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Actor and advocate Michael J. Fox recently admitted to using drugs and alcohol as an escape in the early days following his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
Fox detailed his story in a new documentary film, “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival — and revealed that for seven years following his 1991 diagnosis, he had also battled addiction, denial, and depression.
The “Back to the Future” star was still working at the time, and he explained that he was using props to hide his shaking hands and popping dopamine pills “like Halloween Smarties” in an effort to slow the early signs of his disease.
“Therapeutic value, comfort – none of these were the reason I took these pills. There was only one reason: to hide. I became a virtuoso of manipulating drug intake so that I’d peak at exactly the right time and place,” Fox said in the documentary.
Fox went on to say that he had turned to alcohol to numb the despair that came from learning his condition was not only permanent but degenerative.
“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,” Fox continued.
Fox credited his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, with helping him to get and stay sober even though the early days of sobriety seemed insurmountable at times.
“As low as alcohol had brought me, abstinence would bring me lower. I could no longer escape myself. 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,” he said.
The “Spin City” actor’s documentary received a standing ovation when it premiered on Friday — and he took the stage to talk about his advocacy for Parkinson’s research.
“People say, ‘But that will be after your time, are you ok with that?'” Fox said, noting that medical research often takes time — and that he couldn’t be sure how much time he had.
“S*** yeah,” he answered his own question. “That would be great. Just get it done. I don’t care if I’m on the bus.”
Fox also once drank cobra blood with “Cheers” actor Woody Harrelson — a move that Harrelson said did not end well for Fox. After watching a fight between a cobra and a mongoose, Harrelson explained that the locals in Thailand mixed a cocktail of cobra blood and whiskey.
“Drinking the cobra blood is called ‘becoming brother to the snake,'” he said. “Mike and I drink lots of things together, and he can hold his own — can I say, he’s Canadian. But Mike promptly vomited his snake cocktail. Never could hold his cobra blood.”