Every generation has its own celebrities whose deaths are mourned because they were the bright and shining stars of that generation’s collective firmament. Heroin use destroys many people, and more than a few of them are among the celebrated famous. They stand out to us because they captivated our imaginations, and our hearts, with their God-given talents. There have been many stars who tumbled to Earth because of their battles with addiction, but there is one special person whose death should galvanize us to action in the battle against heroin use.
A Star Was Born—to Heroin Use
Who are the celebrities that have most exemplified the defeat that comes from drug addiction, especially alcoholism or heroin use? The most venerable generation we have still among on us on this planet—the aged World War II veterans who are now our great-grandparents—revered Judy Garland. She grew up in the public eye, taking us Over the Rainbow and zinging the strings of our heart. When the studios gave their child stars sleeping pills at night to get them into bed, and amphetamines in the daytime to keep them at a marketable weight, who knew they were putting the children of Hollywood at such a great risk? Garland sang Be a Clown but on the inside, her growing addiction tore her apart. But, Come Rain or Come Shine, she kept getting up on that stage for our entertainment day after day, until it all ended within a month of turning age 47. It was only after her death that the public recognized what the studio system had done to her.
Marilyn Monroe was another Candle in the Wind worshipped by our grandparents’ generation—a sad little rich girl, born Norma Jean as immortalized by Elton John, and dead at the age of 36. It wasn’t heroin use that was her downfall, but the Nembutal —barbiturate sleeping pills— found in her system. Was it the mob who killed her? Was it the Kennedys? Was it her addictive behavior? That’s one of those questions that none of us will know the answer to until we get to Heaven and ask our Maker.
Miss You, Signed, The Baby Boomers
The children of the World War II generation—the Baby Boomers—are pretty well into their retirement years. But they still Cry, Baby, All Around the Watch Tower for their musical heroes like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix who left this world before they even reached the age of 30.
Jimi Hendrix was born in 1942, and by the time he reached the age of 20 he was unrivaled on guitar. He showed musicians of his time just how beautifully an electric guitar could sing. As time went on, fame brought its troubles. Disputes with his manager, women problems, and challenges from the musicians he worked with; but, the drugs he used for recreation topped them all—they sapped his health and his strength. The day he died, he felt tired and under pressure to work on his song writing, and he took some barbiturates. He was found dead at the age of 27.
Janis Joplin grew up as an ugly duckling from a small town in Texas, and she never quite made it into a swan. It was her engagement into the fast and quick, no-holds-barred culture of the Sixties that shot her to stardom and then yanked her down into the perils of addiction. She drank heavily, earning free booze from the Southern Comfort company, and experimented with drugs of all types, including heroin. When she overdosed from heroin in October 1970, just a month after Jimi and at the same age, she was the second musical genius of a generation to crash back to earth, another victim of heroin use.
Iron Men Drink Green Tea
The Baby Boomers’ children, grown now into their thirties, can celebrate the victory over addiction that belongs to Brat Packer Robert Downey Jr. He was a self-sabotaging Oscar phenomenon who lived to fight another day and become an Iron Man. He freely admits that it wasn’t so much about just alcohol or heroin use because he would take any drug that wasn’t nailed down. He confesses that at one point that he seemed to have a death wish. But he got sober and stayed sober, rebuilding his career, drinking green tea and embracing the best that life offers these days—plus one of the highest salaries in Hollywood.
We have heroes like Downey who have survived and others who have lost. We have Sweet Baby James Taylor, who gave us Fire and Rain right in the middle of his heroin use—but still lives today, drug free. We have Cory Monteith of Glee who wasn’t so lucky. His death from heroin use shocked us, proving to the world that even a love like the one he shared with his on-camera star, Lea Michele, couldn’t save him. Ironically, one of his last songs was Can’t Fight This Feeling.
Beloved By All Generations
There is one person whose reach crossed generational lines, who achieved success and respect in his private and personal lives. His unexpected death taught us that drug addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. The Boomers, the Millenials, Generation X and Y, and even today’s teens—Generation Z—have all loved Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who died of heroin use in 2014. We were all shocked by his death, not understanding his heroin use, and wondering: if he couldn’t make it, with all his talent, how can we?
We saw him as a schoolboy in Scent of a Woman, learning right from wrong at the hands of Al Pacino. He played Brandt in The Big Lebowski and the hapless Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley. If you weren’t old enough to love him in Capote, then you no doubt reviled him in The Hunger Games movies—Plutarch Heavensbee, who had an interesting relationship with Katniss Everdeen.
His heroin use was so compelling that he couldn’t put his own children ahead of it. If you’re struggling from heroin addiction, then you probably know how he felt: Tortured by the constant use. Barraged with guilt over the children he knew he neglected.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Legacy
No matter how hard you work in life, how well educated you are or how many advantages you’re given, the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman has taught us that heroin use can level anybody who takes it on. Heroin is the great equalizer, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman learned: It has no boundaries and abides by no rules. It can ruin the lives of those who use it and those who love them, leaving destruction in it’s wake. That’s why no matter how difficult the fight against heroin use seems, you can’t give up the fight.
Methadone treatment clinics help those struggling with heroin use because they offer a way to get clean and stay clean without the horrible cravings and withdrawals that make abstinence almost impossible. If you get yourself into a methadone program, you CAN turn your life around. You don’t have to be a fallen star, but can recover and shine brightly for others who need some hope to see.