The death of an addict, the birth of understanding

Published: Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 10:30 a.m. CDT

Prior to the Super Bowl festivities on Sunday, I read online about the sudden death of 46-year-old, Academy Award winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman who was found dead, alone, in his Manhattan apartment from an apparent drug overdose.

He was an actor who left vanity at the table and committed himself to each character. Primarily a theater actor because of his organic and sincere approach, Hoffman also took unique character roles in film, which many of you have had the pleasure of witnessing.

Hoffman, a family man with three children and a long-time girlfriend, was also an addict.

After his death, many questioned how someone with such brilliance, potential and craft could do something so idiotic. What a terrible, selfish and wasteful habit.

It makes you question a persons ethic, character and values.

The truth is that the recent death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman is evident proof of the immense, uncontrollable power of addiction.

Addition is a chronic brain disease.

Most of us make decisions with the frontal cortex region of the brain with calls for cognitive and value-based decision making, however, addicts unconsciously use the nucleus accumbens, which controls pleasure.

Addiction, whether alcohol, heroin, opiates, nicotine, gambling to name a few, doesn’t discriminate to sex, race, ethnicity, age, geographical location, income, etc. either.

Your co-worker, neighbor, sibling or spouse may be an addict.

In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 18 million Americans have alcohol problems and at least 6 million Americans have drug problems.

It’s nothing new. More than half of adults have a family history of alcoholism; and an estimated one-quarter of all emergency room admissions, one-third of all suicides, and more than half of all homicides and incidents of domestic violence are alcohol-related.

I know at least three addicts. Each one is an extremely important person to me, looking over it, and they all have the biggest, caring hearts.

They each have a strong work ethic, are wise about circumstances, and value relationships with family and friends.

However, each one has lost jobs or respect at work, not made good decisions and lost relationships because of their addiction. Their quality of life is poor. When they’re using, they’re not happy.

Literally, in fact, the first high is the best one and everything after that is a chase for that original euphoric feeling.

Addiction isn’t a curable disease but it’s a treatable one, doctors say.

It’s easy to undermine someone with an addiction, especially when the drug of choice is one they shouldn’t have started in the first place. But, sometimes, it’s in a person’s genetics, and oftentimes the drug of choice is legal, accepted and accessible, making it even more difficult to turn down.

This is not to pity or give excuse to addicts, because they can change, it’s in hopes for a more knowledgeable, aware and compassionate society.

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