Written by Elena Novak, a senior at Florida State University
Now we can talk about it.
Now that we know for sure that Cory Monteith’s death was related to substance abuse, we’re ready to have a conversation about it without fear of making assumptions.
So let’s talk. Let’s talk about addiction, which isn’t something that you can “just stop.” I’ve seen comments on articles and posts blaming him for “choosing” this lifestyle, as if it’s no surprise that a rich, entitled celebrity managed to off himself, as if the fact that he was a celebrity makes him no less of a human being, as if it’s impossible to conceive of a decades-long struggle with a problem that you can’t just quit, no more than a smoker has an easy time of keeping a cigarette out of his mouth.
It’s addiction - to some, it’s a disease, and we’ve all faced it in some form. Some of us watch pornography, some of us work out obsessively, some of us have eating disorders, some of us even watch too much damn Netflix. It doesn’t matter what you’re addicted to - I can guarantee that nearly every one of us can come up with something, small struggles like biting our nails or big struggles like Cory’s, and none of them are easy to kick.
I want us to stop acting like we know, like we can imagine what he was going through in a way that allows us to judge, to say “what the hell were you thinking, stupid boy?” We don’t know. We can’t all possibly fathom how a broken childhood could lead to self-destructive behavior, and how an addiction that began at 13-years-old can still plague our lives at 31.
Yet no matter what you can say about a lot of celebrities with histories of substance abuse, I doubt it applies to Cory. He wasn’t withdrawn, he wasn’t mean or hurtful to others, he didn’t tout his privilege and incur special treatment. Instead - and those who knew him testify to this - he was kind. He was generous. He was funny. He inspired people with his role on Glee, and he worked his butt off to get to where he was.
Most importantly, he was a person. He was a son, a friend, a devoted boyfriend. He fought hard against his demons, and he lost. Does that make him weak, or does that make him one of us? How many times have we lost a battle with our demons, returned to our obsessions? We are different only in that we survived. And if we don’t work hard to stop it, the cycle will start again.
So let’s change the conversation. Let’s stop blaming and judging, and let’s start looking for ways to help. Let’s evaluate our own lives and examine the areas in which we’ve allowed something harmful to take hold of us. Let’s celebrate the life of Cory Monteith and others who fell prey to the terrible beast of addiction instead of pretending we are somehow better than them. The loss of a human life is always tragic, no matter the circumstance, but if we stop trying to diminish the value of an addict’s life long enough to just listen, we might be able to hear them warning us: You’re not immune.