From a 2007 interview, you get the sense he may have had a sense of it – all the more reason to remember to pray for people we know and are aware of. Could the grace from those prayers push them through to see the loving and forgiving and strengthening face of God here? To keep them from despair?
“You get a real strong sense of God when you go through rehab,” he says. Williams, 56, checked himself into a rehab facility in Los Angeles for about a month last year. His spokeswoman at the time said he’d been sober for 20 years, but then “found himself drinking again, and has decided to take proactive measures to deal with this for his own well-being and the well-being of his family”. A year on, he says he’s come out of it a better man. “Having the idea of a really loving and forgiving God really helps if you’re an alcoholic – someone going, ‘It’s OK. Remember, there was wine at the Last Supper.”
Williams, who was born in Chicago but moved to San Francisco as a teenager, says religion was an integral part of his childhood. But having just gone through rehab, his perspective has changed.”
“It’s become much more personal to me,” he says. “Instead of my mother saying, ‘We’re going to church now’, there’s much more a sense of [religion] coming back to life for me. As a child, I was heavily into religion. I was into the ritual of it. I’m Episcopalian, which is Catholic Lite – same religion, half the guilt. I grew up in San Francisco where the gospel music is so beautiful. I’m more religious in the sense of an open, compassionate church that’s there to take care of people with outreach programmes and counselling. The idea of really working together, that means something. I’m religious on that level, trying to take care of everyone, and the idea of compassion is powerful to me.”
He fell back on his faith during his recent struggles with drinking, which he described as being “one of the coming attractions of hell”.
“You have an idea there’s a dark force when you’re in that space, and it’s totally the opposite of doing the right thing.”
He believes in the afterlife – but can’t resist making a crack about it. “You talk to people who have had those experiences and it’s always a white tunnel and you realise, ‘What if it’s [New York’s] Holland Tunnel and you’re just going to Brooklyn?’”