Michael J. Fox was one of the most popular actors of the 1980s and '90s but stepped back from acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Fox, 52, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991 and went public with his condition in 1999. He semi-retired from acting the following year. Looking back, Fox says he fell into a deep depression shortly after his diagnosis and drank heavily to cope with his despair.
"My first reaction was to start drinking heavily," Fox said Sept. 25 on Howard Stern's radio show. "I was drinking alone every day. I just felt helpless. It felt unfair in a way."
Fox was stunned by his Parkinson's diagnosis at age 30 because the condition usually afflicts older people. Fox, a physical comedic actor, was distressed because he was no longer able to control the visible tremors and violent shaking that Parkinson's disease causes.
After feeling sorry for himself and self-medicating with alcohol, Fox finally got some relief after going to psychotherapy, which he credits with mending his marriage and with helping him deal with the challenges of Parkinson's.
Through therapy, Fox realized that Parkinson's wasn't a death sentence. He also learned to appreciate his solid marriage because he realized his wife truly had his back, no matter what life dealt him. Michael married his "Family Ties" co-star Tracy Pollan, 53, in 1988, and the couple has four children.
"[After] I went to therapy, it all started to get really clear to me," he said. "My marriage got great and my career started to [take off again]." During his career, Fox has won four Emmy awards, four Golden Globe awards and two Screen Actors Guild awards.
Fox, who has been a vocal activist for Parkinson's disease, is ready to step back into prime time with a new sitcom where he plays a network news anchor who has Parkinson’s disease. Fox, who's still pushing for a cure through his Michael J. Fox Foundation, insists he's not making light of the disease on his sitcom.
"We're not making fun of Parkinson's," he said. "We're examining a life that has Parkinson's and how one guy deals with it. It's part of the human experience. You can't cower from it. You have to accept it, incorporate it into your life. If you have a loving, full life, it'll just be part of it, just one of the colors of the palette."