Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Death of Robin Williams

Addiction and all that comes with it can affect everyone from a truck driver to a fantastically successful entertainer. It is the equal-opportunity disease that hides its presence so well it may not be seen. The question everyone asks about addiction is "why." Why did they do it? Why did it end this way? Why, why, why and some of the answers can be staring us right in the face.

Robin Williams, the incredibly talented comedian/actor/Oscar winner, has died at his own hand, according to reports. The scant news coming from his family indicates that he was desperately fighting a severe depression and had recently checked himself into a rehab facility just to keep himself on track with his sobriety.

The tragic ending of such a shining talent reminds us of similar deaths of talented actors who also struggled with addiction; Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman most recently. Both were enjoying heady success and yet the addiction persisted, whether through the need for the drugs alone or to fend off something else. In Williams' case, it would seem that the man's demon was severe depression. Always ready to please his audience, he may have hidden the Pagliacci behind the smiling mask. Williams' idol, mentor and friend, the hugely successful comedian Jonathan Winters, had admitted that he suffered from bipolar disorder and had spent time in psychiatric hospitals.

The double demons of addiction and depression are not quickly or easily dismissed. Together they form a destructive bond that lingers waiting for an opportunity. For this reason, sobriety is a day-to-day process with the ever-present possibility that a slip will occur if only to ease the emerging depression.  Success is no guarantee against depression and the need for comedians to always be ready with an outrageous quip brings with it incredible pressure and the fear of failure. Failure is always a possibility.

No one is above addiction and perhaps that's what we need to remember as we note the passing of this man.  A mental disorder can strike any of us.

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