Ben Affleck on His Father's 30 Years of Sobriety: 'I Have Tremendous Respect for What That Takes'
"They were dealing with their own stuff and their own childhood trauma," Ben Affleck says of his parents
“The issue of addiction has touched so many people’s lives,” says Ben Affleck, who’s been open about his own struggle for sobriety as he promotes his new film, The Way Back. “I think it’s directly or indirectly touched most people’s lives.”
“I’d like people to get a sense of hope seeing this,” says the actor, 47, of the sports drama in which he stars. “Not false hope. Nothing saccharine or cloying because there’s a lot of suffering around addiction but I also think it’s important to know you can get better. I know a lot of people who have changed their lives dramatically and become happier, healthier people who’ve experienced all kinds of adversity.”
The movie’s message about finding hope and redemption is, for him, a personal one.
His father, Timothy Affleck, now sober, was also an alcoholic. “My father has thirty years of sobriety and I have a tremendous amount of respect for what that takes and what that means,” Affleck tells PEOPLE. “Part of being an adult is learning that your parents are just people. They’re not perfect. They were just doing their best. As a child, we expect perfection out of our parents.”
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“I learned to be able to look at things that I wish were different about my childhood and say they [my parents] did their best,” says Affleck. “They were dealing with their own stuff and their own childhood trauma. The goal is to try and break some of these painful cycles.”
And so he’s focusing on being sober, clear and present for his three children with ex-wife Jennifer Garner, Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11, and Sam, 8.
“My father didn’t get sober until I was 19 and so I know how important those years are and they are all the more critical for me.” he says. “I also see my Dad’s life for what it is, which is the guy who tried his best, who dealt with addiction and then overcame it.”
“My father was definitely a low bottom alcoholic and yet for thirty years, he hasn’t had a drink. And now, I take that as the principal lesson and legacy of his life — is that he dramatically improved it.”
His own family history of mental illness and addiction is interwoven in his own story. “I have a genetic component,” he says. “Two of my grandparents were alcoholics. Statistically, the dice were loaded in that way.”
And it’s the message of redemption that he hopes will reach people with the film. “It’s more motivating to reach towards something positive than to run from something negative, and more impactful to look at the rewards you get from sobriety and how life can get better,” he says of his own path. “That’s more helpful and more inspiring.”
The Way Back opens March 6.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.