Four Things We Can Learn From the Loss of Robin Williams

In a shocking course of events, Oscar winner Robin Williams—a man who made America smile—died in his California home yesterday.

The cause of death appears to be suicide.

In recent months, we’ve had to say goodbye to several beloved public figures who also battled demons:

And now, we say goodbye one of our favorite actors and comedians, Robin Williams—so sad.

There are a few things we can learn from these deaths, though.

1. We can’t take clean time for granted.

Think back to your first days in sobriety. It’s likely that in your first few months, you were excited about and intensely focused on your new-found recovery, as it became an important part of your life.

As time continued, you probably attended many meetings. You probably had a sponsor or perhaps even became one yourself. You worked the Steps and life started to stabilize.

As life got back to “normal,” you found yourself attending fewer and fewer meetings. Maybe your attendance went to one a week. Then, maybe less.

Everyone’s different, but for many, the more clean time we have, the less we feel the desperate need to continually nurse our recovery. As time passes, we become lulled into believing we’ve put the disease to rest once and for all.

And that’s what the disease wants you to believe. You’re safe now. You have 2 or 5 or even 10 years sober. You’re practically home free!

2. Relapse happens gradually.

We might feel more confident than ever after each year clean, but no amount of clean time guarantees us freedom from alcoholism or addiction.

As we live our life, our disease stays with us the whole time. Lying dormant. Waiting for the opportunity to make a sneaky come back, stronger than ever.

It’s important to keep addiction in check. Having a sponsor can help you with that accountability. You could also attend a treatment program again, even if you haven’t slipped or relapsed. In fact, Williams went to rehab last month, not due to relapse, but to re-focus on his committment to recovery.

3. We should seek professional help for addiction and other mental illnesses.

We’re very independent people, which is not always a good thing, because we always think we can fix everything ourselves. And outside help is often the last solution to our problems.

Williams admitted in an early 80s interview that “You can’t [deal with it on your own]. That’s the bottom line. You really think you can, then you realize, I need help, and that’s the word … It’s hard admitting it, then once you’ve done that, it’s real easy.”

4. Shame often prevents us from getting the help we need.

When Williams relapsed in 2006, he said he was shameful. “You do stuff that causes disgust, and that’s hard to recover from.”

We really cannot control what opinions others choose to hold, but we should not let those opinions keep us from getting the helping we need. Don’t let addiction and depression or anxiety silence your desire for help.