Robin Williams Is Dead

That's it. Robin Williams was found dead today. Initial reports are that he died from asphyxiation, in what may be a suicide.

I don't know what to say other than I'm heartbroken. I do know that he was addicted to cocaine for years and then got clean and sober. In recent decades, I know he had what some people refer to "slips," but got clean again. I just recently read that he was back in rehab, and that alone pained me.

I guess I do know what to say ... I'm awaiting a string of tributes along with a string of stupid, incredibly insensitive remarks about depression, alcoholism/addiction, and suicide.

Meanwhile, I contemplate my relation with all of these things. I'm grateful that I'm not plagued by these spectres at present, but I'm not foolish enough to think that it can't be me. Philip Seymour Hoffman showed us all that no matter how long you've been doing the recovery thing, we're always immune to our disease/s when we don't get the medicine we need.

Whether that means psychotropics, time in a 12-step program, time with a therapist, time in a hospital, time in another recovery program, or ... SOMETHING ELSE TO QUIET THE NOISE that isn't drugs, alcohol, or a noose. I'm grateful that I'm currently in a place where suicide seems like the farthest thing from my mind. But I also know that without assistance, my mind is capable of great sadness and confusion, and so it is not beyond my understanding why these things happen.

My friend, Erin Shea, just said this on Facebook:

Those of great laughter always seem to know the greatest pain, and we are tragically the beneficiaries of it all. Incredibly saddened by the death of Robin Williams but grateful for his art. Seriously. Such a force.

I've been taking a variety of classes at Second City recently, and I'm taking Scenic Improv from Rachael Mason. She was talking about how we don't need to look for the next funniest, best, wonderful thing to come out of our mouths. She said it's hard to keep up that pace -- the comedians who did that were Chris Farley, John Belushi, and Mitch Hedberg. She asked the class what they all have in common ... I spoke up almost instantly. I said, "They're dead."

Unfortunately, that was the right answer.

Robin Williams was a comedian, a stand-up, an actor. He was annoying and way too much to some, but every time I saw him on a talk show, riffing off the top of his head, being wild, running with the first thought or action that was laid upon him, I knew. I knew what it's like to have a fast mind and a loud voice and sensitive heart. I knew that he was one of my people. I knew that we were lucky to have him contributing to the public space.

This is pretty mind blowing to me. Even though I understand that addiction and depression are deadly diseases, it still never becomes blasé to lose someone. Whether personally, tangentially, or someone I knew only by the work they did. Every time I know that someone loses the fight, it's crushing.

Hopefully, his death is not in vain. These tragedies continue to put mental illness and addiction into the spotlight, and hopefully change people's ideas about making treatment and prevention a priority, instead of a last-ditch effort. It's often said -- "You're only as sick as your secrets."  It's true, but some secrets will eventually kill you.

Robin, rest in peace. You have given us so much, and now you can move on to create something new.

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