CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the time I have been working with FlipSide, I have never shied away from writing about personal topics. I have written about the difficulties I have faced growing up gay with an abusive father in hopes of inspiring my peers to keep going with their lives. I have written about my cystic fibrosis in hopes of encouraging people to become organ donors. And now, I am writing about the sadness in my life and how someone changed it.
On July 13, "Glee" star Cory Monteith was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room at the age of 31. The cause of death was a combination of heroin and alcohol. In April, Monteith completed a stint in rehab, which he voluntarily enrolled himself in, for his drug addiction, which he had struggled with since he was 13.
Four years ago, when "Glee" first aired, I was in a bad place. The constant verbal and sometimes physical abuse from my father had been getting to me. The loneliness of having no friends because of the isolation of him home schooling me and his desire to keep me from socializing was driving me insane. My depression was worsening, I was wrestling with exactly how I should deal with my sexuality and worst of all, I think, was the fact that I was so alone in all of my misery.
"Glee" changed that.
Although my love of musical theater attracted me to the show, the characters made me stay with it. I found a piece of myself in each of them and their struggles to rise above being the underdogs in an environment that only seemed to want to keep them down.
I became attached to the characters. They filled the hole in my heart that was a result of a lack of friends and family. And because I became attached to the characters, I became attached to the actors as well. In particular, Cory Monteith was who I found myself relating to the most and the person I found the most inspiration from.
Montieth's good-natured attitude was something you rarely see in celebrities. He was humble and kind to both the press and the fans he met.
But what I liked most about him was his courage to openly speak about his troubled past. He never seemed ashamed to talk about it, and I assume it was most likely because he knew he could show people who had tough times or who were going through situations he went through, that there was hope.
Monteith's bravery is the reason I have written the articles I mentioned above. His bravery is the reason I'm not ashamed to speak about my abuse, my disease, my mental illnesses or my sexuality.
The hope he gave to me is the reason I continue to make the decision to go on with each day of my life, even if it's just by getting out of bed, because I know things will never stay bad. He showed me that no matter how much you were drowning in pain and sadness, you could break through the surface and swim back to shore.
It would be a lie to say I don't have other celebrity idols who have inspired me. I've written an article on Lady Gaga and what she's done for me, and Monteith's "Glee" co-star Chris Colfer is another inspiration of mine. But of the three idols I have, Monteith has made the most impact on me.
His death saddens me on a deeply personal level, and it almost feels as if I have lost a friend. Perhaps some of you will write that off as me being an insane fan, but it's important to remember that when they are removed from the pedestal society has set them upon, celebrities are people. And through TV, movies and interviews, we develop a bond with them, even if we do not actually know them.
I'm a better person because of Cory Monteith. I am braver, and I am stronger. The values of being a good person that he instilled in me will stick with me for the rest of my life. And for that, I thank him.