Monday, February 3, 2014

All Things Being Equal

How fitting that yesterday was Groundhog's Day, and not in terms of waiting to see if that fat little groundhog would see his shadow. I mean more along the lines of the Bill Murray movie where Phil Connors finds himself living the same shitty day over and over again. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston all came before. Yesterday's addition to the list was Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Of course, the internet being what it is, because it is a reflection of us all, followed the same pattern it always has when this happens. Shock and grief give way to outrage in it's various forms. Some people mourn the loss of an artist. Some people are bitter of the fact that someone in a position of privilege has abused it and garnered more attention than the people not in that position that have fought and lost those same battles. There are of course the arguments of addiction being a selfish choice versus it being a disease with multiple manifestations. I've discussed my position in that debate before, and you, like everyone else, are free to agree or disagree with me as you see fit.

I read a piece in Esquire today about Mr. Hoffman, and it was a poignant piece. It spoke of his talent and the depth that he brought to his work. It was a wonderful tribute to him until the last paragraph. The author made the assertion that Matt Damon would never be found dead with a syringe in his arm just as George Clooney would never essentially eat himself to death because they "have too much to lose".

Come again?

The reason this assertion has bothered me so much is the same reason the assertion that nobody should care when a celebrity pays for his addiction with his life. Addiction cares absolutely nothing about who you are or what you have.  Privilege and wealth do not insulate you. Education and income do not insulate you.  Your neighborhood and home do not insulate you. Hell, not even people that have loved you since the day you were born nor children that have been born to you can insulate you. Addiction is indiscriminate and insidious. If you have been fortunate enough to not have addiction hold you or someone you love hostage, be grateful. I have been on both sides of that coin and I wouldn't wish either on my own worst enemies.

In the end, the reason I care about any overdose, celebrity or otherwise, is simple. When you strip away the bank account, the $10, 000 dollar a month apartment, the Oscar and the celebrity, what you are left with is a human being with an addiction no different than myself. He had almost 23 years of sobriety and he relapsed.  That is the same threat that anyone who has earned their sobriety lives with every single day. I have over 10 years, and I have come dangerously close to relapse myself. The truth of the matter is he died alone in his bathroom, ashamed and hopeless.  His wealth and status make him no different than than the junkie that dies in a smack house in Baltimore.

 It makes him no different than myself.

1 comment:

  1. Jennifer, thank you for your beautiful essay. I'm fortunate to be drug-free my entire life and also fortunate to have compassion for those who have fallen into the heartbreak of addiction and to agree whole-heartedly with your point of view. That you're speaking from experience, adds far more credibility to your blog than any essay I could write. I hope you'll keep that demon at bay for decades to come, the rest of your life. I'm rooting for you! And I'm devastated about Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic, untimely death. As you said, he died alone…it's so heartbreaking.