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Robin Williams Battled Alcohol Relapse after Two Decades of Sobriety

Posted in Alcoholism

Like many other well-known celebrities, the popular comedian Robin Williams held a secret behind his smile – the pain of an alcoholism relapse that lasted three years and eventually led him into a rehab center.

While relapse is common and often expected for people recovering from alcohol and substance abuse addictions, Williams’ relapse occurred after almost two decades of sobriety, serving as a reminder to people in recovery – and to addiction experts – that cravings can be strong and occur from almost out of nowhere.

Williams has said in interviews that he clung deep to his denial, fooling himself and others close to him by putting on a guise of everything being fine while continuing to drink hard alcohol. Vodka, says Williams, became especially easy to hide during his addiction.

Williams’ battle with alcoholism was no laughing matter in a 2006 interview on Good Morning America, where he shared about the severity of his problem with alcohol. The interview occurred 60 days after the internationally known actor and comedian entered alcohol rehabilitation; he said that he had experienced two decades of sobriety before the three-year relapse occurred that led him into treatment.

The actor said the slide back into alcoholism was slow, starting with what he describes as a small voice that whispers to a person just to try one drink. However, Williams points out that for someone with a tendency for addiction and a limited ability to tolerate alcohol, even one drink can begin a long downward slide.

Williams’ problems with drug abuse were not confined to only alcohol, with reports of cocaine use in the 1980s. He quit cocaine following the death of comedic peer and friend John Belushi from a 1982 drug overdose. He describes the return of the addiction in terms of a waiting period, saying the addiction can lay low for years but crept back into his life once he felt he finally had control of it.

It was his ability to realize that he couldn’t master or control the addiction without help, says Williams, which marked a turning point. Like many people battling substance abuse, he says there is a belief that a person can manage by their own abilities – but once it is admitted that they need help, the healing can begin.

Williams also says that when it comes to alcoholism, there is a person who emerges when under the influence that is a stranger. Family and friends would recall him saying and doing things that he couldn’t even remember. The humiliation of these types of incidents, says Williams, can become another motivator toward getting help for addiction.
Robin Williams also says support from family members and friends who kept loving him, despite the addiction, has been a strong source of encouragement in the battle with alcoholism. He also sends out a message to people struggling with the disease: work at defeating the addiction daily.