Ben Affleck Says He Feels 'Grateful for the Difficulties That I've Had'
Ben Affleck is reflecting on learning from past mistakes.
The Tender Bar actor, 49, opened up to WSJ. Magazine for the outlet's December/January issue about alcoholism and "painful" moments in his past that inspired him to get sober. Looking back, Affleck explained that the difficulties he's experienced led him to where he is today.
"There's a lot that I would want my younger self to understand. Some things, honestly, that I'm too self-conscious of or shy about to be really candid about with the whole world because they're mostly mistakes," he said. "Things I wish I had done differently, and they're rooted in that instinct to look at my past and think, I wish I could have avoided this painful event.' I wish I could have not caused someone else pain. I wish I had understood better the nature of what was difficult about life for me."
"I wish I did not have to learn some lessons the hard way," said Affleck. "But maybe this is just rationalizing because the alternative is too painful."
Affleck said he learned one cannot get to true enlightenment "the easy way" and that he "had to learn those things in an authentic, meaningful way to really learn the lessons that I've really internalized, that have created the values that I have now even though most of them were born of failure."
"The only real cure for alcoholism is suffering. You just hope that your threshold for suffering is met somewhere before it destroys your life," said the Oscar winner.
"I used to be irritated by people who would say, 'Oh, I have these problems and I'm grateful for them.' I used to think, 'This is bulls---. You're not grateful for disasters, creating pain and wreckage in your life. Say you feel s----- about it and you wish you were better!' " he continued. "Only within the last five years, I really felt increasingly grateful for the difficulties that I've had."
Added Affleck, "It's not insignificant, because a lot of that pain is rooted in pain caused to other people. And that turns out to be the most painful thing in life."
The actor/director, who is currently dating Jennifer Lopez after the pair rekindled their romance, acknowledged that he is "very lucky" to have "benefited from second chances."
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"Life is difficult, and we are always failing and hopefully learning from those failures," he said. "The one thing you really need to avail yourself of the opportunities provided from that growth is the second chance. I've definitely tried to take advantage of that. I haven't always been successful, but in cases in which I have, they've turned out to be the defining aspects of my life."
He added, "I feel great about being very healthy."
Affleck previously opened up about addiction and getting sober, telling PEOPLE last year that the pain surrounding his 2018 divorce from Jennifer Garner — with whom he shares three kids — was one factor.
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"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," he said at the time. "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."
"I've experienced depression and anxiety," added Affleck. "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.' "
He said he hoped to erase the stigma and shame surrounding the "addiction issues that have touched so many lives."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
The Tender Bar, directed by George Clooney, opens in limited theaters Dec. 17, then nationwide Dec. 22. It'll then be available to stream on Amazon Prime Video Jan. 7.
WSJ. Magazine's December 2021 / January 2022 issue is out on newsstands Saturday, December 11th.