Robbie Williams, an icon in the UK, is also famous globally, with more than 70 million records sold. His career shot off to an amazing start at only 16 years old when he became the singer for the boy band Take That. After five years and six chart-topping singles, Williams went on to pursue a highly successful solo career. His professional image while working with Take That was squeaky clean, but behind the scenes, Williams struggled with a variety of mental health challenges and addictions. It was during this time that he first became addicted to alcohol and started taking a variety of drugs.
A Look Behind the Curtain
Williams has been particularly open about his struggles, detailing his trips to rehab and mental health struggles in interviews and a tell-all book. During the early years of his solo career, he remembers Sir Elton John helping him take the first steps toward sobriety with a trip to rehab. During an interview recorded on The Johnathan Ross Show, he reminisced, saying, “He really tried to help. In the early days when I was first getting sober, there was a week until I had to go to rehab and I had two vocals to do on my first album.” But, when he showed up at John’s home covered in wine stains and smelling like a pub, Sir Elton helped him get into rehab immediately.
As time passed, Williams would go back into rehab several times as he struggled to find ways to cope with increasingly crippling anxiety. He started taking a wide assortment of drugs, including prescription pharmaceuticals such as Adderall, Vicodin and Seroquel, along with illicit substances including cocaine and magic mushrooms. Essentially, he was willing to try anything to make performing less of a stressful situation.
While making it big and becoming a household name throughout the UK, Robbie Williams was also dealing with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and body image issues.
Facts and Stats: Substance Use and Mental Illness
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that approximately 46.6 million Americans have a mental illness and that 30.5 million have tried an illicit drug. As many as 8.5 million adults may have both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. While mental illness can develop during the course of a long-term substance use disorder, many people who wind up with an SUD had an untreated or out-of-control mental illness already impacting their decision-making.
It’s not uncommon for those struggling with depression to reach for a bottle to lean on, another example of a co-occurring disorder, though without the additional complication of an illicit source. Alcohol is available legally. Even with treatment, some lifestyles are more difficult to manage when sobriety is the goal. Williams has left behind recreational drug use, but he still enjoys the occasional drink. According to him, “Rum is great. Whisky is just […] weird. Rum is a lot of fun.”
When working to overcome a history of addiction and trying to control an existing mental illness, alcohol is not recommended. During intensive treatment, a clear mind and continued focus are necessary ingredients for therapy, one of the most important elements in any successful treatment program.
Getting Help With Addiction and Mental Illness
At FHE Health, our counselors model behavioral changes that can lead to a more sober lifestyle and help those in the early stages of addition avoid some of the long-term consequences that can result. As Williams notes, drugs aren’t sustainable and he says, “I am 44, and when you get to 44, the heart can’t keep up… I have got kids.” This change in priorities may be a large part of how the singer has finally stayed (mostly) sober and limited his intake to legally available options such as the occasional drink and prescribed medications.
When taken under the care of a doctor and in conjunction with the right therapy, prescription drugs can be a valuable tool to stabilize mental illness. About trying medication therapies, Williams shares, “I had a really weird summer. Just couldn’t connect with anybody, apart from my wife. I didn’t know how to talk to anybody, even people who are with me every day. I was isolated, in my head. It was troublesome and sad. Then I tried this antidepressant and things have changed. The demons are quiet.”
When medication can quiet demons and therapy can help people know when to ask for medication or a change in their existing medications, it’s a solid tool. For Williams, an antidepressant worked wonders during a tough time. For someone else, an anti-anxiety medication might be the answer or something to help control ADHD.
Treatment for mental illness is nuanced and requires a holistic approach. While many people who lack access to care may attempt to self-medicate with legal and illicit substances, out-of-control behaviors can quickly spiral. By providing medications in a controlled environment, under the care of a doctor, patients get the help they need to achieve stability.
Taking Control of Your Health Holistically
From spending nearly three years unable to leave his home while battling crippling agoraphobia in 2006-2009, Robbie Williams has come a long way. After turning down a lucrative contract to become a judge on American Idol, Williams sought treatment for the condition keeping him homebound. Meeting up with old friends from his first band helped him rediscover a love of performing, and he’s currently one of the top musical artists around the globe, with total record sales in excess of 75 million copies.
His amazing accomplishments weren’t easy when trying to also treat his anxiety disorders and depression. He describes it by saying, “It wasn’t an easy process, it was like having a car crash and then learning how to walk again.” While his friends were one important element to his successful treatment, his therapist was another. With the right help and support network, mental health is something everyone can strive to improve. Sober living may not happen overnight, but it is possible.
If taking a day off doesn’t help with your stress or you struggle with symptoms that might be part of a larger mental illness, get help! Contact us today by calling us at (833) 596-3502. Our compassionate team of counselors is standing by to take your call 24/7. Whether you need someone to talk to or detox help, we’re here.