I finished the last of my collection of the popular “Sherlock” episodes this morning, addicted and left poised at the end with a teaser of Moriarty resurrected. I put away the iPod and came back to my own words for a little while, knowing that dissatisfaction leads to those itches of other addictions again…dark chocolates with savories…silver…ice wine…a song on repeat (“Demons” by Imagine Dragons? “Madness” by Muse?)…stacked up issues of The New Yorker…Rachel Maddow appearances on other people’s talk shows…baseball statistics…fountain pens…a heavy book in the hand.
Philip Seymour Hoffman movies.
I have heard many accounts of addiction in the arts (if you love literature it’s difficult to miss), and, as always happens with unexpected tragedy, the question of “why?” pops up. We want a neat answer to a messy question. Of a written account, addiction is best described in my mind as feeding a hole that seems to be neglected by the resources of society in general…I myself have had sex and went shopping so many times for the wrong reasons that I am continually shocked and/or grateful that I’m not dead or living in a box in the San Francisco Tenderloin. My problem has often been “written off” to being a creative, an assessment by others that is not only inaccurate but throws the baby out with the bathwater; apparently, if I weren’t a creative or possibly gave it up I wouldn’t need my addictions, for I’d be as happy as the rest of the world. What’s ironic in this “solution” is that if I go too long without writing or my more wholesome (but nerd-defined) passions then I start playing roulette with my body and my pocketbook again…if I were more amply supported as a creative there might be less cause for the addictions. Knowing that not being supported in the arts triggers my addictions, however, I tend to skip the judgment these days, and therefore, for the most part, skip the dangerous slip back into the self-damaging stuff.
Was Hoffman’s addiction a neglected hole? Did he feel inadequate despite his accomplishments, or maybe inadequate because of them? I wish I would have known him personally to know for sure, but that probably would have prompted more pain in the knowing. I have some sense. I’m sure we all do on some level: indulging in one or two or three more beers on a Friday night because the workweek was awful AGAIN and we believe we can’t find better employment…picking on the significant other because we know he or she will put up with anything and feeling powerful easily eases the pain…eating our weight in sauce-flavored potato chips in front of our Netflix marathon of “Duck Dynasty.” The fact that Phil’s addiction was named “heroin” makes his death sexy for some and easy judgment for others…for who cares if one dies of sex with the wrong men and buying six too many handbags? Instead of titillation or smugness, however, I am mostly saddened by the fact that his great art wasn’t even enough to keep the demons away. I watched the television last Sunday stunned, not thinking sardonically that this was because he was a creative and “no wonder” this happens, but, since Hoffman was one of my favorite actors, instead consumed by this:
I wish I could have done something to help. I wish the art could have been enough, and I wish all of us could have done something more to help.