Could it be that Mr. Hoffman was, in fact, driven by an underlying sense of loneliness?
In a study that I did back in 2001, I looked at poems and narratives from 180 people that were on the topic of loneliness. I wanted to determine what were some of the common themes that were mentioned across the different poems and narratives. One of the themes was Nothingness. Some words that individuals used to describe this theme included “void” “emptiness” “black hole” and “abyss” “hollow.” It was also the third most popular theme among the poems and narratives studied, coming in behind the theme Pain, and then No Direction. In my own experience talking with lonely individuals, you do hear this theme of void mentioned very frequently with lonely individuals often describing this complete sense of emptiness they feel and their inability to fill it no matter what they try.
The void in people’s lives, I would argue, stems from feelings of inadequacy, isolation, and loneliness. The void makes it impossible to ever be truly satisfied in a relationship because the void is never satisfied, it is always hungry, and it is forever looking to be satiated. It is, in another sense, the driving force behind addiction. Addiction is, by definition, trying to fill a need with a destructive, pleasurable activity or substance. It provides temporary relief from the gnawing pangs of the void, which later returns often with increasing voracity and requiring even destructiveness. This kind of destructiveness creates a chaotic environment for the addicted, evidenced quite painfully in the case of Mr. Hoffman, who had a large quantity of heroin and prescription drugs in his apartment.
The question then becomes, what is the relationship between loneliness, the void, and addiction? Why do lonely people often feel empty and how come they are unable to readily full it on a permanent basis? Why would someone turn to temporary solutions, like drugs, instead of finding a more permanent solution? In some instances I believe that individuals are uncertain about how exactly to more permanently fill the void. Most people understand that the void is a void of intimacy and love. However, most people often falsely assume that the intimacy and love that they are missing is from someone else. Mr. Hoffman was in a relationship for 15 years, had 3 kids, and yet the relationship eventually collapsed because of his relapse to drug addiction.
The fact of the matter is that no one else, like no other activity or substance, can ever truly fill the void. The love that is needed to fill that void is self-love. It is learning to love oneself, to accept oneself with his/her faults and failings, to realize one’s strengths and weakness, and to acknowledge that he/she is a person worthy of being loved and admired. That is no small task to accomplish, because a person may have spent his/her whole life indoctrinated with the belief that he/she is not good enough, is not lovable enough, is not worthy enough and therefore has that thinking ingrained in their thinking. Without addressing this core, fundamental problem, the void will forever remain, unsatisfied, and demanding. It can lead to a life of loneliness, alienating those around you because what you need from others you cannot get or just ignoring others altogether and turning to other addictive behaviors to try to fill the void. Learning to love oneself, to acknowledge that one is worthy of being loved regardless of what one has done, whether one is "good" or "bad," is the key to the cure for loneliness, filling the void, and conquering addiction.