Michael J. Fox says he became an alcoholic, hid Parkinson's diagnosis: 'There's no way out'

In a new documentary, Michael J. Fox opens up about Parkinson's disease and how he used alcohol to cope with his diagnosis.

"Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie," which premiered Friday at Sundance Film Festival, traces the life and career of the beloved "Back to the Future" star, who was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disorder in 1991. But the actor, now 61, hid his health struggles from the public for the next seven years as he grappled privately with denial and depression.

Shooting film and TV projects during that time, Fox says, he popped dopamine pills "like Halloween Smarties (candy)" to help stave off early symptoms of the disease. On the set, he also made a point to always hold props to hide his tremors.

"Therapeutic value, comfort – none of these were the reason I took these pills. There was only one reason: to hide," Fox says in the documentary. "I became a virtuoso of manipulating drug intake so that I'd peak at exactly the right time and place."

'Stay alive and get out': Brooke Shields reveals she was raped in 'Pretty Baby' 

Michael J. Fox: We can help end Parkinson's disease by learning early markers and symptoms

He was filled with dread about his prognosis after doctors told him there was no way to win the fight against Parkinson's. So he turned to drinking to forget.

"I didn't know what was happening. I didn't know what was coming. So what if I could just have four glasses of wine and maybe a shot?" Fox says. "I was definitely an alcoholic. But I've gone 30 years without having a drink."

Fox credits his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, and four children for helping inspire him to get sober. But his first few years without alcohol were a challenge.

"As low as alcohol had brought me, abstinence would bring me lower. I could no longer escape myself," Fox says. So he tried to work and travel as much as possible in the early years of his diagnosis: "You can't pretend at home that you don't have Parkinson's because you're just there with it. If I'm out in the world, I'm dealing with other people and they don't know I have it."

'You're going to have a great life': Michael J. Fox on what he wishes he had known when diagnosed

‘Judy Blume Forever’: New documentary explores sexuality, banned books and controversy

Michael J. Fox arrives at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of his new documentary "Still" on Friday.

Fox eventually came forward about his Parkinson's in 1998. He speaks frankly in the film about his fears and frustrations around the disease.

"To me, the worst thing is restraint," Fox says. "The worst thing is to be confined and to not be able to have a way out." In the early days, "there are times when I went, 'There's no way out of this.' "

The documentary is directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (2006's "An Inconvenient Truth"), who accompanies Fox to doctor visits and asks the actor about his day-to-day life with Parkinson's.

"I'm in intense pain," Fox says at one point. He frequently falls while walking, and he is injured multiple times while shooting the documentary.

Ranked: All the best movies we saw at Sundance Film Festival

Michael J. Fox (right) and wife Tracy Pollan at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. He says she helped him get sober as he struggled with Parkinson's pain.

"People around me are going, 'Be careful, be careful,' " Fox says. "And I'm like: 'This has nothing to do with being careful. This happens.' "

But the movie ends on a hopeful note, showing how he started the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000 and campaigns for Parkinson's research.

"Some people would view the news of my disease as an ending," Fox says. "But I was starting to sense it was really a beginning."

"Still" will be released by Apple TV+ this year. Sundance Film Festival continues in Park City, Utah, through Jan. 29.

Governors Awards: Michael J. Fox vows 'no surrender' to Parkinson's disease; Cher presents Diane Warren first Oscar

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michael J. Fox talks alcohol abuse, denial in 'Still' documentary