God Bless the Addicts ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman and Thoughts on Addiction

by Wendy Murray

Eternal rest (death) and the picture of Philip Seymour Hoffman with a needle in his arm (addiction) paint the picture of the human and divine. The well-loved actor was found dead on Sunday in his home, heroin nearby. His death elicits anguish, not because of the impact he’s left through his affecting roles (unmatched) but because of the soul he brought to them. His work took us to other worlds. And yet he seemed to be languishing for something, and as it turns out, he was. He was an addict. Then death, in collusion with addiction, caught him. In a way, we all died a little bit seeing that picture.

I am familiar with addiction. It has been a  theme in my family. It’s not always heroin, as in Mr. Hoffman’s case. There are many ways addiction keeps its bony grip on a human soul, some of them altogether functional. Yet even so, it is a thin line to walk — functionality on one side, on the other side the abyss. 

It is a human quest that drives the hidden solace of addiction. So let us not judge.

The feeling the addict chases is relief, the best feeling in the world — the feeling that you can lay down your arms, that someone else can fight. Or, at the very least, that in this moment you don’t have to. You can let your arms fall.

I imagine it is like the feeling that accompanies death, at least death for a person who is resolved. You’ve ‘fought the good fight’ or you’ve ‘finished the race.’ The repose of addiction feels like that. To take hold of that feeling addresses the most basic of human longings.

Let’s take the case of sleeping pills. Imagine the best moment of the day for the sleeping-pill addict: the light has gone out and all is dark. There is the sleeping pill and taking it is the last effort of the day. In that moment there is deep rest. There is relief.  The chemicals will override everything; thoughts, obsessions, anxieties — God — everything. There is nothing to worry about it. Sleep will come.

Relief. That is what addicts are after. They are damaged people, people who fight epic battles in their minds daily, moment-by-moment. God blesses them. God has blessed Philip Seymour Hoffman. God is holding him in His light and he is surrounded. There is peace there. Because God keeps very near all the addicts who can’t walk straight in this crooked world.

 

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About Wendy Murray

Wendy Murray is a veteran and award-winning journalist. She served as associate editor and Senior Writer at Christianity Today magazine and has written extensively for other publications such as Books & Culture and The Christian Century. She has written 11 books.

  • mhelbert

    Beautifully said.

    • Wendy Murray

      Thanks

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship Censored

    +1

    • Wendy Murray

      Thanks for reading.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “Relief. That is what addicts are after. ” Yes! The saddest thing about those who never feel good enough without someone else saying so is that the are used up early by those who “adore” but never love them.

  • Bola Muyis

    Bravo Wendy this is really good thanks.

    • Wendy Murray

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Jerry Lynch

    Relief is definitely part of it, on a number of levels, and of course it could be all there is to it. Yet for me it the subliminal tug of the soul to break free from both the confinement and lie of Civilization, a drive to thrive and intimately know genuineness. And all that stands in the way of our greatest freedom and deepest is what we have made of ourselves. This needs to be undone. But it is not the result of some grand philosophical inner debate and conclusion we arrive at this point; it’s simply what life does, that inner sense to turn to the light.

    Paradox is the native tongue of truth and source for “the foolishness of God.” It is Ruby slippers and Argonauts as well. The self needs to die and we will do whatever is necessary in that regard or we will unknowingly accept a life of “quiet desperation.” .

    Addiction is not an escape from Reality but a search for Reality. Addiction is as much a spiritual path as that of the saint.

    Like the saint, the addict becomes more and more faithful to the object of their devotion, the revered choice of drink or drug (or wealth or power or fame or other worldly pursuits).
    Like the saint, the addict becomes less and less interested and attached to other things in their world. He or she will lose their car, house, teeth, family, and reputation yet never despair of or turn away from this “Beloved.”
    Like the saint, when–if–the addict finally reaches a bottom, he or she is almost zenfully clean of worldly trappings. The addict has found renunciation through over-indulgence, non-attachment through over-dependence: a reverse Zen yet nonetheless saintlike discovery about true freedom.
    Yet in one aspect, the saint and the addict are the same: both are self-destructive (only the addict has a more literal interpretation of this vital spiritual practice).

    Or is my reply just exhibiting the typical grandiosity of the addict? Hard to say.

    • Wendy Murray

      Thank you for your thoughtful perspective. Not sure I agree with everything you said, but you said it well and lucidly. Thanks for reading.

  • Constant Reader

    I loved this. It was beautiful, thoughtful, and compassionate.

    • Wendy Murray

      Thanks for reading & commenting.


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