At 47, Ben Affleck has a lot of personal and professional accomplishments behind him, but as anyone who’s paying attention knows, these have not been without struggle. On the positive side, he’s an Oscar-winning writer, director of the Oscar-winning Argo, a prolific actor, and is a father of 3 kids, aged 7 to 14. And on the flip side, Affleck is an alcoholic.
As Affleck revealed in the The New York Times, “I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems.”
He and his wife Jennifer Garner, who were married in 2005 and separated in 2015, finalized their divorced in 2018.
However, in spite of recent high-profile setbacks in his personal life, Affleck, who is currently in recovery after three separate trips to rehab prior to the fall of 2018 before a relapse in the fall of 2019, has garnered attention recently for his willingness to be frank, honest, and vulnerable about his lowest points.
In short, he’s been willing to dig deep and acknowledge wrongdoing; I hear they call that accountability.
Accountability starts with acknowledgement
One of the things about recovery that I think people sometimes overlook is the fact that it inculcates certain values. Be honest. Be accountable. Help other people. Apologize when you’re wrong.Ben Affleck to The New York Times
To some, of course, Affleck is still the guy who both destroyed Garner’s heart and was accused of groping a talk show host back in 2003.
“I acted inappropriately, and I sincerely apologize.” he said of that incident in 2017, in the midst of #metoo. And, in the same year, since some of his early films were Weinstein-backed, Affleck announced that all future residual payments from said films would be donated to anti-sexual assault organizations.
Affleck recently shared something that stuck with him from one of his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings: one man in attendance said he quit drinking so he could be a free man. Simple? Maybe.
That’s one of the most moving things that’s stayed with me. The desire for that freedom, and so I can be accountable to my kids.Ben Affleck to The New York Times
Even after Affleck’s relapse, Garner, who still wants him in their kids’ lives, has been a supportive presence for her ex-husband. Affleck recently thanked Garner with an emotional note read aloud on Good Morning America.
“What I want to say publicly and privately is, ‘Thank you. Thank you for being thoughtful, considerate, responsible, and a great mom and person,” he said.
From where I’m standing, accountability isn’t just about acknowledging one’s wrongdoing—it’s also about acknowledging the love and support of others.
The two Jennifers who shaped his past
As many already know, Ben has had high-profile relationships with two women who shared the same first name–Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Garner. And these two romances unfortunately did not last.
However, much of Ben’s accountability is rooted in acknowledging the mistakes of his past–and these certainly involved the women in his past. As we have seen lately, he has made conscious efforts to acknowledge and celebrate the women he was once with.
Returning what is due to Jennifer Lopez
The first time the term “Bennifer” was created, it was referring to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’ relationship. The two met in 2001, on the set of their movie Gigli. The two hit it off immediately, despite Jennifer being married at the time. She finalized her divorce and soon enough, she was engaged to Ben.
Their relationship was not meant to last. While never confirmed, there was question of Ben’s supposed gambling problem that was at the time amplified by the media. The pressure from the public became too intense and eventually, Bennifer split.
Years later, as Jennifer Lopez is now in a happy relationship with Alex Rodriguez and her career has never been better. While recovering from addiction, Ben has made the time to celebrate his former flame, Jennifer Lopez, with whom he is still in touch.
“She should have been nominated. She’s the real thing. I keep in touch periodically with her and have a lot of respect for her,” Ben revealed to The New York Times journalist Brooke Barnes. “How awesome is it that she had her biggest hit movie at 50? That’s fucking baller.”
Lopez, who has garnered a lot of attention for her performance in Hustler, was unfortunately snubbed of an Oscar nomination. Nonetheless, Ben’s comment and willingness to defend his ex shows
Jennifer Garner, the mother of his children
“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce,” Affleck told The New York Times. “It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures — the relapses — and beat myself up. 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.”
“I never thought that I was gonna get divorced,” Affleck told Diane Sawyer during his appearance on Good Morning America. “It upset me because it meant I wasn’t who I thought I was. And that was so painful and so disappointing in myself.”
Garner, who has been dating businessman John Miller for close to 2 years, is reportedly “touched by his honesty” and “impressed he’s taken ownership of his mistakes.”
Aside from his demonstrated sense of accountability, Affleck has also taken to an unusual form of personal therapy: starring in a movie which depicts a story of addiction remarkably close to his own.
His first leading role in 4 years, The Way Back is a sports drama, due out in theaters March 6th. Affleck plays a reluctant high school basketball coach who also happens to be a fall-down drunk who loses his wife and winds up in rehab.
I think that Ben, in an artistic way, in a deeply human way, wanted to confront his own issues through this character and heal.Gavin O’Connor to The New York Times
“Sometimes just feeling those feelings again purges them a little bit and frees you a little bit,” said Affleck of his choice to make the movie. It was not an easy thing to do.
“This movie was hard to make. Sometimes it was painful. And sometimes I was embarrassed. And sometimes I couldn’t believe my life had any similarity to this.”
Looking at the past
As anyone who’s faced an all-encompassing addiction knows, facing the past is also an important element of being accountable and ultimately enabling oneself to move forward, into the future.
There is a lot of alcoholism and mental illness in Affleck’s family, from his father’s alcoholism up until Affleck turned 19, to his younger brother Casey’s alcoholism and sobriety, to an aunt’s heroin addiction—for starters. There are a couple of instances of suicide in his family to contend with as well.
Although the battle is never easy, and never over, Affleck says, “I can’t change the past. I can go from today. I can make sure today I’m good. That’s what I’ve got. I’m a guy doing good today.”
“I don’t know all the answers,” he admits. “I’m only an expert in my own failings. But the more expert you become in your own failings, interestingly, the less likely you are to repeat them, I’ve found. That is how my life has been getting better. I have a better relationship with my kids today than I did three years ago. I have a better relationship with my ex-wife, I think, than I did three years ago. I think I’m a better actor. I think I’m a more interesting person because most of the growth that I’ve had has come from pain.”
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