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Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Blog | 15 comments

On the Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman




Another senseless death.  Another wasted talent.

What’s the appropriate reaction when something like this happens?

Shock?  Certainly.  Sadness?  Absolutely.  Outrage?  Yeah, probably.  Confusion?  Yes.

In the coming days, we’ll see the predictable outpouring of sympathy from all those who knew actor Philip Seymour Hoffman best.  They’ll say nice things.  They’ll say the right things.  But they won’t say what really needs to be said.  And heard by so many.

And that’s as follows:  Philip Seymour Hoffman ended his life as a loser.  Not as an Oscar winning actor.   Not at the pinnacle of his professional career performing onstage.  Not spending a moment of tenderness with his parents, or playing with any of this three children.


He ended his life laying half-naked on the bathroom floor with a needle stuck in his arm and several doses of heroin within reach.

That’s a hell of a way to go out, and sadly, an even worse way to be remembered.

Oh, there will be attempts to whitewash all the ugliness away.  Justifications for his behavior will be made.  Experts will weigh in on why this gifted man who grew up in a nice home to good parents could go so wrong.  The actions of a common street junkie will be counterbalanced by remembrances of his immense talent, his dedication to craft, his wit and humor, his humanity.  Rightly so.  He’s been called a nice person and a gentle soul.  Mr. Hoffman deserves to be remembered as a marvelous actor who gave us several roles to cherish, both on film and on stage.  We must applaud him for that.

But we must also think long and hard at what he was, and that’s a drug addict.

He put himself in that spot.  Not someone else.  He bears the responsibility.  All of it.  No one forced him to take that first hit when he was younger.  He did it himself.  And he ended up paying the ultimate price for that stupidity.

Drug addicts are commonly referred to as “victims.”  I fail to understand why this is so.  They’re not victims.  They’re perpetrators of ignorance and self-destruction.  Worse, their actions are revolting for the unnecessary pain they inflict on all those around them.

How does someone have three children and end up at the height of his career — successful beyond compare — with a nasty heroin habit?

Well, it usually starts young and then progresses.  As in downward.  Kids do plenty of dumb things, and one of those things that some FREELY CHOSE TO DO is take drugs.  Sure, it’s just for kicks, at first.  But then over time something really bad happens.  Some get addicted.  A few even end up dead.

We’re now asked to have sympathy for Mr. Hoffman, when that sympathy belongs somewhere else.  With his children.  With his parents.  With his family.  With his friends and co-workers.  They are the real victims here.  Not Mr. Hoffman.

In fact, Mr. Hoffman is the one who stuck the needle in and then twisted, over and over and over, deaf to plea after plea after plea, those innocent hearts now forced to endure a lingering pain that subsides but never leaves, their shoulders forced to bear unjustifiable guilt for the rest of their lives over what happened, over which they were powerless to control although they tried to intervene.  Indeed, those are the ones who will suffer.  Not Mr. Hoffman.  He’s at peace now, which seems so totally unfair.

We beg,  We plead.  We scare.  We implore.  We insist.  We educate.  We do everything in our power to tell people — DON’T DO DRUGS.  And yet, so many don’t listen.

Well, if they refuse to listen, then there’s ends up being a price to pay.  And it’s a brutal price indeed.  Once the crystal meth has rotted out someone’s teeth and left the miserable derelict begging for drug money on a street corner, don’t come asking for my sympathy.  Because I refuse to give it.  They were warned what death looks like.  It’s needles and white powder.  That’s death.

I am human.  I do care.  I want to help.  Really, I do.  But I reserve my compassion for the real victims of society.  Wounded war veterans.  People with cancer.  Impoverished children.  Elderly people with no access to care.  On and on.  They are the people who deserve my compassion, my tax dollars, and my attention.  And I’m more than willing to give it to them.  And I don’t want any of the resources that could go to those innocent people instead diverted to help idiots who chose to ruin themselves.

So don’t ask me to have sympathy for a junkie.  Because they’re the ones who did this to themselves, and all those around them who somehow must find a way to find love when so many hearts have needlessly been broken.

Yeah, rest in peace Mr. Hoffman while everyone around you is now forced to clean up the terrible mess you left behind.



  1. Every time someone of note dies to addiction, the dialog on drug policy in this country is hastily renewed, cashed in like a promissory note not on currency, but on viewership. It’s then trashed again a few weeks later, and nothing changes. Same as it ever was.

    In May I will be four years sober. I never had a “drug problem,” though with even a modest bit of effort I could have. Booze was my drug of choice. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to pull it off. I have seen first hand the effects of heroin addiction, and like you I have no sympathy for the addicted. I have empathy, but not sympathy.

    As long as we continue to treat addicts like scum of the earth, as long as US policy is to incarcerate rather than rehabilitate, these kinds of things will continue. Remove the taboo, make it okay for these people to get the help they need, and these kinds of senseless deaths will abate. They will not disappear, but they will abate.

  2. Weird, just last month I had to visit the State Police (PA) complaining about a rental unit that was riddled with heavy drug use.

    A brand new apartment that I worked on for countless hours.. ruined by a pit bull (not the dogs fault) and the countless free loaders who kept visiting my tenant.

    He was a good guy when off the sauce (Crack, etc) but when he hooked up with local hookers with the same problems – It all went downhill fast.

    I was lucky. He left on his own and went back to his parents (He’s 47) but not before turning the heat off and freezing all the pipes.

    Yeah.. I have empathy.. but no sympathy.

    We all have to make choices in life. When your choices include heavy drug use, visiting felons still pushing, scumbags galore, and oh yes, the $20 rotten teeth hookers with the same problems..

    WHEN YOU START SWAMPING MY FAMILIES Boat.. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on…

    Harsh? Maybe.

    I don’t see it that way… We have all been in tough situations in life.. and we all were taught that crack, heroin, etc.. was a one way street for the majority of those who “chose” their path to nowhere.

    Again, Nolan – I’m with you. Hoping ONE DAY – I can find something to totally disagree with you on as I’m no doubt looking like a suck up by now.

    One day..

  3. Nolan, you do understand that addiction is a disease, yes? Starting to take drugs was certainly a personal choice for him, but nobody chooses to become an addict.

    • I agree with PattiB. This is a disease, not a choice. No one would choose to become an addict.

    • Don’t they make that choice to become an addict the first time they choose to use certain drugs?

      • “Don’t they make that choice to become an addict the first time they choose to use certain drugs?”

        Like alcohol? Alcohol is far more addictive than meth or crack, and alcohol addiction is harder to kick than addiction to any other drug I’m aware of, heroin included. But I don’t see anyone claiming that someone chooses to become an addict the first time they take a drink.

        You don’t suffer from mental illness or life circumstances which make you feel a desperate need to escape via any means possible. Be very, very grateful for this. But don’t pretend that it’s entirely because you’re so virtuous, and that there isn’t a healthy dose of luck involved.

  4. Nolan, my main problem with your article, and I appreciate that you wrote it quickly and with passion,and as a critique, I simply do not believe that you think that anyone who is stupid enough to use drugs deserves no sympathy, when it turns around and kills them.

    We all have a drug of choice. And many of us have had dangerous encounters with our drug of choice.

    Not an attack on you Nolan, but I know you use drugs. I have seen you drink alcohol! But that said, if you are not an addict but instead a binge user, and you think you can inject heroin and control it, you are either not learning, and/or have not been taught that Heroin wins when shot up! It will become a problem unless you have a good support system that can teach you! Like culture teaches people that binge drinking young will kill you young. Usually through ones own binge drinking or dealing with others! We could still educate about alcohol better!

    Patti,I agree with you.

    Addiction is a decease. But most people, a great majority of those that die of overdoses, labeled as addicts, are actually abusers, and not suffering from a disease.

    The real cause and issue is; with pills being on the black market in mass for 20 years, and cheap, the Heroin market plummeted. With the DEA’s primary goal of getting pills off the street, by shutting down pill Mill Doctors, and arresting Dr’s that prescribe, Heroin on the black market is your only option other then rehab. Plus there is more Heroin available in decades, and it is cheaper then ever.(I will post statistics if needed). Hoffman got unlucky because he bought a bad batch of Heroin laced with Fentynal.It is a common way for people who shoot up to die. It can kill you before you pull the needle out. And that is how Hoffman was found. With the needle still in his arm. If he could have got the pills he wanted I am sure he would have bought them instead!

    This is not just a personal private choice. Sobriety is very uncommon. Abuse is more common when things are hidden,and worse when the culture you live in is judgmental and hypocritical and prohibition is the norm. Particularly when even the idea of legalizing it all, is considered absurd. Prohibition has a great deal to do with his death. His abusive and cavalier attitude towards shooting black market heroin, stems from this cultural problem of Prohibition.

    I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the very unlucky way that Hoffman died. But I would wish that he could get the kind of help he needed, a harm reduction method, in which he would have had a better support system that could take care of him during these abusive episodes; at the very least. And at the best, get the abusive episodes to deminish, or even cease all together.

    Which is a metaphor in case I need to point that out.

    I will remember him for his acting and the art he made. The rest is forgotten by the next news cycle!

  5. “He’s at peace now…” Strange wording from someone who believes that once one dies that’s it. His hell is over, yes. But he’s not anything now. Peace, agony, whatever is out of the picture because he’s dead. That’s if you’re being consistent with your beliefs. I personally have no idea if he’s at peace now. I believe in God, in the afterlife and I have no idea how God is going to judge him.

  6. Right on Nolan, I couldn’t have said it any better! My thoughts exactly!

    But somehow there are those among us who try to write-off and reduce what were personal choices to “disease.” The same old pitiful, nonsensical attempt to replace personal responsibility with victimization. And you can bet, Hoffman’s long road to self-destruction, began when he first used the gateway drug marijuana,

    I get “high” on life and on all the wonderful joys that come with it. Believe me, I have more than my share of problems and challenges to just survive these days. The kinds of problems that would lead many to escape artificially from the realities of life. But I don’t need, nor do I seek any outside stimulus in the form of drugs or alcohol to get me through it or to enhance life. I witnessed at a young age how destructive that life can be to family and relationships. I saw how it can destroy lives and those lessons were remembered as a teenager and adult. I have never used drugs nor do I drink. But I am not the type that can’t be around people who use alcohol. Most of my friends are drinkers and I can socialize in bars right along with the best of them, without indulging. Yes, I’m sort of the oddball I suppose but I can always be counted on as the designated driver.

    It’s a sad commentary when those that do need their artificial crutches have now become the so-called “norm” of our society (and me the oddball). Worse yet when those that kill themselves — as a result — are considered victims of disease rather than their own foolish choices that brought on their addiction.  Soon stupidity may also be classified as a disease.

    Thanks for saying, yes, what really needs to be said.

  7. As a habitual user of a drug that’s about as dangerous and addictive as heroin, you’re in an odd place to be making these sorts of judgments about others who don’t abstain.

  8. And no one knew these “dangerous and addictive drugs” can ruin if not take your life?

    Who really is in an “odd place” to not see the lack of personal responsibility and plain stupidity that leads to such outcomes and nonsensical conclusions?

    So glad though that you have legions of deniers to make you feel better about your choices. But denial is what it is. It all begins with poor choices and the assumption that it only happens to the other guy. After all, everybody does it, right? Laughable!

    I have empathy for you, but more importantly I pity your family and friends who are the victims of your self-destructive and selfish behavior.

    What are doing reading blogs? Get help!!

    • If I’m reading Nolan’s post correctly, he’s arguing that drug addicts deserve no sympathy, because while they may have been in the grip of addiction later on, they chose to start using drugs in the first place. This is a very strange argument to hear from Nolan, since he is an admitted user of a dangerous and addictive drug.

      I use caffeine, which is addictive though not dangerous. I also use alcohol, though far less than Nolan or many others in this discussion. One or two drinks, once every week or two. I’m not sure what “self-destructive and selfish behavior” you’re blasting me for.

  9. No one chooses to become an addict? Ignoring the obvious doesn’t make one a genius.

    Really? You’d have to be living under a rock to not know and understand the risks involved. Any person with any common sense, and who observes the world around them, is plenty aware of how drug use can lead to addiction. Just because it’s accepted behavior doesn’t mean that fact is any less true.

    You can ignore reality, but you can’t ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. ~~ Ayn Rand

  10. I try to take a nuanced view of addiction whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or gambling.

    To me it boils down to positive feedback loops with the resultant difficulty of choices when the loop spirals out of control.

    A heroin addict may indeed have started with marijuana, where it was an easily-made choice with perhaps some subtle peer pressure being influential if there is not enough parental love and support early on. Later, however, the drug addict starts to use to escape reality in which the drug use can compound these original stressors and life difficulties, hence a positive feedback loop which can spiral out of control for severe addicts (ie. The only way to escape life’s traumas is to indulge in the poison that is contributing the addict’s life traumas in the first place.)
    It can be an exceptionally difficult, perhaps almost an impossible choice to break away from this spiral as a late-stage addict.

    I’ve seen six-figure(and higher) embezzlement cases involving gambling addiction. The only way the gambling thief believes he can get out of the hole he has dug in is….steal more money to gamble more!

    I submit that it is more of a blurry line somewhere along the way for drug addicts where free will and choices are concerned. Interesting discussion, though.

  11. Thank you for on target commentary. I am a former addict. You name it- I abused it for 20+ years. I knew I was going to die eventually. At 35 I decided there was only two ways to go, to die or to live. I got myself to some meetings… three a day for two years. I’m now 57, my lungs are ruined,all my cartilage is disolving,but I’m alive. Doing drugs are a choice, not a disease. Choose to get well and you can. Hoffman chose to die and hang his family out to dry. No sympathy from here and I’ve been there.

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