For many recovering addicts, the tragedy of Philip Seymour Hoffman was a humbling reminder that no matter how many years someone has sober, the disease is still there – doing proverbial “pushups” and that relapse is never off the table.
The disease of addiction progresses even when addicts are not using, which is hard for addicts and others to wrap their minds around until they hear real life tales of how this happens. Hoffman’s story is a very real life example of this: police reported to several news agencies they found 5 empty bags and 65 additional bags full of heroin in his apartment the night he died. He got sober in his early 20s, remained sober for 23 years and just a few years later overdosed with heroin in extreme excess. This is a classic case of the disease doing push ups and progressing even after laying dormant for over 20 years.
Sentiments of sadness spread through sober communities across the US after his death along with those of frustration over the varying public opinions on what addiction is, many of which were expressed in a way that suggested addicts purposefully choose their demise. It makes those in recovery want to tell the world how it really is – but then they harness the principals of the program and let the opinions of others live and let live.
Aaron Sorkin who is in recovery from addiction wrote a poetic piece yesterday for Time that shed some light on addiction and relapse in response to varying opinions. He said Hoffman wasn’t acting on choice; “He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a y in it” – suggesting that when the disease of addiction is active, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is or what sentiments surround substance abuse, it just takes over everything, including lives, because it is real.
Because we understand the disease of addiction, its progression and the reality of relapse, Harmony Foundation specializes in relapse prevention and treatment. We help addicts identify the triggers that can lead to a relapse and welcome those who have relapsed back into our care. We try to intervene before tragedy strikes and lay our hearts heavy when it does. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to Philip Seymour Hoffman and his friends and family and all others who have lost their lives to this terrible disease.