Philip Seymour Hoffman's death is the worst. Seriously. In much the same way that Chris Kelly's was. Or Cory Monteith's. And if you're now looking at me like I'm crazy for even using Hoffman and Monteith in the same article, hear me out: It's not because they were equal talents. Your opinion on that probably depends on whether you're 15 or 35. This is not about losing one of the greatest talents of our time. Their deaths are horrific because they died alone, victims of an incredibly lonely disease. And what's worse, they didn't have to be alone. Loving significant others, loving children, admiration from everyone around them- if they could, I'm sure they would have chosen those things.
My dad was my biggest fan. He was the biggest fan of all of his kids. I was probably the only one who realised it, and I understand why. But when he died, wasted away and a shell of his former self after a lethal fall, the only possessions he had were photos of us and letters we'd written him decades ago. He would have liked to have been at our sporting events and our graduations, but instead he was drinking himself to death in a second-floor apartment in my hometown, bipolar disorder only adding immediacy to the fatal inevitabilities of his alcoholism. Anyone who thinks dying from an overdose is selfish has a weird idea of what an addict wants out of life. There comes a point at which drinking, drug use, all that - they're not fun anymore. Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn't out partying. He was alone in his bathroom, compelled. Cory Monteith in his hotel room. Chris Kelly in his living room. All the money in the world, all the adoring fans in the world, and, to see the comments people make on their deaths, they were selfish assholes who chose drugs over the people who loved them.
I guarantee that every time Hoffman put that needle in his arm, he felt guilty. He felt conflicted. He craved that high that would take the pain away, but knew the pain he caused himself and those around him every time he took a hit.
We all have destructive habits. If we're lucky, it's watching too much TV when it's inhibiting our productivity, or looking at porn when we think it's a sin, or lying, cheating, overeating. If we're lucky, our addictions won't kill us. The majority of us can go through a partying phase and then grow up, settle down, and put down the sauce. But for an unfortunate group, the need to keep going becomes as pervasive as the need to eat or sleep. And we call them selfish, as if they would prefer to be a slave to the thing that's ruining everything good in their lives.
When tragedies like these deaths happen to celebrities, they should be a wake-up call for the rest of us. If someone who has everything going for them can be so horribly enslaved to what they know could kill them, imagine what it's like for the average addict. Addiction is bigger than class, race, religion, or any other factor that one might hope would reduce its captive hold. Succumbing to it isn't selfish. It's horribly sad and extremely difficult to prevent, even though it is, in theory, preventable. The way we talk about a celebrity who ODs says a lot about the way we think about people who are struggling around us. It's time we tried to understand struggles we don't endure ourselves. It's called empathy, and we could all use a lot more of it.
This post originally appeared on Electric Feast.