On Saturday July 8, actor Nelsan Ellis passed away from heart complications brought on by alcohol withdrawal. The 39-year-old actor is best known for playing the character Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s True Blood, and has struggled with alcohol and drug abuse for many years now. His family hopes his tragic death will be a cautionary tale for others dealing with similar problems.

On Monday, Ellis’ family confirmed that his death was a result of complications due to alcohol withdrawal. Although the actor had attended rehab many times in his life to address his drug and alcohol abuse, according to his family, he recently tried to withdraw from the drug unsupervised, on his own, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Read: Alcoholism Is A Disease: CDC Finds 90% Of Heavy Drinkers Are Not Alcoholics

In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter by his manager, Emily Gerson Saines, his family explained that he also developed a blood infection as he was withdrawing from alcohol. The combination of the two caused his kidneys to shut down, his liver to swell, and his blood pressure to fall. As a result, his heart raced out of control and eventually gave up. The actor was pronounced dead on Saturday after spending four days in Woodhull Hospital in New York City.

“Nelsan was ashamed of his addiction and thus was reluctant to talk about it during his life. His family, however, believes that in death he would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale in an attempt to help others,” the statement read.

When a person consumes large amounts of alcohol for a long period of time, their bodies can become addicted. As a result, if a person suddenly stops drinking, the results can be dangerous, and at times deadly. According to WebMD, alcohol withdrawal can begin as early as two hours after the last drink and last for several weeks. The most common symptoms include mild anxiety, uncontrollable shaking, vomiting, headaches, insomnia and even seizures. Alcohol withdrawal can also be particularly stressful on the heart, and may lead to heart palpitations.

There are certain medications and treatments that can make alcohol withdrawal far less dangerous. For this reason, it’s important for those suffering with serious alcohol abuse to seek professional help before attempting to withdraw from the drug. Although it is highly recommended that those attempting to detox from alcohol do so with professional guidance, if you do choose to detox at home, The Recovery Village, a rehabilitation center in Florida, recommends that you still find a friend or family member to stay with you during the process to ensure that you are safe.

Ellis played the beloved character Lafayette Reynolds on HBO’s vampire drama True Blood, a sassy cook who also had the ability talk with the dead. Although Lafayette’s character was killed off in the Southern Vampire Mysteries, the book series the show was based off, Ellis’ character was so well loved that producers decided to keep him alive throughout the show’s six-year run, Vanity Fair reported. Ellis appeared as Martin Luther King Jr. in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, as singer Bobby Byrd in the James Brown biopic Get On Up,” and had a brief role in The Help.

See Also:

Warning Signs Of Alcoholism Vs. Alcohol Abuse: Excessive Drinking May Be Chronic Disease Or Recurring Pattern Of Behavior

Alcoholism Treatment: Experimental Drug May Help Curb Alcohol Addiction, Especially For Those With High Stress