10.18.2013

Glee Remembers the Quarterback

I was a huge fan of Glee when the show first came on the air. I watched each episode as it aired (or the next night if I were busy with parenting duties). I loved that there was a show that tackled so many different issues and showed support for so many different types of people. The creators of the show weren't afraid to tackle tough issues. Though I haven't watched the last few seasons of the show, I felt compelled to watch the episode where the cast said farewell to Finn. There was a bit of hype about it in the media and I really looked forward to how Glee would handle an overdose.

Well, they didn't. AT ALL. There was not one mention of drugs, addiction, tragedy, nothing. The closest thing to broaching the subject was 32 minutes in when Sue Sylvester said "It's all so pointless."
My shock grew with each passing minute. Then it turned into anger, frustration. Why wouldn't they talk about such a pervasive issue, especially one that definitely affects their target audience? Why did they not say one single word about the power, pervasiveness, heartbreak of addiction? Not even a hotline at the end of the show and a 10 second voice over PSA of who to call if you are looking for help. NOTHING.

I truly thought we had made some headway in dismissing the stigma surrounding addiction, but that episode would lead me to believe that is not the case. A 2010 study found that 22 million Americans are addicted to a substance and only 2.4 million sought treatment. Expand that number to include the family and friends of the addicts who are adversely affected and that is no small number of people. In fact, you would be surprised how many people you know already that carry the scars of their own addiction or that of their loved one. I discovered that once I started openly sharing my own story.

Addiction is shameful. No one wants to admit to being an addict and no one wants to admit to loving an addict with their whole heart. "How will people judge me?" "They'll think I'm weak, worthless, stupid, wrong." "People will treat me differently if they know." I dealt with the addiction of a loved one on my own for many years. I thought that if I shared my story the judgement would break down what little piece of myself I still was holding on to. I thought it would break me to the point of no return.

I learned through a very tear-filled introduction at a treatment center's family day that I was completely wrong. In fact, it is one of the biggest things I've been completely wrong about in my entire life. I cried in front of a room full of strangers. I openly told them my biggest secret. I learned that I wasn't alone. That I wasn't weak or stupid or wrong, I was just human and I needed help. Over the years I have learned that the broadest steps to recovery happen for both the addict and the loved one. We both walk our own roads to recovery, to rediscovering our lives.

Glee failed in not addressing addiction in their farewell episode to Cory. He was an addict. But that doesn't make him a bad person or take away any of the good that took place throughout his life. An addict is more than their addiction, but addiction will always be a part of who they are. Pretending that it isn't is doing a disservice to that person, their struggles, triumphs, their beauty. We are all flawed because we are all human. Addressing Cory's addiction would have gone far from tainting his name but would have illustrated for so many young people, many with addictions of their own, that this isn't something to be ashamed of. It is something to be talked about openly if we ever hope to eradicate the stigma. His struggles were the struggles of 22 million other Americans. Why pretend otherwise?

I am sincerely hoping that in upcoming episodes Glee works in a character who is struggling with addiction and comes to speak openly about it with their loved ones. That they show that addicts aren't all derelicts, but are people with good hearts who happen to have a disease that they can conquer with a lot of hard work and support.  I really hope that they don't gloss over this particular tough issue when they've tacked so many others because if they do they are just reinforcing the shame that surrounds addiction and that is not what this show is supposed to be about.

[If you are looking for some resources the National Institute on Drug Abuse website has a ton of information. I am also always happy to lend an ear if you need someone to talk to, judgement free, just send me an email.]


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