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Robin Williams' life punctuated by alcohol, cocaine struggles

Though Robin Williams quit cocaine and alcohol unassisted in 1982, he looked to rehab for help years later.

Williams' public life had a quiet personal current running through it for decades: his struggles with cocaine and alcohol abuse.

Williams, 63, committed suicide by hanging himself after first apparently trying to slash one of his wrists, authorities said Tuesday.

Marin County sheriff's Lt. Keith Boyd said Williams' personal assistant found him dead in a bedroom shortly before noon Monday.

Williams was found "in a seated position" in his bedroom shortly after 11:45 a.m., Boyd said.

The actor was discovered with a pocketknife nearby, Boyd said, and had suffered several cuts to his wrist that might have been self-inflicted.

The comedian and actor had "been battling severe depression of late," his publicist Mara Buxbaum said.

The Mork & Mindy star quit cocaine and alcohol cold turkey six months ahead of the April 1983 birth of his first child, Zachary, with first wife Valerie Velardi. Mork, which along with his Grammy-winning album Reality . . . What a Concept propelled him to stardom, had wrapped its TV run in May 1982.

Not coincidentally, Williams' decision also came after the March 1982 death of John Belushi; Williams had been at his friend's Chateau Marmont bungalow in the hours preceding the Saturday Night Live star's speedball overdose, though he left hours before the death.

"The Belushi tragedy was frightening," he told People in 1988. "His death scared a whole group of show-business people. It caused a big exodus from drugs. . . . I knew I couldn't be a father and live that sort of life."

He also revealed details about his drug use to the Los Angeles Times in 1991.

"It was a strange thing because my managers sent me to this doctor because they said I had this cocaine problem," Williams said. "He said, 'How much do you do?' And I said, 'A gram every couple of days,' and he said, 'You don't have a problem.'

"That was before they'd started to acknowledge it was psychologically addicting."

The man who would go on to win an Oscar for Good Will Hunting stayed sober for two decades, until he was filming on location in Alaska in 2003.

"I was in a small town where it's not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking," Williams told the Guardian in 2010. "I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going . . . maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world."

Last month, it became public that Williams was taking part in Hazelden's Lodge "experience" in Minnesota. The facility bills the program as a place where people who are living sober can come to touch their 12-step bases, with meditation and spiritual work part of the mix.

"After working back-to-back projects, Robin is simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud," Williams' representative Rachel Karten said on July 1.

The Crazy Ones, Williams' return to series TV, which co-starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, was canceled in May.

Authorities did not mention alcohol or drugs in connection with Williams' death, though toxicology tests will be done as part of an autopsy.

Williams was last seen at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Tiburon at 10 p.m. Sunday. His body was discovered about noon Monday, sheriff's officials have said.

His wife, Susan Schneider, left the couple's home around 10:30 a.m., believing Williams was still sleeping, according to Boyd, the Marin County sheriff's official. Williams' personal assistant became concerned when Williams failed to answer several knocks to his bedroom door at 11:45 a.m., and discovered his body moments later.

Boyd declined to say whether Williams left a suicide note.

Robin Williams' life punctuated by alcohol, cocaine struggles 08/12/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 12:05pm]
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