Substance use issues might run deep in Ben Affleck’s family tree—but nonetheless, it wasn’t easy for the actor to admit he had a drinking problem.
“It took me a long time to fundamentally, deeply, without a hint of doubt, admit to myself that I am an alcoholic,” Ben Affleck told The New York Times in a recent interview, which is worth reading in full. “The next drink will not be different.”
Affleck’s father didn’t get sober until he was 19. His aunt was addicted to heroin, and both he and his brother, Casey, have dealt with drinking problems. Affleck himself has been to rehab three times, most recently in 2018. “Relapse is embarrassing, obviously,” he told the Times. “I wish it didn’t happen. I really wish it wasn’t on the internet for my kids to see. Jen and I did our best to address it and be honest.”
Speaking about his ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, with whom he shares three children, Affleck said, “The biggest regret of my life is this divorce. Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing.”
Affleck’s public image has been in flux for years. In 2015 he and Garner announced they were getting a divorce amid a scandal as he batted away rumors of his affair with their nanny. A year later Garner gave an interview to Vanity Fair, in which she infamously said, “He can cast quite a shadow.” That same year, as Affleck began promoting Batman vs. Superman, a Simon & Garfunkel-assisted “Sad Affleck” meme began—a narrative that persisted for years afterward. Then in 2017, Affleck found himself accused of groping by multiple women. He apologized for one of the claims on Twitter and discussed it soon after during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he said, “What I was accused of by a woman was touching her breast while I gave her a hug. I don’t remember it, but I absolutely apologize for it. I certainly don't think she's lying or making it up.”
The actor also discussed with the Times his decision to drop out of The Batman, which Affleck was originally slated to both star in and direct. (Matt Reeves will now direct and Robert Pattinson will star.) The arduous shoot for Justice League and concern for his well-being helped convince him to put the role behind him: “I showed somebody The Batman script,” Affleck recalls in the interview. “They said, ‘I think the script is good. I also think you’ll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again.’”
During his interview with the Times, Affleck paused after discussing the experience of shame. Then he continued: “It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures—the relapses—and beat myself up,” he said. “I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”