ROBBIE Williams was plunged into depression after his old mates in Take That eclipsed his solo efforts with their hit reunion tour and album.
The insecure superstar downed more and more prescription pills to cope as he watched the nation fall in love all over again with the boyband that launched his career.
Manic-depressive Robbie was deeply troubled long before he checked into an exclusive Arizona rehab clinic on his 33rd birthday yesterday.
He told The Sun in an interview last year that he has been clear of addiction to alcohol and cocaine for six years — but still fights a daily battle against his demons.
However, last night his mum Jan, 56 — a drugs counsellor — said going into rehab was “the best present he could give himself”.
She said: “He’s a very public figure and all the media attention at the moment is added pressure on him.”
Jan promised to fly out to join him once he has got through the early stages of his recovery.
She added: “I am not going out to visit Robbie yet. Rehab is all about being on your own. But once he gets better I will be over there like a shot.”
The singer finds it impossible to get to sleep until 4 or 5am due to insomnia and is on sleeping pills. He is hooked on the powerful and controversial anti-depressant Seroxat, which has been linked to suicidal tendencies in teenagers.
And daily he gets through an incredible 36 super-strength double espresso coffees, 60 Silk Cut cigarettes and around 20 cans of energy drink Red Bull.
He suffered agonies as Take That’s reunion tour became one of the biggest pop events of 2006. Their comeback single Patience went straight in at No1 and stayed there for six weeks. Their new album Beautiful World also went straight to No1 and has sold 1.5 million copies.
By contrast, Robbie’s first single from his new album Rudebox went in at a disappointing No 4. And the album stayed at No1 for only a week.
Take That’s Patience is expected to win best single at the Brit Awards tonight. It will be the first time in several years that Robbie has not been in the running in best male or best album categories.
He has a record 15 Brit wins, including three with Take That. But he is up for only one award this year — in the British Live Act category.
The multi-millionaire singer was also tortured by the death of model Anna Nicole Smith last week and feared he too could end up dead if he did not get help.
He insists he HAS NOT suffered a relapse in his battle against cocaine and booze. But he has been on anti-depressants since 2004. His LA mansion has cabinets full of prescription drugs.
Robbie is believed to have checked into the exclusive Meadows clinic in Wickenberg, Arizona. It is the same rehab centre which helped supermodel Kate Moss deal with health problems in the past.
In the last interview Robbie did before going for rehab, he told The Sun: “I can’t honestly say that I don’t take too many prescription drugs. How many is too many? I don’t know. If you drink as much coffee as I do, you can easily get into the too-many-sleeping-tablets thing.”
He also revealed that he was “messed up” and wished a drug could be invented that had the positive effects of ecstasy and cocaine without the negative sides.
He said: “There’s half of me that just wants to be somewhere else in my head.
“I hate drugs, I love drugs. As depressing and heartbreaking as it is, soul-destroying, relationship-destroying as it is, it makes life f****** interesting.”
Robbie clearly knew he was in danger of becoming addicted to prescription drugs when he penned a song on his 2006 Rudebox album titled Good Doctor.
The lyrics ridicule the widespread abuse of prescription drugs in Los Angeles where “pill doctors” will happily prescribe all kinds of uppers and downers.
And Robbie likens himself to Who drummer Keith Moon, who died of a drug overdose.
He sings: “I’ve got all these demons, And I can’t stop ’em. To tell you the truth, Doc, I might have a problem.
“Robert Williams take one Adderall (a drug to treat hyperactivity) with water in the morning. As if I’m goin’ to take one tablet, I’m Keith Moon, D***head.”
The chorus goes: “He said this one’s to take you up. He said this one’s to take you down. When I take ’em I don’t feel sound.”
Talking about the song, Robbie told The Sun: “America is a prescription nation. You can get whatever you f****** want.”
Robbie also revealed in the interview that he is plagued with anxiety and suffers regularly from attacks — especially before a tour.
And he also said he cannot watch films with sad endings because they bring on depression. He added: “I’m depressed enough.”
Last night Robbie’s family and friends in and around his home town Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, were sending messages of love.
His sister Sally said: “He’s very loved and treasured. He does have a vulnerable side, he’s very human. People tend to put him on a pedestal and he almost becomes public domain.
“There’s a lot of pressure that goes with it. He has got all the vulnerability that everyone else has, along with a great talent.” Stoke residents helped by Robbie’s Give It Sum charity were shocked at his plight. Nina Hulse, of Blurton Residents’ Association, said: “He has given us two grants and has helped fund our new building. We wish him all the best.”
Robbie is also patron of North Staffordshire children’s hospice Treetops. Fund-raising chief Gill Benning said: “The children here think the world of him.”
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