Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Cory Monteith's death: 4 things I've learned about addiction

More than a week has passed since the sudden and untimely death of Glee star Cory Monteith. I've been debating how I wanted to -- or even if I wanted to -- address his death on So About What I Said. As more and more information comes to the surface, it seems as though everyone has an opinion, and I wondered if I could even add anything worthwhile to the already crowded conversation.

But then I realized the important value of speaking up. Because where taboo topics like these are concerned, not being a voice in the conversation is far worse than keeping things to yourself. And besides, addiction is something that hits very close to home for me. I've seen it take over loved ones, and unfortunately, have seen the heartbreaking wreckage it leaves in its wake. For better or for worse -- some days, I'm not sure which one -- addiction has touched me and changed me, just like it's touched and changed millions of people's lives around the world. So in the spirit of sharing, here are four things I've learned about addiction...

Addiction is an evil beast
Addiction is insidious. It sneaks up on you, and sometimes, you don't even see it coming. And, it has this tricky little habit of disguising itself as something beautiful, something you need -- maybe even something innocent. It lures you in and makes you believe that it's something you can't live without. Until, well, you really can't live without it. It's got a mind of its own. It knows all your weaknesses and pounces on them every chance it gets. It knows all the right words to say and makes sure those are the only words you actually listen to.

Addiction not only affects affects everyone around you
This is the lesson I've learned all too well over the years. Addiction is a family disease, one made up of sleepless nights, pleas and lots of worrying. Because addiction is like a pebble thrown into the sea: The ripple effect can be felt for miles as addiction tries to get its tentacles around everyone and everything it possibly can. You wonder how you all got to this point. You wonder what the future will hold. And sometimes, you're even scared of the future. You'd do anything in your power to help your loved one, but eventually, you realize...

Addiction needs boundaries
You can't live for someone else. You can't let someone else's addiction control your life. You need to establish some firm boundaries -- and stick to them. It's so important to take care of yourself. This can be the most difficult thing in the world to do. Trust me, it's so easy to become enmeshed in someone else's disease, especially if you think you can solve all their problems, but that's just it. Ultimately, it's not your problem. It's not your disease. Of course, you can be there for support, but at the end of the day, the road to recovery has to be walked by the person facing the addiction.

Addiction doesn't have to mean a death sentence
There is help out there. Lots of it, actually. And unlike years ago, there is less of a stigma associated with addiction these days. There's no shame in admitting you need help. In fact, asking for help shows far more strength than trying to battle it all on your own. Taking the first step is painful, but it's necessary.
If you've been affected by addiction, friends, what other lessons would you add to the list? What helped you? And if you're still in the throes of it, whether you're suffering or know someone who is, my heart is with you. xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]


  1. I am drafting up my own little post on this as well. This really really affected me, and I only know him from TV. Probably because I am familiar with addiction firsthand.

    Good post. I hope the show really does something to speak to all the young kids that watch.

  2. This is such a wonderful post–it's so difficult to find perspective when you're in the throes of a struggle like that, but addiction is something only the person who has it can really stare down and conquer.

  3. This is a really great post, Melissa! I like how you really go in depth about what an addiction is actually like for the person and family members who are affected. I was and am very saddened by Cory's death.

  4. Addiction hits close to me as I have an older sister and an ex husband that are both full blown addicts. As some that grew up around this and then dealt with it in my marriage my advice is this: You can't change an addict... No matter how much you try, no matter how much you want to make them better. They will change when and if they are ready and only then.

    Sometimes you have to walk away so you don't get dragged down. When that happens do not let guilt take over. It's a matter of your survival and sometimes a matter of protecting other family members (children).

    Last, until you've actually walked in any of these shoes (addict or someone dealing with an addict) don't judge and don't assume.

  5. I've only known one person that had an addiction and unfortunately lost the battle, so this subject touches my heart. I don't have much advice to give except that the people closest (and cleanest) to those surrounding the addict need to always keep that close connection and make sure the person doesn't fall off the cliff even farther, and of course to try and help them quit it. I was absolutely devastated when I found out about Cory's death... being such a huge fan of glee it totally broke my heart. I even cried for three days! He was such a talent and what I've read in the media he seemed like such a good person, the only fault was the dark addiction. RIP Cory!

  6. I know few with addictions and some are lost cases and some not.

    When I was younger and hopelessly in love with a boy with addiction, I didn't have other option to help him than telling his parents about the drugs. I lost him as a friend, but at least the parents could try to cut him off from bad stuff. Well, it didn't work in the end, but now at least he is trying to work his life. We keep a contact but I am glad I didn't get involved more than as a friend who secretly loved him.

  7. Thank you for posting this important discussion, Melissa.
    Both of my parents died from alcoholism: my wonderful, amazing and complex Dad at 61, and by then a pickled, distant, angry Mother at 81. People who develop an addiction end up in the same sad state. The genetic component is essential to understanding addiction. My parents didn't decide to become alcoholics when they grew up; they had all the same dreams as those around them, plus a high tolerance for alcohol/drug of choice.
    If you use enough of an addictive substance, you will become addicted. Duh. But what if you don't even get a buzz after 5 beers/glasses of wine/ etc? Well, you have more and more and more and it takes larger quantities to quell the dragon; you miss work, fight with family, ignore your children, withdraw, and try to figure out ways to sneak your drug into your work place..... It has been reported that children with one alcoholic parent have a 200% greater chance of developing addiction; double that if both parents are. Tough odds, but the choice is obvious.
    People with money/fame can surround themselves with associates who build them up to superhuman levels and condone the drug use; most addicts hang out with others who share or don't criticize or mention the reality around them: not the ideal support group. All the posts here have good advice and I hope my words help someone, too. Break the cycle!!


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