Honest thoughts and questions of a design student on the drug use and abuse in the creative field.
On the morning of Sunday, February 2nd, I woke up to sorrowful news: The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had been found dead in his New York apartment. First, I couldn’t believe that this amazing, talented, Oscar-winning actor’s life really came to an end after only 46 years. I was sure it was just a hoax until I read the cause of death: heroin overdose. Another brilliant mind and creative genius lost to that relentless devil.
As sad as this loss to the creative world made me, I wasn’t necessarily feeling shocked or surprised. This is when I realized that I had gotten used to the death of actors, singers and other great artists due to drug abuse; Corey Monteith, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland – all gone before their time. The list seems endless.
Growing up in Germany, this world of fame was always far away; No international star shopping at the same Wholefoods or eating at the same restaurant. Of course, drugs of all kind find their customers in Germany as well, but I remember growing up with the general assumption that even weed would doom you to a life of failure.
But moving to LA has changed things for me: I live at the heart of show biz now, and Marihuana is consumed openly on the street. In fact, I can smell my neighbor smoking some right now.
LA, what an inspiring place! I can feel the city pulsate, creativity running through her veins. This is why I moved here, to be part of this creative world, find a creative community – Otis. When I came here about a year ago, I accepted the frequent and very casual drug consumption of people of all ages here as a cultural difference I would have to get used to. Back then, I was more concerned with wrapping my head around it and dismissing prejudice. Trying not to question this new culture, I did my best to fit in without losing myself. To live and let live.
A year ago, I would have dismissed Hoffman’s tragic death after a few days just like everyone else. But I am not the international student who’s just trying to fit in anymore; In the past year, I learned that as an artist and designer I must ask questions others don’t bother thinking of, make connections and break down problems others would much rather avoid. I grew part of this community and I am now slowly beginning to understand what it can mean.
Hoffman’s Heroin overdose came to me like a wake-up call. It made me realize that I can’t just accept drug abuse in the creative field anymore, because I am now part of it. The profession that I – no, we all here at Otis – strive for can offer similar conditions and circumstances. We may all be tempted, challenged and tortured by the same monster – for all I know, too many of us already are.
I have aborted my passive approach of acceptance and ignorance; Instead, I decided to ask questions –loudly and openly. This is my attempt to start a dialog about something we are all affected and surrounded by. This is the first of a series of articles where I will examine the drug culture in the creative field and how it relates to Otis.
It’s important to talk about the possible reasons, misperceptions, reactions and cultural expectations behind the use of drugs. It is on us to decide whether we control these factors or let them control us.