I hope to never approach on my blog again, the Phillip Seymour Hoffman situation.
Sadly, myriad other similar situations, I assure you, abound for one to approach it. I checked my blog’s spam filter today and I had 20 offers for “_name benzo here_ without a prescription.” Drug abuse, prescription drug abuse and addiction run rampant; our mental health system is overtaxed and people want a quick fix to their pain. Let’s get something straight: often pain can happen in an instant: car accident, or another trauma — those can happen super fast; the other kind of pain takes a long time to ramp up and thus, can take a very long time to unwind. Regardless of the pain, a pill or a tweak might be the easiest way to deal with it, but that ease comes with a price… for everyone.
I first wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman simply because someone I know expressed an opinion I found so vile that I couldn’t not write about it. The person who expressed that opinion later sincerely recanted and apologized. The opinion was generated, and I feel this is apt, due to the tremendous amount of play this situation has gotten, simply because PSH was a tragic and talented movie star who embodied “the everyman.”
Thanks to the glory of addiction and the romanticization of its travails, easy access to drugs and a basic ignorance of the countless cues our bodies and minds and spirits give us to express one simple thing: HELP, I CAN’T TAKE THIS PAIN!, addiction runs rampant and the legion bodies and hearts and souls left in its wake are bobbing in a sea of sadness, frustration, self-loathing, blame and obvious destruction.
As for Philip Seymour Hoffman: may God rest his soul. May his children find comfort knowing that their father is finally at peace and may his beloved survivors go on without worrying for his welfare AND, might I add, may they feel NOT ONE SHRED of guilt for any of it.
I will see these seemingly endless future writing about [popular] addiction a la blog opportunities and I will raise them with all my available apathy and indifference to ignore them. I will do my utmost to be like Captain Jack Sparrow as he waxed philosophically with Elizabeth Swann about the opportunities to do the right thing:
I know that sounds curt, but I truly can’t constantly wallow in the sadnesses generated by other people. I have my own world and its ups and downs with which to contend.
So, all this said, for one last time, let me clear up something:
I do not glorify or honor addicts. Not in the least. The last two sentences of that post I wrote about PSH hit a nerve and brought people to their feet to agree with me:
Compassion is not enabling. All I know is that compassion just isn’t hate.
I stand by that ending. Hate and anger do nothing. Anger is a necessary and important reaction (not state of being) though, I can assure you, and it helps you get through things and to the heart of matters efficiently.
Those 13 words struck a chord with many readers who graced my blog to indulge in my blathering. I appreciate their visits very much. Normally, as I said in that post, I don’t touch current affairs. I like to
believe fantasize they have nothing to do with me; also, tarrying in them can generate static, something I wish to avoid. I didn’t start a blog because I wanted fame; I started it to give my sons a window into how I see the world and a place to express myself, no matter how inane the verbiage.
A reader of that post took the time to suggest in her comment that instead of using “compassion” that perhaps “empathy” would be a better word. I nodded in silent agreement upon reading the comment, but my inner editor canted its head. She made a good point, but I stood by “compassion.”
Let’s look at “compassion” shall we?
compassion |kəmˈpaSHən| noun. Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others: the victims should be treated with compassion. ORIGIN Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin compassio(n-), from compati ‘suffer with.’
Here’s my simple point: anyone who’s a hair’s breadth away from someone suffering from addiction is — I KID YOU NOT — already co-suffering. Anyone who’s feeling compassion, who is co-suffering, is actively involved in trying to fix things; trying to, and full-on experiencing an active desire to alleviate another’s suffering; and their own, I might add, because in the final analysis, let’s be honest: we’re all a bit selfish.
Fixing things becomes their Number One priority, more important than self-care. People who are in love with, the child of, the best friend of, the relative of an addict and who are deeply concerned about the welfare of that addict are, absolutely Not Putting Themselves First. Because the addict is at the forefront of the mind.
What is the use of eating when your loved one is strung out on the floor, panting in a shallow bath of her own frothy spit, eyes wild with fear and paranoia, speaking of hearing voices? What is the point of working hard when your daughter is inebriated or out of it for days on end? What is the point of showering and sleep when your husband stays out for days and nights? What about the son who comes home after a 3-day bender tattered, bruised, strung-out and evasive, begging for money or just wants to sleep?
Tell me. What is the use?
Welcome to the world of the silent and unseen victims; the innocent victims of addiction. The haggard, worried, sleepless and OBSESSED loved ones who bob in that sea of destruction. Waiting for their addicted to take the fucking lifeline and pull themselves out of the sea. Who cares for the innocent?
It’s a systemic problem. Addiction does not hurt just the addicted. It upsets the entire family system; like a mobile hanging from a thin thread, each disturbance upsets the balance and eventually takes it over. Addiction destroys the faith, trust, life and hope of the people who did nothing wrong. Who just happened to love the person with the problem.
I do not ever want anyone to think I am super-OK with addiction. Addiction to me, stems from obsession with escape, an inability to feel safe in the world in which we inhabit, so we take up ways of coping. Those ways of coping can manifest in unfettered indulgence in: the internet, food, gambling, sports, religion, television, distraction, driving, rules, running, biking, sex, ethics, drugs, anger, shopping, worry, alcohol, reading, writing, exercise, work, artistry, performing, codependency … you name it: whatever takes the heat off. And whatever gives the illusion of being controlled or controllable.
The point of addiction is to upset of that mobile’s balance, and to blur boundaries; to make that which at once seemed totally unhealthy, healthy, normal and sane. The other guy? The one who wants you to step away from your smartphone, the one who wants you to put down the book or the bottle, that guy is the crazy guy. That guy is the problem.
Trust me: there is plenty of compassion, co-suffering, going on in the hearts of the beloved in an addict’s life.
And guess what? It never ends. The innocent’s worry and concern? It never ends. We might estrange ourselves, we might write off the addict, but to pretend that we don’t care? That’s bullshit. The pain, the fear, the disruption — it is always looming, as much for the innocent as it is for the addict. It is a life-long vigil for everyone.
If you know someone who is trying to keep it together for the addict in his or her life, give your ear or your shoulder. Just listen and nod because you know pain, you know what disappointment and fear feel like; you don’t have to dig that deep.
Over and OUT.