Philip Seymour Hoffman, heroin, and the death of my American Dream

It’s no secret that I used to be a drug addict. I’ve used it as a punchline on this blog a few times already. But there’s something that makes me feel a little uneasy about that. Like I’m trying to say it’s all in the past. Like all that madness happened to someone else, someone not me. Like somewhere there is a calendar with a big red X on it, marking the date, denoting the before and after.

The simple fact is once an addict, always an addict. I will be an addict for the rest of my life. My dragon may not be breathing fire right now, but he is curled up in my belly, sleeping. Waiting. Waiting for me to fuck up. I have been wanting to address this, to write about it honestly, but I didn’t know how. I have a problem with gravity, in case you haven’t noticed. But then last Sunday, Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead with a needle in his arm.

Thanks, Phil, for the segue.

Hoffman was one of my favorite actors. He had the ability to reach through the screen and touch me with his humanity. He was gifted with presence, with nuance. His Scotty in “Boogie Nights” was the sad-sack lovelorn fool that I think we all are on the inside somewhere. His Capote took my breath away. How fitting, in retrospect, that his most lauded role was the one where he played a man whose genius was eclipsed only by his raging addiction.

I admired Hoffman, but I knew little about his personal life. I’ve been reading more about him in the last few days. I learned that he was a party boy in his early 20’s, and then was sober for over twenty years before relapsing last year. And what a relapse! From pills to snorting heroin to injecting heroin to dead in a year. Stuff like this scares the living shit out of me. But I need a reminder sometimes, of what’s waiting for me out there.

In AA they call a relapse “going back out”. I’ve always thought that was an apt description. Like you’ve been inside, safe and warm, and now you’re venturing out into the blackness. The last time I went back out, it almost killed me.

Opiates are the worst. Opiates are what finally brought me to my knees. There is something about being physically addicted to a drug that is just soul-crushing. Waking up in a cold sweat and knowing that you have to find something to put in your body to make you feel okay, is awful. Finding those drugs and feeling that warmth, the heaviness in your limbs, the utter lack of care, is something like heaven. Not finding those drugs and going into withdrawal is the worst kind of hell. Remember that scene in “Trainspotting” where Ewan McGregor is lying in bed, clutching the sheets, and the dead baby crawls across the ceiling? That’s exactly what it’s like.

I’ve heard it compared to a bad flu. That’s only halfway true. It’s the worst flu of your life, coupled with crippling depression. All your organs are on blast. Your nose is running like a faucet. Your heart beats so fast you think you will literally die. You sweat buckets of cold, oily sweat. Your ass is exploding diarrhea. Your skin is crawling. Your whole body is contracting, like you are inside some awful uterus getting ready to be born into some new reality. But the brain…

The brain is the fucking worst. Your brain vomits, in a technicolor spew, every horrible thing you ever did and every doubt you ever had. Every terrible possibility for your future is now a certainty. You are a waste of humanity and nothing good will ever happen to you again. It’s  like a horrible version of that old TV show “This Is Your Life”.

My last withdrawal, I actually made my husband take me to the emergency room, because I thought I was having a heart attack. They slapped a Clonodine patch on me to slow my racing heart, and urged me to go to detox. When we got home, my husband helped me pack a bag. Somehow, I was able to convince him that I could do this on my own. After he went to sleep, I biked to the store for a fifth of whiskey. I hadn’t had pills for days, I didn’t know where to score heroin, all I had was my whiskey and a bottle of Ativan.

When my husband woke up the whiskey and Ativan were almost gone. I was completely out of my head. He called the family over for an impromptu intervention. My mom says when she got there I looked like the girl from “The Exorcist”. I was throwing things and yelling. My mother in law held my face in her hands and told me I needed help. I called her the worst thing you can call a woman. I was threatening violence. The police were called. I went to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200 or Nicki will use it to buy drugs. I made it to detox all right, but not until I spent a long 38 hours detoxing in the drunk tank first.

Please God, let that be the last time.

I’m smart. Street smart and book smart. But am I smart enough to outsmart my sleeping dragon? When a celebrity dies of a drug overdose, it shakes me up. These are people who supposedly have it all. And they’re just as miserable as everyone else. So for me, it’s been about managing my expectations. Somehow, I’ve figured out a way of life that works for me.

Addiction runs in my family. I’ve never understood why people say that. “Run” implies fluidity, something in motion. Addiction stagnates in my family. Addiction waits in my family. Two uncles, dead before their time. One with a needle, another with the bottle. The biological father I will never know, except for occasional checks on his arrest records. Even my husband has had his issues with excess. And then there’s me, hot mess extraordinaire.

It makes me scared for my daughter. I don’t want any of this for her. And so it’s up to me to teach her about life. Real life.

So first I’ll tell her, fuck the American Dream. I want her to have dreams, I just don’t want them sold to her, pre-packaged. We’re promised the “pursuit” of happiness, and that’s exactly what they want. They want us chasing, endlessly running after this half-remembered dream of something that never existed to begin with. Usually it starts with money, and power, and some nebulous idea of “having it all”.

Having it all means being happy with what you have. It means being content with not being extraordinary. I’m living proof of that. After everything I’ve been through, my happy little life is nothing short of a miracle. I enjoy my days. I have fun.  I can take pleasure in the smallest things. I breathe, I laugh, I work.  I write and eat and sleep. I am happy. I have lofty goals. But they do not define my happiness. My happiness is inside me, holding my dragon in a golden net.

I live in a community where heroin is epidemic. I see teenagers nodding out at stoplights and pinned pupils on the grocery store cashier. It’s easy to think it’s just here. But it’s everywhere. Everyone is looking for their American Dream. And not finding it, they are in despair.

Even Philip Seymour Hoffman. Maybe he didn’t like fame. Maybe he thought it wasn’t enough. Either way, he left a legacy. He impacted the world. His films will live on. He will be remembered. He was a gifted, important man. He lived an extraordinary life.

But I woke up today, and he didn’t.



  • I’m an addict. I’m coming up on 26 years clean and sober. My anniversary is in about 3 weeks. I still live one day at a time, appreciating every day that I don’t have to get drunk or loaded, so it seems funny to say things like “3 weeks” and 26 years. But if I don’t stay mindful of all these aspects of the life I’ve been given in recovery, I lose them. Thank you for saying what I’m trying to say, so very well.

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  • Reblogged this on And Your Bird Can Swing: Fragments of a Day in the Life and commented:
    True words. This is a great post and I wanted to share it with you here.
    I have been bothered by everyone calling his death “tragic”. Tragic to me was an untimely accident or the incurable illness of a child or something out of our control. Death with a needle in his arm didn’t seem tragic. Then I remembered that I forgot.
    This is a good article to read for those who understand and those who don’t. This goes for anyone. The tragedy is not that he died of a drug overdose, or that anyone dies of a drug overdose. The real tragedy is the need to replace the lack of true happiness with something else and unfortunately for many, it’s with drugs. Scripts, cocaine, herion, alcohol, sex, food, self mutulation…they are all a drug that can, and in many cases, will eventually kill you. And if you’re lucky enough not to die and get out in time, the dragon never goes away. He just sleeps while you try and try to keep him subdued.

    “The simple fact is once an addict, always an addict. I will be an addict for the rest of my life. My dragon may not be breathing fire right now, but he is curled up in my belly, sleeping. Waiting. Waiting for me to fuck up.”

  • I’ve been getting caught up with your blog, giggling and laughing out loud, and then I come to this post… Thank You for sharing such a personal story with us. I have no idea what it’s like to be addicted, not really, I did abuse drugs and alcohol but to self-medicate before my diagnosis. I did recently stop taking opiates, (slowly) they were prescribed by my doctor and did help with the pain but they sapped my motivation. The withdrawal symptoms were like you described, not quite as intense but horrible all the same, I can’t imagine what you went through

    Hoffman was one of the greats and he will be sorely missed.

  • All I’ll say is, I know where you’re coming from. Unfortunately. A fantastically well written piece Nicki!!!

  • I went to my first aa meeting in a long time and actually will work for sobriety this time. Even though smoking crack for three months with my landscaping buddies got me off my psych meds. Thank god because i was starting to look like chaz bono and feel like the walking dead. Two friends are going to prison for thieving machinery and drug possession. My buddy said that jail was full of heroin addicts. The judge made fun of them because apparently most of them tried to steal from Walmart a store that is rife with security cameras. Punishment for crime is a necessity and truth is truth. What makes me sick though is sitting in court watching the pompous judge and lawyers and cops joke around with one another while the church pew criminals must sit with folded hands say sir and you honor for minor crimes. Its like they want to put on a show for what they see as less than human individuals.

    • Mike, you’re the best. You should start your own blog, like under a fake identity. Create a persona. You can get out your aggression that way. I’d read it for sure.

  • Reblogged this on Thoughts from Elysium and commented:
    This is one of the most beautiful and inspiring pieces of writing I have ever read. Although I have never experienced this kind of world, and no one I personally know has experienced this kind of thing first hand, it woke me up and made me realise about all the things wrong in this world. It made me aware of myself and those around me, and what is great and affective writing, if not that?

  • I don’t really know who Philip Seymour Hoffman is, but… I did have a lot of similar thoughts when Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, and a lot of other actors died.

    I don’t know the vice of drugs… well, not quite in this way. My first trip to the psych ward years ago was still an OD, though, on prescription stuff (and other things). Long story, but I can say I fell into a deep hole, and my folks found me sweating like a fountain. Everything beyond 6′ was a total blur for a day and a half. I do understand addiction. I did work the Steps and other recovery stuff. I have nothing but respect and props for those who overcome, and stay alive.

  • Didn’t know that about you. Stay strong, dude. And I mean dude in the nicest way possible.

    Tough to read for someone like me, who knows nothing. But I appreciate the brutal honesty. You’re nothing but real. As for PSH – be well, man.

  • Woo boy! Another awesome piece. I can definitely relate to chasing more artificial highs the more I chased artificial dreams of the American sort. Luckily, I never liked opiates or I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Thanks for your sweet sweet words. Now I have to get back to conditioning my beard and looking for free cats on Craigslist. Keep killing it!

  • I’m 8 yrs sober from a 19yr heroin addiction (i’m 56 now) Your description of waking up knowing you need to score, and your entire paragraph about withdrawal are the MOST ACCURATE WORDS EVER WRITTEN on both subjects.

    My mother–in her infinite la-la land–believes if you’re clean for 5 years it’s like being cancer-free for 5 years and you’re somehow “cured”. Obviously she didn’t like hearing about PSH..

    May we both keep winning the fight to stay clean.

  • Well, this is best PSH post out of the dozen or so I’ve read. It took someone who’s been there to write it, I suppose. I’ve said it before. You’ve got skills.

    I’m going to say the same thing that got me into trouble on some other blogs and I beg your pardon in advance. It sounds calloused and insensitive–which it is–but I don’t want to censor what I write. I know I have warts. You don’t have to tell me.

    My gut reaction when I first heard about this was anger. How many of us get to do what we love for a living and get gobs of money doing it? He had kids, which is an even harder thing to wrap my mind around. I don’t pretend to understand what addiction is all about and I pray I never do. But what I really wanted to do was smack him upside his head.

    The heroin problem is going to get worse before it gets better. It’s really cheap to buy and so powerful that you don’t have to mainline it. You can snort it and, boy, isn’t that convenient? It’s making its way into the comfortable lily white suburbs.

    • Hey Exile. You talk about writing honestly, so I figured I’d do the same. “I don’t pretend to understand what addiction is all about and I pray I never do.” – your words. Given that, how can you be angry with him when you state clearly you don’t understand? Sounds judgemental to me. He’s dead -D-E-A-D – dead. Anger means nothing to him any more. Perhaps sadness would be more appropriate.

      • Honestly, I get what he’s saying. I do, Mark. You don’t get it, unless you get it, you know? If you haven’t been there, it’s hard to understand. The siren song. That’s what it is, I’m telling you, fucking mermaids calling to you, combing their long beautiful hair, singing their beautiful song about no more worries, no more pain, and the waves go up and the waves go down, and the water sparkles…

        I’m not kidding you my palms started sweating just typing that. And you’re right, Mark, the shit out there is powerful now. I live in the suburbs too and it’s fucking everywhere. Fucking high school kids ODing. I snorted, I never got to the needle. My uncle had already OD’d and I just couldn’t cross that bridge. It was the only smart decision I made in this whole mess. But I got myself in plenty of trouble without it.

        My question with Hoffman is, what got him started again after 20 years? That’s the shit I want to know. I feel bad for his kids too, man.

        But the fame and all that shit, fuck it. I don’t think any of that ephemera is what a meaningful life is about. Obviously, it didn’t make him feel fulfilled. Happy, fulfilled people don’t put needles in their arms, period.

        That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.

      • I know! I don’t understand it at all. Why the anger? I keep asking myself over and over but I can’t explain where it comes from. I’ve searched myself and am at a loss to provide a rational. I have all the required empathy for him and his family. But I don’t know what dark corner the anger is born from. The closest I can come is that I didn’t exactly set the world on fire professionally and to see someone who DID drop the ball like that pushes my buttons.

        I was lucky enough to see that guy in two different plays. He owned the stage when he was on it. The first play I saw him in didn’t really come alive unless he was in a scene. So it’s that, too, I guess. That we’ll all be robbed of his presence.

        All I can do is put it out there with a mea culpa. I beg your pardon.

        • Actually…now that I think about it…I saw that guy in three plays. I saw him play Iago in production of Othello that was set in modern day. Some of the dialogue was yelled into cell phones. There was a bed made of a series of video screens. That guy had the kind of popularity and power in the industry to make something like that happen. And that’s gone. And we are all the poorer for it. Bloody hell of it all.

  • Jaisus. As a writer, all I ever wanted to do was to make people laugh, but every now and then, I do try to write something worth reading twice. Good writing is affective writing, whether humorous or otherwise, and I am amazed and pleased to find someone who genuinely affects her readers. Anybody who does not lose it reading your Beard And Apology Saga—I confess that things flew out of my nose—has no sense of humor, or no perspective on our times. Anybody who is not moved by your confessional piece, triggered by Hoffman’s death, simply has no soul.

    Satch Carlson

  • This post hits very close to home for me. I know my mind is a dark and scary place. It takes courage to let someone in your mind to see your soul. Thank you for allowing us to see yours.

  • Humour can be a fastfood cheap-laugh painkiller which just enables people to endure remaining stuck. Your humour is the enlivening, enlightening, inspiring kind. A lubricant for life.
    Congratulations for staying clean, and best wishes to you and all your family.

  • Thank you for this post. It takes courage to admit these things about yourself, and to acknowledge the truth about addiction. I grew up in an addicted home, I keep my addicted mother and dry-drunk father away from my child because they are too toxic for him (and me). The choices we make in relation to addiction (whether it is your addiction or someone you love’s) are never easy, and always fraught with guilt, shame and fear of what “other people” might think. Good on you that you’re sober, and while you can’t control the dragon, at least you know he’s there, waiting. But we’re all waiting too, for that moment when you need us, because together we’re all stronger than that rat bastard. I’m happy you woke up today. 🙂

  • This is a very powerful article, providing insight into a world that many cannot understand. I watch from the other side as those I love stagnate in their addictions. I have been fortunate in that half of my loved ones have found a way to keep their dragon asleep. Others have restless dragons that awaken regularly. Please keep writing. Your voice is one that needs to be heard.

  • Wow!! You nail it to the bone on this – reading your words hit home with me. Also have the dragon in my belly, felt him shuffle his feet when I read in the paper about how Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead… made me anxious. Although one can say I kind of lost the battle against this demon, never managed to quit entirely. Been part of a methadone maintenance treatment program since January, 2001. Stayed 6 years on methadone but switched to buprenorphine after that, which I’m still on. We all have to fight our demons, one way or the other, and today I’m glad I reached out for help. Addiction is present, always, in my family too. Just biding it’s time, waiting for the next one to come along. It’s ugly face has already deprived me of several loved ones, my parents included, I’ll be damned if it gets me! Thank you Nicki, for writing about this, it’s really important.
    Hugs & love, Carina

    • Thanks, Carina. How’s long term bupe working for you? I was on it for almost 2 years after my last detox from pills and H. Those strips taste like shit! But it’s better than going to the clinic every day, right?

      It helped me, but after a while it kinda felt like Dumbo’s magic feather, you know? I wanted to see if I could fly without it. And it made my brain feel fuzzy, like I couldn’t concentrate. But I know some people who absolutely would not be alive without it.

      I’m sending you good thoughts. Thanks for your kind words.

      • Long term bupe is working just fine for me. I used to feel like a zombie on methadone (140 mg) toward the end. Was just numb to feelings and I so wanted to be part of my kid’s lives, that’s why I switched to bupe in the first place.

        Almost lost my treatment toward the end of last year, I have GAD and a hard time managing my anxiety from time to time, so I kinda fell of the wagon on Xanax, it being a drug I’m not allowed to have prescribed while in long term bupe treatment according to swedish regulations – but I picked myself up and got back on track asap. Thought I could kick the bupe treatment to the curb, but it was soon very evident that was not possible. I have the sublingual pills, haven’t tried the strips so don’t know how they taste but I’m pretty sure they taste like the pills do. They are nasty!

        I’m happy to find people who have managed to quit completely as you have – I have surrendered to the likeliness that I need to stay on bupe indefinetely, so kudos to you Nikki! Thanks for your kind words and good thoughts. Be safe and take care =)

  • If I’m being honest, I’d have to say I’ve always walked a very fine line between addict and non. I know there are things that can’t cross my path because it’s just too hard. I know I fight my demons and long for that feeling of escape, but I push on. I keep pushing on because somewhere in this insecure and conflicted mind of mine, I know I deserve better. I know my family deserves better. I know they need me and love me and I them. And somehow, I’m lucky that that keeps me out of trouble. I loved this post. It was hard to read as it made me crave that heavy warm feeling, but it needed to be read, shared and written. Great job, Nicki. I hope your dragon stays netted forever.

  • Something as menial or simple as waking up every day is a gift denied of many. Addiction is the scariest thing. It’s always there lurking in the shadows, being seductive and beautiful, gesturing with its slender index finger – “Come, my dear, come here. It is too hard out there. Come here, I will make it easier for you.” But it never gets easy. In reality, it is another deluded chase. It gets us chasing for the next high, the next great escape, the numbing and silencing of all around us. Waking up is good. Feeling is good. Being able to feel the pain as well as the joy – it is all good. It means, we are still alive.

  • Hi Nicki, that is an amazing blog! It’s a credit to you to speak about this subject so openly and with such heartfelt candidness. I’ve been sober for five years now and know exactly what you mean when you face the addiction everyday, one slip and you’re back out into the cold. May you forever keep your dragon in check and continue to live, love and laugh. Humor and laughter are some of the strongest allies we possess and you have these in abundance. Peace out.

  • Amazing blog, thank you so much. That was an absolutely frightening description of what withdrawal feels like. To an OCD weirdo like me who doesn’t even like taking pain meds, the idea of your body being that out of control is scary. On another note, while I’ve never had a serious dance with the dragon (thank God!), I do come from a family of addicts and I firmly believe the only way I’ve saved myself was by finding happiness in not being extraordinary. So thank you for what you’ve said here…it is so encouraging.

    • What’s funny is a lot of addicts are OCD. Actually, you know now that I think about it, it’s more like junkie superstition. Weird little rituals, etc. I’m glad you liked my overall message. It’s one I believe in with all my heart.

      • I’m not surprised to hear that. I may not be an addict, but I definitely have the addict psychology. I just channel it into other obsessive stuff (that won’t kill me).

  • Bravo Nicki. I love how you can write from one end of the pool to the other seemingly seamlessly. Dragons were meant to be slayed, and by golly you have the sword for it. If you ever drop yours in battle or have it knocked wayside, never fear. Mine is always at the ready and close at hand to lend to a fellow soldier in need. 😉

  • I just wanted to tell you i thought this post was incredible , and that you described addiction perfectly so many of thhe things you said sounded exactly like me. i am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic i have been clean and sober for 2 years and six months and i know exactly what you meant when you said it scares you. for me even thinking about the things i used to do it makes my heart race. but congratulations on being clean and keep enjoying real life, the past two and ahalf years have been the first glimpse of real life for me since i was about 15 its awesome. love your blog

    • Thank you for your awesome comment and a huge congratulations on your sobriety. I know for me, having a child has been a huge motivator to live a better life. I’m sure your boys inspire you as well.

      • Yes they are a huge part of my sobriety. And i am very grateful to my husband who put years of time and effort in to help me. Now i am finally being?the mother i should have been from the beginning

      • Wow. My heart is pounding. You wrote that so well, and raw. That Dragon scares me so bad. I remember Tommy telling me when he was struggling to stay away from Heroin, that he could feel demons sitting on his chest at night and they spoke to him and told him how worthless and horrible he was. I remember as he described it , thinking that the demons seemed so real. They said such cunning things. They knew exactly what to say to render him helpless! I thought poor Tommy was fighting a spiritual battle. I can’t remember now if I encouraged him to pray. I prayed for him. But, obviously, it wasn’t enough. I do believe there is something evil in our atmosphere and it loves addiction. I hate it. It makes me so angry for the lives it steals. It sneaks and tricks it’s way into the lives of the most wonderful and lovable people. I hope you feel the anger and it makes you put your fists up against it, anytime it dares to breathe near you!!! That goes for anyone who reads your post and is fighting the battle.

  • Outstanding writing, Nicki. Really. And you are extraordinary, but I understand what you mean by being content with not being extraordinary. We all believe, somewhere deep down, that we should be rock stars, but most of won’t be remembered by anyone except by a few who knew us best…and that’s okay. After all, history textbooks are growing longer by the day; imagine the homework if everyone made it in. Still, you are an extraordinary writer and, more importantly, you made me understand addiction today. Truly understand it, I think. Thank you. If it hasn’t been already, this should be FP’d if anyone out there is listening.

    On another note, I thought you’d like to know that a Tampa DJ offered free concert tickets to any heroin user who would call her and tell her what it’s like. She giggled about its price with the addict who called, even when he admitted to having pawned he and his wife’s wedding rings to pay for it. The whole thing would have been brilliant satire, except it wasn’t. She wrapped up the segment by saying something to the effect of: “I know, I just gave someone free concert tickets for using heroin. Sorry.”

    So glad your blog has opened up a meaningful discussion on the issue, Miss Extraordinary. I look forward to more.

    • God, that pisses me off. No one should be turning this into a joke. I mean, I have, but only because I’m trying to deflect the pain that’s there.

      Thanks for reading, and for your encouragement.

  • Wow. Very well done. It’s always sad to see someone go this way. I used to dismiss it as selfish behavior, but having been through similar situations I can totally relate. Thanks for sharing.

    • It is selfish behavior, but it’s the worst kind of selfish behavior because it’s perpetuated by people with kind hearts who aren’t usually selfish. Some of the most giving people I’ve ever met are recovered junkies.

    • I used to do this too, Jon.

      Then I woke up and realized the pride I’d felt hadn’t protected me from my own vices. I realized that I’d still tried to run away from the abuse, and the pain, and the suffering… and I’d wound up stuck, broken, and scared, too.

      I looked at where I’d been. I remember someone yelling at me because someone on an e-mail support group had committed suicide, and he was so angry because I wouldn’t condemn him as selfish. But I’d been there, and I just couldn’t.

  • Damn. I read this earlier when I was driving about town (I mean, let’s say I was in a drive thru for a BBQ joint at the time and not risking lives by reading on my phone) so I didn’t have a way to do much more than tweet it out. But geeze… this was… what’s a good adjective? Amazing? Great? I don’t know. But it was… good.
    I was so bummed when I heard about Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I went on a texting rampage of “can you believe it?” The impact of drug abuse is heartbreaking… and I see it everyday at work but reading your post was something so much different.
    Don’t even know how to end the comment other than to say that I have mad respect for what you’ve written here.

  • Thank you Nicki. Thank you for this EXTREMELY important piece, and the strength you show in your honesty and willingness to share your addictions. I too am a recovering addict/alcoholic, and I relate to a lot of what was said here. The fact that I never danced with the Dragon makes me feel very fortunate, because with my taste for excess I am positive I would no longer be here. My sobriety began over twenty years ago, minus a few times when I too “went back out”, and I am grateful for each and every new day, but fearful of it not lasting. I consider it a healthy fear however. One thing I do know is this though. Given the opportunity to change it all and relive my life I am not sure I would change anything just because of the lessons I learned and the strength I have gained as a person due to my fight with my demons. Street smart AND book smart is awesome. I wish I was both as well, but if I was offered one or the other, I would most certainly stick to my street smarts, and the practical survival skills only learned through hardship. So Thank you again my friend for a excellent piece at a very ideal time. Be well and Keep Inspiring.


    • I agree with you John about not changing anything. As shitty as some parts of been, I am grateful for the person I have become. And it has given me perspective, humility, and empathy. Most days.

      • Perspective, humility, empathy. Absolutely. I find one other thing I earned the hard way. Through the necessity an addict has to become a master manipulator at times, I have acquired a pretty keen sense of when someone is full of shit. You can’t get away with playing me for a fool, because any game you have I used as a means of survival while I was ripping and running. This is a very important and useful tool.

        • Dude. You nailed it. I always joke that my daughter isn’t gonna be able to pull shit with me. And I can usually spot a liar at twenty paces.

          • Hopefully your daughter can avoid the pitfalls of life by having a mom with the experience of a wise sage in matters of life’s hard lessons. Thanks again for this post my friend. Keep rockin and rollin and kicking tremendous amounts of ass Nicki. Be well and Keep Inspiring.


  • This hits really close to home right now. One of my favorite pieces of yours so far, Nicki. I’m printing and sending this to a loved one who is in rehab. Thank you for sharing.

  • Courageous, honest and amazing. I haven’t fallen to the Dragon, but feel like I *just* escaped him in my younger years. Continued strength to you.

  • Great post. It pretty much summed up how I felt when I heard about Hoffman’s death. Like him, I was clean for something like 20 years, before I completely went off the rails a few years ago. Now, I’m clean again (going on 3 years), but I constantly fear that the dragon will awaken again. It never goes away.

    • That’s definitely what freaked me out the most. That he was sober for so long, and then fucked up so fatally. Good wishes for you in your struggle.

  • Brave piece Nicki, your daughter will be proud of you. YOU should be proud of you. Yes the dragon sleeps. I have seen so many friends and family members in the grip of addiction, whether its drugs or booze. It’s the one thing that rips that so called American dream to shreds. I found out a long time ago, if I didn’t want to be an addict it was up to me not to go there. I haven’t. Some aren’t so lucky. I wish you peace and I wish for your dragon to sleep forever. May light and love be yours.

    • Thanks, Jackie. You know, honestly it is weird for me to accept praise for writing this piece, because I still feel so much guilt about the events that inspired it.

  • Nicki, I love your humor, and I love this glimpse at your serious side just as much. This piece really spoke to me – as a person who could have easily died from alcoholism and/or an eating disorder; as a woman who married and had a child with a heroin addict; as a mother who worries about the ticking time bomb that lives inside of her daughter; and as someone who woke up today sober, happy, and grateful.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you. That was beautiful. I have to cling to the belief that we can spare our children this particular pain. It is a very scary thing to think about.

  • Reblogged this on QueasyPeasy and commented:
    An illuminating piece that highlights that we can never truly see things from another’s perspective. We may share similarities but ultimately our experiences are unique. Your’s touched a heart string … Thank you.

  • No jokes today. You’ve given us a tremendous gift by writing this, and along with the others, I thank you. Keep waking up in the morning. It’s worth it.

  • Very illuminating piece Nicki. You shine a bright light on a whole underculture of the American Dream – a personal nightmare for many. Walking down the street it is easy to forget the pain and struggle that underpines so many of the lives we take for granted. It must have taken an enormous strength on your part to breach the wall between the uber-personal and “normalcy” by putting your vulnerabilities out there in writing for all to read and learn from. Thank You. You reminded me how special life is.

  • You have the power of experience, the power of being honest, and the power of eloquence to describe the horrors of addiction so that others can have a glimpse of what it means to struggle against it. Philip Seymour Hoffman was, indeed, a great gift to the acting profession. His death is another gift in that it jolts us into realizing it can happen to anyone, fame notwithstanding. Thank you.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I could write thousands of words on this horror. But it is something that is still very difficult for me to do. Hopefully it will be easier for me now that I have broken the ice.

  • It’s all about surviving. My father told me once that surviving IS success. I grew up in the 70’s and at one time or another I danced with every demon at the party. Booze, blow, pharmaceuticals, then the really scary stuff, better living through chemicals… I have friends long gone from it, cousins & uncles long gone from it, a brother who did time over trafficking drugs, compulsive excess is a family trait. Drink Pray Fight Sing Fuck. But I came out of it on the other side, you did too. The dragon sleeps… PSH’s dragons woke with a vengeance, they drove him as if with a whip over the cliff. I deliberately didn’t name herb, it’s been a friend to me also for a long time. My Granpaw said something to me 40 years ago, I can hear it right now in his voice: “Life ain’t just about workin’ and gittin’ and workin’ and gittin’ boy”. Be well, new friend. – Ike

    • words of wisdom, Ike. Your family sounds like mine. Hillbilly rascals, all of them. Some of the smartest people I’ve ever known, too. Common sense smart, but crazy as a pack of wildcats.

  • I think you are brave for being so forthcoming about an experience so terrible. I never knew my father, either. He left when I was three (already an alcoholic) and graduated to coke addiction, apparently. Addiction running in families….I believe pain runs in families, and methods of dealing with pain. Addiction was everywhere in my family, too.
    I’m humbled by this post – I’ve never read such a vivid description of what addiction feels like, and I hope only that you and your family break the chain. Strength to you, beautiful and bruised Nicki. ❤

    • Thank you, Jami. That was really sweet. I would venture to say that pain is a side effect of being human. And how we deal with it is what defines us. I haven’t dealt with it very well in the past. I think it’s very damaging to teach people that they’re owed happiness. It’s something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

      • True. I think the first truth of Buddhism is to understand our suffering and accept pain as a part of our dualistic lives….or something like that! 🙂 And feeling that we’re owed happiness, I agree, it spoils us. We have to create it as part of the whole experience.

  • Fame, money and power aren’t exactly all they’re cracked up to be and they’re worthless without a soul to wield them.

    Hoffman was indeed a brilliant actor but every single passage written about him from this moment on is going to include the line “Found dead in his apartment with a syringe in his arm, cause of death was an apparent drug overdose.”

    Your daughter has EVERYTHING going for her, Nicki. Both her parents understand the sacrifice necessary to raise a child and they are willing to pay it happily. What’s more, a sense of humor and humility run through her veins. You Daniels are a strong bunch.

    So quit fretting over that which you cannot control and start writing the foreword for my next book, baby!

  • I’m reblogging. Thanks for sharing. I work in the field of addiction and I try to explain the disease to people every day. I wish I could just have them read this blog post. It might lead to a lot more compassion.

    • It’s hard for people to understand why people would “choose” to do something that is so obviously bad for you, stupid, selfish, damaging, etc. All I can say is, I wish it was as simple as a choice.

  • I posted about him, but I didn’t even want to address how scary it is to have been an addict and to read about him dying of a drug overdose.

    I just couldn’t go there. That’s what makes you fucking exceptional, Nicki Daniels.

    Trainspotting. The toilet scene was a metaphor for my drug addicted life.

    • Of COURSE you wrote about him, Samara my soul sister. And listen, it’s reading posts like yours that are just so filled with vulnerability, that gave me the courage to write this post.

      That being said, I’m such a pussy I’ve avoided WordPress ever since I posted. This is my first time checking in. I’ll go read your post in a minute, my dear.

  • You know how people (me, but also other people, too I think) are so (selfishly, I admit) upset because PSH had this tremendous gift to move us to another place? Like he showed us something deep within himself in a character so that we could learn something about ourselves even when we would have never thought we shared anything in common with that character, but now that’s been taken from us and we’re sort of heartbroken? Well, you do that, too. You show us things we didn’t know about ourselves (even if it’s something ridiculously funny or wonderfully inappropriate.) Thank you for that.
    I was just telling a (clinically) sad friend today that the the brilliant and shitty are both out there (and where she always ends up), but most of the living is found in the gray, sloppy in-between. Here’s hoping you continue to find happy in the gray in-between, however sloppy.

    • Thank you as always for your insight. I do think life is in the in-between. I used to have lots of amazing highs and terrifying lows, and I am very content now to just sort of…glide.

  • When addiction is not part of someone’s world, either personally or through family, it’s hard to really understand. It eats everything in its path and cares not. Sucks, really. Be careful, that’s all I can say.

  • This is such an inspiring piece! One thing I just wanted to let you know is how smart you do seem–yes you look street smart, confident and humorous like I sometimes have trouble being. But you are also book smart–I can tell by your eloquence and elegant allusions. What else do you need to achieve happiness?

  • Brutally honest from all aspects Nicki. I too liked Philip Seymour Hoffman. Such a waste of life and loss to the film world. But you are right, even those we think have it all, don’t.

    • I think you would be hard-pressed in today’s society to find a family that has not been affected by this. Our society is sick in many ways.

  • In most of your writings almost each sentence is a slap. “But I woke up today”. The hardest slap you have given me. I love reading you because you are akin to a soulmate in the sense that you write what I think. Makes me feel less lonely at times. Thank you for being so honest. That kind of honesty which makes the blood curdle and the stomach clench. We need more like you to slap the truth right in front of our faces. Hugs.

  • Wow. Thank you.

    Hopefully this doesn’t come across as creepy internet stalker, but I love you for this, and love you for your courage, and for becoming who you are and allowing people into your life and soul a bit.

    You have very quickly becoming one of my favourite people.

  • Having it all means being happy with what you have. — beautifully said.

    I didn’t know anything about your background — or this part. May you continue to wake up, continue to be happy with what you have, day after day.

  • Amazing piece. I love your choice in the word “stagnate” instead of “runs”. It truly is a better description.

    • I agree. Addiction chokes my family. Addiction paralyzes my family. Now a sense of humor, that’s something that runs in my family. It’s like a river flowing through us, and for some of us it has saved us from the darkest bits of our lives.

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