. Alone. In a bathroom.

I struggled to find words when I found out the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death. To me, the loss is of a huge talent. The loss is of a quiet lovely man. The loss is to a disease of addiction who claimed another soul.

So I share with you here a few words found by others that summed up what I myself was unable to say:



Kristen Johnston

and … perhaps speaking the words I tried so hard to find and can most relate to:

Andy Lassner

One Comment
  1. You are so brave! permalink

    Thank you for being brave enough to reveal your story. It might help one soul trying to find a light, someone who made it out of this type of addiction on the other side! Praise Jesus that you are clean and strong! I pray that you are blessed through your testimony and that no one tries to use your victory against you!

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