July 15, 2013

This Is What Addiction Looks Like

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A lot of no good, very terrible, bad things happened this weekend. For the sake of this post, though I’m only going to focus on Cory Monteith, the star of Glee, who died of an apparent drug overdose on Saturday in his hotel room.

TMZ ran some garbage the other day that said something like, “OMG, what a shock! Here’s a picture of Cory Monteith looking happy and healthy just a few weeks before he died. How could it be?!”

This made my blood boil because, despite all the information that’s out there about addiction, people still have this image of addicts being complete train wrecks, whizzing through life barefoot, disheveled and insane when, in fact, it’s often the opposite. Addiction can look like anything. It can look happy and healthy and productive and loving and kind and a hard worker. That’s what so chilling about the disease. You never really know who has it. You could know someone for years and not realize that they were alcoholics or pill heads. Addiction can be insidious, it can kill your soul before it kills anything else and no one can really see a soul that’s withering away.

Remember when Nicole Richie was addicted to heroin? No? Anyone? Babe? Well, she was, and I remember reading once in an interview her saying something like, “People have this image of druggies all living barefoot under a bridge but it wasn’t like that for me when I was using. I always looked cute and wore my Jimmy Choo’s.” The fact that Nicole Richie was never barefoot under a bridge when she was a heroin addict has a lot to do with the fact that she has more money than God and, thus, has no real financial bottom to reach. However, there’s something that rings true about her sentiment. Most of the people I know who have drug and/or alcohol problems are living very full functional lives. You would never know that they got wasted every single night or did key bumps in the bathroom at work. They are “happy.” They are “healthy.”

Recently it was announced that Lindsay Lohan would be doing an interview with Oprah in August after she was released from rehab followed by a documentary following her life in recovery. I’m no addiction specialist but filming a reality show after your release from court-mandated rehab doesn’t seem like the healthiest decision. The pop culture obsessed part of me delighted at the thought of a Lindsay Lohan reality show happening but then the more rational, empathetic side took over, and I became very sad. Despite being sent to rehab multiple times, Lindsay has never really admitted to being addicted to drugs and alcohol. She released a statement a few years ago saying that her life had become unmanageable by drugs and alcohol but has since seemed to renege on that confession. In fact, just before she was sent to rehab, she did a disturbing interview with Piers Morgan, in which she claimed to only have done cocaine three or four times and barely drank. WTF? She also told Matt Lauer awhile ago that she had been sober for “uh, some time now.” When Matt Lauer pressed her for specifics, she twitched uncomfortably in her chair and said something like, “you know, for awhile.” It was a vague response and one that was clearly a lie.

Lindsay’s inability to get clean speaks to an uncomfortable truth that our culture doesn’t want to accept, which is that some people don’t get better. They wish to burn out until they’re dead. At this point, our desire for Lindsay getting clean seems more self-serving than anything else. America loves a comeback, we love to see someone reclaim their throne, and Lindsay’s a prime example of this. If we truly wanted her to get sober, we wouldn’t be losing our shit over a Lindsay Lohan reality show. Reality shows, as evidenced by Kim Richards, Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston, do not equal sobriety.

It’s hard because, as an avid pop culture consumer/gay man who’s drawn to camp and absurdity, I’m obsessed with train wrecks. Like, if I could see that picture of Tara Reid walking down a red carpet with her weird post-implant tip hanging out 24/7, I would. But in doing so, me and any many others are gnoring the reality that these people are actually very sick. We’re allowing willful ignorance to take over, we’re buying the “happy” and “healthy” stories, and then we act shocked when they’re all found dead in hotel rooms.

Don’t be shocked. Don’t be shocked when drug addicts die because they do all the time. Don’t be shocked when Lindsay Lohan ends up dead in a hotel room because she will if she doesn’t stop chasing fame and actually get serious about sobriety. And I think it’s hypocritical of us to sit here and express sadness when we all laughed at videos of these celebrities passed out drunk in cars and stumbling all over Hollywood Boulevard. This wasn’t a joke. This was their disease and, like Cory Monteith, it will kill them if they don’t recover. It always does. TC Mark

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