When I was a teenager, the writer I put on a higher pedestal above all others was Hunter S. Thompson. I thought I surely wanted to be a writer in the sense that he was a writer: To get involved so deeply in the stories that I would actually become part of them, and to make sure that I always got the most exciting stories even if it meant risking my life to get them. Part of that path, to me, meant that I had to do things just like Hunter.


At the time I was a young student at the Peddie School in Heightstown, NJ. I decided that in order to be more like Hunter, I would have to smoke, drink, and imbibe in various drugs.

Somehow that made sense to me. I already occasionally had a drink or two with family at gatherings, as drinking is not seen as so much of a big deal in European circles. I went out one day with some friends one day with the intention of smoking and I did exactly that — and I wound up feeling that I didn’t have to ever smoke again. (That didn’t work out so well — to the extent that I wrote a short play about a man who wishes he could quit smoking)

I ended up taking drugs a couple of times — most notably at the end of 1995 in New York. Someone tried selling me drugs on the street and I smugly told him that I didn’t pay for drugs, people just gave them to me for free.

As if on cue, a man popped up from where he was sitting and handed me a tab of LSD. That ended up being one of the longest nights of my life — I still reflect upon it from time to time and if the things I saw had any significance.

It all eventually came back to me this morning as I sat in shock and read about how Brittany Murphy had just died from cardiac arrest at the age of 32.  For the longest time I could not think of anything but of how tragic it was that she had passed away at such a young age.

It was about an hour later as I was still thinking about how terrible it was that she was so young — the same age I am currently, actually — when I suddenly paused and thought to myself, “But wait a minute… there is no such thing as coincidence.

Brittany didn’t just die of cardiac arrest out of the blue at an early age. Something else has to be going on.” I did a little research and found an article on the Mayo Clinic about what leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

Having never heard anything linked to Brittany Murphy and almost any of the items listed on the page, I went right to the worst — cocaine. Over and over again, rumors rose that Ms. Murphy used cocaine and that it was what accounted for her drastic weight change.  Or was she Anorexic?  I really do always try to give people the benefit of the doubt so I had always assumed that the rumors were false.

A little while later, I read a chilling sentence from this article and it made me ill to think of its possibilities.

Regardless of the route or frequency of use, cocaine abusers can experience acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies, such as a heart attack or stroke, which may cause sudden death.

Only time — as well as tests — will tell if Brittany Murphy died of natural causes or of more unnatural causes… but either way, we can still learn something from this tale of living hard and dying harder.

9 Comments

  1. Spectacular article, Gordon! Right on point and centered on target. I like your active thinking of linking past behavior with external, deadly, results.
    You will have to write more about your LSD experience! How fascinating. I’ve never tried it, but I know people who have — and they say they never saw the world in the same way again after their first tab.

  2. David,
    I think it was a combination of just enough time passing and realizing that I put myself in quite a bit of peril back then, though not to the same extent that Ms. Murphy put herself to get to this tragic end.

  3. Gordon – whoa!
    This comes as a shock to me considering your religious background….glad you could come out…
    I heard if you had LSD once or twice – you would just be hooked, really glad it was not the same case in yours.
    I tried a lot of things in my life, including marijuana…but not drugs – ever.

  4. Hey Gordon,
    Smoking marijuana is illegal in India too…I just needed to know “why” – 🙂
    So, in USA’s standard – I did drugs? Well… 🙂
    Glad you were not tempted twice!

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