Cory Monteith post ‘Glee’

Cory-Monteith-Died-Glee-620x350There is always a back story. The sudden death of ‘Glee’ actor Cory Monteith, brings home the disease of addiction to the breakfast table. While you munch on muesli, someone is overdosing in an ambulance or comatose on meth, or in rehab truly believing they really have consumed their last drug. They haven’t. It’s a bit like a road accident, it always happens to someone else, until it happens to you. Not only do we think we are exempt from such precarious scenarios, but we expect rich, famous, talented people to be exempt too, after all money and fame solve everything don’t they?

Addiction has been referred to as ‘the disease that tells you, you haven’t got it’, and even being aware you have it, is no insurance. Born in 1982, the year Betty Ford opened her celebrity clinic, 31 years old Cory has now peacefully passed away from the accolades, the internal struggles and the sheer pain of not being able to stop using. In March this year he voluntarily entered rehab for substance addiction yet again, to delve through his back story, not a new exercise for Cory as his first rehab stint was age 19.

Leaving school at 16, the teenager with obvious drink and drug problems escalating at speed, coupled with kleptomania, compulsively stealing from family and friends until a family intervention occurred, to face his malaise. Stealing and getting away with it, has the same high as the compulsive gambler at the tables or city lawyers hoovering lines in a toilet at work, in order to cope with work pressures. Thinking no one knows or that you have got away with it is a buzz, but addiction is not choosy who it holds hostage, any age or social strata, as many will testify. Cory famously said in an interview, ” I was done fighting myself – I finally said, “I’m gonna start looking at my life and figure out why I’m doing this”.

MediaAssetsHands in the air, how many times have you heard someone say that? How many times have you sighed in frustration, like those close to Cory, the patient girlfriend, the family, the co-workers, the friends? WHEN will he get it? . . . perhaps, when will YOU get it? Maybe he did get it, maybe he had abstained for a period and relapsed his illness. We don’t know the back story.

Drugs and alcohol are not addictive, despite what governments tell us, multi millions consume daily without the need for attention, but those with an addictive personality need an alarm clock. WAKE UP! No point in explaining who they are, the risk-takers, boundary breakers, the chaos living clones who crash and burn, the secret silent users, and those who continue to act out compulsively with sex, workaholicism or food.

This is the illness of addiction, when self harm defies reason. They just can’t help themselves and push away anyone that judges. When I was bang at it I was oblivious to the harm I was causing. There was always an unspoken ‘incident’, another drama, or a repetitive pattern of low esteem with fix and rescue me escapades in motion. It becomes tedious to witness harm that people around addicts face daily, feeling helpless.

defusable-alarm-clockMany gay men remain heavy users of recreational drugs, including alcohol, but thankfully most never reach chronic addiction, they WAKE UP! and redress behaviours en route to avoid crisis. I didn’t. I worked the drug of denial until 1982, the year Cory was born, surrendering my addictions in that year, after my eighth relapse, on the cusp of death.

Then I got it : I could never safely use drugs & alcohol again, though I humbly acknowledge that it’s not been an easy road, but it was essential to begin the process of living a gay life without drink and drugs, or die a junkie. I’ve been miraculously clean for the whole of Cory’s lifetime, and seen hundreds of addicts die, it comes with the territory. I have not done it alone, and nor should you, but still remain vigilant, blessed and hopeful that recovery continues, for staying clean is not a given. Many addicts relapse after a clean period and overdose as the body can’t handle the new intake. My friend Tim, 26 years old, came out of treatment, got 4 months clean and did heroin. He was found by his brother slumped over the breakfast table dead after one hit. He took the gamble and lost, maybe Cory did the same?

My heartfelt thoughts go out to Cory’s partner, family, friends and inner circle while they absorb the shock. To value life, our friends, our GLEE and our inner strengths to carry this through, it’s wise to check your back story. Take stock often. Make changes. Seek help.

This blog of mine first appeared on on July 15th 2013, 2 days after Cory’s death :

Drowning in Booze?

For most gay men on the lash, the thought of abstaining from booze fills them with horror, even if their present lifestyle is horrific in chaotic content, to the outside observer. Judgement never worked for me when I was bang at it, so don’t expect it in sessions. However it’s wise at some point to judge your own behaviours with experienced guidance.

When a client has an alcohol dependency, they usually “do too, too much” on a regular basis, which doesn’t always mean they are alcoholic. Although I have been clean & sober since the early eighties via 12 Step programmes I don’t use this material in my work, they can go to meetings if they want to pursue this path and abstain, a day at a time.

One of my clients was asked by ATTITUDE MAGAZINE to write his experience of getting off booze for the September 2010 “ISSUES” Issue, a dedicated spread of 12 pages around addictive & compulsive behaviours that affect gay men.

KEITH, 42, Project Manager, London.

” When I stopped drinking in September 2007, having been an alcoholic all my adult life, people started to ask : ” How did you know you were addicted?” It’s a difficult question to answer as everyone is different, but a good indicator is when any addiction you have starts costing you more than money. My illness, or to put it another way, my inability to cope with alcohol, was responsible for me fucking up in every job I ever had. I maxed out credit cards, had no sense of perspective and my life was a heady mix of addictions and chaotic living.

Most recovering addicts will agree that you have to reach rock-bottom in order to wake up from the coma ( of alcohol, and in my case drug dependency as well ) and it was for me although, unlike many others, I’ve never entered any treatment rehab or attended AA/NA meetings as yet, to pursue recovery.

I’d been on the lash in the Two Brewers one night. I couldn’t remember getting home and when I woke in the morning, I called work and concocted some spurious excuse for me not being able to come in. Maybe I’d had enough as my excuse was flimsy, see-through and fooled no-one. All the years of having to build lies to cover up my using ( which everyone saw through at once – the only person who believed the lie was me ) had taken their toll. Another job was hanging in the balance so I decided that I was too tired to carry on living this way and did something about it. I picked up the phone and called David Parker, as he had come recommended and was known as ‘Clublands Therapist ‘ on the scene.

We started working together in October 2006 and I set out on a path of  “purposeful using” as David calls it, which in a nutshell means using ( alcohol & coke ) on special occasions only. This was for me to decide my level of dependency. There were hits and misses, and in this first year I didn’t define myself as alcoholic, but there was plenty to unravel as the alcohol had been masking a whole raft of issues, including co-dependency, and low self-esteem. It was only after a year in therapy that I admitted to myself and everyone that I knew that I was alcoholic, and in many ways it was a relief to label myself as such, as it was proof that I was unable to deal with alcohol and would never be able to safely drink again.

It would be a lie to say that I haven’t been tempted but given where I am now compared to three years ago, going back simply isn’t an option. The vast majority of my friends have been wholly supportive of me. True, there have been one or two who resented me getting well but I guess that’s bound to happen. It’s one thing getting sober but the real test is staying that way, so I observe my thoughts and actions on a daily basis. I’ve been sober and off drugs for almost 3 years and there will ( I hope ) be many more ahead for me. The key to success is remembering what made me drink and how it made me feel so I’m not tempted to pick up a drink again – in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years time. “

As my client discovered, being coached into booze solutions leads to other areas of opportunity and improvement. In the timespan I worked with him he also stopped smoking ( and has stayed stopped ), gained emotional esteem, lost weight, created a regular gym regime, dealt with debt and is now in surplus, started dating again, gained career growth and started his own business. What’s not to like?