Since his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, Michael J. Fox has become an outspoken advocate for further research into the illness and even started his own foundation. But when Fox first learned of his condition, the beloved actor says that he felt lost. Fortunately, his wife of 30 years, Tracy Pollan, was there to get him back on track.
“I was isolating myself from my family,” Fox, 57, told People. At the time, the young couple had only been married for a few years. “It was scary because you just don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” Pollan, 58, said. “You’re obviously not going to live like that for the rest of your life.”
Fox had cut down on his drinking after the couple tied the knot in 1988, but he eventually picked up the habit again. One morning in 1992, Pollan and the couple’s then-three-year-old son, Sam, found Fox passed out on the couch. A beer can on the rug nearby was knocked over and leaking on the carpet.
“I did a slow scan up from her feet to her face, expecting to find her really angry,” Fox recalled. “She wasn’t. She was just bored.” Before she left, Pollan asked her young husband, “Is this what you want? This is what you want to be?”
For Fox, this was his wake-up call. He didn’t touch another drink. The star also started seeing a therapist, who helped him cope with life after a Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“Acceptance isn’t resignation,” he said, describing the change in his way of thinking. “Now I can move on. I can start the [Michael J. Fox Foundation]. I can work with other patients. I can be with my family and allow them to worry about me.”
As Fox’s mental health grew stronger, so did his family. In 1995, Fox and his wife welcomed twin girls named Aquinnah and Schuyler. Then in 2001, Esme joined her older sisters and brother.
“It’s very easy to be optimistic. This is my life,” Fox says now. “What is there to complain about?”