Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor who really became alive in whatever character he portrayed, died on Sunday. For many of us who were fans of his, it was a true shock. Dying at 46 is just too young, and dying because of an addiction is even sadder.
For me when I think of an addiction as a disease and I ponder the landscape of Philadelphia which has similar stories from people suffering in identical ways, my heart breaks. This disease can plague anyone, but without a doubt, it dominates the poor. Hoffman will be honored and remembered for a long time for his extensive list of brilliant performances. Of course not everyone has such a legacy to leave behind, and addiction is just as painful to those in poverty, who might be forgotten, or might die alone.
A disease that often starts with a series of bad and difficult choices leaves those enslaved to it trapped. In its final blows is not as simple as a choice or not. For an outsider a death because of an addiction may appear preventable (one actor called it “stupid”), but for those who are trying to cope with the addiction, it’s not so simple. Addiction is cunning and baffling, it can even subvert the most intelligent among us. It’s for this reason that I’ve opposed incarceration of drug users and preferred rehabilitation as a method of freedom. Of course, this rehab needs to paired with a spiritual change and experience.
As someone who hasn’t suffered with a serious chemical addiction, empathy must be my first instinct when it comes to relating to addicts. Without a place that lacks judgment and specializes in love, the weakest among us might be triggered to relapse.
Trying to apply rationality and reason, even for those of who believe in an afterlife doesn’t always help in these circumstances. Unjust death as a result of a disease isn’t something we can make sense of. In response, Christians need to be lovers and mourners, but also advocates that not only help individuals struggling with addiction, but make sure we have institutional fixtures that assure us these things can be prevented and tackled with every resource we have available.
For Christians who serve the God who freed the Israelites from their slavemasters, who delivered them to their Promised Land, whose God came into the world as Jesus to save it and free us eternally, and whose presence has been felt as a liberator throughout history, we know that Jesus can free even the most addicted.
Of course, rather than saying all it takes it prayer and faith to overcome our addictions, it’s important for Christians to create communities that are safe, to partner with organizations whose expertise in addiction treatment exceeds their own, and bring the grace of Jesus with those suffering with addiction.
It’s not all clinical, but my opinion is a connection with Jesus and His community is an important part of anyone’s path to recovery. But I’m thankful that we have advocates among us in Circle of Hope who know about such things and can help over a complete approach to recovery. Recovery is aided in community, with one addict helping another as they can.
We create a safe place for people to sort all of their journeys and all of their struggles. It’s not the absolute antidote for every struggle, like a quick fix that just solves all of our problems, but hope in Jesus is irreplaceable for this life and for the next one. Life in Christ is freeing and hopeful. He restores us to him and his hope moves through us. I need Jesus to save me almost every day. My hope is that those who are struggling with addiction find Him too. I hope that as Christians we can help them along as well.