When someone of note dies with a needle in their arm, this topic comes back up and it seems there are two sides; the sad ones who feel for their pain and the angry ones who admonish them for being selfish. And they are both valid.
I fell in love with someone who on first meeting, told me he would marry me one day. That should have been the moment I ran. But I didn’t, as I of course was intrigued. After nine months of wearing me down, we went out on an official first date and had sex for the first time all in the same night-no judgement. That night turned my life upside down and took me away from the course I was on. And I allowed it.
I had never met someone so passionate and feeling and deep, which made him alluring and sexy. And dark and scary. When it was great, it was the best. By the time I knew I should go, I didn’t. I’m a smart girl, how did it happen? I think I get it now, after a few years of therapy and hundreds of hours of introspection. But really who cares. Most of the time I feel like the story is a book I read.
Since Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away yesterday from a supposed heroin overdose, Facebook and Twitter have been on fire. “It’s sad, he was a huge talent” to “I’m angry. That was so selfish to leave 3 kids and a wife behind.”
After loving and living with someone who was addicted to crack, I feel both. Strongly. Though I thank god have no kids.
When we met I thought he seemed a little off, though in most moments he was funny, extraordinarily charming and very bright. He told me a very sad story of his life from being born in Korea to coming to the US when he thought he was about 12, and I was hooked. That’s a whole other story; the short version is he found out about a year after we were together that he was born about 1 1/2 years before the date he was told his whole life. Yes, I was hooked for sure: someone I could love and care for and show him what it was like to have real love and…LOL! Youth.
And then the drinking started. It was ugly. I would threaten to leave, and then he would sober up just long enough for things to go back to normal, and then boom, again. When I found one of our kittens locked in a plastic box sitting in their own urine, which he swore didn’t remember doing, you may think I would’ve bolted. But no, that gave me more resolve to help. I demanded he go to my Doctor, who was not a psychiatrist but a general practitioner, or I would leave. I knew nothing about mental illness. He put him on Wellbutrin and within a few weeks he said he should be the poster boy for the drug company, he felt like a new person. Until he wasn’t.
About six months later I threatened to leave again unless he would go to a “real Doctor” at UCLA Neuropsychiatric. He did, and they diagnosed him as being bipolar. He didn’t hear that this was something he could control, though it would never be easy. He heard you are crazy and hopeless, good luck with that. This was about 5 months before we were supposed to get married. He started taking the new meds, but said they made him feel numb, but he was still taking them, or so I wanted to believe.
At that same time his secondary career, acting, was taking off . He was booking and making quite a bit of money, though he kept telling me he was stressed out from working so much. I decided if we were going to get married, we had to start therapy. Together. We both went and mostly I talked; he acted indignant like he didn’t need to be there. I asked my best friend if she thought I was making a mistake getting married-HELLO!! I thought if he felt secure and loved and could see his future he would decide to take care of himself.
At that time he had long, thick straight hair that hit his shoulders. I love a guy with lots of hair and always told him how beautiful it was. One night I came home from work and he was behind the door with his arm outstretched holding a brown bag out to me. I opened it and there was all his beautiful shiny black hair stuffed in. “I hope you’re happy. I cut it all off to piss you off.” I can remember how hard I laughed, thinking I suddenly was living with someone straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. He looked crazy with his wasted eyes and 1/8″ hair in some spots, 2″ in others.The more I laughed, the more sullen he became, skulking into his office undoubtedly to smoke or drink some more.
You think I would’ve left then. I didn’t, though those thoughts started to populate my brain on a daily basis. The thing was, I planned the wedding and invited everyone and spent lots of money and…how embarrassing. And it would be so much work to extricate myself and the animals from the situation, and I was busy. I was in a job I loved. LOVED. And I was filming a documentary I created and knew it would set me on a new direction of success. The happier I was, the more miserable he became. As an aside, I recently found a plastic bag in my storage that was stapled shut with the date and his name and said ” …cut all his hair off to spite me while wasted.” I laughed so hard tears were streaming down my cheeks. What the hell was I saving THAT for?? I think it was in the hope that when he became sober I could show him. As if.
About six months after we married, I started to plan on leaving. Though I was making no money at the job I loved, I figured if we could get the doc in festivals and something good would happen, I could go. I could wait it out. Until I listened to his messages one day and heard his drug dealer saying he knew who I was and where I worked, and would get to me if he didn’t pay them. I think he sold his $5500 Rolex for like $50 to keep them at bay. Because that’s what people with addictions do, and that’s why people get angry. That and when they go through $200,000 in about six months while you’re making $40,000 and putting the groceries on a credit card to keep up, and then you call them selfish. Because it is.
That call scared me enough to move out and take the three dogs and three cats with me. I let him keep his cat and another one who was his bestie. Every once in awhile when he sounded together, I would take the dogs and we would go to the park and play. In those pieces of time he seemed normal. One Saturday I took them over even though he wasn’t answering his phone, since I had a couple errands to do nearby. I left them in the car and went to go knock on the door, since the only parking space was a block away. When I got there, the front door was open about 5 inches and I heard him talking, presumably with someone. In that split second, my only thought was now I could file for divorce since I was going to find him in an adulterous situation. That was my get out of jail free card (not so free) so I wouldn’t feel guilty leaving him when he clearly needed help.
But what I found was him rushing out to me with a dirty, burnt pan with caked on chili, screaming that the people upstairs were eating his food. My first impulse was to flee, but I was transfixed on the multiple piles of garbage bags, some half-opened with old crusted food containers and dirty rags spilling out into our once lovely home. There were three large bags of cat food ripped open and spilling out onto the dirty hardwood floor. The litter box was now in the living room that had no furniture, though already filled to the brim, there was excrement all around. Now my only thought was, I have to get the cats out of here. And we have no upstairs.
I was semi afraid if I tried to leave at that point he may hurt me in his mental condition, so I followed him around the house while he pointed out the kitchen cabinet handles he had padlocked shut, so “they” couldn’t steal his food. He put a coating of grape jelly on top so he could see “their” fingerprints if they tried. He poured the bright green paint I had used to paint the outside patio railings on the darker hardwood floors in the hallway to see “their” footsteps so he knew when they had been creeping up on him-didn’t I see those footprints? Our bedroom which I had painstakingly painted yellow, even though I hated it but read it was good for people with depression to keep happy and sunny, was now covered in dirt. The huge California King bed was moved up against the window, which now was covered with curtains that he had nailed to wall. This way when he caught “them”, they wouldn’t be able to get out.
He never mentioned the dogs and I told him I had to leave as I had an appointment and thought I would just stop and say hello on my way. The second I got in the car I started to hyperventilate and called our therapist. I asked if I could call the cops and they could commit him. No, not unless he was in the middle of hurting me or himself. And if I called and they found drugs they would arrest him, and I didn’t want that on my shoulders. I called my parents and finally told them he was using crack. My father told me I was a drama queen and always had been, and that my estranged husband would never do that. He liked him. I hung up and didn’t speak to him for a year, but that’s not what this is about, other than to show how an addict gets in the way of every relationship you will ever have outside of them.
I then vowed to get him to rehab, as I wasn’t going to file for divorce until I knew he was ok. This happened four times, if you count the time he stayed for a half hour.
The first time was a place the therapist suggested deep in the Valley. On his insistence, we drove there separately. He wasn’t there when I arrived, and I waited a little over an hour, getting more agitated with every single minute that went by. I left many voice mails, and finally as I decided to go he pulled in. He said he got held up at a work meeting and kept talking but I wasn’t even listening, since it was an obvious lie, though he obviously thought I was actually that stupid. I was just taking in the visual; the filthy hair, dirty hands and unkempt clothing, which for someone who was so vain and always was fastidious about what he looked like was shocking in itself, but at least he showed.
We went inside and as he was filling out some paperwork, he realized he forgot his cigarettes in the car and asked me if I would go and get them. When I opened the car door, I saw he apparently stopped at his dealer before meeting me at the rehab and picked up some large chunks of crack-he left them right out in the open in the middle console. I threw them in the garbage, as well as tons of old food containers, broken lightbulbs and pieces of burnt wire. After giving him his cigarettes, the nurse said it was time and I said goodbye and walked out, even though I wanted to run far away very fast and not look back.
He decided a few minutes after that he wasn’t staying because the people there were seriously crazy. He ran to his car and when he saw I threw his drugs out, he jumped behind the wheel and tried to run me over, as my car was parked at the far end of the lot.
I was furious, though I did get the seriously crazy thing. The first person we saw when walking into the lockdown section (where you have to be when on withdrawal from drugs), was a very tall gentleman in a pink bathrobe that was tied but wide open with his large dick flying in the wind, bouncing a basketball. The second person was on the pay phone in the hall screaming at someone, yet you could clearly hear the dial tone. I kinda got it, but vowed unless he was willing to get clean I was done.
When his bosses called me a few weeks later to see what had happened(he told them he was just sad because I left him) I explained the real deal. Being based in Canada, they had national healthcare and were sympathetic to his condition and offered to pay for rehab, because they viewed him as an asset to their company. He told me he would only go to a rehab “where people like him” go. Drug addicts? No, corporate smart people he adamantly yelled. I called a friend whose ex had gone to rehab, and the two of them had been friends. She said he had gone to Las Encinas in Pasadena. He agreed to go. The night I dropped him off, I asked if I could stay too; five star chefs, music therapy, a pool, manicured grounds. And yes, Dr Drew was the resident psychiatrist there, though at the time I had no idea it was home to Celebrity Rehab.
Cut to four weeks later, they said he was ready to go home. I took him to the new apartment he had rented before he checked in. About a month later he was back at Las Encinas, which apparently was a common occurrence. When he was released another month later, he couldn’t go back to the place he had been living-they booted him and kept his deposit. After I dropped him at rehab, a dear friend graciously offered to go with me to clean the place, however it was disgusting; drugs and drug paraphernalia everywhere, crusted food containers, bloody rags, blocked sink drains and amidst all the chaos, books on Buddhism and self help. Halfway though we threw in the towel and said fuck it. Why did I care if they kept his deposit? I took any important paperwork and clothes that weren’t soiled and left. We then went to get his car in the garage which I had been paying off for the past year in addition to the one I was driving. What did I find but the entire side of the Expedition smashed in. Nice. This car was in my name. If he had killed someone while driving cracked out, I would’ve been liable.
Being that he had nowhere to go, and his psychiatrist (no comment) told him it would be best to be with family, I told him he could live with me temporarily until he got on his feet again. I made him sleep in a separate room and had a male roommate so I felt safe. I thought he was clean until he told me he could hear the people living under the house talking. There was a one foot crawl space. Bye.
I refused to speak to him and forbade him from seeing the dogs unless he cleaned up. Two months went by, and every time the phone rang my heart sank and I couldn’t breathe, expecting it to be from the morgue. One day I got a call at work from him, telling me he had tried to slit his wrists (if he wanted to die, he knew how-his day job was in the medical industry), had been fired, hadn’t eaten in days and was ready to get help. I said okay, though I had no idea what to do. And for sure I wasn’t allowing him to go back to 60K a month, celebrity, vacation ranch, doesn’t work to coddle people, fucking rehab. Yes, I do have a strong opinion on this type of “help.”
I called a woman I had worked with who was a bit older and had seen countless friends OD. She knew exactly what to do and how to do it and I begged her to help me. We picked up food and cigarettes, and then sat in front of his apartment complex waiting for him to come out. After multiple calls went unanswered, I was sure he was dead. I had gone through this countless times over two plus years, and honestly knew I would be relieved if it were true.
My friend pointed to someone sitting on a wall down the street-he was Asian and semi- looked like the description I gave her, as she had never met him. I said that couldn’t be him, he was much bigger than that. But it was him. He went from 5 ’11 180 pounds of pure muscle to clocking in at the hospital at a mere 117 pounds. A shell of the man/boy he once was. Supposedly he had 7 heart seizures from the crack and they were amazed he was alive. The doctors asked me to be in the room when they evaluated him. When asked where he was from, he told them he came here from Jupiter with his leader Harry. I apparently was evil and was trying to kill him in a plot with his mother, who by the way I only was allowed to speak with once-he banned her from our wedding (another story for another time). I wanted to laugh it was so ludicrous, but really it was tragic. A once vibrant, intelligent, charming human being with an even brighter future was gone, replaced by an insane, psychotic skeleton I didn’t even recognize. What was left of my heart ripped a bit more.
He stayed in UCLA lockdown for over a month and then moved to a sober house for one year, afterwards moving to another state where his family finally agreed to take him in. I would visit him in the sober house when he asked, taking candy, cigarettes, work out equipment, books, and anything else he asked for, as well as writing checks for his housing and living expenses. All the while, with the small amount of money he had left from residuals that came in, I paid the rest of his hospital and doctor bills, and used some of it to pay off the rest of our car payments he supposedly had been paying on. Turns out he hadn’t and my credit had been ruined, not to mention all the cards I had been juggling to pay bills and groceries were long overdue and in arrears. Though he told his family and anyone else who would listen that I stole all his money. Fucking addict.
During that year I filed for divorce. It was easy-there was nothing to separate. He had gone through everything, including the 401K which they weren’t supposed to liquidate without my signature. I was advised by a lawyer if I tried to sue, they were so big they would tie me up for years and there would be nothing left anyway. Plus, I would have to face him in court, and I never wanted to see him again.
Yes, what came from his addiction was the vile mess that I had tried to clean up. Yes I chose to stay, but that is what people do when you love someone. No one wants to see what I saw. My heart broke a million times for him, and yes, for me too. The pain inside of him was always there, never far from the restaurant, movie, or wedding. It never left. The moments of joy were so wonderful, that it kept the hope alive. He thought the extreme highs and lows were normal because that’s all he ever knew. When on medication he said he couldn’t feel anything, but he was just even, what the lucky ones like me feel daily.
There are no right or wrong answers. What I can say is, be educated. The more we know about mental illness, the more we will be able to do something about it. You can’t recognize it unless you know what you are looking for. Parents need to pay attention. Health Providers need to figure out a better way to take care of people and doctors need to ask questions and see what is in front of them. Country Club rehabs need to go away. Las Encinas with the 5 star food and pool cost $60K a month with insurance, had a large portion of the people coming back multiple times. Why would they try to change that, when they are making MONEY and lots of it! You could easily bring drugs in there-they checked nothing. Go to UCLA and you can’t take your pocketbook past the triple three-foot glass doors. No cigarettes were passed through unless they were sealed, and even then you couldn’t give them out, they did. It was hardcore, as it should be.
Suffering from any type of depression and trying to find a way to self medicate and feel”better/happier etc” is not selfish in itself. My ex truly believed he could control the drugs because he was smart. It is an unbearably hard road for the people who live it, and just as much for the people who live through it with them.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was all of the things everyone says: one of the greatest talents of our generation, incredibly smart and unfortunately he suffered, which is unbearably sad. But ultimately he was selfish, because his life was cut short, and right now the people who loved him the most are without him, trying to figure out if there was something else they could’ve done to save his life. His three young children will be fatherless, having to live with the legacy that their dad died alone with a heroin needle stuck in his arm.