Michael J. Fox Reveals He Became An Alcoholic Drug Addict

The documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival, in which the beloved actor admits to his addiction to alcohol and drugs.

By Michileen Martin | Published

michael j. fox
Michael J. Fox in The Good Fight

Michael J. Fox became addicted to alcohol and drugs as a direct result of his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, the actor says in the upcoming Apple TV+ documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (via USA Today). The doc recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival, and in it Fox confesses that in the wake of his 1991 Parkinson’s diagnosis, the Family Ties star took dopamine pills to hide his symptoms and abused alcohol to forget the ordeal he was facing. Thankfully, Fox has said he’s now been sober for 30 years.

In the upcoming documentary, Michael J. Fox explains that in the immediate aftermath of his diagnosis, he took dopamine pills “like Halloween Smarties (candy)” to hide his emerging Parkinson’s symptoms:

“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.”

-Michael J. Fox

Fox adds that one strategy he used was to always hold props on set in order to hide his hand tremors.

Emotionally distraught over the reality of there being no cure for Parkinson’s, the star found temporary solace in a bottle.

“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.”

-Michael J. Fox
michael j. fox
Michael J. Fox in Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

One positive thing is that it just takes a little bit of math to realize if Fox hasn’t had a drink in 30 years, that means he was, at most, active in his alcohol addiction for only a couple of years. USA Today’s coverage of the documentary doesn’t, however, confirm Michael J. Fox was sober from dopamine pills for the same amount of time. Sobriety from one mind-altering substance often goes hand-in-hand with sobriety from others, but we don’t know for sure.

Nor do we know during which productions Fox was active in his addictions. By 1991, a lot of Michael J. Fox’s most iconic work was in the rearview mirror, including the Back to the Future trilogy and the beloved sitcom Family Ties. Still, the period between his diagnosis and his public reveal included the production and release of such fan-favorite projects as The Frighteners, The American President, and the first two seasons of the Emmy-winning sitcom Spin City.

In Still, Fox says that while he doesn’t regret getting sober, in the first few years following getting clean, his abstinence could often bring him “lower” than his substance abuse did, because he “could no longer escape” himself. To combat this, he says, he threw himself into work and travel:

“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.”

-Michael J. Fox

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is due to stream on Apple TV+ this year. A firm release date hasn’t been released yet. The documentary is directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth).