Cory Monteith and the Beast of Addiction…

Cory Monteith, who most people know as Finn on Glee, passed away July 13th, of what was later to be determined as a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol.

Apparently, Cory had recently (April, I believe) completed a stint in rehab. He had a history of addiction. So everyone, most of all his family, friends, colleagues, and his girlfriend, Lea Michele, are probably reeling from the news of what caused his untimely death at only 31 years of age. He isn’t the only one to succumb to addiction, and unfortunately, he won’t be the last. But for the general public to adopt a stance of shock simply because he’d just recently been in rehab is…ignorant, and most of all, it’s dangerous. 

Sadly, I have been close to addiction. I have seen what it does to people, the havoc it causes in the lives of the addicts and, more tellingly, the people around them. Even if you are lucky enough to have never had your life touched by the dark, insidious monster of addiction, you’ve surely read stories about *insert celebrity’s name here*’s repeated stays in rehab, repeated attempts at staying clean. Lindsay Lohan is one that comes to mind.

But one important thing you should know is this…take it to heart, embed it in your mind: A stay in rehab, a successful completion of the program, a good support system when you leave is no guarantee, no promise, that any amount of time following will find you still clean and sober. No amount of rehab amounts to a promise that the addiction is gone. None. 

I had a good friend once. She was a heroin addict, and for the most part, she was what’s called a “functioning addict”. She never stole from anyone to support her habit, she never sold herself to pay for drugs. She held down a job, went to school, and to most people, she seemed pretty ‘normal’. She did one stint in rehab, and not a cushy place that pampers and coddles. No, she was in a rehab that gave her rules, and expected her to follow them, no exceptions, no second chances. She got clean, and luckily for her, the memory of the withdrawal process was enough of a motivator to keep her clean.

Another addict I knew was a kind-hearted soul who wouldn’t even kill a spider. Addiction to various drugs turned this person into a cold, cruel-hearted monster who stole with no remorse.

For the people who surround the addict, life is heartbreaking at best, and devastating at worst. There is always the fear, even when the addict is clean, that some life event or circumstance, that some happening will stress the addict to the point where they feel they can’t cope. A point that will send them running straight back to the drug that trapped them, made them a slave with a false promise of freedom from the stress. And there is freedom from the stress, but it is a trading of one set of shackles for another.

I remember, during my stepfather’s periods of sobriety, having perpetual anxiety that at any time he’d pick up a beer and that would be that. And being brutally honest, it was his alcoholism that led to his death. My mother makes no bones of it, and I have to admire her bravery when speaking of his death. Yes, it was sad, it was completely HORRIBLE to lose him. My brothers were 23 and 15, and to lose a parent that young is awful. It was awful for my mother, and though my stepfather and I were never particularly close, he’d been a huge part of my life for 15 years, and to have that gone…it hurt, I’m not even going to lie. But my mother…my mother astounded me. I overheard her at the luncheon following his memorial, speaking with one of his friends, saying that she was devastated, but that “He’d been drinking. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thankful that no one in the other car was hurt badly or killed”.

Fame is tough. I’ve always said I’d like to be rich…but not famous. I don’t want my life being run through with a fine toothed comb. I can’t imagine being famous. I’d have no monetary issues, but people would be watching my every move. I couldn’t handle that, I know I couldn’t.

So people seem shocked that Cory, relatively fresh out of rehab, went on a bender and lost his life. I don’t find it surprising at all. I find it human. Human, and tragic. Not only was he dealing with the stresses of fame, and having paparazzi monitor his every fart so that average schmucks like you and I could read about his comings and goings in the latest issue of People, but he was dealing with a relapse that sent him to rehab.

Relapse, Merry? How do you know? Well, he had a problem before he was cast on Glee, he’s said as much. People don’t just check into rehab for the heck of it, which makes me think he had a relapse. So he gets out of rehab, he’s okay for a little while Glee is on hiatus. He takes a nice, relaxing vacation with Lea. Then he has to go back to work. Then he’s not able to hide away from the lenses of the photogs as well. It’s a dangerous situation, as far as the potential for relapsing increasing.

I also think it’s sad that, for the most part, the public as a whole seems not to give a rip about addiction until it kills someone famous, someone whose art has touched lives. People who have never known addiction, be it as an addict themselves, or someone with a loved one struggling with addiction, seem to not care unless it affects someone they read about in a celeb mag. And then, it’s only because it’s shocking. It’s in your face. You’re confronted with it.

But you can’t pick an addict out of a lineup. If you gathered three homeless people, a hooker, a doctor and a lawyer, and asked the average person to pick out the addict, they’d pick the hooker or the homeless people. But addiction can strike anyone. The doctor or lawyer could just as easily be an addict. Yes, the homeless people and the hooker are more likely to be addicts…but you never know…maybe one of the homeless people was a doctor before addiction pulled them under. A ‘functioning’ addict is impossible to tell apart from any other person you may see.

A relapse after rehab is not something to be shocked about…it’s very, VERY common. The 90-day period following release from a rehab program is a very dangerous time for an addict. It’s in that period that relapse is most likely. I would have honestly been more shocked if Cory had left rehab, stayed clean for 15-20 years, and then relapsed.

What is shocking, as it always is in cases like this, is that Cory is dead, and at such a young age. Relapse is common, and addicts dying of overdose is fairly common too. Don’t get me wrong…I do not find Cory’s rehab/relapse/death to be shocking. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find it sad, because I think it’s horribly tragic. My heart hurts for his family, for his friends, for Lea…for the people who knew and loved him, my heart is breaking, and it would be breaking for the same reasons even if he wasn’t famous.

People want to pay tribute with Tweets and fanpages and all that jazz? Great.

But do me, and everyone whose life has been touched by addiction in some way or another, a huge favor…

Don’t forget about it. You never know who could be suffering, and there’s this wise saying I’ve heard:

But for the grace of God, there go I.

It’s true even if you aren’t religious. Just remember, it could always be you.

Rest in Peace, Cory.

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