Michael J. Fox Opens Up About Battle for Sobriety: ‘It Was Like a Knife Fight in a Closet’

by Josh Lanier

Michael J. Fox said the first place he turned to for help to deal with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis was a bottle. He started drinking alcohol heavily after doctors told him he had the degenerative neurological disease. At 29 years old, he said, he felt like his life was over.

That was 30 years ago. Now, Michael J. Fox sees himself as an eternal optimist who preaches hope to millions through his books and interviews. But it’s been a long journey, he admitted to CBS Mornings earlier this month. One that began with giving up the drink.

“I realize I had a drinking issue, and I was not going to be able to deal with Parkinson’s until I dealt with that,” the Back to the Future star said. “… It was like a knife fight in a closet that was like no fun at all. Quitting drinking was very difficult.”

He said he used alcohol to cover up some personal issues. So, quitting drinking meant he’d have to face those problems while also confronting a devastating medical diagnosis.

“It was pretty scary,” he said.

Giving up alcohol had an added benefit, though, that helped him grapple with Parkinson’s disease.

“The tools that worked for quitting drinking work even better for [Parkinson’s], which are: acceptance and surrender,” Fox told Good Morning America in 2019. “Not like, ‘I give up, ‘I quit,’ but you just say, ‘OK, I cede you the big points.’

“There’s the stuff you plan — the stuff you work towards … And then there’s things that just happen,” he added. “And the things that just happen are usually of a more intricate design and a higher purpose than whatever you come up with.”

Michael J. Fox At Peace With Ending His Acting Career

Michael J. Fox wrote in his new book, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, that he had retired from acting.

“There is a time for everything, and my time of putting in a 12-hour workday, and memorizing seven pages of dialogue, is best behind me,” the 59-year-old wrote, according to the New York Post.

“At least for now … I enter a second retirement. That could change because everything changes. But if this is the end of my acting career, so be it.”

But before leaving that behind, he returned to the character that made him an international star.

The rapper Lil Nas X reached out to Fox last year to see if he would appear as a Marty McFly for a music video, Fox said on The Late, Late Show. Fox wasn’t sure at first.

“My kids are adults, but they were like ‘you have to do this,’” he said. “‘If you do nothing else this year, you do this.’”

In the teaser trailer for his video for the song “Holiday,” Lil Nas X rides a horse into the Wild West town from Back to the Future III. At the end of the video, Michael J. Fox gives the rapper some words of advice.

“Whatever you do, Nas, don’t go to 2020,” he says.

He’s only in the video for a few seconds, but it set the internet alight.