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Local Editorials

Reflecting upon the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Everyone else has weighed in on Hoffman’s drug-overdose death, I might as well, too. Of all the “expert opinions” I’ve listened to or read, I have yet to hear or read of one from another addict. So, here goes.

Having nearly died of alcoholism/drug addiction, and been clean and sober going on 25 years now, I can speak with some authority. Been there, done that, have that T-shirt.

Let’s get one thing straight: the reason Philip Seymour Hoffman drank and did drugs, like all other alcoholics and drug addicts, is because he liked to get high. Plain and simple.

He’d been in and out of treatment programs, and had one stretch of sobriety lasting 23 years.

So what happened? Like many addicts with sobriety under their belts, he became complacent, thinking he didn’t have to work his program of recovery and, here’s the worst part, thinking he could get away with a few drinks or drugs, that he could control it.

In the end, he just didn’t care. A death wish.

A death wish? From such a talented actor who had made more than 50 movies, won just about every award there was to win, had more money than you and I will ever see, and was the envy of most everyone? 

Yep. Hard to believe, ain’t it. But evidently the highs of man weren’t enough for his ego (Edge God Out). The awards of man are fleeting.

One thing I learned in recovery that I am grateful for: I learned who I am. And learned to like that person. Addicts are notorious self-haters. That’s why they drink and drug: to feel better about themselves.

I’ve heard it said, from actors themselves, that actors like to play so many different roles because they are searching for who they are. They keep on acting and keep on searching, and may never find that person.

Another thing I learned, and this is the most important: I can’t take that first drink, or do that first drug. Because I’m an addict, my body chemistry is different than most people’s.

Once I put that first drink or drug into my body, a chemical reaction takes place that I am powerless to control (an allergy), and I drink or drug, or some combination of both, to oblivion (pass out).

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I lived through my near-death experience, and took a lesson from it. Some never learn.

Philip Seymour Hoffman had all the tools at his disposal to stay sober and lead a productive, happy life. He chose not to use those tools. He did not call for help before he stuck that needle in his arm, he did not return to his program of recovery. He wanted to get high.

Do not call his death a “slip.” The definition of a slip is, “planned drunk.”

But understand this: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is no more tragic than the countless drunks who die on the highways, taking others with them. Addiction respects no cultural lines. It comes in many forms: food, gambling, sex, work, play. They can all be destructive, and all can kill.

Stop feeling sorry for or taking pity on the addict. It is the kiss of death. Pity is what they crave. (Poor me, pour me another!) There is nothing you can do. Only they can decide whether they want to do something about their addiction. There is so much help out there. All they have to do is ask.

Take it from an alcoholic in lifelong recovery: some must die, so that others may live.

• • •

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at, or visit his website at  Curt also records his Empty Nest columns at

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