What Killed Anthony Bourdain?

Anthony Bourdain hung himself on June 8, 2018, at Le Chambard Hotel in Alsace, France.  He was on location for a shoot. He was was 61.  He had an 11-year-old daughter.  

What killed Bourdain?  I had written of his former heroin and cocaine addictions, which he had eventually remedied himself, while he continued to drink and to smoke marijuana.  So much for his recovery, many people taunted me.  

But his toxicology report turned out negative.

What else might he have been addicted to? Love?

He had been involved with Asia Argento since early 2017.

“His love for her was evident among the people who worked with him. ‘He would rave about Rome, where his girlfriend lived,’ Bourdain’s longtime  photographer David Holloway told People. ‘He would say it’s an amazing city to fall in love in.’

Bourdain himself admitted he was lighter around Argento. ‘Oh, yeah. I’m happier for sure,’ he said. . . .

However, their relationship also caused some concern among Bourdain’s friends. . . .

‘Like a teenage boy, [he was] just absolutely lovestruck. He would have done anything for her, and that was a little red flag for some of his friends.’”

Things seemed to be flourishing.

“Just a few weeks ago, they were together in Florence, Italy. . .and still looking very happy and romantic.” But while Bourdain was shooting in France, “Asia was back in Rome, strolling around with a French reporter. . . There were photos of them holding hands and hugging.”

The URL for that piece in the usually reliable TMZ was “Anthony Bourdain-Asia Argento relationship split close.”

I thought of all of this when I had lunch with a highly successful man, exactly Bourdain’s age. He was dating a mysterious woman (whose name he wouldn’t tell me) with whom, he repeatedly said, “I want to spend the rest of my life.”  Only they had broken up several times over the summer, including the day before our lunch.  He kept texting her throughout lunch, preoccupied and depressed.

The story reminded me of Bourdain, who had dinner with a longtime friend and fellow chef the night before, but was preoccupied throughout dinner, then didn’t show up for breakfast the next morning.

Like my friend, for Bourdain, all of his other relationships meant nothing next to his love lifeline.  For Bourdain, this included, tragically, his 11-year-old daughter.

The whole idea of love addiction strikes people as amusing—as in, “Yeah, and I’m addicted to jogging-sex-coffee”—or some equally implausible (in their minds) object of addiction.

Except withdrawal from love is the only addiction which causes people to kill themselves.

All of this becomes relevant as Archie Brodsky and I give a commemorative podcast for SMART Recovery on the legacy of our 1975 book, Love and Addiction.

At the same time that the concept of addiction to processes has now become inscribed in the addiction lexicon, many people continue to find the idea laughable.  Or, worse, they insist that only seeing a brain scan can convince them otherwise.

But by the following criteria, love is the worst addiction, as Bourdain (and my friend) demonstrate:

1. Absorbing consciousness and sensation totally.

2. Creating feelings of self-value and essential life motivation.

3. Cutting off other sources of emotional satisfaction, like friends and family (cf. Bourdain’s daughter)

And, as my friend and Anthony Bourdain also demonstrate, love addiction is worse the second time around, when perhaps times’ winged chariot makes men and women more desperate.

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