Yesterday evening, news came through that Philip Seymour Hoffman, the actor who brought Truman Capote to life in 2005, was found dead in his apartment. The cause of his death was immediately widely circulated due to the insensitive and careless behaviour of one person and consequently, because people who know nothing of the horror of addiction seemingly cannot help themselves, there poured forth with stupid and callous comments about it.
Those who know don’t speak; those who speak, don’t know. This is so often the case: people who do not understand the pain, brokenness and fear which drove the addict to partake of that first drink, or stick that first needle into their vein, or swallow 1 more painkiller than might have been otherwise necessary find it too easy to conflate this with the drink, the needle or the pill to which the person is addicted.
For my family and I, because we have lived the reality of this, we will be avoiding the news and social media today. It will be a necessary act of self care – 3 years ago today my sister died. She too was an addict.
I am not planning on re-visiting that day, in words here on this blog, not for a while – whilst the difficulties of her life and the grief and sorrow caused by her death are wounds which continue to heal every day, the day itself is something I am not ready yet to re-visit. But it means that I have some appreciation of what Hoffman’s family will be dealing with – and for them, it will be in the glare of the public gaze, surrounded by a thousand hungry paparazzi.
For their sake, I ask only this: if you do not know about addiction, or choose not to know; if you have not fought that battle or stood alongside a loved one as they have done so; if your opinions will blame and shame the addict and their family, or if you would even have the temerity to stand before an addict and their loved ones and tell them that there is no such thing as addiction – please, I ask you in the name of mercy and compassion: don’t speak.
Keep your thoughts to yourself, save your opinion for a different time and another place. You do not and cannot what Hoffman’s family are dealing with right now, or what they have already lived through. You cannot know how your words will pour acid on their gaping wounds and deepen the pain that was anyway coursing through their hearts. You do not understand how your ignorance stamps upon their already volatile sense of themselves, nor grasp how your foolishness is like a bouquet of nettles thrust upon them, where only the most soothing oils should be poured.
In the name of mercy, in the name of compassion. Don’t speak. Don’t say a word. Please.