|Photo credit: www.tvweek.com|
So, I spent some time yesterday thinking about Hoffman and why his addiction and death surprised me so much. Other public figures have succumbed to addiction and, while their deaths felt tragic and unnecessary, they weren’t this much of a shock to me. I guess I think first of Amy Winehouse. She was inarguably an incredibly talented singer who had achieved great commercial success and critical acclaim. But her struggles with substance abuse were as well-known as her beehive and eyeliner. I was sad to hear of her overdose death, but I was not shocked.
So what was it about Hoffman’s death that left me standing frozen, mouth agape, staring in shock at a tiny TV at the gym?
I think it was that my impression of Hoffman was that he was one of the few in his field who were not only wildly talented, but also widely respected by fans, critics, and fellow actors alike. He didn’t seem to be in it for the celebrity, the parties, the fancy houses, the vacations, or the babes—and he somehow kept his private life mostly private. I’ve been known to check out celebrity magazines and websites, and I rarely saw him discussed or photographed there. He seemed to be a down-to-earth guy who took his craft very seriously.
In short, he didn’t “look” to me like an addict.
And in realizing that, I realized that along with my shock I was a little ashamed. Because in my mind, I “knew” what addicts look like. I mean, I knew enough to know that they don’t always look like the scruffy, strung-out homeless guy on the corner. But I figured that they were obvious, like Amy Winehouse. And, of course, this isn’t true. Anyone, anywhere could be wrestling with any number of demons and seem—on the outside—to be just “fine.” This goes for celebrities, but also for the rest of us “regular” people too.
So I guess the lesson I’m taking away from all this is to try even harder to be gentle with people. The slow driver ahead of me in the fast lane, the distracted grocery store clerk, the unfriendly receptionist at the pediatrician’s office: It could be that they are all just jerks—but it’s unlikely. And while it’s also unlikely that they are all heroin addicts, it’s quite possible that they are facing some struggle I can’t begin to know. And who knows, maybe the kindness I show them will be paid forward to someone else.