Katt Williams meltdown collateral damage: Addicts and hostages of substance abuse

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I cycled through a handful of emotions as I watched Katt Williams completely lose his shit in front of an audience last Thursday night. Like many at the Wells Fargo Theatre that evening, I first experienced confusion: There was seemingly no professional plan whatsoever for a show that some people had paid several hundred dollars to see -- an event advertised as a comedy show. Then came anger, from the frustration of waiting for hours for that show to go on.

But for me, there was also another feeling -- one of heavy sadness. What I witnessed in Williams was a total loss of control and a very public breakdown.

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There has been no official announcement, no apology -- and from what I've heard and read, no ticket refunds for the November 1 show, as Williams promised from the stage -- regarding the performer's actions that night. And there probably won't be. But it was clear to me that Williams was on something.

Nope, I'm not a licensed anything. I don't have any sort of credential to make a diagnosis. But I am a recovering alcoholic, and I know what a person in that kind of pain looks like. And beyond his erratic behavior, violence toward his own fans and blatant disregard for what made people purchase tickets in the first place, Williams looked like he was in pain. As he moved across the stage and through the crowd with no measure of respect for anyone -- including himself -- I kept waiting for someone from the entourage of people who kept peeking out from the curtains at the side of the stage to do something. But no one did.

When you're abusing something, whether those around you are also participating or just bystanders, the substance gets to own the situation. When I was a drunk, yes, I was getting drunk by myself. But I was also out at bars, falling down at clubs and starting fights on dance floors while everyone around me watched. Some of the people around me during these times were close friends who were drunk, too, and maybe they were buying me drinks. But nothing was going to stop me, even if they didn't play along. There was no big surprise to my behavior; I was melting down often because I was drunk -- and covering up some ugly pain.

Addicts are ticking, emotional time bombs. In turn, those around an addict are always walking on egg shells. And even if those who love you don't know exactly what you're going through, as an addict, you still have an illusion of control. That control comes from secrecy. And secrecy is only necessary when you are ashamed of what you are doing to yourself.

Because it is legal, publicly consumable and part of life in a celebratory way, alcohol is often abused and worn as a badge of false pride. For some addicts, there are only a few people who know what they choose to use -- but while the substance may not be apparent to an addict's closest friends, their behavior is. They may think their lives outside of their bodies are not being affected by their drug of choice, but when you use, it alters who you are. That veil that substance abuse gets to wear is unfair to everyone around the addict, especially when the addict keeps their problem a secret (or attempts to).

I'm not justifying what anyone saw Katt Williams do on Thursday night, nor am I making a public-service announcement. I'm just saying that if you think someone you care about is hiding a substance-abuse problem, say something. Be proactive.

Tell that person you love and support them. Yes, an addict will not stop unless they want to. And no, it isn't your job to be in charge of someone else's life. But as long as addiction stays a secret, it has the power. And that, to me, is bullshit.

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