“Addiction,” Philip Seymour Hoffman once said, “is when you do the thing you really, really most don’t want to be doing.”
For Hoffman, the thing he really, really most didn’t want to be doing was take heroin. He had gotten clean, become one of the most respected actors in America. Then Hoffman decided it would be a good idea to go back to using heroin. The decision cost him his life.
Or was it a decision? Addiction is a complicated issue, where brain chemistry and free will collide. A lot of people think addiction is just a scam — the Get Out of Jail Free Card that jerks desperately wave after being caught, trying to be excused their misdeeds. Hoffman had been clean for more than 20 years. He was free. Or was he? Did he decide? Or did the addiction slumber within him, like a cancer, biding its time?
I can’t answer that one. If it was a bad choice, it was a bad choice that many make. Fifty percent more Americans died of drug overdoses in 2014 than died in car crashes: 47,000 people, a staggering toll. That in the face of such stats anyone would pick up a drug speaks to the human genius for both feeling special — bad things happen to other people — and for seeking that elusive zing across the frontal lobes that gives life savor.
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