Empty Seats at the Oscars. A Fight Renewed Each Morning.

By Jamie TworkowskiMarch 14, 2016

Ten years ago, TWLOHA came into existence as a story that invited people to speak and to be heard, to seek help and to help others, and to live this life together. This month we’re looking back on the last decade and sharing some of our favorite blog posts from TWLOHA’s history along the way. Originally published on February 2, 2016.

2006 oscars best actor nominee philip seymour hoffman

The image above is from the 2006 Oscars. These were the five nominees for Best Actor. We are without two of them tonight. Heath Ledger died in 2008 and Philip Seymour Hoffman died today, both brilliant artists gone too soon, both fathers and sons and brothers and friends, both lives taken by drug overdoses. If you want to look closer, Joaquin Phoenix lost his brother River to a drug overdose in 1993. Beyond that, Joaquin was nominated for his role in Walk the Line. He played Johnny Cash, the musical legend who, in real life, struggled for many years with drug addiction.

These famous names represent millions less known, millions of stories cut short, families with so much forever missing. Children shouldn’t grow up without parents and parents shouldn’t have to bury their children.

This is what i’ve come to believe: There is much at stake. There are lives in the balance and ripples that push on for decades. Addiction is an awful beast to beat. It’s never easy and it’s never over and it will be a fight renewed each morning. But it’s possible. i think of my uncle and my buddy Denny and so many people i’ve met on the road over the last eight years. Their lives are undeniable evidence that it’s possible to change, that it’s worth it to try and to keep trying, worth it to fight and keep fighting. Because this life is worth living. Because you are loved and made to be loved and made to give love and to experience a thousand wonderful things.

We’re all in this together. It’s okay to be honest. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to say you’re stuck, or that you’re haunted or that you can’t begin to let go. We can all relate to those things. Screw the stigma that says otherwise. Break the silence and break the cycle, for you are more than just your pain. You are not alone. And people need other people.

(Image via oscarpredictions)

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Comments (36)

  1. Dane

    This whole segment is beautiful. This is the way writers should write to convey a point, and the point here is do not let addiction control you! Tworkowski, you have my thanks!

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  2. Laura

    Thanks for this post Jamie. Thanks for pretty much all the words that come from this blog. I’ve had a really rough few days, and I’m absolutely grateful I’ve come to a point in my life that I realize that how I feel at this instant IS temporary. It WILL pass. Hope for a better tomorrow is very real. I have learned it’s okay to not always be okay. I’ve learned that, during these times, it’s okay – no, it’s PARAMOUUNT – to reach out and simply say I’m not okay right now. Please just be with me. Please care. Please pray for me…cause I stand on the knowledge that better times will come.

    Now, all that said – I’m incredibly unhappy with a few things right now, and the timing of this post and your words…it’s just the right timing. So, thanks.

    And, I’m with you on also being pretty sad with all the people gone long before their time. I’ve lost friends to suicide, have known others who have OD’d…and have a very real and personal understanding of mental illness. But, life is precious, and hope IS real.

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  3. Anonymous

    When you are with someone who says they are smarter than everyone else, and they leave you because you are weak and they don’t want to support you because you are less than they are, it’s so hard to keep trying and even harder to ask for help because the one who you loved and trusted wouldn’t even stay with you. Why are there people like that? Can we start a campaign against them? 🙂

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    1. Anonymous

      People have every right to leave someone else who might bring them down with them. Like..if I had a boyfriend who used drugs and didn’t want to change, or didn’t even try to change then I’d leave him as he doesn’t deserve me in his life, for I am not a nurse, I am a person. If you love me, then you wouldn’t even start drugs and pretend for me to accept that. Let’s not always blame those who want to live a normal life and don’t want to be dragged into a bottomless pitt because someone else is full of himself and doesn’t realize that he’s hurting them.

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    2. Been There

      I left someone not for those reasons. Because without accepting help, the person was dragging me into the vortex. Not smarter than anyone, but have to preserve my own life and sanity. I hate to hear you think this way, sometimes by people walking away it makes it clear that you need to get off the stuff.

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    3. Anonymous

      When you allow yourself to become vulnerable to someone? One of the prices paid for this, is pain. I believe that there were warning signs to this persons behavior towards the end? Because you either didn’t see them or did and ignored them, then one goes from victim? To volunteer. I’m not saying your either. I’m saying that your worth more than those that you allow yourself to become vulnerable too.

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    4. Kim

      If someone says these things to you then they don’t truly love you. If they loved you, they would be trying to help you, encourage you, learn with you and stay with you. Having said that – it’s terribly hard to love and lose. Trust me, the joy will come one day when you can see the old situation objectively and finally say ‘thank goodness that person left, or else I would not have the wonderful life I have now!’ You are fortunate not to have this person in your life anymore. I wish you all the best for the amazing future you are going to have with incredible loving people around you – they ARE out there 🙂

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    5. Nicole

      Hun, you cannot let someone else rule your life. So what they said they are better than you. I understand you loved this person, but how can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself. You have to dig deep within and find happiness within your soul before anyone else can do that for you. Learning to love ones self is the hardest thing to do and the problem with most addiction. Just realize that no matter what, you are an amazing human being and that you can do anything you want, just make sure you choose the wright pillars to hold your foundation.

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    6. Peter

      God has given you the gift of life, when idiots attack you for whatever reason, they are chipping away at that great gift trying to destroy it for whatever reason in thier twisted evil hearts, minds and souls. Indifference to them is the best way to beat them, why give them your attention of fighting them, or your even remembering who or what they are. Rid yourself of them once and for all and forever, you are too precious a human being to suffer indignity because of them. Move on and you have beaten them… Good luck

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    7. Anonymous

      If they were as strong as they think, they would be strong enough to help someone they care about overcome their issues.
      This person is not the person who wakes up each morning knowing the day may be a struggle, this person left that person behind.
      Keep waking up, and keep battling 🙂

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  4. b.e. noll

    “You are not alone”
    and now I’m back to the free U2 song[on repeat in my head]
    “…there is no them, there is only us… I’m more than you see here, more than you let me be, I’m more than you know, a body & soul, you don’t see me but you will, I am not invisible…”
    and yes. After holding my sister-in-law as she cried after loosing her babies, a parent should never have to bury their child. They weren’t even mine, I never saw them, never held them & I was asked so many times: “how do you feel?” when I finally felt something, & then found some feeble words for it I said: “The marrow of my bones aches.” Nothing like feeling your soul crushed to fine powder.
    I’m alive. I’m ok. I’m never gonna listen to Walk on the same way, but I’m still here. Thankful for those who saw me through. They are the ones who… “see me, I am not invisible,” they are part of my story. They help me let go of “them” & move to “us”. Because…there is no them.

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  5. Mandy

    I loved this post! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Geoffrey

    Fuck that. Kick addictions ass!! Don’t let it best you! Who’s in charge? You or “it”? Never surrender to killing yourself

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  7. Christina Barber

    I truly wish this website would have been around when my uncle was still around prior to my birth many years ago. He had a serious addiction to heroin and ultimately lost his life when I was 2 days old. I would have loved to see him get help and get better. It is possible to happen, no matter the addiction.

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  8. Jamie

    As seen first hand the destruction that comes from addiction I and my family know all to well the struggles that one goes through battling addiction! It can be done and there are families and friends that are willing to be there for support each day this fight continues!

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  9. Christopher

    We need to bring addiction out from behind the curtain of anonymity and bring it out into the light, as has been done with many other diseases that were once stigmatized. Only then can we begin, as a society, to focus the compassion and healing energy that is needed to ease its hold on the soul of our world.

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  10. Kathy

    There are always issues behind addictions of all sorts. We need a new campaign for freedom to pursue faith even in schools. Courses on fulfillment versus boredom or loneliness. Goals expressed as” just say no” or ” get healthy and fit” seem flat as pancakes in light of real need for meaning and significance. We are still fumbling this issue and our corporate addiction to entertainment only fans the fire. Very sorry for the Hoffman family.

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  11. April

    Its a fine line between what people say and what they do. Im a heroin addict that will be sober for 4yrs on april 17th. Alot of people say they will be there when youre wanting to use ect. During my time of just the very start n i was needing people to talk to,those that said theyd be there weren’t. My point is,sometimes you just gotta do it without people. Its a fact you can get clean. I always thought i was just gonna die soon. Now i want to.live to be there for my awesome daughter n her daddy. When yer in the pit its hard as fuck to see the love and beauty that is there. Heroin sux,drugs suck, but if.you really want out you can do.it. if a.person.really.doesn’t want to quit.they.never will.

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  12. Anonymous

    heath wasn’t an addict though…. you’re just making people look bad now

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    1. Anonymouse

      It was never said that Heath was an addict. They simply stated the facts, that he died of a drug overdose, and is gone far before his time. Don’t add stuff that’s not there, then be upset about it my friend. 🙂

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  13. Anonymous

    I wish they could make themselves believe they were worth a lot more then the drugs. It was a wonderful article and everyone who needs help please get it. I would reather see them in a picture alive then one that shows us they’re gone. There is no shame in asking for help so your family and friends can grow old with you here and not on a tombstone.

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  14. Julie

    I have tried to be strong for my son I love him and don’t want him to die from his addiction. I feel empty and useless anymore because I have tried and tried and can’t get it right… I cry all the time and don’t know what to do anymore God watch over my family

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  15. Rod Espudo

    Years ago I was asked in an Interview what I thought about Chris Farley dying? I can say with all honesty? I wasn’t prepared the question, so my response was just as surprising as the question. I said “As long as your standing and breathing, you still have a chance for change. It’s when we stop doing one of these things? The chance for change is gone. And those that actually knew and loved Chris are now all stuck with the same painful thought? Why didn’t I do anything to try and help him? How can I call myself a friend when my “Friend” was committing suicide on the installment plan right before my eyes? A true friend will put the friendship on the line when it comes to self destructive behaviors, or they shouldnt call themselves friends.

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  16. caleb

    …. illuminate

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  17. Mike Knutson

    Best non conference approved reading I have read in a long time. Thanks James !!

    Reply  |  
  18. Rachel

    Such a brilliant post. I have seen so many comments over the last day about addiction, about how impossible it is to beat it. I feel like people have given up and are seeing every death from addiction as not only inevitable but almost allowed. If people think they can’t beat it they wont. I think there needs to be a new standard that addiction can and will be overcome if we offer support. hopefully we will start to see less cases like these

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  19. Jesse Ferguson

    There’s more at stake than stigma; there’s the very real death-hammer of Prohibition guaranteeing rates of overdose above what sensible regulation and scientifically sound education would yield.

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  20. Anonymous

    Heath’s death was an accident. He was prescribed several medications for sleeping. He had struggled with insomnia since playing the Joker. His death was accidental. Hoffman knew what he was doing, what he was taking, and what could happen. These are two very different stories. Heath didn’t have an addiction.

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  21. Sammi

    As always, beautiful words, Jamie. My father recently lost his long term girlfriend to a drug overdose. I live 1000 miles away and not being able to be there for him was not easy. Even so, I grew angry that she would leave him in such pain. Your words remind me that though my dad is hurting, her struggle was very real and anger is not going to ease his pain or bring her back. Thank you for these reminders.

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  22. Anna LuZ Fisher

    this was amazingly sincere and poignant as well as eloquent and succinct

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  23. mel

    Each day is a battle for those that have addiction problems as well as those that struggle with depression, anxiety, and other debilitating diseases. Some days you will win and come out on top… Other days you will not do so well and will have to wait for tomorrow to fight again. It’s a war. Wars are not won in a day. They take time, effort, support, and determination to persevere. Everyone deserves another chance to get clean and get their life together… No one is “too far gone” in addiction. It’s a long road for loved ones but the happiness and love and life you receive in the end will be worth the heartache and tears and turmoil. Love the people in your life while they are here and help them in their struggle if you can, because you never ever know who will not be here tomorrow… Whether they lose the war or they are just taken too early. R.i.p. <3 my big sis jess <3

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  24. Anonymous

    Lovely words except Heath Ledger died from an accidental cocktail of normal prescription drugs for the pneumonia he was suffering at the time.

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  25. Diane

    As the Mother of a child that is a recovering Heroin addict, as the Aunt of a child that is a recovering Opiates and Alcohol addict, as the sister of two brothers,an uncle and a grandfather who are/were alcoholics, and after watching my big brother die from alcoholism, I understand THE BEAST that is addiction. You are not alone. You are so worthy to be alive and healthy. Don’t try this on your own. There is help out there. You are loved.

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  26. thank you

    Thank you so much for writing this. I have always felt that things always happen for a reason, and this story hits so close to home. Today was my first day of addiction treatment and I am printing this out and putting it on my wall to read every day to stay strong and know that I am not alone. I have gone through absolute hell these past few days going through detox and I now see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your words are so inspiring.

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  27. Anon

    Thanks for the support

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  28. Duchess Fiona AuHuighan

    Again, ty. Alongside being a recovering cutter, I lost the man I loved more than life to meth & suicide. He was a brilliant, loving & talented soul & I still miss him to this day. Loss isn’t easy, especially a loss like this, & you never “get over it”, but you can get through it. Ty for all you do. God bless.

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