When it comes to high-profile figures living with struggles that very few of us could ever hope to adequately relate to, Michael J. Fox might well wear the crown.
The iconic actor has been living with Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years, and his battle against the crippling condition has been well publicized. Moreover, he’s become something of a figurehead for those in the same fight, and works tirelessly to raise awareness and, more importantly, money in the hope of eventually finding a cure.
It’s well documented by now how the Back to the Future star was diagnosed, and the steps he initially took to hide said diagnosis from the world.
At the time, Fox was one of Hollywood’s ‘in’ actors, and his path to superstardom was well and truly in the process of being laid.
Yet at 29, after achieving success on the big screen, Fox’s world came tumbling down around him when doctors told him he had Parkinson’s. What’s more, the prognosis predicted that he wouldn’t be able to work past a few more years.
Now, Fox has revealed more about those dark first few years as he struggled to come to terms with his new reality. In a new documentary, he revealed how he used to rely heavily on alcohol to cope with his diagnosis.
At 61 years old, the actor appears in “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” which premiered Friday at Sundance Film Festival, speaking candidly on the sort of habits he developed in the aftermath of his diagnosis.
Fox admitted that he popped dopamine pills “like Halloween Smarties (candy)” in a bid to hide early symptoms. While on set, he tried to hold props to mask the tremors in his hand.
“Therapeutic value, comfort – none of these were the reason I took these pills. There was only one reason: to hide,” Fox explained in the documentary.
“I became a virtuoso of manipulating drug intake so that I’d peak at exactly the right time and place.”
Not only that, but Fox turned to alcohol to numb the pain and confusion.
He said: “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?
“I was definitely an alcoholic. But I’ve gone 30 years without having a drink.”
30 years he may have gone, but it was hardly a straight-forward road for him to travel. In the documentary, Fox credited his wife and children for helping him kick the booze for good.
“As low as alcohol had brought me, abstinence would bring me lower. I could no longer escape myself,” Fox said.
“You can’t pretend at home that you don’t have Parkinson’s because you’re just there with it. If I’m out in the world, I’m dealing with other people and they don’t know I have it.”
Ultimately, it would be almost a decade after his diagnosis that Fox was able to announce it to the public.
“To me, the worst thing is restraint,” Fox said. “The worst thing is to be confined and to not be able to have a way out.” In the early days, “there are times when I went, ‘There’s no way out of this.’”
He added: “Some people would view the news of my disease as an ending. But I was starting to sense it was really a beginning.”
Late last year, Fox admitted that he was struggling due to a perfect storm involving his condition, a series of broken bones, and the loss of his mother.
Speaking to People, he said: “It got worse, I broke my cheek, then my hand, then my shoulder, had a replacement shoulder put in and broke my (right) arm, then I broke my elbow.
“I’m 61 years old, and I’m feeling it a little bit more.”