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What Corey Monteith’s Death Brings To Light

I Don’t watch Glee and before this weekend I had no clue who 31-year-old Corey Monteith was but, nonetheless, his death was sudden and there are thousands of friends, family, and fans who are mourning the loss. A successful young actor with a pretty girlfriend, Monteith had a lot going for him. While it’s sad to hear of his passing, the nature of his death — a fatal mixture of heroin and alcohol — grabbed my attention.

I have almost finished reading Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, a memoir of Sheff’s dealings with his son’s methamphetamine (among other things) addiction. Prior to reading this memoir, I had always thought that heroin was the most dangerous drug out there. In reality, heroin plays third fiddle internationally to meth with “…more than thirty-five million users; [making it] the most abused hard drug, more than heroin and cocaine combined” (Sheff). Cocaine rakes in 15 million international users and heroin sits at seven million.

While the majority of the book focuses on meth, heroin makes an appearance every now and then (especially when Sheff realizes his son, Nic, has worked it into his daily drug regimen). When recounting his own drug use, Sheff recalls having a roommate in college, Charles, who lived fast and partied hard. After years of partying and being reckless with what he put into his body, Charles died at 40 years of age from liver failure. As Sheff notes, “Alcohol and heroin are metabolized by the liver, meth by the kidneys,” which puts abusers of both in greater jeopardy of being victims of liver failure or accidental overdose (as with Monteith’s case).

Sheff includes this tidbit from a New York Times Magazine article by Peggy Ornstein which interviews the co-director of the UCLA Drug Abuse Research Center, Douglas Anglin: “For heroin users with a five-year history of addiction, it may take ten or fifteen years to help them come out of it, but if you start when they’re twenty-five, by the time they’re forty they’re pretty much rehabbed. If you don’t, most of them burn out by forty.” His reasoning stands true with Monteith.

According to People Magazine, Monteith was checked into a rehab facility for substance abuse that lasted just short of a month back in March of this year (People). According to his Wikipedia page he struggled with substance abuse since he was 13-years-old (although it fails to post a reference for this). In previous interviews, Monteith told reporters that he had also been in rehab when he was 19 for substance abuse as well (People). Rather than saying he continued to struggle with this problem, People goes the lighter route of just making mention of  “past struggles with substance abuse.” This isn’t an uncommon way to put it, either. Many articles, no matter the publication, refer to “past” episodes when following up on someone’s rehab stint’s. Rarely do you see reference to a struggle as ongoing.

As Sheff’s memoir as well as Anglin’s statistics make painfully clear, overcoming substance abuse takes a lot more than a month in rehab. When back in the real world, the user is faced with cues that remind them of using and presents them with the desires and urges that may trigger them to pick the habit back up. These urges are even harder to face without structure and appropriate support, often times through out-patient programs and with the help of a sponsor. Not even two weeks after getting out of rehab, Monteith and girlfriend Lea Michele were seen vacationing in Mexico (People). Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems anything but structured and free from substances. Granted they may have had a sober trip together, but many people associate Mexico with partying, drugs, and alcohol.

However, by all means this may have been Monteith’s first time using since (or maybe even before) his last stint in rehab. Once a person stops using a substance as frequently as they used to, their tolerance is lowered. In turn, this makes it even more dangerous for the next time they decide to use considering most pick up doing the same dosages right where they left off (FOX News)

Another idea is that becoming clean can boost the user’s confidence. They feel they have control over their lives including their using and don’t see the harm in using once more if it’s not excessive. Unfortunately, this often leads to a greater relapse than the user expects. They’re not able to have control over when they stop shooting, snorting, or smoking as they thought they would. As Sheff’s son put it, “”I got cocky. It’s this trick of addiction. You think, My life isn’t unmanageable, I’m doing fine. You lose your humbleness. You think you’re smart enough to handle it.”” 

We might never know how long Corey Monteith was clean prior to his accidental but fatal overdose, nor will we know how much he really struggled with his addiction. I can only hope that his death puts into perspective just how long a struggle with addition really is and how every single day presents itself with new challenges and more obstacles the user must overcome if they want to make it. I also hope that it encourages others to seek the help they need and to continue accessing those resources before it’s too late.

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Unemployment: Day One

Being unemployed isn’t too bad, once you get over the whole ‘not getting paid anymore’ thing. I made the risky decision to put in my two weeks’ notice at my place of employment before getting another job lined up. I doubt anyone thought I was really that stupid to do such a thing but the sense of a challenge excited me. That, and I knew I wouldn’t be serious about finding a new job unless I ended the relationship with my current one.

I spent my first official day of unemployment by applying to jobs (fingers crossed), playing video games (Portal 2, to be exact), and spending quality time with my cat (he was thrilled). However, I now feel like a bum for not being on any sort of schedule and for not leaving my apartment all day (can you hear that wind? It’s COLD outside) and my cat has left my side to seek refuge in my closet (I’m fairly certain he’s sick of me already). 

The concept of unemployment excites me. I feel refreshed and eager to not be at the same glum job I’ve been at for the past three and a half years. I’m almost done with getting my BA and I’m that much closer to finding a career. A job is nice and all but I would love something that challenges my intellect and has room for growth, along with providing me with a sense of accomplishment. I want to do things and make a difference rather than just go through the motions.

I’m excited about all the hobbies I don’t actually have and finally being able to do them. I might even find time to exercise each morning while my cat looks on perplexed. NASCAR starts back up on Sunday and I’m more than pumped about that, even though I still don’t have a television to watch any of the races on.

Despite all of this, I’m still worried. Worried about when I’ll get a job and how my bills are going to get paid. Worried about getting even more depressed after this high from being free wears off. My restlessness has gotten the better of me in this scenario and while I’m totally fine with that, I’m totally not fine at the same time. The thrill of broadening my horizons is amazing until I get scared about what happens if the opportunities I seek don’t come to me.

Stay tuned, and wish me luck.

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