I met Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2007, at an after party for one of his films. He was the nicest, most gentle man I met that evening. I told him I loved his performance in 25th Hour, and he gave me the warmest “thank you” accompanied by an enormous smile. I felt blessed that I was able to tell an extraordinary actor how extraordinary I thought he was. And that he appreciated what I shared with him.
At that time, from what I have researched and know via (reliable) word of mouth, he had been sober for around 18 years. “I got sober when I was 22 years old,” Hoffman told 60 Minutes in 2006. “You get panicked … and I got panicked for my life.”
And by all accounts, he remained sober for 23 years, before relapsing in 2012. At which point he promptly checked himself into a rehab.
Since then, I have no idea what his state of sobriety was until his death. And I don’t plan to read the sensationalized “news” coverage that’s already flooding the media; what they found in his apartment, what they will find in his body, etc. It’s none of my business. All I know is that he must have struggled, as all of us afflicted with the disease of addiction do, whether we are using or not.
And tragically on Sunday, he lost his life to this disease, which kills close to 200,000 people worldwide each year, according to a 2012 United Nations report. Obviously I have no idea what Mr. Hoffman was going through last weekend, but as a fellow alcoholic/addict I do know this: When you are alone with this sneaky, insidious, mind-infiltrating disease, it can convince you of anything. That’s why staying close to your support network — and making those calls when you are teetering on the edge — is so important.
I’m truly gutted by his passing. I’m sad, mad and so incredibly scared. I am no less immune to succumbing to this sickness than Mr. Hoffman was. Relapse happens — in fact, in the past two months I’ve had three of my own friends relapse. But luckily, they lived through it. They all survived and came back, though that was by no means a guarantee.
Addiction took Philip Seymour Hoffman’s life on Sunday. Addiction left his three children without a father, and countless friends and family overwhelmed with grief. Addiction did it. Mr. Hoffman may have made a few poor choices, but those choices were fueled by an illness that he never asked for. An illness that he battled for many years, and one that I’m certain he never expected would take his life in the way that it did.
Such a talented, sweet, wonderful man was ripped away from us. But while I grieve over this loss, am so angry at what killed him, and look at this tragedy as yet another reminder of how serious this disease is, I don’t want to think about addiction every time I think about Mr. Hoffman or watch one of his incredible performances.
For me, Philip Seymour Hoffman is someone to respect and look up to — both for his incredible talent and his years of sobriety. That is what I choose to celebrate. That is what I have decided to pull inside of my heart.
And wherever he is now, he is free. A soaring spirit finally rid of the maddening illness that lived inside him as a mortal. I hope that feels wonderful, Mr. Hoffman. You deserve nothing but somersaults and cartwheels, backflips and beauty.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue to enjoy the movie magic you made for us here on Earth. Thank you for that. You will live on through your work — whether it was a turn of comic genius in an otherwise mediocre rom-com, or an Oscar-winning performance in an Oscar-nominated film. You’ve given us these great gifts, and for that, I am truly grateful.