Whenever I’d be involved in a conversation about celebrity look a likes, I’d always name Affleck. I’d enjoyed his movies and the various characters he’d attempted to fill over the years. Recently, the NY Times did a great profile on the actor on the heels of his divorce with Jennifer Garner after thirteen years of marriage and three children.
A few of his quotes made me stop and think, not just for honesty sake but for the weight he’d put in them:
“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 a couple of Sundays ago during a two-hour interview at a beach side spot in Los Angeles. “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.”
“The older I’ve gotten, the more I recognize that my dad did the best he could,” Affleck said. “There’s a lot of alcoholism and mental illness in my family. The legacy of that is quite powerful and sometimes hard to shake.” Affleck’s younger brother, Casey, 44, has spoken about his own alcoholism and sobriety. Their paternal grandmother took her own life in a motel when she was 46. An uncle killed himself with a shotgun. An aunt was a heroin addict.
“It took me a long time to fundamentally, deeply, without a hint of doubt, admit to myself that I am an alcoholic,” Ben Affleck said. “The next drink will not be different.”
Pic from the Times profile.
Let’s dig in.
My generation is known as The Divorce Generation. We were the first to eclipse the statistic that 50% of the marriages of our parents would end in divorce, myself included. So what does that do? It generates what Affleck mentions in his quote, something his children will face now.
It creates that consistent discontent driving compulsions. Pain nags, the feeling palpable. It is a burning, just under the skin, that something is coming. A feeling the car is approaching a horizon that is actually a cliff, that the raft is approaching the waterfall in the distance and we hear the rapids. It creates unbalance and the urge to fill the space.
I turn mine into a reward mechanism. Let’s buy lunch, go to the movies, pick up a new book, let’s sit and decompress and not think for a while. Let’s spend because we deserve it.
We all find solace in something, in realization. Val and I lean on faith, we’ve started trying to get physically, financially, and spiritually well with a purpose. Now, we’re not perfect by any means, and the old habits die hard behind ignorance. The trick is in the realization. As Affleck says,
The next drink will not be different.
Fill in the blank with your coping mechanism of choice. Compulsions are driven on novelty. There’s a chance we are missing something. The dopamine hit could be better, stronger. The limit could go just a little bit deeper, because God, what a rush that was. And in that rush, for a moment, we didn’t feel.
When we sit down, sit back and understand the next drink will not be different, the next impulse isn’t new, the next vice is the same prison as before, when we look in the mirror and acknowledge it, then the real work can be done.
I look in the eyes of my boys and know they’ll need their own strategies. Affleck and Garner may both be millionaires, but pain is real. Their children will face it down one day. And money isn’t solution if we follow Affleck’s logic.
As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastics, we are eager to chase the wind.
The goal is truth. The goal is love. The goal is life and being present because it stops you from constantly leaning forward out of the moment and trying to find the next thing. Because the next thing won’t be different.
Aiden and I were watching Youtube this morning and he said, in the middle of the video, “smash that Like button, dad,” and I laughed. That’s the moment. Grab those like gold because time passes. Know that you are doing okay and things will get better.
Butterfly wings don’t always start hurricanes.
Sometimes they just catch sunlight.