In a new documentary, actor Michael J. Fox discusses his struggles with Parkinson’s disease, including turning to booze and drugs to manage it.
Fox, 61, has had the degenerative brain illness since 1991 but did not publicly reveal it until 1998.
The actor, well known for the “Back to the Future” films, admitted to being an alcoholic in his youth and using dopamine pills like candy to mask signs of his disease, such as tremors.
“Neither therapeutic value nor comfort were the reasons I used these drugs. There was only one reason: to conceal,” explains Michael J. Fox in the documentary “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie.”
“I became a maestro of adjusting drug consumption so that I’d peak at the exact correct time and location,” recalls the actor, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 29.
Fox says he became clean 30 years ago with the support of his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, and his children.
“I had no idea what was going on. I had no idea what was going to happen. So what if I just had four glasses of wine and a shot?” According to Fox. “I was unquestionably an alcoholic.”
“Abstinence would take me far lower than booze had. I couldn’t get away from myself any longer,” Fox recalls, according to the news story.
Davis Guggenheim, widely known for “An Inconvenient Truth,” directed the documentary.
Fox explains in the film that after finding he had a degenerative brain illness, he was struck with despair about his prognosis. An estimated 1 million Americans have this condition.
“The hardest thing to me is restraint,” Fox adds. “The worst thing is being trapped and not knowing how to get out.” “There were times when I thought, ‘There’s no way out of this.’”
To cope, Fox initially turned to employment, travel, drinking, and medications.
“You can’t pretend at home that you don’t have Parkinson’s because you’re just there with it. When I’m out in the world, I’m dealing with other individuals who are unaware that I have it,” he explains.
The film depicts Fox’s symptoms, which include frequent falls while walking and tremendous agony.
“Everyone around me is saying, ‘Be careful, be careful,’” Fox explains. “And I’m like, ‘This has nothing to do with being cautious. This happens.’”
Fox’s efforts in Parkinson’s research eventually provided a new direction. In 2000, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, seeking a new sense of purpose.
“Some individuals might see the announcement of my disease as the end of the world,” Fox adds. “But I was getting the impression it was just the beginning.”