NEW YORK - Addiction seemed to stalk Robin Williams, tempting him when he was weak and taunting him when he least expected it.
It waits, he told Good Morning America in 2006. 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 you realize, 'Where am I? I didn't realize I was in Cleveland.'
Williams, the comic whirlwind known for his hilarious stream-of-consciousness ramblings, was found dead Monday after the 63-year-old hung himself in his San Francisco Bay Area home in perhaps his final attempt to silence the demons that relentlessly targeted him.
On film, he played everything from a genie to a psychiatrist. In life, he suffered for years from periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression, opening up about them to journalists with self-deprecating wit and making his struggles fuel for his comedy.
Cocaine for me was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down, he told People in 1988.
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One of his first wake-up calls was in 1982 when fellow comedian John Belushi died of a fatal drug overdose. Williams briefly partied with the Saturday Night Live star the night he died and his friend's passing coupled with impending fatherhood forced the comedian to quit cocaine and alcohol cold turkey.
The Belushi tragedy was frightening, Williams told People. His death scared a whole group of show-business people. It caused a big exodus from drugs. And for me, there was the baby coming. I knew I couldn't be a father and live that sort of life.
Sobriety lasted 20 years. Then the taunts became overwhelming again.
The Oscar winner spent several weeks in the Canadian city of Winnipeg in the spring of 2004 filming The Big White, playing an Alaskan travel agent nearing bankruptcy. He told The Guardian in 2010 he felt lonely and overworked.
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. I just thought, 'Hey, maybe drinking will help.' Because I felt alone and afraid, he told the newspaper. And you think, oh, this will ease the fear. And it doesn't.
He told Parade magazine in 2013 that his relapse after two decades of sobriety was frighteningly simple.
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 OK!' But it escalated so quickly. Within a week I was buying so many bottles I sounded like a wind chime walking down the street.
A family intervention - It was not an intervention so much as an ultimatum, he told Parade - convinced him to seek alcohol abuse treatment at Oregon's Hazelden Springbrook center in 2006.
He later told The New York Times that he hadn't confronted the underlying issues at the root of his addiction.
There was still, in the background, this voice, like, 'Psst,' he told the newspaper. So when I relapsed, I went back hard. The one thing I hadn't dealt with was, how honest do you want to live?
Williams continued his recovery by attending weekly AA meetings. But his second marriage, to film producer Marsha Garces, ended in 2008 - largely because of his drinking, even though by then he was sober.
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.
Recently, the actor had been battling a new bout of depression and entered 12-step rehab. His publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said at the time that Williams made the decision because he needed to recharge after working for 18 months straight.
On Monday, the struggle finally ended.
Robin Williams' three children - Zak, Zelda and Cody Williams - and Williams' former wife Marsha Garces Williams, who is Zelda and Cody's mother, released statements Tuesday about the actor who died Monday at age 63.
Yesterday, I lost my father and a best friend and the world got a little grayer. I will carry his heart with me every day. I would ask those that loved him to remember him by being as gentle, kind, and generous as he would be. Seek to bring joy to the world as he sought.
- Zak Williams
My family has always been private about our time spent together. It was our way of keeping one thing that was ours, with a man we shared with an entire world. But now that's gone, and I feel stripped bare. My last day with him was his birthday, and I will be forever grateful that my brothers and I got to spend that time alone with him, sharing gifts and laughter. He was always warm, even in his darkest moments. While I'll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, there's minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn't help the pain, but at least it's a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load. Thank you for that.
To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you've had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.
Dad was, is and always will be one of the kindest, most generous, gentlest souls I've ever known, and while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We'll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again.
- Zelda Williams
There are no words strong enough to describe the love and respect I have for my father. The world will never be the same without him. I will miss him and take him with me everywhere I go for the rest of my life, and will look forward, forever, to the moment when I get to see him again.
- Cody Williams
My heart is split wide open and scattered over the planet with all of you. Please remember the gentle, loving, generous - and yes, brilliant and funny - man that was Robin Williams. My arms are wrapped around our children as we attempt to grapple with celebrating the man we love, while dealing with this immeasurable loss.
- Marsha Garces Williams
Experts: Suicide rarely triggered by single factor
The circumstances of Williams' death do not help explain what motivated him, suicide experts said. Understanding that would require a detailed psychological autopsy that includes the review of medical and other records, and interviews with family and friends.
These experts stressed that suicide rarely is triggered by a single factor, such as depression or substance abuse. Typically there are at least two such influences, often compounded by acute stress, such as from financial hardship or troubled personal relationships.
We know from decades of research that there are numerous factors that contribute to suicide risk, said Michelle Cornette, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.
Word that the actor had killed himself left neighbors in Tiburon stunned and sparked an outpouring of praise among his Hollywood colleagues. Williams had lived in the quiet, waterfront neighborhood for eight years, according to neighbors.
Noreen Nieder said Williams was a friendly neighbor who always said hello and engaged in small talk. Nieder said she wasn't close to Williams and his family, but she still felt comfortable enough to approach him and ask him about his latest stint in drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
He was very open about it, Nieder said. He told me he was doing well.
Memorials of flowers and notes popped up around the country including on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at his Tiburon home and outside the house where the '80s sitcom Mork &Mindy was set in Boulder, Colorado. People also gathered to remember Williams at a bench in Boston's Public Garden where he filmed a scene for Good Will Hunting.
Ben Affleck, a co-star and co-writer on that movie, was among the legions of friends and fans who shared tributes online.
Robin had a ton of love & did so much for so many, Affleck tweeted. He made Matt & my dreams come true. What do you owe a guy who does that? Everything.
Actor and comedian Ricky Gervais wrote: I am deeply saddened. He was a lovely man who would keep everyone laughing even if he wasn't feeling good himself.
Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.