For many on the “outside”, addiction appears to be a selfish decision. In the wake of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, many have commented as such; spouting hurtful and ignorant opinion pieces based on little more than “self discipline”, “tough love”, and “shoulda known better”. It’s easy to dismiss of the actor as a common junkie who chose to prioritize his high over family. This position is comfortable, simple, and far from the truth.
Let’s be clear: End-state drug addiction is not about laughs and good times. It is about pain, shame and self-loathing. Addicts can love their families; they just hate themselves more.
“But what of free-will?” They cry. “What about responsibilities to friends, families and employers? What about common knowledge?” Of course these factors come into play – but only when it comes to the initial decision to use. For addicts, all bets are off once the fuse is lit. Goodbye decisions. Goodbye freedoms.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Our Executive Director Adds:
“I didn’t know Hoffman,” Says Dr. Kardaras. “But by all accounts, he was one of the good guys; a caring, thoughtful and unimaginably talented actor, father, brother, son and neighbor. The sober Hoffman, (and let’s not forget that he was sober for 23 years) would never willingly hurt his family. The Sober Hoffman would never consciously deny his children a father to love them or give his pained mother a son to bury.”
Addiction does not play by the rules. Addiction lies, cheats, steals and manipulates its way into every crevice of its host. It consumes and drains. It does not care. It does not care about loss of employment, family, health, or dignity.
In order to address addiction, we must hold it accountable. We must recognize it. The “just say no” approach and criminalization of a mental health disorder are two methods with a warped and ineffective view; disassociated and impersonalized.
“Drugs are not the source of the problem; the true source is the person afflicted with the predisposition of an addictive personality.” says Dr. Kardaras.
“There are all sorts of theories about the causes of such a personality: genetic predispositions, neurotransmitters, environmental factors, socioeconomic factors and more. But regardless of the cause, the key to effective addiction treatment is to focus on the suffering addict’s discomfort within their own skin and inability to successfully cope with real-life realities in a healthy manner.”
Read the full Phillip Seymour Hoffman article on the NY Daily Times