We idolize celebrities, glamourize drug use and are fascinated with death.
The combination of those three elements is not uncommon.
The media and the public are quick to label the drug-related deaths of musicians, actors, artists and athletes as tragic. But, really, it’s way easier to list celebrities who have died of overdoses than those who have died from natural causes.
So, when Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent heroin overdose on Feb. 2, he joined a star-studded ensemble of creative-types who succumbed to substance abuse.
Hoffman was easily labeled as a character actor until his turn as Truman Capote won him the Best Actor Oscar in 2006. His ability to transform himself from the inside out made him one of the best supporting actors in history.
He was 46.
Though they are mourned by thousands more people than we will be, celebrities are still people. Hoffman was a father of three and left behind his partner of 15 years. His fame will do little to console his family.
Hoffman was also an addict.
The same year he won his Academy Award for Capote, Hoffman spoke to CBS about his long struggle with drugs. “I liked it all,” Hoffman said, adding he had done any drug or alcohol he could get his hands on. No one asked him why he liked it.
I didn’t know Hoffman had struggled with drug and alcohol abuse when he was younger. Twenty years later, he checked himself into a rehabilitation program for about 10 days in May 2013 for help dealing with addictions to prescription pills and heroin.
The needle stuck in his arm when he was found on Sunday suggests he lost his battle.
Media reports are conflicting, but police are said to have found more than 50 bags or envelopes filled with heroin at the scene of Hoffman’s death.
His addiction wasn’t public. He spoke about the recovery and not the relapse.
We get used to a rambunctious image of the tormented and drug-addled artists. Like Hoffman’s work, we know now his addiction was understated.
I am a fan of several of Hoffman’s films. One of the greatest delights of admiring character actors is when they surprise you on screen. I had no idea Hoffman was in Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) before I saw it. Now, his performance is the only part I remember.
But I didn’t know the man, and neither did the majority of other writers scrambling to write think-pieces on another celebrity killed by drugs.
Celebrity worship is fake and evil. Corporations make huge profits off of it.
The artists who die of drug overdoses always feel like the most genuine, but that’s because of the association of creativity and substance abuse. Or maybe it’s because these people worth millions of dollars seem more like us when we’re exposed to their struggles.
Addiction is a disease and it doesn’t discriminate. It’s not reserved for Hollywood.
All races, ages and social classes are vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s sickening to think anyone could suffer silently alone under the pressure of an addiction.
There are people battling with drugs and alcohol in our own community. They might be our family, friends or neighbours.
We cannot take care of celebrities. We can only take care of each other.
Follow Austin on Twitter @theaustinx.