Erica is a writer, editor, wife, and mom. She has always found employment with an English degree and she excels at nurturing children and animals but struggles to keep houseplants alive. Erica currently writes at

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Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Where Is The Family In Addiction?

I was watching news reports one day after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death by apparent overdose, and the reporter mentioned Hoffman’s “devastated family.” Someone near me said, “Pshaw, devastated family. Where were they when he was doing this to himself?”

I’ll tell you where they were, as someone who’s had family members and friends battling addiction. His family was supporting him. But what does that mean?


4 main family scenarios around addiction:

1.    The family that’s there because they’re addicts too. Grandma and mom are smoking meth together. There are generations of alcoholics or molesters. An addict in any scenario has to get sick of being sick and be desperate for change, but this type is swimming against the stream. Once an addict manages to get clean, it’s an additional struggle to have a community of family or friends who are still using.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman Sundance Tintype -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last photo, Sundance Film Festival 2014 (Victoria Will | Invision via The AP)

2.     The family that is honestly shocked that their addict is an addict. In hindsight, there were probably signs and an assumption that “things like this don’t happen in our family.” Since Hoffman battled addiction before, this option doesn’t apply to his family but does to countless others.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman The Master -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in THE MASTER

3.     The family doesn’t know that the addiction is ongoing. They only know it was once a struggle and assume through occasional “clean” exchanges that everything is ok. Many families continue this assumption in silence. Some communicative, brave families ask direct questions like, “Are you clean? What is your daily struggle? How can I support you?” It’s up to the addict to be honest.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman Doubt -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in DOUBT

4.     The family knows what’s going on (whether their addict is honest or lying), loves their addict, and can’t do anything about it. That’s right. Most families watch in helplessness. I have a loved one who’s an addict and refused help for decades until a death bed was reached and none of her local friends would help. Then there was a call and a rescue. And you know what? She still wants the substance Every.Single.Day. If it wasn’t for people constantly around her, she’d use and die. It’s hard on her and so, so hard on the people who love her and risk on her over and over again.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman Capote -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman in CAPOTE

There is literally no way to beat addiction alone. That’s why the Anonymous programs (Alcoholics, Sex, Cocaine, etc.) exist– to create a community of support to beat addiction together.  As they say at meetings, “Keep Comin’ Back.” Even when you’re sober, Keep Comin’ Back.  I’d like to add, “Keep comin’ back and keep tellin’ your story.”

There’s something about telling your story that zaps the power from the struggle. In silence, behavior, addictions, sin, struggle — it can morph and eat a person’s mind. Giving voice to that struggle, including the defeat of it, at once takes the power from the struggle and gives power to the overcoming of it, while also giving hope to someone who’s still in the middle of the Dark and Hard.

So, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s family. It’s possible that they were shocked, and it’s possible that they weren’t, but that doesn’t eclipse devastation. My heart goes out to them because I’m human and because that call could literally come to me any day. Hoffman left behind 3 kids, and as they grow up and experience their father’s legacy in deeper ways, they’ll also feel those vibrations of addiction that pump through their veins.  It’s not just a devastating thing for family, but for generations.

I know because I come from a family of generational addiction. The family is there. It’s always there.



The Mat @ Quest Community Church in Lexington, KY is a phenomenal (free) place to find freedom. Faith-based programs can be found almost anywhere for free.

5 Steps In Overcoming Addiction 

When I Realized Mental Illness Is My Illness


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Comments (1)

  1. minta 02/10/2014 at 7:54 pm

    great post…THANK YOU for trying to put out there what isnt being said enough. I too have people in my life….past & present who struggle everyday. Unfortunately, there will always be those who believe “nothing like that happens in our circle”…or “they said they were working their program, so I butt out”…or “I didnt want to lose track of them…I didnt know I was enabling”….. and so on. I guess it all comes down to educating yourself…& anyone who will pay attn. & letting the rest of it go…. (( hugs))