Ben Affleck Recalls 'Bad Experience' with Marijuana at 15: 'I Had a Dissociative Panic Attack'
"I only smoked weed if everyone else was smoking, and I had to sort of ... fake it," he said of his experience while making the 1993 film Dazed and Confused
Ben Affleck is recalling a "bad experience" he had using marijuana as a teen.
In the new book Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, author Melissa Maerz uncovers behind-the-scenes stories from the cast and crew of the 1993 high school comedy, in which a young Affleck played a supporting character named O'Bannion. Affleck, 48, said he had to "fake it" around his cast mates when they smoked marijuana.
"I had a bad experience with marijuana at 15 — I had a dissociative panic attack," he said in the book, according to Vanity Fair. "So I only smoked weed if everyone else was smoking, and I had to sort of Bill-Clinton it and fake it. I didn’t really like marijuana."
(The actor referred to the former president's 1992 comments, when Clinton said: "I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.")
The book also quotes Affleck as saying that his costars would party often between takes, which took him by surprise at the time.
"I wasn’t a very heavy drinker then. I became an alcoholic much, much later and I’m in recovery now, so that was a whole different time. I was a little nervous, like, 'Should we be drinking before we’re working tomorrow?' " he said. "Some people were actually drinking and stoned at work."
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, Dazed and Confused also starred Milla Jovovich, Anthony Rapp, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey and Jason London.
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Affleck has been open about struggling with alcoholism, speaking to PEOPLE in February about erasing the stigma — and shame —surrounding the "addiction issues that have touched so many lives."
"For me, it was a two pronged thing. I have a genetic component,” he said of his drinking. "Two of my grandparents were alcoholics. [As was his father, Timothy, who has been sober for 30 years.] So it seemed like statistically the dice were kind of loaded." (His brother Casey Affleck is a former alcoholic, now also sober.)
The director/actor said the pain surrounding his 2018 divorce from Jennifer Garner — with whom he has three children, Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11, and Sam, 8 — was also a factor.
“When my life got stressful, which principally had to do with the disappointment and the pain that the divorce caused my children, that affected me profoundly,” said Affleck. “I didn’t want to see them hurt. I found myself drinking more and more at night at home by myself. It was something I was doing to avoid dealing with painful feelings. My parents got divorced when I was young. I know how painful that is.”
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“I’ve experienced depression and anxiety,” he added. “The psychological issues are not as well understood as addiction is now. Addiction has become more destigmatized, where mental health is more confusing and more elusive. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate ‘Something bad happened to me, so I feel bad’ versus ‘I’m feeling bad because something is not working right chemically in my brain.' ”
Affleck explained that sharing his story has also had a positive side: “It’s liberating and kind of freeing not to have a secret or to feel shame about something.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.