Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Opposite of Glee

Yesterday the B.C. Coroner's office officially ruled on Canadian actor and Glee star Cory Monteith's death - "a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol." Less than three months after checking out of rehab.

It's beyond tragic. When you see footage of Cory, it's hard to believe, isn't it? This is not what heroin addicts look like. If they're famous, maybe they're skinny rock stars. But they're definitely not healthy, happy-looking, baby-faced heartthrobs. Toss in the money. The fame. The fans. The hit show. The incredible talent. The loving girlfriend, costar Lea Michele.  The bright future.  And only 31? Addiction is one ugly beast to take people like Cory.

Twenty years ago this summer, I was working on a small article for an arts newspaper about heroin addiction. A friend of mine was a doctor and she was volunteering in a methadone clinic, counseling a group of about ten or twelve heroin addicts in a room on the second floor. The clinic was just a crummy former dress shop in a sketchy neighborhood. Think used furniture. Dusty windows. Stained indoor-outdoor carpets. But it was still a busy place.

Downstairs, the addicts gave daily urine samples in order to receive the methadone that was supposed to help them kick their habit. Upstairs, they sat in a circle on the floor - we all did - and talked for three hours about their struggles over the past week.

These people were not like Cory Monteith. Nor were they the middle-class addicts who show up for A.A. meetings. They were junkies. Unemployed, emaciated, scraggly-haired, dressed in tattered t-shirts and jeans. They didn't just looked haunted. They looked possessed. In fact, one of the girls - a thin brunette barely in her 20s - called heroin the devil itself. How much fun, how charming, how pleasurable and promising it was during your first encounters. But one way or another, you sold your soul to it.

They were really good people, too. Sweet-hearted - despite the fact they talked about stealing. Painfully honest - despite their lies. "No, doc, I swear I didn't use this week, I swear ... " Pause. "Okay, maybe just once ..." They would disappear for weeks at a time. Sometimes for good. My doctor friend assumed some of them had overdosed. Though often she wouldn't know for sure.

When my husband and I heard about Cory's toxicology report, he said - not totally seriously - "I wonder if your cleanse system would work for heroin addicts." But I remembered those people sitting on the floor, fidgeting, laughing nervously, full of a hyper kind of energy - and more than anything, unending fear. And I wouldn't recommend cleansing to them. What I would recommend is to stay away from the damn hard stuff. Whether you're walking down red carpets - or sitting on indoor-outdoor ones.

Here's the Coroner's announcement  about Cory's death. And more about what the cast of the show was trying to do to help him deal with his problem - from And details about the dangers of overdosing soon after rehab. Also caught one fan's tribute to Cory and Lea on YouTube.

Great delight or pleasure.
mirth - joy - gaiety - rejoicing - merriment - gladness

Here's hoping Cory has finally found some. RIP ...