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Michael J. Fox: I Drank Heavily to Cope With Parkinson’s Diagnosis

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Michael J. Fox (Getty Images)

Michael J. Fox has called himself an "incurable optimist." Heck, he even wrote a book on the topic. But that doesn't mean he hasn't experienced dark days.

The 52-year-old comedic actor, whose new series "The Michael J. Fox Show" debuts Thursday night, opened up about his 1991 Parkinson's disease diagnosis while appearing on "The Howard Stern Show" Wednesday. He said when he first received the news of his life-changing illness, he was in denial and depressed, and he reacted with self-destructive behavior.

"My first reaction was to start drinking heavily," revealed Fox, whose new character, Mike Henry, also suffers from the disease. "I used to drink to party, but now I was drinking alone and to just not be [present]. Every day."

"So then once I did that," the "Back to the Future" star continued, "then there was about a year of, like, a knife fight in a closet, where I just didn't have my tools to deal with it."

While he didn't elaborate on the details of that "knife fight," he talked more about it in his 2009 book "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist." Fox said that he woke up on his sofa one morning, about a year after his diagnosis, reeking of alcohol. There was a half-empty beer can on the floor, his baby son was crawling on him, and his wife — fellow "Family Ties" alum Tracy Pollan, whom he married in 1988 — was staring down at him. He said it was Pollan's demeanor that changed him, because she didn't appear surprised, angry, or disgusted. Instead, she was indifferent, which was an eye-opening moment.

"Then after that, I went into therapy and it all started to get really clear to me," the father of four told Stern. "Everything started to really turn the other way. My marriage got great, and my career [started to take off again]."

As for Stern's inevitable question about Fox and Pollan's sex life, the actor responded that it's "great," then joked, "The only thing about sex is deciding who's going to be the agent of motion."

Professionally, Fox's career is on another upswing. The "Spin City" and "Boston Legal" alum is incorporating his disease into his role on the new series, playing a network news anchor reviving his career after a hiatus because of Parkinson's. "The Michael J. Fox Show," which co-stars "Breaking Bad's" Betsy Brandt, airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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