Robin Williams and the Disease of Alcoholism


I was recently hanging with some friends who are recovered / recovering alcoholics and it fascinated me as I observed how Robin Williams’ death reverberated throughout the community. Williams was a recovered alcoholic himself, with 20 yrs of sobriety at one point, and while I would not readily associate his death to a relapse in years past (it must have been more complicated than that), I know it triggered something in the community of the recovering. What seemed common was the disturbing reminder: “You see, addiction kills after all.”

And while I am not an alcoholic myself, I do resonate with this sad reminder that “falling off the wagon” can end a career, a marriage, a family, and a life, even.

This sobering reminder is why I have always been drawn to people who have been to the edge of hell and back and lived to tell about it; as a minister I need to know that grace + hope is real; that redemption is a tangible thing, that I am not betting on the wrong horse by wagering on life, love, and happiness instead of the dark horse of misery, hopelessness, nihilism, and despair.

Hope against hope is the essence of what I’m talking about.

Whenever I see a recovering anything it gives me hope in the Gospel.

If you are a recovering anything with real progress, not perfection, you encourage me – tremendously. You materialize my faith.

The Gospel compels me to hope that anybody can turn around, even the worst son-of-a-gun, that there is hope. That is why I am a Christian today.

Which is why Williams’ death is throwing so many for a loop; someone so bright, so vibrant, so loving, and now, so gone… is shaking up recovering people everywhere. While I am making no presumptions about his religion, I do know that he gave a lot of people hope.

And sometimes even the loss of hope is a sobering reminder to the rest of us – not to lose hope itself. To keep coming back. To hang on, one moment, one hour, one day at a time.

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

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