Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Partner Details Actor’s Addiction Struggles

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Partner Details Actor’s Addiction Struggles

By Paul Fuhr 12/15/17

“It’s difficult to stay in a relationship with an active addict... But I couldn’t abandon him. I just had to figure out: How do I live with him?” 

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s long-time partner has penned a moving essay for Vogue that details the late actor’s brutal struggles with addiction.

In her heartfelt essay, Mimi O’Donnell reflects on the void that Hoffman's death left in their family as well as on the stage and screen. The Oscar-nominated actor died from a heroin overdose in February 2014 at age 46, leaving behind O'Donnell and their three children.

“As soon as Phil started using heroin again, I sensed it, terrified,” O’Donnell wrote in her essay. “I told him, ‘You’re going to die. That’s what happens with heroin.’ Every day was filled with worry. Every night, when he went out, I wondered: Will I see him again?”

Soon enough, her worst fears would become realized.

In his younger days, Hoffman was no stranger to drug addiction. In a 2006 interview with 60 Minutes, he opened up about his drinking and drugging, admitting that he’d used “anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all.”

When he graduated from NYU in 1989, he cleaned up at age 22 and remained sober for a full 23 years. Still, he didn’t hide any of that past from O’Donnell, according to the Vogue essay.

“He told me about his period of heavy drinking and experimenting with heroin in his early 20s, and his first rehab at 22. He was in therapy and AA, and most of his friends were in the program,” she wrote. “Being sober and a recovering addict was, along with acting and directing, very much the focus of his life. But he was aware that just because he was clean didn’t mean the addiction had gone away. He was being honest for me—This is who I am—but also to protect himself.” 

And yet, even with decades of sobriety under his belt, Hoffman relapsed on prescription painkillers. He quickly booked himself in Mike Nichols’s production of Death of a Salesman—one of theater’s most infamously intense and exhausting acting experiences. That said, the seven-show-a-week schedule kept him from using (“It would have been impossible to do that [performance] on drugs,” O’Donnell wrote).

But when the limited-run play was over, Hoffman had a lot of time on his hands. Soon after, during the shooting of the last Hunger Games film in Atlanta, he became isolated and started the process of moving things over financially to O’Donnell, in case things got worse—which they, of course, did.

“It’s difficult to stay in a relationship with an active addict. It feels like being boiled in oil. But I couldn’t abandon him,” she wrote. “I just had to figure out: How do I live with him? And how do I do it without caregiving or enabling, and in a way that protects the kids and me?”

Still, Hoffman’s death was alarmingly swift. In fact, the news of his passing was so public that “people around the world knew he was dead an hour after I did—and every detail, from the days leading up to his overdose to his funeral, were, and remain, all over the Internet,” she said. “I need to keep the rest of that awful time private. I had been expecting him to die since the day he started using again, but when it finally happened it hit me with brutal force. I wasn’t prepared.”

Regardless, O’Donnell is clear that she’s written her essay to demonstrate that her family is finally able to celebrate Hoffman. They haven’t moved on, but they’re stronger from their shared stories about their father and long-time partner.

“We open up,” O’Donnell wrote, “and it brings us together and keeps his spirit alive.”

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.

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