“What a waste of life,” is a phrase I have said twice in the last month. Firstly for a friends cousin who was murdered in South America and for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death last Sunday. One life taken by another for the pursuit of wanting more or what everyone else has, who knows, but a pointless short term action all the same. And the other was death due to addiction, the need for a short term solution to mask a long term problem.
I don’t know the films of Philip Seymour Hoffman or much about him really but his boy next door and non-archetypal Hollywood image, made the circumstances of his death seem ever more striking. His age, appearance, family life, success, prolific career doesn’t fit with the stereotype of a drug addict, making us question how addiction can infiltrate lives in an insidious way regardless of job title, wealth or background.
Addiction is an illness like any other mental health illness, which we all know to some extent in our lives. From cigarettes to sugar to prescribed medication to gambling, addiction has many forms. I see addiction as a disease of the brain similar to depression, bi-polar disorder or Alzheimer’s. They take over our brains and then our ability to go beyond this short-term need cannot be overridden. The accompanying shame and self-destruction felt deep inside of being mentally unwell becomes the priority to overcome, made harder by the societal stigma of being ‘a drug addict’.
I went to a small secondary modern school of 250 pupils in the 1980’s in rural Yorkshire. I know of 2 people in my year whose lives ended due to drug related problems. They were both intelligent people with nice homes and families. I’ve often thought about the path they went down and how at some point there was no going back, no way out, no hope, no solace, no comfort even from family and friends despite their efforts. The sense of loneliness must have been unrelenting. I thought they would get through it in my naivety and smell the roses, enjoy the beauty of where we grew up but no, there was only one conclusion for them both. Similarly Philip Seymour Hoffman died alone just with his heroin – him and it together, locked in unison, to the exclusion of his wife and 3 children.
The output of his work as an actor and director along with the circumstances and his untimely death will be the legacy he leaves to the world. What will be yours? We’ve all left a legacy of some kind simply by our birth and existence in the world. But are we doing what we are here for? Really? Have we asked ourselves the question of: “Why am I here?” When we know the answer to this question then we have to show up and get on with our purpose everyday. Maybe it’s to have children, look after animals, dance wildly, run a business or be an actor, who knows but it’s a good starting point question to ask yourselves – today!!
What legacy will you leave in this world – ACT now and become the actor of your own life!