(If you think this Op Ed piece is worthy to share, please feel free to pass it on. - Den)
Op Ed submission (598 words)
Entitled: Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a loss to all of us.
by Dennis Mansfield
His brilliant performances, delivered on stage and screen, are measured in visceral life-moments rather than as memorized lines from a story.
Above and beyond the well-developed and compellingly crafted characters whom he played, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s personal life had a tragically seductive end to it - the magnetic pull of a person needing more.
This is why his death breaks our collective hearts. His end immediately reminds too many of us of our own drug-related losses – shortened lives of loved ones, never to be lived out in full.
He represents a people needing more.
And the cry goes out, “what could have been done?”
Our efforts to help, guide, confront and, ultimately, demand sobriety of our friends or ourselves, comes to nothing.
It always ends that way. Guilt’s edge is a dull one – unable to separate those who use from those who sell.
Addiction’s grip on the spirit of men and women is tighter than self-control, more subtle than the cleverest of personal debates and far deeper a valley for beautiful loneliness than we can understand. Those addicted to drugs cannot just will it away.
And yet there is hope. I learned this as a businessman and as the father.
Having founded, run and eventually closed down a for-profit “staffed, safe and sober” recovery system, I learned that people are not addicts and must not be seen as such. Instead, they are individuals created by God, who are suffering from a disability. And disabilities can be cured in the body, soul and spirit of those who ache under the painful pressure of drug addiction, if given a supportive community.
I also learned from personal pain. My beautiful young son, Nate Mansfield, accidentally died at 27 in Kansas City in 2009 as a result of drug use. I wrote about our struggle in a family memoir.
There is no shame in fighting disease and disability – for those who need help and for those who want to provide help.
Recovery demands hospitable care by communities across our land.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, allows for the placement of neighborhood staffed, safe and sober homes. Often, they are called “halfway houses”.
My partner and I operated just under 20 homes in Idaho for four years, assisting thousands of men and women as they left addiction and came into health.
It was a for-profit business – working a conservative business model that ultimately failed due to a perfect storm. The government felt threatened. Neighbors protested. Elected officials buckled.
This perfect storm of fear forced disabled men and women back into incarceration. Disabled Americans were left to fend for themselves; ultimately, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, breaking the hearts of their own families as they passed away in loneliness.
As a nation of neighbors we can do better.
A posh apartment in Manhattan is no better a place to die than a small home in Missouri.
Businessmen and women see the marketplace as a solver of problems – and indeed it can be.
People of faith tend to see the importance of healing spirit and soul, so that addiction can come to an end – and again, it can happen.
Entertainment industry leaders know the personal loss of talented men and women dying at the needle’s edge, and want it to be brought to a stop – and truly it can be.
Joining arms with industry to provide neighborhood homes for the broken-hearted and disabled people addicted to drugs will, in due time, heal the collective heart that broke this weekend.
In that I can place my hope.
Dennis Mansfield’s personal memoir, BEAUTIFUL NATE, is published by Simon and Schuster/Howard.
FINDING MALONE, is published by Endurance Press.
DO OR DIE TIME is published by Endurance Press.
He is an author, business coach and conservative political blogger at DennisMansfield.com. Dennis and his wife, Susan, live in Boise, Idaho.