Not too much of the public know about Robin William’s inner life. He was depressed, diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and had a long battle with drugs. Along with many other comedians, Williams used drugs as a way to amp up his performance.
Certainly, he already had comic genius, but the drugs helped him to keep up with his own awe-inspiriting creativity. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Williams was addicted to cocaine, heroin, and alcohol.
According to People Magazine, Williams quit cocaine and alcohol entirely in 1982 when his first wife was pregnant with their son Zachary. The approaching role of fatherhood as well as the recent death of his close friend John Belushi prompted him to get sober.
As recent articles are revealing, Williams has been in and out of drug detox, addiction treatment centers, and hospitals to address his drug abuse and mental illness. In an interview with The Guardian, Williams described the way his first drink exploded into alcoholism:
“I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going…’maybe that will help.’ And it was the worst thing in the world.”
Subtances and Mental Illnesses go Together
It’s common for those who use substances to also have mental illness. The two are close companions. And for that reason treating both are essential. Research shows that among those who have not used substances before, the incidences of first time drug use is higher among those who have experienced a major depressive episode than those who have not.
Other mental illnesses that co-exist with substance use are Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Although the mental illness might be the cause for the use of drugs and a developing addiction, it’s often difficult to determine which came first: the substance use or the mental illness. Nonetheless, residential drug treatment must thoroughly address the addiction, the mental illness, as well as any underlying issues that might also be contributing to substance use. Sadly, many who are diagnosed with an addiction might be sent to a substance abuse treatment center that does not also address the psychological factors of the mental illnesses.
This usually leads to chronic relapse because the primary cause for the addiction was not addressed.
Struggling With Mental Illnesses
In the case of Robin Williams, it’s clear that he struggled with mental illness as well as drugs and alcohol. From about 2009 through 2001, Williams seemed to be back on track with his career, but as recent as July of 2014, he checked himself into a residential treatment again. He admitted himself into Hazelden Treatment Center in Minnesota. Although he was scheduled to spend several weeks there, he discontinued his treatment.
It’s unclear what contributed to his depression and whether he was able to keep up with his treatment throughout his life due to a busy acting career. There’s no question that he was well loved as an actor and as a human being.
His death was a shock to many. However, the details of his illness are unknown. Despite the darkness he lived with, he was a bright light for many of Americans and people around the world by delivering so much laughter. Yet, there is an important message to William’s death. Seeking addiction help can save lives!
Having the support around you, especially while having open discussions about suicidal thoughts, depression and drug use can help you feel like you’re not alone! Suicide is preventable. By getting the right support, you can slowly turn both addiction and depression around and feel the happiness you deserve.
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