Cory Monteith, 29, did not do high school on the straight and narrow like his character Finn Hudson on Glee. In fact, by the time he was 16 years old, Monteith was skipping school, drinking, smoking pot, maintaining a pretty expensive drug habit, and had attended 12 different schools, including alternative programs for troubled teens. That's also the age he dropped out of school for good. By 19, he entered rehab, but it didn't take and soon after he found himself with an ultimatum from a family member whom he had robbed to fund his habit -- get clean or get turned into the police. Wow, what a story!
Monteith shares many details with PARADE magazine about his time "out there" before he finally decided to get clean, as well as face the problems that led him to drink and use. What I hope he realizes is that his honesty and willingness to share his struggles make him just as much a role model as Finn. They may look different, but both have an inspiring message to share.
When you look at actor Cory Monteith, you see a charming, good-looking young guy with a breakout career, and it's hard not to assume his life has always been this good. It's hard to imagine he ever felt like he didn't fit in. It's equally hard to picture him as an "out-of-control" guy doing "anything and everything, as much as possible," in the realm of drugs. The fact that these two personas don't seem to match up speaks volumes to how far he has come and how inspiring his story is.
In order to understand the realities of drug and alcohol addiction or abuse, we have to look at the sad endings, as we saw this week in the DUI death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn and his friend Zachary Hartwell, as much as the happy endings, where someone like Monteith comes out shining on the other side of serious dark and desperate times. Both represent the very real possibilities for an addict or potential addict. They are the two dreaded paths at the fork in the road. As a person who got sober more than 10 years ago, I can tell you that both choices -- dying or getting sober -- feel pretty darn close to being the same thing.
These stories are important. They help keep people like me sober, and who knows, maybe someone out there will relate and respond to Monteith's tale. Maybe someone will believe him when he says, "If I can, anyone can." When I told my best friend I wanted to stop drinking, her words to me were, "Nothing bad can come of it." Although simple, they were the truest words I'd ever heard. You never know what's going flip that switch inside someone's brain, but speaking your truth is a great place to start.
Sharing your truth about life as an addict is hard. It takes guts. It's shame-filled and scary. You hope you will not be judged too harshly for being the person you once were. Hearing a story like Monteith's reminds me, in Monteith's words, that "I’m lucky to be alive." I just hope friends and fans of Ryan Dunn who indulge in reckless behavior receive a similar message this week and, if necessary, are able to make some changes in their lives.
Are you shocked to hear about Cory Monteith's troubled past?
Image via PARADE