Michael J. Fox opens up about drug and alcohol misuse to cope with Parkinson’s diagnosis at 29
In the premiere for his new documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, the 61-year-old actor recounts his experience with substance abuse after being diagnosed with young-onset Parkison’s disease at the age of 29.
The documentary, which premiered last week at Sundance Film Festival and is scheduled to premiere on Apple TV+ later this year, tracks the life and career of Fox. After being diagnosed with the generative brain disorder, Fox says he used dopamine pills “like Halloween Smarties” while shooting film and TV projects to deal with his mental health and counter early symptoms of the disease, such as tremors, as reported in USA Today.
“Therapeutic value, comfort—none of these were the reason I took these pills. There was only one reason: to hide,” he says in the documentary. “I became a virtuoso of manipulating drug intake so that I’d peak at exactly the right time and place.”
In the documentary, the Back to the Future star also shared how he turned to drinking to cope with his prognosis.
“I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what was coming. So what if I could just have four glasses of wine and maybe a shot?” he says. “I was definitely an alcoholic. But I’ve gone 30 years without having a drink.”
Fox thanks his wife, fellow actor Tracy Pollan, and the couple’s four children for supporting him with his sobriety, as well as helping him reckon with his diagnosis. The documentary, which is directed by Davis Guggenheim, shows Fox’s doctor visits and everyday life with Parkinson’s. The actor admits that he is in “intense pain” and is “injured multiple times while shooting the documentary,” according to USA Today.
“People around me are going, ‘Be careful, be careful,’” Fox says. “And I’m like: ‘This has nothing to do with being careful. This happens.’”
Although Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, he didn’t publicly disclose the news until 1998 in an interview with People magazine because he was in “seven years of denial,” he said while accepting the Academy Awards’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award last year. Two years later, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to help fund treatments for the disorder.
“Some people would view the news of my disease as an ending,” Fox says in the documentary. “But I was starting to sense it was really a beginning.”
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