The Story of Robin Williams and His Drug Abuse

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In August 2014, aged 63, Robin Williams was found dead inside his home as a result of suicide. A later autopsy revealed that he had been living with undiagnosed Lewy body dementia, a degenerative disease that affects memory, alertness, movement, and thinking ability. Though Williams was not aware of the condition he was living with, friends and family could tell that he was struggling and had lost some of his spark. Robin Williams had been clean and sober for several years when he passed, and his death isn’t thought to be related to his drug and alcohol problems. In this article, we will take a look at Robin Williams’ life, looking into his struggle with drugs, his rehabilitation journey, and his relapse.

Robin Williams and Cocaine: Williams Struggle With Drugs

Did Robin Williams use drugs? The answer is a definite yes! Early on in his career, Robin Williams abused alcohol and cocaine. Howard Storm, director of Mork & Mindy, the company that brought Williams to stardom, explained that he turned up to work not having slept the whole night. “He was snorting coke, and if you snort coke, in order to come down you drink booze. He was out all night and screwing everybody in town.” Robin Williams drug addiction may have arisen from the combination of the intense pressure of his work and his fame as a celebrity. Individuals often turn to alcohol and drugs as a means to escape from all the stress and pressure - to use it as a ‘way out.’

Robin Williams and John Belushi: Williams Decision to Go to Rehab

Williams decided it was time to turn things around after his comedian friend John Belushi fatally overdosed in 1982 at just 33 years old. Williams had been at his friend’s Chateau Marmont bungalow in the hours preceding Belushi’s overdose, which understandably shook him up and acted as an impetus to change. The actor explained “The Belushi tragedy was frightening. His death scared a whole group of show-business people. It caused a big exodus from drugs.... I knew I couldn’t be a father and live that sort of life.” Any encounter with death is chilling, and in many cases, the death of a fellow addict acts as a wake-up call for an individual to turn their life around. Williams became sober before the birth of his eldest son and successfully managed to stay sober for two decades. 

Robin Williams Relapse

Things took a turn for the worse in 2003 when Williams was filming the movie “Good Will Hunting” in Alaska. The actor didn’t turn back to cocaine but started drinking again. He explained that the sheer remoteness of his surroundings caused him to feel alone and afraid. In a 2010 interview with The Guardian, Williams described the feeling that alcohol gave him - "You feel warm and kind of wonderful. And then the next thing you know, it's a problem, and you're isolated." While Robin Williams turned to alcohol to make him stop feeling so anxious and alone, it didn’t help and, in fact, exacerbated his negative feelings. As is the case with all drug abuse, short-term highs and transient positive feelings only pave the way to long-term damage.

In an interview in 2013, he explained how things progressed from there:

“One day I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel’s. And then that voice — I call it the ‘lower power’ — goes, ‘Hey. Just a taste. Just one.’ I drank it, and there was that brief moment of ‘Oh, I’m okay!’ But it escalated so quickly. Within a week I was buying so many bottles I sounded like a wind chime walking down the street.”

It is for this reason that many addicts commit themselves to a life of sobriety upon recovery. What may seem like just one harmless drink can lead to another and another and another. There is a joke that goes “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor,” and while this is humorous, it has a strong element of truth to it. Recovering addicts might think that they possess a certain level of self-control that, unfortunately, they don’t. This can be very destabilizing once they realize that restraint and moderation aren’t as easy as they thought they would be. A person might think that they have the ability to stop drinking, but once they try and fail, they realize that the situation is out of their hands. As Williams explained in another interview, addiction “waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, 'It's fine now, I'm OK.' Then, the next thing you know, it's not OK. Then you realize, 'Where am I? I didn't realize I was in Cleveland.'"

Addiction can be insidious, giving a person a false mindset that makes them believe they’re doing better than they really are.

The Effect of Alcohol on Robin Williams’ personal life

Williams’ second marriage ended in 2008 largely because of his drinking. In his own words, he explained, "You know, I was shameful, and you do stuff that causes disgust, and that's hard to recover from. You can say, 'I forgive you' and all that stuff, but it's not the same as recovering from it. It's not coming back." Addiction can create a vicious cycle - being uninhibited, a person will do things that will later cause them embarrassment and shame, and they will then turn to drugs to help allay those feelings. Feelings of shame also diminish a person’s self-esteem, which can lower a person’s functionality and potential for self-actualization.

Getting Help

After relapsing, Williams revealed that in the years he was sober, he hadn’t properly confronted the underlying issues at the root of his addiction. On the journey to recovery, it is of crucial importance that a person addresses not only the symptoms of their drug addiction but the underlying causes. Instead of just chopping down the weeds, a person needs to uproot them from the ground. This inability to get at the deeper issues behind the addiction is one of the reasons why Williams ended up relapsing.

If you are going through a drug or alcohol addiction or have a loved one who is, know that you are not alone in the struggle. Let Robin Williams turbulent life inspire you to bring change to your trajectory and prompt you to get the help you need.

Reach out to Avenues Recovery today so that our highly professional and successful addiction counselors can help you begin your journey to an addiction-free future. Our caring and dedicated staff are here to help you and walk you through every step of the way. Contact us today to take your first step towards a brighter and sober life.

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