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Robin Williams' lifelong fight (w/video)

  • Robin Williams, right, and his wife Susan Schneider at the premiere of "Old Dogs" in Los Angeles. Williams, whose free-form comedy and adept impressions dazzled audiences for decades, died Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in an apparent suicide. Williams was 63. (AP Photo/Katy Winn, File 2009)

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 hanged himself in his San Francisco Bay Area home and finally silenced the demons that relentlessly targeted him.

On film, he played everything from a genie to a psychiatrist. In life, he battled 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.

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."


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