I wrote a completely different post this morning, which I was about to edit when I saw this news come through.
Williams checked himself into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Centre just over one month ago, intending to spend several weeks there officially in order to ‘recharge’ and maintain his long term sobriety. Williams became addicted to cocaine and alcohol in the late 1970s,and quit cold turkey in 1983. He didn’t seek help – he just quit, galvanised to do so by the overdose death of his friend John Belushi and the birth of his eldest son.
He stayed sober for twenty years, starting to drink again ‘very gradually‘. In 2006, though, he admitted that he had relapsed and sought help in a rehabilitation treatment centre, which helped him to regain sobriety.
Addiction, said Williams in a 2006 interview, “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.”
We don’t know what happened this time. One of the things that makes this death so tragic is that Williams obviously knew that he was slipping. People don’t just check themselves back into rehab unless they know that something is wrong. But whatever treatment or counselling was offered at Hazelden, it didn’t work.
Hazelden is part of the Betty Ford group, and it offers concurrent treatment for underlying mental illness as well as the drug and alcohol abuse that is often a symptom. There’s nothing here to suggest that they failed Williams – except that he’s dead.
Addiction is one fucker of a disease. It seems incredible, from the outside, that somebody who quit alcohol and drugs cold turkey for twenty years can have then relapsed. It seems more incredible that even with long term sobriety, a support group and the resources to access specialist help when he needed it again, But that’s just how much of a fucker addiction is. It waits in the shadows, the most dedicated stalker ever known, and it doesn’t discriminate for fame or talent.
Robin Williams, you were an amazing man. You were funny, you were kind, you were whip-smart and you were as brave and strong and fearless as it is possible to be. I’m sorry that addiction got you. I’m sorry that the pain and the loneliness and the darkness overtook you.
You will be missed by a world of people, Robin.