The Price of Fame
He was notorious as being one of America’s leading funnymen, but many people don’t know how much about Robin Williams and his struggle with addiction. He lived to make people laugh, and some people think that his love for comedy, helped him cope with his addiction. Williams describes the passion he felt for comedy almost as a compulsion. “There’s a real incredible rush, I think, when you find something new and spontaneous,” Williams says in an interview excerpted in the film. “I think your brain rewards that with a little bit of endorphins — going, ‘If you think again, I’ll get you high one more time.’” (Ducharme, 2018)
His love for making people laugh became a compulsion, mimicking his addiction to drugs and alcohol. He craved the feeling that came from making people laugh, and the “high” it caused inside him when he got positive feedback. This created a strong urge for him to be funny, and to please a crowd. He became immensely popular for his stand-up routines where he lit up the stage and really came to life. Popularity included a price though as Williams struggled for several years with alcohol and cocaine addiction. Williams struggled with drugs for a long time during the 80’s during his rise to fame in the famous hit show, Mork and Mindy.
He was even involved in the all-night heroin and cocaine binge that caused the overdose of John Belushi, his longtime friend. This tragedy, along with his wife’s pregnancy to son Zak, was ultimately the initial nudge that Williams needed to get clean.
“Cocaine for me was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down,” Williams told People in 1988.
Committed to free himself from the demons from substances, Williams lived a daily life of sobriety for 20 years, until ’06. After 20 long years of sobriety, Williams took a turn and relapsed from drugs and alcohol. He had stated that he never fully recovered from addiction and needed to address the reason’s behind it and what the underlying root cause was for his drug abuse.
In 2006, intense anxiety got the best of Williams and he fell off the wagon. He soon started drinking again up until his addiction began to cause a threat to his marriage and livelihood. His wife of 17 years at that time, Marsha, encouraged him to get help. Although the marriage did not survive the alcohol abuse, Williams did get sober. According to him treatment made it possible for him to see more clearly without the effects associated with the alcohol.
Mental Illness and Addiction
Many people that struggle with a mental health disorder or illness also are prone to abuse drugs and/or alcohol to the point that they become addicted. There is also evidence that people who experience a mental health disorder during adolescence, especially attention deficit disorder (ADHD) will suffer from addiction later in life. Substance use disorders also co-occur at high prevalence with mental disorders, such as:
- antisocial personality disorder
- borderline personality disorder
- depression and bipolar disorder
- psychotic illness
- attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
“Many individuals who develop substance use disorders (SUD) are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa. Multiple national population surveys have found that about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa” (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020)
Serious mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia that cause serious lack of functioning in a person, could cause a higher chance of the person misusing substances. Approximately 25% of people who suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI) also have a substance use disorder (SUD).
Signs of Addiction
- You cannot function without using drugs or alcohol
- You can’t stop using the substance, despite attempts to quit
- You do things you wouldn’t normally do like lie or steal in order to get it
- You hide your problem when you are around other people
- You develop withdrawal symptoms when you quit using the drugs
- You no longer have interest in things that you used to like (hobbies, friends, etc.)
If you or someone you know is showing signs or symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to get help right away. There are many treatment centers available near you that can help treat your problem and allow you to live a life free from drugs or alcohol.
Robin Williams and his struggle with Addiction and Suicide
There is a distinct connection to Williams drug and alcohol addiction and how bad his mental health had become. It’s just another constant reminder of the dangers of addiction, and how they can affect anyone and everyone. Although Williams was able to bring so much laughter to others, deep inside he was struggling to the point that it ended his life.
Unfortunately, Williams didn’t always feel as popular and successful as everyone else saw him. Robin Williams and his struggle with addiction finally got the best of him in August 2014 when he died by suicide. He was found in his California home, and according to his publicist he struggled with depression and anxiety all the way up to the point that he committed suicide.
The story of Robin Williams and his struggle with addiction is an indicator that addiction is all around us, and our mental health severely suffers from this horrible disease. Someone may look like they are happy and fine on the outside, but they are struggling immensely on the inside.
If you or someone you know is struggling with either a mental health disorder or an addiction problem, please reach out to someone right away for help.
Ducharme, J. (2018, July 16). ‘That Laugh is a Drug.’ HBO’s New Documentary Explores Robin Williams’ Relationship to Comedy and Addiction. https://time.com/5336807/robin-williams-documentary-addiction/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, April). Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness