Mimi O’Donnell opens up in a moving essay for Vogue's January issue about first meeting Hoffman at a theater in New York City in 1999 and the beautiful love story that ensued, which included the two parenting three children, Cooper, 14, Tallulah, 11 and Willa, 9. "When I look back at how close we all were, I wonder whether Phil somehow knew that he was going to die young," she reflects. "He never said those words, but he lived his life as if time was precious."
After being sober for well over a decade, O'Donnell says Hoffman was faced with a lot of trials all at once, which led to him returning to drugs and ultimately dying from a heroin overdose in early February 2014 at the age of 46.
"His longtime therapist died of cancer, which was devastating, and he had a falling out with a bunch of his AA friends," she writes.
O'Donnell also says the Oscar winner started to take issue with his career in the entertainment industry. "Phil had a love/hate relationship with acting. The thing he hated most was the loss of anonymity," she recounts. "He was making film after film—we had a big family and had bought a bigger apartment -- and AA started to get short shrift. He’d been sober for so long that nobody seemed to notice."
That's when Hoffman told her that he was considering drinking alcohol again, which she saw as a "red flag."
"He started having a drink or two without it seeming a big deal, but the moment drugs came into play, I confronted Phil, who admitted that he’d gotten ahold of some prescription opioids," O'Donnell recalls. "He told me that it was just this one time, and that it wouldn’t happen again. It scared him enough that, for a while, he kept his word."
After Hoffman completed his stint on Broadway's Death of a Salesman, that's when O'Donnell says his drug use escalated quickly. "It was all prescription stuff, though I don’t know where he was getting it. Again, I realized instantly, or at least I suspected," she notes.
It wasn't long before O'Donnell says Hoffman was on heroin again. "As soon as Phil started using heroin again, I sensed it, terrified. I told him, 'You’re going to die. That’s what happens with heroin,'" she recounts. "Every day was filled with worry. Every night, when he went out, I wondered: 'Will I see him again?'"
After several stints in rehab, Hoffman went to film The Hunger Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and "started isolating himself."
"It happened so quickly. Phil came home from Atlanta, and I called a few people and said that we needed to keep an eye on him," she continues. "Then he started using again, and three days later he was dead."
Nearly four years after his death, O'Donnell says Hoffman's memory is alive and well in her family. "We talk about him constantly, only now we can talk about him without instantly crying,” she writes. “We can talk about him in a way that feels as though there’s a remembrance of what happened to him, but that also honors him. We talk about his bad sides and his good sides, what he did that was funny and what he did that was crazy, and what he did that was loving and tender and sweet. We open up, and it brings us together and keeps his spirit alive.”