Thursday, July 18, 2013

Cory Monteith - Relapse Claims Another Shining Star

Cory Monteith made no secret of his struggle with drugs and alcohol. Given his notoriety from the hit series GLEE, Cory chose not to hide behind a pain-filled past but instead was transparent about his difficult journey. As a fan of GLEE for some time, I couldn't help but wonder how and why relapse claimed this shining star so soon after leaving rehab. Given the importance of triggers that we have been discussing in previous blogs, my attention was drawn to this article about Cory's untimely passing.

In a Health Blog posted by Nancy Churmin (dallasnews- life,2013/07/17), she states, " It's important to understand how difficult it is for those who are suffering from addiction to avoid cues that trigger a heightened level of urge to use drugs."  

Ms. Churmin goes on to say,

"These cues [triggers] include objects and environments that have been conditioned or have been associated with the drug.  Sometimes these cues in themselves increase the rewarding effects of the drugs and makes abstinence extremely difficult." 

In her blog, Nancy Churmin also added a quote from Dr. Francesca Filbey, a researcher at the University of Texas Dallas Center for Brain Health, who states, "The effects of cues on the brain of addicted individuals has been well studied in our laboratory and provides evidence for the changes in the brain that lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior in these individuals."

This quote is in line with much of the research that shows that long-term substance use alters brain chemistry. In a blog "Myths About Addiction: They Could Stop If They Wanted To" (, 2013/07/17), the article goes on to say...

"These changes [in the brain] can cause intense cravings, impulse control issues, and compulsion to continue use. Due to these chemical changes it is very difficult for a true addict to quit solely by willpower and determination." 

Relapse is a very real part in recovering of any kind, and yet,Cory's passing reminds of its all-too-often final outcome. Let's use this time to remind ourselves of the hard work that it takes to 'stay the course' in our recovering journeys. Let's not forget that relapse is relentless and outside forces do not rest. We must not either...

Let's continue to pay attention to ALL the 'cues' - the chemical, physical, emotional, psychological, environmental triggers  - that can and will catapult us into previous unhealthy ways of thinking, behaving, and feeling. Let's be courageous and examine ourselves and our past pain. And let's start addressing how and why our triggers are signals to us about underlying issues and symptomatology which are fueling our relapse. 

As I write in Mountain Air: Relapsing and Finding The Way Back...One Breath at a Time

Chapter 5 - "Fissure In The Soil"

"As painful as this process can be [addressing triggers ], identifying and working through our fissures is essential in order to break though the realities of relapse and to unleash the shroud of shame it carries with it. If we are to reclaim ourselves, we must do this."

In closing, I can't help but wonder if Cory Monteith was aware of his triggers and how they impact recovery?  Hearing that he had a painful past - experiencing his parents' divorce at a young age and attending over 16 schools - I wonder what his 'life messages' were and if he had time to tend to those and work through them? And with an empathic spirit, I wonder why such a shining star - one who was so well-known and well-loved, was found alone in a hotel room suffocating in an episode of relapse and, undoubtedly, in a pool of shame.  

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