Shawn Pyfrom gets emotional with the surprising death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and opens up about his own struggle with addiction.
"i just read the news about mr. philip seymour hoffman, and against the advise of others; i had to write this open letter. i can’t stay quiet anymore about this…
i am an alcoholic and a drug addict.
and yesterday i celebrated five months of sobriety. i’m relatively new to being sober, considering the scope of time that i’ve been an addict. but within that scope, this is also the longest i’ve been sober; since i began using. i’m not sure what to approach first, with regard to this letter — my head is still spinning from the news. i even question whether or not i should publish this, as i type out these words. but if these words can encourage someone to hold on to their life… to keep from ever using, or to find the strength to stop; then it’s more important that these words are shared. i’ve considered what’s at stake, for myself, by sharing this - but i find myself without regard for that. i won’t allow my selfish needs to get in the way of potentially reaching another human being’s life.
when news reaches us of a public figure, like mr. hoffman, passing away from such a terrible affliction; we tend to get the feeling of great loss. it is a great loss. i feel grief when i hear of such a talented human being leaving this earth… but every life is important. there are just some that hold the public forum. the loss of their life is no more, or no less, of a loss than anyone else’s. and anytime a person uses drugs, they are taking the chance that their life will be taken from them. whether they steal your breath, or rob one last beat from your heart - that is left to fate. but they will steal your life from you. whether you are the occasional user, or someone that uses every day. every moment spent using drugs (alcohol included) is a moment stolen from your life. a memory you will only recall with vague reflection - through fogged glass. leaving an imprint in your memory, like a stamp without it’s ink. that is, of course, my own realization.
some people could argue that drugs have provided some of the most memorable, creative artists this planet has ever experienced. jimi hendrix, kurt cobain…the list goes on. but drugs also took their lives away. it’s tough to say if their creativity would have flowered, in the same way, if it weren’t for the seed of their struggles. we could debate and extrapolate all day on the topic of drugs and their effect on creativity. but i don’t write this to debate. only to share. even i could say, for myself, that if it weren’t for the struggles and experience of my addictions; i would not have created the things that i have. i can argue that with all certainty, in fact. but i would have much rather lived the moments that i lost; and seen what would have come, creatively, as a result of that. that is one thing that is undebatable. but i digress. i am writing this for anyone who reads it…
i want to express that i chose to share this about myself because i could not hear of another person being robbed of their life, due to addiction; knowing that i stayed quiet about mine. knowing that if, by sharing my story, i could potentially save a life - and didn’t; that i would no longer be able to look myself in the mirror with the same pride i’ve allowed myself to have, for overcoming the thing that almost took my life.
for several years, i lived for drugs. i lived for other things as well. but drugs dictated the other things i lived for. i thought more about using, than i thought about any other “pleasures”. i put myself in places i never would have ended up, otherwise, for the sake of getting high. there are countless nights of blacking out, and making poor decisions as a result of my overusing. i wasted the time of valuable people, who worked so hard to pull my career to a higher place, by allowing my addictions to tug me out of their grip. i worried the people that care about me. my friends. my parents. my siblings. all for the sake of something that i believed i had control over. i didn’t even realize how low drugs and alcohol had pulled me. but i stand now from a higher place. not higher than anyone else, or anyone that is using. just a higher place, than i was before. my thoughts are clear. my body is energized. and the creativity now flows out of me, easier than it ever had when i was using. i wake up looking forward to my days, rather than looking for a way to get through them. i feel the life inside of me now. the life that i deprived myself of for so long.
i made a promise to myself that i would never stand as a preacher of sobriety - speaking from a podium that could be interpreted as arrogant or judgmental. and i wish to clarify that this letter is not my way of trying to indoctrinate. this is not my dogma. this is my truth. only mine. i have no judgements for the way anyone chooses to live their life. and i only have compassion for those who currently struggle with their addictions. i am fortunate enough to no longer struggle with mine. i can say with all honesty, that i have no desire to ever use again. but it took a long time, and a lot of struggle, to finally reach that place. we sometimes have to learn through our own experiences - as i had to with mine. i was too strong-minded and wrapped up in my own addictions to listen to anyone. it was even obnoxious to hear someone speak about addiction, to me. i wasn’t “a part of that club”, i thought. i shut myself off to good advise. i thought an addict was someone that i wasn’t. i thought i had control. ithought… but now i know.
i am an addict. and i’ve never been more proud, saying it. because when i think about where i’ve been, and where i am now… i am proud of the man who has addressed and admitted to himself, what was once a clouded denial. self-pride and love are two things i’ve never had for myself, until recently. i hold them closely, now, by my own humbled awareness. and i wouldn’t trade that in for any pill, line, or drink - on any day. i could go on, but i’ll leave it here, for now…
if you’re reading this letter, i hope it comes to you with only encouragement. i hope it provides you strength, in the way that i’ve intended it. whether you are currently battling an addiction, or have never even sipped a drink. i hope it gives you strength to consider the potential it has to take everything, that is dear, from you. you may be one of the lucky ones that leaves unscathed from it all. with all sincerity; good for you. but i leave it to you to decide if it’s worth risking; finding yourself on the unfortunate end of things. just know that either way, i’m pulling for you. with only love…
i hope you can save your life.