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Michael J. Fox Used Alcohol and Pills ‘to Hide’ From Parkinson’s Diagnosis



Michael J. Fox said he drank to excess after being diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in a new documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. In the film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival last week and will be available on Apple TV+ later this year, the 61-year-old Canadian actor talked about his 1991 diagnosis and its aftermath, including substance abuse—and, eventually, sobriety.

In the documentary, Fox said he felt uncertain about his future after learning he had the neurological disorder at age 29—and that this feeling led to an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, per USA Today. “I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what was coming,” Fox said. “So what if I could just have four glasses of wine and maybe a shot? I was definitely an alcoholic.”

In the documentary, Fox said that he also abused dopamine pills, explaining that he took them “like Halloween Smarties” in an attempt to quell early Parkinson’s symptoms, like tremors, as well as to deal with its mental health fallout. “Therapeutic value, comfort—none of these were the reason I took these pills,” Fox said. “There was only one reason: to hide.”

Fortunately, Fox’s wife, actor Tracy Pollan, and four children helped him get sober: “I’ve gone 30 years without having a drink,” he said. But the first few years of sobriety were difficult, he continued, since they forced him to reckon with his diagnosis: “As low as alcohol had brought me, abstinence would bring me lower. I could no longer escape myself.”

Fox didn’t disclose his diagnosis until 1998. He recently said in an acceptance speech for the Academy Awards’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award that he was “in denial” during the seven years between learning he had Parkinson’s and publicly sharing the news, per CBS News. Shortly after making the announcement, he launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), which provides funding for teams working to find treatments for the disorder.

Fox—who’s something of an expert on optimism, having written multiple books on the subject—has spoken about how his diagnosis illuminated the things in his life that he’s grateful for. He was particularly struck by the encouragement he received after sharing his diagnosis with the world, as he said in the acceptance speech: “What happened next was remarkable: The outpouring of support from the public at large and the beautiful reaction from all of my peers in the entertainment business…It was transformative.” 


Fox continued that he was thankful to be in a position to help others living with Parkinson’s. “It struck me that everything I had been given—success, my life with Tracy, my family—had prepared me for this profound opportunity and responsibility,” he said. “It was a gift.”

The ending of Still shows Fox reflecting on how the MJFF changed the course of his life. “Some people would view the news of my disease as an ending,” he said. “But I was starting to sense it was really a beginning.”

If you or someone you love needs support due to substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website or call the national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.


Source: Self


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