“Mork & Mindy” and “Good Will Hunting” star Robin Williams, who was found dead of an apparent suicide in his northern California home on Monday (Aug. 11) at age 63, waged well-publicized battles with addiction and depression throughout his life.
The actor was candid about his personal demons, on several occasions describing his efforts to stay clean even as he attempted to avoid the dark cloud hovering over his head.
In 2013, a long-sober Williams spoke to Pat Harvey of Los Angeles’ CBS 2, admitting that he was “on pretty much everything but skates,” but noted that staying clean allowed him to be “focused on the present.”
“Having sobriety now, (for) like seven years, they have these things when you’re drinking called ‘blackouts.’ It’s not really blackouts, it’s like sleepwalking with activities, but it’s the idea of, you know, ‘Yeah, I’m more focused on the present’, and that helps, especially when you’re doing a series,” Williams said. “When I did ‘Mork and Mindy,’ it was just sort of a crazy ride, and I was on pretty much everything but skates. But now, to be here and doing this is to appreciate it and participating, saying ‘what can I bring to it, and how can I help.’”
That same year, Williams revisited a previous relapse into alcoholism, which occurred after 20 years of sobriety. The actor recalled to Parade how he answered the call of a “lower power,” starting with “a taste” that quickly spiraled out of control.
“One day I walked into a store and saw a little bottle of Jack Daniel’s. And then that voice — I call it the ‘lower power’ — goes, ‘Hey. Just a taste. Just one.’ I drank it, and there was that brief moment of ‘Oh, I’m okay!’ But it escalated so quickly,” Robins noted. “Within a week I was buying so many bottles I sounded like a wind chime walking down the street. I knew it was really bad one Thanksgiving when I was so drunk they had to take me upstairs.”
The actor was particularly candid in a 2010 interview with the Guardian. During the wide-ranging talk, Williams blamed alcohol for the deterioration of his second marriage, even though he had stopped drinking at the time of the 2008 breakup.
Williams admitted to engaging in behavior that “causes disgust,” which prevented reconciliation with his second wife, film producer Marsha Garces.
“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,” Williams said.
Williams, who had sought treatment for depression in the period leading up to his death, also spoke candidly about his struggles with on that front. In 2006, the actor appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” and told Terry Gross and discussed his mood swings.
“Do I get sad? Oh yeah,” Williams admitted. “Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.”
The actor denied, however, that he had been diagnosed with depression on a clinical level.
“No clinical depression, no. No. I get bummed, like I think a lot of us do at certain times,” Williams told Gross. “You look at the world and go, ‘Whoa.’ Other moments you look and go, ‘Oh, things are okay.’”
In an opinion column for Time, Alan Alda expressed his desire that Williams’ death will inspire others to be more aware of depression, hopefully preventing further tragedy.
“While the whole country, and much of the world, feels this moment of sadness at his death, can we turn the loss of this artist we loved so much into something that pushes back against the ravages of despair?” Alda wrote. “Can we educate one another to recognize the early signs of depression? Can we make it clear to one another how dangerous it is? We all know now that drunk driving kills. But, when I looked up the numbers, I was astonished. Each year there are more than twice as many suicides attributed to depression as deaths on the road due to alcohol.”