Warning: Explicit Language
My favorite person I follow on twitter is a really funny guy named Dan Kennedy. Some of the less funny, more meaningful things I’ve learned from following him on twitter is the fact that he’s sober and that he goes to “anonymous” meetings.
It seems like more and more people who I like and respect in the public light are jumping on the sobriety bandwagon.
My favorite comedian: John Mulaney
My favorite FRIENDS actor: Matthew Perry
One of my favorite hunky actors: Gerard Butler
Both of my favorite rappers: Eminem and Macklemore
and many others.
The thing is, I don’t know that sobriety is really the trend as much as addiction is. Especially for those creative types who make a living in the flame of fame. I can’t imagine the stress and loneliness associated with a life like that. It’s my guess, looking at every drunk author whose classics are praised, that these creative men and women are naturally prone to be driven to addictions more than some others may be. Couple that with successes and failures on a massive scale with the world watching, and addiction is a beast hard to overcome.
I think Macklemore paints the picture really well in his song “starting over”:
Those 3 plus years, I was so proud of
And I threw ‘em all away for 2 Styrofoam cups
The irony, everyone will think that he lied to me
Made my sobriety so public, there’s no f*ckin’ privacy
If I don’t talk about it then I carry a date
08-10-08, but now it’s been changed
and every wanna put me in some box as a saint that I never was,
it’s the false prophet that never came
And will they think that everything that I’ve written has all been fake
Or will I just take my slip to the grave?//
But I’d rather live telling the truth and be judged for my mistakes
Than falsely held up, given props, loved and praised
I guess I gotta get this on the page//
Feeling sick and helpless, lost the compass where self is
I know what I gotta do and I can’t help it
One day at a time is what they tell us
Now I gotta find a way to tell them//
I’m just a flawed man, man I f*cked up up
Like so many others I just never thought I would
I never thought I would, didn’t pick up the book
Doin’ it by myself, didn’t turn out that good
If I can be an example of getting sober
Then I can be an example of starting over
I hate that that’s the case: that there is trauma and shame in admitting a relapse. But there is. Doing this as a public figure… I can’t even imagine.
I hate it because you get incredible, phenomenally talented people in this world who are plagued by addiction, and then they hit rock bottom, and get clean, but somewhere along the way they relapse, and then they don’t tell anyone, and then they’re found young and dead, alone in their NYC apartment.
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman is not the first of its kind.
But it’s not just talented, creative types that die from addiction. It’s everyday Joe’s too. And while the world mourns the death of the famous, and while some families may mourn the death of their everyday-Joe brother, the thing is — our culture is not helpful.
We suck at putting away judgment and giving help when it’s most needed.
“I’m just a flawed man, man I f*cked up, like so many others I just never thought I would… doin’ it by myself didn’t turn out that good.” We are all flawed people. We all mess up. But somehow we forget this when we’re reading the tabloids or hearing the gossip.
The thing about addiction is that doing it by yourself never turns out good. Breaking addiction takes help from others, accountability from others, the support of others.
If we are a culture that is so quick to gawk and so slow to extend grace and help, how many more hopeless people, diseased by the cycle of addiction, will die before we change? How many more will live through years of hell when they needed help they were afraid to ask for?
I have no knowledge of the details of Hoffman’s former years of addiction, or circumstances of death. But I know that it has made me think.
That guy on twitter, Dan Kennedy, tweeted these two tweets on Sunday regarding Hoffman’s death:
f*ck drugs, don’t drink if you shouldn’t, and f*ck drugs. Philip Seymour Hoffman was awesome.
And so was Jason from my Sunday meeting. And Adam, he was a good guy. And Holloway from downstairs back in 96, miss him more every year.
I read those tweets, and I cried. Literal tears. Because I come from a drug-ridden town. My family has generations of addiction. I was raised in a church where 200 of the 900 people are recovering addicts.
I cried because that’s the truth. These people that die, alone, with drugs coursing through their veins, they are good people. They are people that matter. And it is a tragedy that they’ve died this way.
It’s made me start to ask myself: Am I perpetuating a culture of gawking and judgment, or am I creating one where people are free to admit when they’ve messed up? Am I a safe person to ask for help from?
I know what it is to receive grace. I know I’m just a flawed woman and I’ve f-ed everything up before, too. And knowing grace myself, I want to be someone who can easily extend grace. Who carries no stones with me because I know I have no place to throw them where I shouldn’t have been stoned myself.
Addiction will never be overcome by judgment.
Addicts will never be healed by hatred.
Hope will never be found through secrecy.
I’m with Dan Kennedy on this one. F*ck drugs. Philip Seymour Hoffman was awesome. And so were the others…
Let’s be a culture that says both “f*ck drugs” and “you’re awesome. let’s get you some help.”
No shame attached: just grace, truth, and hope.
Let us support people in getting sober. Let us support people in starting over.
Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and story-teller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories. Other places are
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