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.