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Ben Affleck opens up about alcohol addiction, depression and his biggest disappointment

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Ben Affleck is one of Hollywood’s biggest actors and creatives, but behind the curtains it has been anything but easy for the two-time Oscar winner.

Now the 47-year-old is opening up about his personal struggles, including his divorce, his alcohol addiction and his first foray into sobriety in 2001.

“I was sober for a couple of years and then I thought, ‘You know, I want to just drink like a normal person and I want to have wine at dinner.’ And I was able to for about eight years,” he recalled, speaking to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer in an interview that aired this week.

But eventually, between marrying actress Jennifer Garner in 2005 and starting a family, he started to drink more. And more. And more. “And it was really hard for me to accept that that meant I was an alcoholic,” the “Argo” director told Sawyer.

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“I started drinking every day. I’d come home from work and I’d start to drink and I’d just sit there and drink until I passed out on the couch,” he continued.

Ben Affleck, photographed at The Times in 2012.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Affleck talked at greater length about his behavior in an interview this week with the New York Times.

“People with compulsive behavior, and I am one, have this kind of basic discomfort all the time that they’re trying to make go away,” he said. “You’re trying to make yourself feel better with eating or drinking or sex or gambling or shopping or whatever. But that ends up making your life worse. Then you do more of it to make that discomfort go away. Then the real pain starts. It becomes a vicious cycle you can’t break. That’s at least what happened to me.”

Affleck’s ongoing struggles with addiction and depression are rooted in a dark family history, he revealed.

His grandmother, he told Sawyer, died of suicide amid alcohol and barbiturate use. His aunt fought addiction. But it was his father’s alcoholism that hurt the most.

“He was drunk every day and that was just life,” Affleck said of his dad. “And as that got worse, that was really, really painful. And I always said, ‘That’ll never be me. I am never gonna do that.’”

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But that experience highlighted a valuable lesson when he became a father. "[W]hat he’s taught me is how important it is for me to be sober now during these formative years for my kids.”

When Sawyer asked him what was the hardest thing for him to be honest about, the actor paused in thought.

“That I was going to get divorced,” said Affleck, whose divorce from Garner was finalized in 2018 after a 2015 split. “I never thought I was gonna get divorced — I didn’t wanna be a divorced person. I really didn’t wanna be a split family with my children — and it upset me because it meant I wasn’t who I thought I was. And that was so painful and so disappointing.”

Affleck stars in the new flick “The Way Back,” slated to hit theaters next month. He plays a widowed high school basketball coach struggling with addiction.


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