An Addict Talks About Addiction: Marc Maron on Philip Seymour Hoffman
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An Addict Talks About Addiction: Marc Maron on Philip Seymour Hoffman

By Daniel Carlson | Trade News | February 5, 2014 | Comments ()


Nobody understands addiction but addicts. Not really. For anyone who deals with addiction, or who knows someone who does, the blame and anger and attempts to assign simple cause and effect to something as sick and sad as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drug-related death are exhausting. There’s more to it than most people will ever know, and that’s their blessing.

Monday morning, on his WTF podcast, Marc Maron addressed the issue. Maron’s a recovering junkie and alcoholic who, after years of fighting, has more than a decade of sobriety under his belt. He talks regularly on his show about his years on the nod, and the battle with the beast. He goes to meetings and grinds it out and speaks of his survival with the grim, quiet tones of those who didn’t realize they were on a battlefield until they managed to find their way home. I’ll let Maron take over from here:

Rambling, man. Rambling and avoiding the reality. The fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose yesterday. The sadness of drug addiction taking lives, the struggle of the drug addict to stay off the shit, to not get locked back into the groove where choices diminish, where reason no longer applies, where the will is compromised and tethered to a malignant desire. Horrendous. It’s a horrendous loss. It’s a horrendous loss when anybody dies tragically, in almost any way. Why not just say any way? But when you know somebody who’s been fighting, I guess what at one time was a — no, let’s say at all times — a good fight against that particular bug, having experienced that bug, having lived with that bug for all of my life, having somehow kept it at bay through various methods, I understand it. I understand that. Once you surrender your will to getting high, all bets are off. You don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen.

And this guy was a talented guy. He was one of the greatest actors who ever lived. And he had this horrible struggle. And there’s nothing more bothersome, more horrible, than people going, “Eh, he made a choice.” Yeah, he made a choice, but I don’t [think he had] much control, if any, over that choice. His heart and mind were being given instruction by a fucking demon. It’s probably one of the closest — metaphorically, if not literally — it is the closest I have ever seen to demonic possession. Active drug addiction. It’s nothing to be trivialized. It’s nothing to be dismissed as some sort of bad life choice. I really think that that kind of conversation about drugs needs to be eliminated from the culture.

It’s one thing to try to stop drugs; that seems futile. But try to raise awareness and get people treatment so they at least have a shot. And Philip Seymour Hoffman had had some periods of sobriety. But something switched off. Something didn’t stick. Something was not there when he needed it to be there in terms of the support necessary to stop him from reentering the dragon. From opening his soul to the demon. And now he’s gone. We lost him. We lost him to that, we lost him to that fucked-up disease. Fucked-up drug.

You know, I’ve seen a lot of people go down because of this, people in my business, people I’ve known. Some people come back. Heroin’s a tough monkey to kick, man. Seems to be the hardest, really, to reenter life after being strung out on dope. It sets the bar of your brain chemicals so high and so low simultaneously that you can never recapture that. Once you have that blast, once you feel that nod, a lot of things pale in comparison, and the deep hunger in the reptile brain for that feeling is a tough thing to stifle. I know cats that have quit dope and kind of moved through methadone and then became sort of managing alcoholics, drinkers, to sort of give that demon a taste. And a lot of them didn’t go back to dope. A few guys I know that ended up sort of putting that at bay and nursing a drink every once in a while to take the edge off. They’ve done alright. I’m not saying abstinence is for everybody. As Jim Caroll said about Kurt Cobain, he should’ve negotiated with the monkey. It’s hard to negotiate with the monkey. Sometimes you got to cut that fucking monkey off.

You know last week, on Thursday, we ran an interview with Marc Spitz, who also battled with heroin, but who at this juncture has not lost, and is out of its grips. Not sober, per se, but out of the grips of that motherfucker. Heroin’s a bitch. Drug addiction is horrible. It’s a mental illness. It’s a real disease, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead, and it’s sad. It’s sad. Because — just know that there is help available. And this may be a little serious, I understand, maybe I’ll get to something funny in a minute. But there is help available, there is help on the way, there’s always help available if you look for it. The hardest thing about it is once you get into that mind, once you are in demon mind, your decision-making capacity, or your will to say or know that you’re in trouble, becomes somewhat compromised. You know, “I’ll kick tomorrow.” Yeah.

R.I.P., Philip Seymour Hoffman. You were great.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Eva Halloween

    This is one of the things that makes Marc Maron's podcast a favorite. He did an outstanding piece after Patrice O'Neal's death, as well.

  • Gunnut2600

    Drug abuse is a symptom of a problem...not necessarily the problem. Its an attempt to self medicate for various emotional, physical, and mental pain. Without addressing the underlying causes (ie just go turkey stupid!) you end up with a person who is still miserable, unable to function, and bouncing to the next thing that may offer a temporary reprieve from their pain.

    I had to serious addictions for a while; alcohol and physical violence. This all stemmed from serious family issues growing up leading to depression and anger. I was forced into rehab a couple of times in the military and it was fucking pointless. I was miserable drunk...but I was just as miserable sober.

    It wasn't until I took the necessary steps to get therapy, ignoring the drinking completely, that I realized what my triggers were, why I was lashing out, and how to cope with my anger and depression.

    A person can go through years of pain in sobriety and stumble easily knowing that one hit will give them the temporary relief from their pain.

  • John G.

    I didn't know Marc Maron was a junkie. I thought his deal was cocaine and booze.

  • aroorda

    You can be a junkie with coke and alcohol.

  • John G.

    if so, that's a new definition. Usually, "junk" means "heroin", and "junkie" means "addicted to heroin". I've never heard cocaine or alcohol referred to as "junk".

    At least that's what William S. Burroughs taught me.

  • Lee-ann Dunton

    I've always known "junkie" to be synonymous with "drug addict", but that may be due to where I'm from & my background. I understand that originally, "junk" referred to a specific drug, but I think it's become much more broadly used. Doesn't the same essentially apply to "crackhead"? We all know "crack" refers to crack cocaine, but it's become more synonymous with any addict that looks a certain way. I'm sure you get what I'm saying, at least.

  • Nicole_OCTV

    I struggle a lot with how to react to this death, and all of the comments following it. I have a very close family member who has been an addict most of his life, heroin included. I rationally understand that it is a disease, but I have also been the person who had to care for my dying mom alone because he couldn't get his shit together to come to the hospital or the house. He never took out an IV or changed a diaper or fed her popsicles when she couldn't eat anything else. I watched my mom cry on her way to chemo because he hadn't gone home the night before and nobody knew where he was. I watched my mom support him and support him and pay for rehab and support him some more and all the while he continued to use, and she got cancer. I partially blame the stress he caused her over her lifetime for her illness. And then she died and I had to deal with his court dates, and bail, and him showing up in the middle of the night asking for food and knowing that he really wanted to come in and steal money for more drugs, or steal a bottle of vodka to tide him over until he got another fix. Because he would rather sleep under a bridge than pass up another few hours of living in a haze. I fucking hate him a lot of the time. Most of the time. What are the people who have addicts in our lives supposed to do, when treatment has been offered and tried and offered and tried and nothing is working and they are making our lives miserable? Are we supposed to keep trying and putting our lives on hold because they have a disease? I'm really asking. At some point, can't my life be my life? How much of it am I supposed to lose to his illness? I feel so much for PSH's partner and his kids. I feel for him too. I will miss him a lot - he was one of my favorite actors. But I identify with his family, and I've spent half my life expecting the phone call they got on Sunday, and it's both terrifying and infuriating.

    Edited to add: wow, apparently I have a lot of feelings. Forgive the stream-of-consciousness style rambling. This may not even be the appropriate venue for this comment, but apparently I had things to get off my chest.

  • Teabelly

    Are we supposed to keep trying and putting our lives on hold because they have a disease?

    I come down on the side of no, but then I kind of have to since I walked away from that a long time ago. I mean, I was a kid, so there's that, but sometimes it's just a matter of survival. There's only so much you can do, so much you can take. You have to look after yourself, selfish though people may see that as being.

  • emmalita

    I am the daughter, niece, and cousin of a few addicts. I discovered recently that my father has fallen off the wagon. I haven't confronted him yet, because I'm trying to put some options in place for treatment before I start the conversation with him. One of the options I always keep on the table is walking away. If he isn't ready to go to treatment now, I will walk away until he is ready to go to treatment. I won't walk away because I'm angry or disappointed, but because if he isn't ready to be a part of the solution, I am not willing to be part of the problem. This may sound stupid, but A&E's Intervention is an excellent resource. I got a lot of valuable insight from watching the way the families treated the addict and responded to the intervention. The ugliness of co-dependency and enabling becomes clearer after watching the same dynamic play out episode after episode. What I learned is that the only person I can save is me. I can offer love and support. I can point out options. Sacrificing my life to someone else's illness does not benefit anyone. Therapy is also a great resource. And if you don't want to pay for a therapist try a 12 step group for family members. I've used all of these resources at various points in time. Good luck.

  • TK

    There's no reason you can't understand and acknowledge the addict's sickness, while also being angry and frustrated and sad and disappointed with them. The two are not mutually exclusive. Addiction ruins more lives than just that of the addict, and it's perfectly acceptable -- and probably healthy -- for you to express all of those feelings.

    It's a bit of a high wire act, juggling your compassion with your anger. But you can't save everyone. So you, to the best of your ability and in the best interests of those you love, have to make choices. Like IP said below - you do whatever your conscience can handle. His addiction is ruining his life, and that is tragic and hard and unfair and sad, but do you let it ruin your life and the lives of those you love as well? In the end, it's a choice, and never an easy one. Take some small comfort in the fact that neither end of that spectrum of options is "right" per se. But it's important to acknowledge that your happiness and well-being is vital and much-deserved, and you shouldn't lose sight of that.

  • Idle Primate

    I've been a drug addict. Your experiences and feelings are valid, fair, justified or whatever ther adjective in a similar vein fits. It's hell having an addict in your life especially one you love. The resulting conflicting and contradictory feelings are hell to live with.

    The answer to what is one to do is whatever their conscience can bare. Some people can cut the person off--which is also usually considered the most constructive for the addict---and refocus their own lives rather than be sucked along into the abyss.
    Some people have to keep trying or have their own compulsive caretaker/enabler issues. Its complicated stuff.

  • manting

    Did you know that four arrests have been made in connection to Hoffman's death? It turns out if you are a rich famous movie star who O.D.'s the police track down and punish those that may have furnished the drugs. This is weird because all the people I know who have O.D. have never had any arrests in connection with their deaths. So in conclusion - Rich, famous and O.D.= police action. Middle class, or Lower class and O.D. = no police action.

  • Bananapanda

    Quite a jump to conclusions - Actually I think it's due to that 'brand' of heroin being known and especially dangerous and/or pure. Every so often in the NYC/NJ area a strain of heroin appears, kills 10-50+ people and the cops are on it. (I know b/c this happened in the mid-90s to a friend, who was lucky.)

  • manting

    its actually happening right now in Pa. There is a huge uptick in use and overdoses. Thats how Ive lost 2 friends over the last year and a half. There were no investigations, the police did not examine their laptops, phones and tablets. They did not pull the surveillance videos from their bank machines. There were no arrests. Their deaths were ruled as overdoses and that was it. So, no, I dont think Im jumping to conclusions in that neither of my friends was rich and famous.
    As for the brand/type of heroin you are thinking of its heroin that is cut with Fantanyl. This is the heroine many are overdosing on and PSH did not have this kind of heroin.

  • Wilma

    It might be that it was easier to find these people because PSH was known and people noticed more, realised who he was and who he was dealing with. It's easier to remember and notice the things you see a famous person do than to notice what someone who's nobody to you is up to.

  • manting

    They actually caught these 3 guys (and one girl) by using the surveillance video from his bank machine withdraws combined with going through his computer, phone, and tablet records in addition to interviews.. Police work. The only thing is the police have never done this for anyone I know who O.D, hence my point.

  • So get mad that the police don't always do that work instead of getting mad that they did it in this instance.

  • Even Stevens

    So the point of your post is to bring up a teaching moment? Because to me it sounds like you're just being condescending and self-righteous. Yes, it's not's fair to those every day who don't get the justice they deserve, but does that mean that PSH doesn't deserve it because he was a middle-aged white guy?

    And who here are you teaching? Everyone by now pretty much knows the details of what happened and have formed an opinion, I doubt some faux-outrage from an internet commenter is going to rouse the masses. If you want to teach, go out in the community and do something, say something that matters.

    Or perhaps you just want to be congratulated for your forward thinking? This guy (or gal) gets it! Social injustice! My God, my eyes are opened now, I never would have thought of that angle before. You are a true visionary.

    A man died, people are hurting. Sometimes there is a point to be made, but not with this. Compassion is free, and if you can't bring yourself to muster that, it takes no effort at all to keep your mouth shut and keep moving.

  • manting

    Middle aged white guy? I said rich and famous. This isnt about race (though it sounds like it might be for you). You know what you are right, the rich and famous deserve a different, higher quality brand of justice from everyone else, and to bring attention to that is crass, condescending, and self-righteous.

  • Even Stevens

    I meant to include the rich part in there, but congratulations on missing the entire point of my post.

    I broke my first rule of the internet, don't feed the trolls.

  • manting

    you are the troll here. Im been on Pajiba for years and never been called a troll. I especially love the part where you call me condescending and self-righteous and then you go on to write this.

    "Or perhaps you just want to be congratulated for your forward thinking? This guy (or gal) gets it! Social injustice! My God, my eyes are opened now, I never would have thought of that angle before. You are a true visionary."

    So not only are you the troll you are also an amazing hypocrite. As for missing the point I dont think I did. Lets see - you called me names, what I said has no importance,bearing or relevance, I believe the third paragraph is about how im a prick, and finally you say if I dont think like you I should shut up. I think I got your "point." Im sure PSH would be very proud of you and your brave stand against police treating the rich and famous better than everyone else. Bravo!

  • Tammy

    Saw a similar post by a friend of mine on FB and was similarly disgusted. Do we need to make a political point on the back of someone's death? There are many, many ways to raise awareness about inequality in the justice system. Many opportunities, every day. Inequality in the "justice" system is disgusting and shameful and should be called out. But what would you have them do instead in this particular case? Ignore it just BECAUSE he's a white famous guy, to make a point?
    While yes, he was a famous white guy, PSH was also a father/friend/artist-who-actually-helped-young-artists-in-my-community/human being, and I really don't get the need to say "Why should his death matter?" instead of saying "All deaths matter". PSH being white and famous doesn't negate the fact that a bunch of people--including his kids--are hurting right now.

    I fully realize I'm taking this personally, but that's because it's my community of artists right now who, among others, are hurting. I hadn't yet gotten the opportunity to meet him personally but I've got many people in my circle who knew him and loved him (and his family). And for the record, I also have been close to more than one lower-class person who died ignominiously of an OD with no police action--I'm holding both these ideas in my head, simultaneously; they needn't be mutually exclusive.

  • manting

    Sometimes you do need to make a social/political point when someone dies. Especially if their death or deaths is big news and sparks debate. Its called a teachable moment. After Sandyhook there was a huge swell in favor of tighter gun control. The N.R.A. said "its too soon" and "your politicizing deaths." You, in this situation, are being the N.R.A. Also I never brought up his race; only his fame and wealth.

    I also didnt know know "the community of artists" could belong to someone. Is this community only actors or are musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and others included? Is it only Film actors? Are stage actors included? Do you have to be a member of SAG to count? I would think everyone who saw a PSH film "knew" him just as well as you did.

  • Tammy

    I'm actually specifically talking about NYC-based theater artists in the Off-Broadway circuit, including my personal friends who worked with him regularly at Labyrinth Theater and playwrights I know who got their start because he believed in them--but I can see how that was confusing. I'm actually talking about personal friends of mine who are currently in mourning for their friend. When I say "my community," I'm not being grandiose--the NYC Off and Off-Off Broadway theater community is really tight knit. (The company I work with as a director got their start at Labyrinth when PSH was Artistic Director there).

    I'm not gonna engage about being called the NRA, because I can't possibly be civil at this point thanks to such a low blow. I ask again, though--what would you have the police do differently here? Does them paying attention to PSH's case someone prevent them from paying attention to other cases? That was the point I'm making--you're point about inequality is totally valid but what would you have them do differently HERE?

  • manting

    I would have them not treat someone differently due to their wealth and fame. Race too, but I dont think thats an issue here. That's the point I was making. As for the N.R.A. comment yes it was low but if the shoe fits...

  • Mrs. Julien

    Tammy made some incredibly eloquent comments on addiction on another thread around this subject.

  • Tammy

    Unnecessary to lean in on your dig--I get it, you think I'm terrible. Moving on.

  • manting

    I dont think you are terrible I only disagree with you. There's plenty of wiggle room between the two, even on an internet message board.

  • Dee

    I'm so tired of hearing people frame it in terms of a bad decision. "No sympathy from me, he was a privileged, famous guy who made his choice" and all that shit. Like Maron says, it's an illness and a beast, and if you've never dealt with it, you just can't know. One of the 12 traditions of AA says, "Each group has but one primary purpose: to carry the message to the addict who still suffers." People with addictions can get better, but it takes a community of support, and it's a bitch. If anything good can come from this tragedy, let's hope some suffering addicts will find the clarity and courage to step out there and get the help they need.

  • Michelle

    Ugh, this kills me, because I've been close friends with people addicted to heroin and it's so hard to watch them struggle with it and be completely unable to help them except in the most basic ways which really don't matter at all in the end.

  • Ted Zancha

    That was excellent.

    I have so much more respect for Maron now.

  • NyTxToast

    I've seen them both and yes they are similar in that it's so real that
    you wonder why anyone would put this on TV or think it's funny but there it is, and it's really, very funny.

  • Jiffylush

    Check out Thinky Pain on Netflix too.

  • Ted Zancha

    I watched that. It's hilarious. This just solidified for me how awesome he is.

  • Joey.blowey

    Watch his TV show on IFC, your respect will grow even more.

  • Ted Zancha

    I hear it is a lot like Louie. Is that true?

  • Joey.blowey

    I haven't watched Louie but I've heard the same thing.

  • Guest


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