Super Bowl Sunday wasn’t supposed to start this way. Sometime between walking to church and taking my seat in the pew, I learned that one of my favorite actors–Philip Seymour Hoffman–was found dead due to an overdose of heroin. The scene sounded like a typical tragic Hollywood ending: body slumped over in bathroom, syringe still attached to arm, glasses rested on top of his head, and fifty envelopes of heroin in the Manhattan apartment. I just learned that a couple hours ago, four people believed to be connected with supplying Hoffman the deadly drugs were arrested. Of course, at this stage–even with 350 bags of heroin in plain view–these persons are innocent until proven guilty.
There will be commentary for weeks, I’m sure on the greatness of this artist who brought us a “Capote” no one else could have come close to achieving, confused Meryl Streep and many in “Doubt,” and was a beautiful complement to one of my other favorite actors, Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master.” Oh yes, any man with “Seymour” in his name was one I was sure to follow. I don’t remember the first movie I ever saw him in…I am sure it was in a supporting role though, because I remembered looking at his mannerisms as the “non-main actor” thinking “I get him…he’s weird…but I get him.” I felt like all his genius and oddities–the makings of something complicated–was not only his blessing, but his crutch. I imagined him coming to work earlier than others and leaving a couple hours past midnight. I envisioned a father who played hard with his children, while wishing he had more time to play with them. He just had the look of a driven man–a man, who may have been teased or told he was too awkward to be great–but ended great, even if in a great tragedy. And like so many others, he battled with a long-standing addiction–his drug of choice–heroin–which became his lover and abuser, and a vampirish-friend. His health was sacrificed, while he sacrificed time to give the world more of what it desired: a good show. And even at death, he was still working, wrapping up his final scenes in the Hunger Games trilogy. Yes, he was a functional addict. Like the characters he portrayed, his life was complex: both dedicated and reckless…all of which, I am sure, he felt he had under control, while losing control at the same time.
This is where I am supposed to prop up my soapbox and point my gel-manicured finger at the “circle” that knew him; the enablers; the people who are now coming out of nowhere and everywhere to talk about how they didn’t know it was “that bad,” implying that they knew…they just figured “hey, he must not be using that much, ’cause he’s functional.” This piece was supposed to be dedicated to you, enablers. Change of heart, however. Instead, I am on the white couch, about to call Iyanla, and confess that I, too, can relate…I, too, have at times suffered from being a functional addict. No, my poison was not alcohol or drugs. I opted for kilos of self-doubt, bags of insecurity, and syringes full of paralytic fear, masked in “I’m just taking my time…when the time comes, I will finally do *fill in the blank*.” I can confess that me being “functional” had nothing to do with being “healthy.” If we are honest, the term “functional” has less to do with how we feel, and more to do with how we want others to perceive us. We function to keep others happy…to produce more good “stuff”…to forfeit our joy even if just for a moment. And yes, enablers do not make it easy for folks to leave dysfunction. Even constant pushers of demands, requests, and even accolades used to leave me in states of stress and anxiety, wondering if I ever could “top” my last version of myself. No it wasn’t their fault that I had an issue. But at times, instead of focusing on the product, I wish someone would have just asked me if I at least was ok…sane…sleepy…hungry…anything. Yes, it is quite convenient to point at a person who has visible needle marks in their skin and say “they got a problem.” But while hidden, I know from experience that invisible addictions can eat away just as rapidly at the heart, mind, and soul.
Even if the Bible is not your thing, or maybe you just don’t know where to start, I really encourage all to read passages that focus on renewing the mind. I’m even attaching this “cheat sheet” so you can see the many times God gives instructions for recovery and renewal. God loves addicts. He loves them because their lives present some of the best evidence that transformation is possible. He loves them because He alone can see the heart and the pain behind the purge. He loves them because sometimes rock-bottom leads one right back to the Rock. But He also loves them enough to challenge them to look at life in a different way than before…to explore what all of us want more than anything: Peace.
Whether you know a Seymour, or you are a Seymour, know that if you are still reading this post, you are still here…alive, and able to transform your life. Whether you are an alcoholic, drug addict, sex addict, work-a-holic, pathological liar, suffer from severe negative thinking, or even living with an emotional or mental health concern, God created the knowledge and wisdom for practitioners, experts, friends, and faith leaders to speak with you and to your situation. Take the time to label your functional addiction…write it down even. And if it is too painful to pray about it alone, know that I am willing to pray for you and with you. Seriously! Post anonymously and I will lift it up before the real “Change of Life” (sorry Iyanla).
I have not vetted this site, nor do I know anyone personally who has called this number, but in the event that you need more information about overcoming substance abuse addictions, or know someone who needs help, here is a link for general help and locations by state. Let’s step in the gap.