Cory Monteith‘s mom, Ann McGregor, is opening up about her son’s death five years after the Glee star’s accidental overdose.
“I still can’t pick up the pieces,” McGregor, who raised Monteith as a single mom in Vancouver, Canada, told People. “My world totally stopped. And I’m a different person than I was before.”
Monteith — who died of a mixed drug toxicity involving heroin and alcohol — struggled with substance abuse at an early age. He started drinking and smoking marijuana at 13. His mother took him to rehab for the first time when he was 15 and for the second time at 19. McGregor says her son always ran with an older crowd because he was “advanced” and skipped two grades.
“There was this disconnect,” she explained. “Because he was pushed so far ahead and always associated with older children, but he was still a boy.”
She added: “He tried to keep everything from me, because he loved me and wanted to protect me. He was just always so curious. And the darker world just drew him in.”
When he got sober again, Monteith moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of being an actor. Glee catapulted him to stardom, something McGregor believes he was never fully cut out for.
“He wasn’t ready for the Hollywood world,” she said. “Drugs were his way of checking out.”
Monteith admitted he was using drugs again in December 2012, seven months before his death. With the support of his Glee co-stars and his girlfriend, Lea Michele, he checked back into a monthlong treatment program in April 2013. But between May and July, Monteith had “massive” dental work his mom believes could have affected his sobriety.
“He had little teeth, and they were all capped,” McGregor revealed. “He had a lot of medication in his system, which was not good for his body coming out of rehab.”
Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room on July 13, 2013. Along with alcohol and heroin, morphine and codeine were also found in his system. He was 31.
“He didn’t have enough drugs in his system to kill him, but for some reason it did because of his intolerance [built up by periods of intermittent sobriety],” she noted.
McGregor vividly remembers the terrible moment she was told her son was dead: “I got a call from [his girlfriend] Lea [Michele] and she was screaming, ‘Is it true?’ I had heard nothing. And a minute later police knocked on my door.”
For McGregor, she will cherish the sweet memories of her son forever. “We used to go everywhere together,” she told the magazine, on newsstands Friday. “We had a favorite restaurant where we’d share fish and chips. Even at 3 years old, he would stand at the counter and pay the bill. He could talk to anyone. He just had a way about him, and all I could do was enjoy it.”
McGregor is also honoring her son by working with Amber Academy, a nonprofit in her community that empowers youth through fine arts. “Cory believed in prevention rather than trying to fix people,” she said. “He wanted to give children opportunities to shine and feel good about themselves so they wouldn’t turn to drugs.
Lea Michele and Cory Monteith
Lea Michele and Cory Monteith
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 08: Actors Cory Monteith (L) and Lea Michele attend the 12th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball on June 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Chrysalis)
SANTA MONICA, CA - AUGUST 19: (L-R) Actors Lea Michele and Cory Monteith attend the 2012 Do Something Awards at Barker Hangar on August 19, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1)
SANTA MONICA, CA - AUGUST 19: (L-R) Actors Cory Monteith and Lea Michele arrive at the 2012 Do Something Awards at Barker Hangar on August 19, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1)
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 01: Cory Monteith and Lea Michele arrive at the Versace Haute-Couture show as part of Paris Fashion Week Fall / Winter 2012/13 at the Ritz hotel on July 1, 2012 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 11: Actors Lea Michele with the award for 'Favorite TV Comedy Actress' and Cory Monteith attend the 2012 People's Choice Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on January 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for PCA)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 09: Actors Cory Monteith and Lea Michele and writer/director/producer Ryan Murphy inside the 11th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball sponsored by Audi, Grey Goose, Kayne Anderson and smartwater on June 9th, 2012 (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For Chrysalis)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 09: Actors Lea Michele and Cory Monteith inside the 11th Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball sponsored by Audi, Grey Goose, Kayne Anderson and smartwater on June 9th, 2012 (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images For Chrysalis)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 15: Actors Lea Michele and Cory Monteith arrive at 13th Annual Warner Bros. And InStyle Golden Globe Awards After Party at The Beverly Hilton hotel on January 15, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - SEPTEMBER 07: Actors Cory Monteith (L) and Lea Michele attend the premiere of 20th Century Fox's 'Glee' Season 2 held at Paramount Studios on September 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MAY 20: Actors/singers Cory Monteith (L) and Lea Michele of Fox TV's 'Glee' perform at The Gibson Amphitheater on May 20, 2010 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - AUGUST 21: Cory Monteith and Lea Michele of FOX TV's show 'Glee' attend a meet-and-greet at Orland Square, Orland Park on August 21, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images for Fox)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 03: Actors Lea Michele (L) and Cory Monteith attend the cast of 'Glee' Signing copies of 'Glee: The Music Vol. 1' at Borders Books & Music, Columbus Circle on November 3, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images for Columbia Records)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 28: Actors/singers Lea Michele (L) and Cory Monteith perform at Glee Live! at the Staples Center on May 28, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 11: Actress Lea Michele (L) and actor Cory Monteith speak at a Q&A session at the GLEE premiere event screening at Santa Monica High School on May 11, 2009 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Fox)