As you all know, I’m writing a book about death, and, in doing some research this weekend, it lead me down a rabbit hole of sorts with arguably my favorite actor of all time, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
First, I watched this devastating documentary:
It is such a painful reminder of his loss.
Even more heartbreaking, though, was the essay I had not read before written by his partner, Mimi O’Donnell, about his addiction and death:
The Reports I Heard Weren’t True.
When Phillip passed away, all the reports I heard were that, after twenty years of sobriety, he had a dental procedure and had been given narcotics and that was what triggered his addiction. Well, now that I’ve read Mimi’s essay, I realize that the truth is even more heartbreaking.
It turns out that his downfall actually started with falling away from his AA group that he depended on and the false belief that he would be fine to have a few drinks.
And it went downhill from there.
Despite his best efforts to fight it, he was dead in three months from a heroin overdose.
Yes, it can be that quick with addiction.
It IS that quick with addiction.
That is why is so damn serious and so damn scary.
A Broader Conversation
Reading and watching these stories about Phillip, remembering the light that he was and then seeing how easily he was lost back into his disease, has prompted me to want to have a discussion for the first time in awhile about addiction and to talk about some things I’ve mentioned before – but also to cover some things I haven’t that haven’t talked about that have been weighing on my mind recently.
The Rise In Opioid Related Deaths – And Fentanyl’s Rise As Well.
As I’ve been reading the articles and reports coming out on the opioid crisis, one thing that wasn’t on the radar at the time that Phillip passed away is fentanyl. As a nurse, I was taken aback when I learned that it had become a street drug because I was familiar with it in a patch form, used only as a last resort to control pain when all else had failed, often in hospice care. Even then, it is measured in micrograms and to be delivered over a period of three days.
However, in the past few years, it has been imported from China and Mexico and added to heroin and used to make fake pain pills – and the results are terrifying.
First, I want to call your attention to this news article from a few weeks ago:
If you don’t read the full article, I would mention from it:
- Fentanyl is 100x stronger than morphine.
- The young man who is the focus of the article, now in prison serving a life sentence, was able to distribute half a million fentanyl pills he manufactured in his home using the dark web and the postal service.
- While he was charged in one death related to the pills, authorities believe there are many more.
- Fentanyl deaths are up 800%, causing the overall life expectancy to go down for the first time in a century.
- This is picture 7/14 from the article. It is one of the pill presses that were being used. During the trial, one of the attorneys used a “chocolate chip cookie analogy” to explain how these produce lethal pills. Like a batch of chocolate chip cookies, where one cookie can have no chocolate chips and one can have ten, one pill in a batch can have no fentanyl and one can have a lethal dose. There is no way to know.
- In 2017, fentanyl was discovered in 16 countries and is spreading each year.
Obviously, this has taken addiction and risk to a whole new level, as these pills are often being “branded” as oxycodone or the fentanyl is being mixed with heroin and sold.
One recent high profile fentanyl related death was that of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs:
It is a problem everywhere – and it is an issue that is easy to hide, often until it is too late.
The Common Signs Of Opioid Addiction (Per Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Signs of opioid addiction to be aware of are:
- Inability to control opioid use
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Changes in sleep habits
- Weight loss
- Frequent flu-like symptoms
- Decreased libido
- Lack of hygiene
- Changes in exercise habits
- Isolation from family or friends
- New financial difficulties
Treatment and help are available. At the end of this post, I will list resources from multiple sources.
On To A Topic More Familiar To Me
While I wanted to discuss opioids and fentanyl, they are not my wheelhouse by any means. I have only been learning more as news reports have been coming out.
Alcohol abuse and addiction, as well as recovery, however, are well-known to me personally and close to my heart.
A week ago, Glamour UK proudly tweeted an article that just set my hair on fire (They have since taken it down, due to the outcry from the sober community, but that they would tweet it in the first place bears discussion).
The full tagline here is “A new report has revealed that the smartest women tend to the heaviest drinkers” and Glamour UK tweeted it, saying, “We’ll drink to that.”
The article reported that women with the most education tend to drink the most. Fantastic.
Instead of looking at this study and realizing the myriad reasons possible for its findings – Women with more education may have more stressful jobs? Women with more education may be more susceptible to “mommy wine culture?” Women with more education may have more truthfully reported their alcohol consumption? – these journalists decided to post this as a positive thing.
Some Ugly Truths About Women And Alcohol
A few years ago, my friend Holly at Hip Sobriety did a blog post about women and alcohol:
I hope you’ll take a minute to read it but three things from her post I’ll mention:
- Women buy 2/3 of the 784 million gallons of wine purchased annually in America and consume 70% of what they do buy.
- In the early 1980’s, 1 in 10 women reported they were concerned about their alcohol consumption. In 2002, the number had risen to 1 in 5.
- Between 1992 and 2007, the number of women going to rehab had tripled.
There is nothing funny or fun about heavy drinking among women.
Not only has there been a startling increase in alcohol abuse among women, when women do abuse alcohol, the effects on their bodies are more significant. From 2007 to 2017, alcohol related deaths increased in women by 85%, while they increased in men by 29% during the same time period.
Mass Marketing And Mommy Wine Culture
As we all know, wine is being marketed en masse to women – particularly mothers – these days.
In fact, in doing some research for this post, I even came across this article on wineawards.org entitled, “Why Women Should Be At The Heart Of Your Wine Marketing,” detailing to wine makers specifically why they needed to focus their attention on women:
This has definitely been a contributing factor to the rise in alcohol abuse in women, as “Mommy Juice” is everywhere now, from play dates to baby showers.
Is Alcohol An Issue For You?
If you are questioning if alcohol is a problem for you, there are the standard CAGE medical questions:
- Have you ever felt the need to cut down on your drinking?
- Have you ever felt annoyed by criticism of your drinking?
- Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had the need for a morning “eye opener”?
While these are valid, there are many other factors to consider – and there is no need to get to this point.
(Also, the notion of “rock bottom” is flawed for the same reason.)
Perhaps, instead of thinking in the above terms, consider these questions:
- Would your life be better without alcohol?
- Is alcohol benefiting you – or harming you?
- Would your health improve if you stopped drinking?
- Do you feel that your drinking has become something you have to “manage”?
- In an exercise suggested by Holly at Hip Sobriety, picture yourself in ten years. Where are you? What are you doing? What are your goals? Is alcohol – the way it is a part of your life now – helping you get there?
If you evaluate the role of alcohol in your life and decide that you want to become a sober sister, there are MANY helps available to you – and a large community to support you as well.
Traditional Alcoholics Anonymous – a 12 step program – http://www.aa.org/
Al-Anon – for family members and other loved ones of alcoholics needing support – also a 12 step program – https://al-anon.org/
Celebrate Recovery – a faith based 12 step program for all addictions – https://www.celebraterecovery.com/
Narcotics Anonymous – a 12 step program for narcotics addiction recovery – https://www.na.org/
Hip Sobriety – https://www.hipsobriety.com/ – full of Holly’s posts and tons of helpful information. This – along with my fabulous community of sober sisters on Instagram that I am also going to post – was my chosen modality. Everyone has to find what works best for them.
The Temper – https://www.thetemper.com/ – this is Holly’s new online sobriety magazine. Not only does it have a ton of helpful links, it also is joined with her The Tempest “Sobriety School,” an eight week program for the newly sober.
Instagram Sober Community (because you need support):
- and me, if you like: theautoimmunehippie
And, as always, if you are in crisis, present to your nearest emergency room. They WILL help you, regardless of insurance status or anything else. Don’t hesitate.
If you feel it might be time, it is.
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and Blessings.