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