February 11, 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose and tragic death has shaken many in the sober community. The actor was found by friend, David Bar Katz February 2, 2014. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 2005 biographical film Capote, and recently appeared in the Hunger Games’ film, Catching Fire in 2013. He had begun work on third and fourth instalments and was reported to have almost finished filming his scenes at the time of his death.
What makes his story devastating is not only the talent and success he found in life, but that he spent more than 20 of the most successful years of his life sober. Born in Fairport, New York, Hoffman began acting while a student at Fairport High School. It was in college he realized he couldn’t use anything in moderation, and that he would abuse anything he could get his hands on.
After graduating at age 22, he went to rehab for drug and alcohol treatment. His sobriety helped propel him into the limelight, receiving acclaim, an academy award; he was nominated three times for Best Supporting Actor and also received three Tony Award nominations for his work in theater. He was a dynamic, mercurial presence who had a gift for portraying the off center character, the geek, the not-very-heroic hero, who was memorable even if only on the screen for a few moments. While he was open about his sobriety, it was never something he broadcast.
In an interview with Simon Hattenstone in 2011, he said of his substance abuse:
“It was pretty bad, you know what I mean. And I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It’s still pretty tangible.”
Relapse is always a danger as sobriety is contingent on daily maintenance in a program of recovery. Breakups can be traumatizing at any stage of one’s life, and reportedly the actor had separated from his longtime girlfriend with whom he had two children. He began abusing prescription pills in 2013 which escalated to heroin use when he checked himself into an East Coast detox facility in May of that year.
The progressiveness of addiction is evident with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose.
The actor escalated from abusing prescription medication to a highly dangerous form of heroin the New York authorities haven’t seen on the streets in years. While a dynamic and successful man throughout most of his life, he was discovered in his underwear on the bathroom floor of his $9,800-a-month New York apartment.
While his loss is heartbreaking to those who knew him, the memory he will leave behind will be the quality of what he accomplished in sobriety.