By now, you should be familiar with Russell Brand, if not for his celebrity status – appearing in such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek – then by his status as a recovering addict and advocate for changing the addiction stigma.
The British actor and comedian is known for his activism; someone who never shrinks from discussions regarding revolution and social inequality. And it was business as usual when he appeared on the independent global news program Democracy Now! to discuss, among other things, a subject with which he has personal experience. That of drug addiction.
The 39-year-old actor is now 12 years clean and sober.
Brand took the opportunity to criticize the war on drug during his segment on the popular program. When host Amy Goodman mentioned the recent high-profile, tragic overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the shocking suicide of Robin Williams – whose death did not involve drugs – Brand had this to say:
“I suppose those high-profile and sad deaths provide an opportunity to highlight how many lives are affected by addiction and the need to address it by different means,” he told Goodman. “I think criminalizing and penalizing people that are ill like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams is sort of pointless. It doesn’t work…I think the only way for drug addiction to be correctly addressed is for it to be regulated properly, not left in the hands of criminals.”
Brand is an outspoken critic of Britain’s drug laws, specifically, and the larger drug war. He told the BBC, “I was part of a social and economic class that is under-served by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates.”
As an activist, Brand puts his money where his mouth is. He has testified before British Parliament – back in 2012 – calling for a pragmatic, compassionate approach to dealing with drug addiction and actively contributes to compassionate substance abuse treatment.
Last year, he launched the Give It Up Fund in the United Kingdom, which established “recovery communities” that help people reenter society after leaving rehab by providing local services such as housing, healthcare, career guidance, and fellowship.
While appearing on Democracy Now!, Brand also had this to say:
“The reason people are addicted to drugs is because there is sort of a deficit of happiness, a deficit of community, a deficit of connection,” he told Goodman. “I think a lot of us feel a little adrift, like we don’t know how we’re supposed to live, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. And in the end, some kind of anesthetic becomes attractive. Certainly, that’s my personal experience.”
Brand added, “I recognize now that the thing that I was chasing after in my years of addiction was probably some sort of sense of communal connection or connection to a higher thing.”
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol or you suspect someone you love is struggling, help is available. All it takes is one phone call – a toll-free call – to 1-800-951-6135 and you will be directly connected to someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate about the disease of drug addiction. We can answer your questions and help you decide what’s next. Recovery is possible.
By Cheryl Steinberg
The autopsy report of Robin Williams, following his tragic suicide, has revealed that there were no drugs – not even alcohol – at the time of his death.
If you’re like me, you might have thought that there was a possibility that the actor and comedian had relapsed, leading to his final demise. After all, it was well-known that Williams had a history of both alcoholism and drug addiction, namely cocaine. In fact, the beloved comedian was open about this aspect of his life. In a 2006 interview he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer of his addiction, “It 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.’”
Then there was the recent stint this past June in a rehab. But, not because he fell off the wagon, but in order to stay sober, according to People magazine.
His wife, Susan Schneider, had said he was sober at the time of his suicide. And now, the toxicology report released Friday by the Coroner of the Marin County Sheriff’s office proves it.
Sadly, it seems, the funny man was dogged by anxiety, depression, and a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Ms. Schneider released a statement Wednesday:
“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.
It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”
Rest In Peace, Mr. Williams. You are sorely missed.
If you are struggling with mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder and have turned to alcohol or other drugs to help you cope, there is a better way. We can help. Palm Partners offers dual diagnosis treatment that serves to treat both mental illness and substance abuse simultaneously to get you on the path to healing and recovery. Please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist, day or night. We are here for you.
Author: Justin Mckibben
It takes a special kind of crazy to change the world of comedy the way that Robin Williams did in his career. His talents went beyond that, with inspirational performances in emotionally charged dramas such as Good Will Hunting or What Dreams May Come delivering graceful wisdom, and even chilled us to the core in thrillers such as One Hour Photo or Insomnia where he stepped outside the genres he was typically found in to terrify us. As one of the most diverse and down-right outrageous actors of our time, he struggled with his own personal demons of addiction, and even though his death has shocked the world, his life inspires us for the ages. Here are just a few of our favorite moments with the hero and comedic legend Robin Williams.
He taught us to stay current…
…or at least to do our best to keep up…
He reminded us the importance of getting chores done, and showed us how to do it with a smile on our face…
…and who DOESN’T know the words.. “Dude looks like a lady…”
We learned the importance of politics…
…and how to be kind to our neighbors.
Robin Williams showed us safety first…
…or maybe this is just too funny NOT to watch!
He tried to show us not to take technology…
…or our jobs…
…or ourselves too seriously!
He taught us to love animals like we do each other…
…and had a passion for laughter that could tickle anyone!
He even gave us ways to laugh through the pain…
…and he reminded us that home and family is where the heart is.
Robin Williams made us unafraid to ask the tough questions…
…or the silly ones…
…because he knew that the answers could change the world.
Robin Williams showed us that our little quirks were not imperfections…
…because we get to choose who sees them, and who we share ourselves with and no matter what happens, there is always something good going on, if we are willing to see it.
Robin Williams reminded us of the beautiful things in life, and that the love those things inspire in all of us are the things we live for…
…and with his love, his passion, and his undeniable laughter…
…Robin Williams taught us all how to fly, and he put magic in our hearts with the magic of his life.
Words are hard to find to express the loss of Robin Williams. From Mork & Mindy, to Dead Poets Society, to Night at the Museum, the life and talent of Robin Williams has captivated and explored all walks of life, and has tugged on our heart-strings in so many ways over the decades. His loving family helped him through his highlights and pit-falls throughout his battle with addiction, and his struggles in recovery, and my prayers go out to them in this time of mourning. Robin Williams was a hero in so many ways, and much will be said and speculated in the near future about the tragic circumstances leading to his death. At age 63 he leaves behind a loving following and a legacy that has impacted countless actors, comedians, artists, children and just about any human being that was blessed to enjoy even one of his many incredible moments. I find myself with not enough good to say about the impact he has had on me, and I can closely relate to the thought of suicide in the face of deep and dark depression. So I guess I’ll end with one thing he said that sticks to me when thinking of recovery, and how the last thing we should do when life hurts us is give up.
“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.”
July 21 1951- August 11, 2014
Substance abuse and addiction threaten the lives of countless people every day, and it can take us to some of the darkest places in our lives. Sadly, not everyone who suffers survives the disease of addiction. There is help out there, and recovery is absolutely possible, but it takes action. Every day men and women die from substance abuse, addiction, and the mental battles that coexist with this self-inflicted and self-destructive life-style. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please don’t wait until it’s too late. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Yesterday, the world was rocked by the death of one of the most beloved celebrities of our time. Oscar-winning actor/comic Robin Williams was found dead in his California home Monday, a possible suicide, according to investigators. He was 63.
Williams battled alcoholism and cocaine abuse in the early 1980s. He was close friends with John Belushi, and in fact he had been partying with the legendary “Saturday Night Live” comedian at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont hotel not long before Belushi overdosed on a lethal combination of heroin and cocaine in 1982. Belushi’s death was a wakeup call for Williams, who quit cold turkey shortly after the incident and remained sober for two decades.
In 2003, Robin Williams relapsed, after 20 years of sobriety. He returned to treatment in 2006, on the urging of his family. By most accounts, Williams has been sober since, though in early July of this year, he checked back into rehab again. He denied falling off the wagon, however, and said the treatment was only precautionary. The several weeks spent at Hazelton, were, according to his representatives, an “opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.”
Two months later, he is dead, from an apparent suicide, and the actor’s representative said he had been “battling severe depression of late.”
Emotional Bottoms in Sobriety
I remember seeing the story of Robin Williams’ recent stint in rehab. Part of my job is to look for news regarding addiction and recovery, and the Williams’ story certainly qualified. But I didn’t assign the story to either of the department blog writers. Something about it made me hesitate. I was impressed that someone with long-term sobriety was seeking help, before it was too late, and I wanted to respect his privacy.
In 2006, Williams told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that falling back into abuse was “very gradual,” and that addiction is a sickness that knows no statute of limitations. “It waits,” he said. “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.”
I relate a lot to what Williams said back then, and I think perhaps we need more resources for those in long-term sobriety who are struggling. I myself have battled feelings of depression in sobriety, and I was hesitant to reach out for help. Twelve step groups have saved my life, but the standard response to someone struggling or relapsing after a period of sobriety in that group seems to be they were “doing recovery wrong.” Or that you aren’t “taking enough action.” This may or may not be true, but it’s not exactly helpful, particularly with someone, like Williams, who may be dealing with an untreated mental health condition, like depression. So often, these two go hand-in-hand. Admitting that you’re “not ok” when you “know what you need to do” is especially difficult in this environment.
Robin Williams did though, he reached out for help, even though he knew it would be plastered all over the news. He knew that various media outlets would speculate on his continued sobriety. He would have to admit, to the world, that he was not okay. And for this, I honor him.
I don’t pretend to know what was going on in Robin Williams’ head this summer, but I do know how I felt during a period of my life when I was struggling to remain abstinent. It is often said that for alcoholics and addicts, drugs and alcohol are not the problem, they are the solution, and at the time, I did not have any other solution. I was “white-knuckling” it, struggling to get through every day without using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
I knew that for me, to drink was to die, but it would be a slow suicide, and I would take everyone I loved down with me. I had caused so much destruction with my drinking and drug use in the past, and if I picked up again, I would hurt and alienate my family and friends. I would drive myself into financial ruin. I would be utterly disgraced. I would die and everyone I cared about would look at me in disgust. Some of them may even begin to hope for my death.
Robin Williams knew this too. In an interview with the Guardian in 2010, he says of his relapse: “You know, I was shameful, and you do stuff that causes disgust, and that’s hard to recover from. You can say, ‘I forgive you’ and all that stuff, but it’s not the same as recovering from it. It’s not coming back.”
Compared to that, suicide, that “most selfish” of acts, begins to look like the noble course of action. Why put myself and everyone I loved through the rollercoaster of my active addiction? Why not just end it now, if I knew it was going to end it anyway?
It’s like that age old “would you rather” question. Would you rather die a quick and relatively painless death or spend years battling an illness with a very low chance for survival? The extra twist, of course, with addiction, is that no one really feels much sympathy for the person battling addiction; nor the individual struggling with depression. Unlike those who face down cardiovascular disease or cancer, those with mental health disorders are usually told, at best, to “just stop” or “snap out of it.” At worst, well, I recently read a comment where the user said the best way to treat addiction would be to put all addicts of the world on an island, and have them fight to death on live TV like the Hunger Games. This is far from an uncommon attitude. Even those in positions of power and prestige have been known to use the words “crack ho,” “junkie,” or worse to describe addicts.
I ended up going back to the drugs, the drink. It would be another couple years before I got help again. This time, something changed. Someone turned on the light in the darkness, and I could finally see that I had a third option: Drink, Die, or Find a New Way to Live.
I’ve been clean and sober now for nearly three years, which isn’t very long at all in the grand scheme of things, but for me, it is an eternity. I’ve had emotional low points over those three years, but I’ve been able to avoid the utter state of despair I found myself in all those years ago. Today, I have a different solution.
I have no doubt that my life ahead will be filled with ups and downs just as everyone’s is, whether or not they suffer from the disease of alcoholism. I hope and pray that I’m always able to humble myself enough to ask for help when I need it, and to ask and ask again until I get it, no matter how much “sober time” I have accrued.
Robin Williams has inspired hundreds of comedians and actors. He has inspired children and adults of all ages. He has made us laugh, he has made us cry. And last night, Robin Williams inspired me to go to a meeting.
Rest in peace Robin Williams, the world is a darker place without you.