The media is full of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Open before us is that place where ignorance, discrimination, dualistic thinking and judgement lives, fired up by prejudice. Much is about to be made of the facts around his final months and days. And of course, no of us know all of the facts and we never will. For his truth has gone with him and the rest of us can only speculate.


Unknown ObjectBut how can we speculate? Who of us knew his heart? Who knew what his world was like? Perhaps a few of those intimate to him. And perhaps not even they.

If this loss and those many many others that have gone before show us something it is that maybe, just maybe, we want to ask some different questions about peoples suffering. And I am not even sure I ought to use the word suffering. Was he suffering? Easy to say he was. But then we don’t know. Maybe he was, maybe he would not have described it that way.

The total abstinent grouping, the fundamentalists, will make much of this. The disease of addiction will have been seen to claim another victim and this interpretation is already feeding into the dualistic dumbing down of the complexities of what this condition, very human, actually is.

We will find not simple answers for there are none. The varieties of peoples engagement with substances, both legal and illegal are complex and driven by multiple needs and desires. The evidence for this complexity can be seen across the wide spectrum of people who have developed and maintained self-described recovery. There is no one size fits all in losing the fight to a powerful chemical, just as there is no one size fits all path to recovery.

Everyone may want to talk about Philip Seymour Hoffman because they may want to say that he failed.

I don’t know what he would say about that as he is not here to answer. We mourn for his family and friends left behind.

And perhaps the best way I can think of to respond to the grief and anger is to turn my face fully and fiercely towards those brave, noble, strong people who are making their own recovery in their own way, who will take the conversation back to where it actually belongs. To a place where the most powerful question we can ask is not about how do we not use chemicals or behaviours as ways to escape or to feel different,  but how do we fulfil a life, our life, so that living that life becomes the most powerful force for recovery?

Philip Seymour Hoffman has shown us where some roads can end. Let’s not stare stupidly into the ditch where he has crashed and into the dark beyond looking for simple answers that are phantoms. This is to disrespect this talented man and the wonderful work he left in the world. Rather lift our heads and set ourselves to walk forward with dignity and resolve to speak to the fact that many many people on our earth are making successful recovery from a wide variety of challenges across many areas of human health.

Let’s look at what is possible the prize of success, deep human fulfilment. Let’s look at how people are recovering in communities all over the world. Let’s ask them how they are doing it and celebrate the diversity of pathways we find.

Let’s honour all those who lose themselves, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman has, by urging ourselves on to find better more effective ways of building recovery.