On Cory Monteith's death: 4 things I've learned about addiction

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

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More than a week has passed since the sudden and untimely death of Glee star Cory Monteith. I've been debating how I wanted to -- or even if I wanted to -- address his death on So About What I Said. As more and more information comes to the surface, it seems as though everyone has an opinion, and I wondered if I could even add anything worthwhile to the already crowded conversation.

But then I realized the important value of speaking up. Because where taboo topics like these are concerned, not being a voice in the conversation is far worse than keeping things to yourself. And besides, addiction is something that hits very close to home for me. I've seen it take over loved ones, and unfortunately, have seen the heartbreaking wreckage it leaves in its wake. For better or for worse -- some days, I'm not sure which one -- addiction has touched me and changed me, just like it's touched and changed millions of people's lives around the world. So in the spirit of sharing, here are four things I've learned about addiction...

Addiction is an evil beast
Addiction is insidious. It sneaks up on you, and sometimes, you don't even see it coming. And, it has this tricky little habit of disguising itself as something beautiful, something you need -- maybe even something innocent. It lures you in and makes you believe that it's something you can't live without. Until, well, you really can't live without it. It's got a mind of its own. It knows all your weaknesses and pounces on them every chance it gets. It knows all the right words to say and makes sure those are the only words you actually listen to.

Addiction not only affects you...it affects everyone around you
This is the lesson I've learned all too well over the years. Addiction is a family disease, one made up of sleepless nights, pleas and lots of worrying. Because addiction is like a pebble thrown into the sea: The ripple effect can be felt for miles as addiction tries to get its tentacles around everyone and everything it possibly can. You wonder how you all got to this point. You wonder what the future will hold. And sometimes, you're even scared of the future. You'd do anything in your power to help your loved one, but eventually, you realize...

Addiction needs boundaries
You can't live for someone else. You can't let someone else's addiction control your life. You need to establish some firm boundaries -- and stick to them. It's so important to take care of yourself. This can be the most difficult thing in the world to do. Trust me, it's so easy to become enmeshed in someone else's disease, especially if you think you can solve all their problems, but that's just it. Ultimately, it's not your problem. It's not your disease. Of course, you can be there for support, but at the end of the day, the road to recovery has to be walked by the person facing the addiction.

Addiction doesn't have to mean a death sentence
There is help out there. Lots of it, actually. And unlike years ago, there is less of a stigma associated with addiction these days. There's no shame in admitting you need help. In fact, asking for help shows far more strength than trying to battle it all on your own. Taking the first step is painful, but it's necessary.
If you've been affected by addiction, friends, what other lessons would you add to the list? What helped you? And if you're still in the throes of it, whether you're suffering or know someone who is, my heart is with you. xoxo

[Photos via We Heart It]