Tag Archives: Corey Monteith

Non-addict looking addicts.

Today we heard the tragic news, that the talented actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman had passed away of a heroin overdose.

Another one.

Just as we were getting over the shock of Corey Monteith’s death, another ‘non-addict looking addict’ has overdosed.
Just like Corey, Phillip Seymour Hoffman just didn’t look like a junkie. He just looked so ‘normal,’ and ‘middle-class,’ he had ‘everything.’
There were no train wreck pictures of him or reports of his bad behavior on film sets. He consistently turned out excellent work.
Apart from the recent reports that he had gone into rehab, no one would ever have know that he had been struggling with addiction.
But he was a drug addict and guess what? It is more common for a drug addict to look like him or Corey Monteith, than it is for them to look like the homeless street bum that everyone imagines.

Addicts live amongst us. I hope that doesn’t shock you, but we are capable of being addicted and being pretty high functioning. We are your friends and your neighbors, we have careers and responsibilities, we look just like everyone else.

But we are addicts and we are struggling for lack of treatment, lack of resources and lack of compassion. Treatment doesn’t always work first time, like many diseases repeated, consistent treatment attempts are needed.
Sometimes the disease is stronger. The blackness in our souls demands relief and faulty brain chemistry pulls us towards instant pleasure, until we find a solution that works for us, we will always crave chemically induced oblivion.

I’m listening to the reports on TV as I write this and I keep hearing the same thing, ‘but he was so talented, so in demand, so successful, he had everything.’
Yes, on the outside he did. It’s very common for addicts to be very successful in many areas of their lives. It often looks like we have ‘everything.’
But success isn’t enough; external accomplishments do nothing to heal internal pain or fix our brain chemistry.

More is never enough.

It’s really too early to speculate on the circumstances that lead up to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The details may come out or we may never know why addiction won and recovery lost this time.
If anything can be learned from this tragic loss, it is the understanding that addiction is alive and well and living next door.
And more, much more needs to be done about it.

Losing a child to addiction

Did you see the tribute episode Glee did for Corey Monteith? I watched it through a veil of tears. It felt almost voyeuristic at times; as it was clear that the actors weren’t acting but channeling there own grief. How incredibly brave and professional of them to honor their friend in this way, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. Lea Michele was particular outstanding, imagine having to act your grief for a TV show just a few weeks after loosing your Fiancée? Her performance was heartbreaking, because her heart was breaking.

“I can hear his voice so clearly. Do you think I’ll ever forget it?” Rachael Berry
“He was my person.”

But it was the grief of the actors playing Finn Hudson’s parents that moved me the most. It was heart wrenching.

“How do parents go on when they loose a child, How do they wake up every day? How do you breath?” Finn’s mom.

They put into words how I felt, imagining the unimaginable.
The day you become a parent, is the day you realize that the rest of your life is about managing your fear.
Because when you see and hold your baby for the first time, the love you have is so fierce and enormous it frightens you.
The desire to build an armed fortress for your babe to live in, so you can protect them from any hazard or danger is almost overwhelming.
As a parent you have to resist this urge and just do your best to equip your child to grow up in this world you can’t control.
You have to fight your fear to wrap up your child in cotton wool and never let them go, because your fear will suffocate them.
Because no one can thrive and grow with that amount of fear pressing down on them.

Yet tragically some parents experience the horrific reality of loosing a child.
Children die in accidents, because of mistakes or of diseases.
And some die of addiction.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I watched Glee and I felt so f**king angry with Corey Monteith for overdosing.
And I understand addiction!
I get it and I still wanted to slap him for dying and leaving all those people berefit.
I know he didn’t choose to OD. I understand why he used heroin; I understand why he thought he could just do one more.
I’m just so mad at him for dying. For all those addicts who die way before there time.

I’ve sat there with parents who’ve lost their kid to an overdose. I’ve seen how haunted they are. I have truly wondered how they are going to get through the day and the next one after that and the next one after that…

‘Its all so pointless, all that potential.’ Sue Sylvester.

I don’t know how they can keep breathing when they have lost their child. I don’t know if I could, I can’t even think about it, I can’t bare to have that thought in my head.
And yet it’s a reality that many parents have to live with.

How do we change this?
More treatment.
Access to more treatment.
Sober High Schools.
More honesty.
Less fear.
Less shame.
More education.
More understanding.

But mostly we need to talk about what is within us.
Our insides. Our feelings and emotions.
The things we keep most secret. Our fears, our shame, our disappointments, our need to be loved and our terror that we won’t be, our loneliness.
We need to talk about these things more than anything because these are the engines of addiction.
That’s why people use drugs and continue to use them way after they stopped being fun.
Because they quell the darkness within.
We all have darkness within us. Part of the human experience is about managing this, learning from it and choosing to live in the light.
And yet for some of us the darkness just continues to eat away at us. And the only thing we can do is to find relief from the pain.
Which is what I’m guessing Corey Monteith did that last night of his life.

If this is you. Right now.
I’d like to invite you to reach out, to take a risk, to choose someone you trust and be vulnerable with them.
Ask for help. Ask again, keep asking until you get it.
Hold on, please for f**ks sake hold on. Get some help, then some more.
The darkness within you isn’t real, it is an illusion. You deserve to live in the light.
Please try.
Because no matter how alone you feel right now, the pain of loosing you, of you not being here is not a pain we can keep bearing.

I know because I’ve seen it.

You can read my previous post on Corey Monteith’s death here.

Trauma – the root of addiction

There have been many blog posts and articles written after Corey Monteith died, each of them exploring the tragedy in it’s own unique way. The best one by far is Dr Gabor Mate’s piece.
He rightly raises the point that no one has really questioned why Corey Monteith’s treatment episodes failed. He especially focuses on the abusive ‘troubled teen programs’ that Monteith was enrolled in, and how he believes that instead of helping, they continued to sow the seeds of his addiction.

What Dr. Gabor Mate continues to say so effectively, is that the origins of addiction lay in childhood abuse and trauma. And that the programs Corey Monteith was subjected to were abusive and traumatic. That when a child or teenager is exposed to traumatic episodes, it greatly increases their chances of becoming addicted to substances as an adult.

He explores how the impact of ‘adverse childhood experiences’ lay the groundwork for an addiction to take place. He describes how emotional patterns from childhood become ingrained in our brain cells. Which then create the feelings of loss, loneliness and emptiness that as adults, we then try and medicate with substances.

I have worked with many addicts and alcoholics and a large majority of them have experienced trauma in earlier life that pretty much guarantees they become addicts; abuse, violence, sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect. All of these experiences wound a person so deeply that the emotional pain becomes overwhelming. Human beings can only tolerate it for so long before our brains look for something to take the pain away.
In order to understand addiction, we have to understand trauma first.
Punishing someone for doing something that is actually the only coping mechanism they have, doesn’t make sense.
Until someone has another way to heal the wounds within drink and drugs will always be the best anesthetic.
Addiction is not a choice, it is a response.

This excellent TED Talk by Dr. Gabor Mate elaborates on this.