“My battles with addiction definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. And the value of friends and family, how precious that is.”― Robin Williams
Woke up today to the sad news of Robin Williams passing. Apparently he took his own life after suffering a deep bout of depression. I’ve written a few stories about Robin Williams on my journey writing this blog. He helped inspire me through his films, particularly ‘Dead Poets Society’, which I wrote about only recently. His comedy, often taking shots at himself and his problems was another source of inspiration. He helped so many struggling with drink to overcome, so his sudden departure is all the more saddening.
In 1989 the film ‘Dead Poets Society‘ with Robin Williams who played inspirational English teacher, John Keating, was a pivotal moment for me. I don’t remember coming across the phrase ‘Carpe Diem’ much before then, but as soon as I heard it I found myself thinking about it almost on a daily basis. I watched the film long before I had even seriously thought about giving up drinking, especially the binge drinking, which I was doing more or less every weekend with my friends. But deep down I felt that Carpe Diem was almost reaching out to me. I’d lived up until then as someone following paths that others (my parents) were laying down for me, but a seed of an idea was planted the day I saw this film.
Within 3 years of watching it, I’d finished my college degree and with Carpe Diem nibbling away at the back of my mind, I decided to go and see the world and travel. I spent the next 18 months or so doing just that. I travelled and lived in Spain before moving on to Africa, where I explored places I’d once covered in geography class, but was now experiencing for myself in the bush. I was living my moment and this seed that was planted in 1989 continued to grow within me throughout my adult life. Still today I feel I’ve travelled the path less travelled by others. In giving up drinking I feel this more so. I’m pro-actively seeing how I can do more with my life and make it all count somehow. I want to be able to look back at any point and see the dots connected and see how I was either able to make a difference to myself or those around me.
Robin Williams was a genius teacher and inspired many to go on and do their thing. The fact that he’s overcome his own drink problems was another reason why he is also an inspiration for helping me stop drinking. Had I not seen the film I’m sure I would have still lived the life I’ve led so far. But perhaps it may have happened a bit later, which would have probably meant I’d have travelled to different places and seen different things. Like many others I was deeply affected by it and it’s helped me focus and do the things I’ve done.
As Robin Williams’ story shows, giving up drink and going sober for 20 years is not always a guarantee that a return to the bottle won’t happen. Sadly for Robin Williams, this shows how easy it is to return to old ways. He states that after 20 years he thought that it wouldn’t hurt to have a drink. He quickly realised that the brain only remembers too well the rush that alcohol gives it, and soon he was back on for more.
Many others,not all in such high profile cases have found exactly the same. It is as if that long period of abstinence just never happened. For me I’ve been dry for 5 years. this summer I was at a wedding and the pudding was a champagne fruit jelly. I don’t know how much champagne was in there, but I could feel the glow of alcohol. luckily I was able to stop then and there as the memory is still too recent for me to fall into that trap. But had I been sober 20 years I might have fallen head first into it.
Keeping on your guard is something that all of us who are trying their best to keep off alcohol, have to continue doing long into the future. the human brain is just too clever enough to remember the rush of abandon that is alcohol. We have to watch out for the pitfalls everywhere and ensure that we don’t fall into them.