On the 6th February, it will be 18 years since I stopped being an active heroin addict.
Eighteen years since I was admitted into a rehab, after overdosing in a hotel room in Brands Hatch.
Yesterday Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead, in a bathroom, needle in arm, after 22 years sobriety.
A well spoken, incredibly gifted middle aged man, with money and a respectable reputation.
He chose not to drink himself to death, nor to use a more discrete and no doubt very easily obtained, prescription opiate.
He chose to score smack, a nasty, dirty street drug. He didn’t snort or chase the heroin, but injected it, a method of drug use which is an addiction in itself.
Whilst newsfeeds show the ‘before’ image of a talented man, and the ‘after’ image, of a body bag, I listen to people with a past like my own feeling sad, but alerted to how easy it is to return to addiction. I also listen to those with a different past, simply wondering ‘why?’
I feel sadness, empathy and strangely enough the stirring of a craving.
Mainstream life no matter how creative the sphere, even with solid trappings of home, marriage, success and children, is still an unknown quantity.
Heroin addiction isn’t unknown. You are assured where it leads to. You find something that envelopes and protects you whilst abusing you. Gradually everything falls away except that one, dirty, intimate relationship.
Some of us hold onto credentials of art and opiates championed by Burroughs, de Quincy, Trocchi and Richards. Ignoring the abscesses, bad hits and constant obsession to find brief moments of orgasm, followed by a comfortable distant drift.
I loved opiates. I loved the effects of them; the rituals around their acquisition and consumption and the violence and instant gratification injecting provided. More subtly, I loved the way that my passivity was suddenly actively involved in such a huge social and personal rebellion.
I had originally intended this blog to be about the conundrum of growing up and what rites of passage lead to that epiphany (or in my case are still leading there).
I had been on my way to work on Monday and was staring into the mirror prior to leaving the house, checking that my outdoor persona was in place.
As I looked at myself, I realised with a strength of conviction that I hadn’t experienced around having children, being married, or even stopping drinking and using drugs; I didn’t want this mainstream life, I didn’t want to play the game.
As with the premise of The HBO series ‘The Wire’ where it is ‘all in the game’, I need to find a balance. Be true to my own individuality and sense of rebellion enough to not feel as if I am going to explode with a rage that can only be diluted through I.V’ed self destruction…even though one would think by 48 my insecurity, loneliness and anger would have long ago dissipated.
Hoffman’s tragic death, the like of which I have seen far too many of: show that being part of the establishment, part of the game, walkers on the straight path, is all too easily, temporary and illusory.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, and other victims of a sad and too early death, I hope you and your families eventually find peace.