Ben Affleck: ‘I really don’t want my children to pay for my sins’

Ben Affleck is seen on Despierta America morning show to talk about "The Way Back"
Earlier this week, Ben Affleck had an extensive interview published in the New York Times, in which he talked openly about his alcoholism and at his regret at being divorced. He also discussed his family’s history of alcoholism and what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic father. It was the most candid he’s been, and it was part of promotion for his film The Way Back, where he plays an alcoholic divorced man coaching a high school basketball team. The subject matter is personal to Ben as we’ve seen him struggle with sobriety for years. He did a new interview with Diane Sawyer which aired on Good Morning America yesterday. I found him to be sincere and open about it. Here’s some of what he said and you can see the video here.

On his early sobriety and his recent struggles
I got sober when I was younger in 2001. Which I now look at as sort of a JV version of what really a problem is.

I was sober for a couple of years. And then I thought, ‘You know, I wanna just drink like a normal person. And I wanna have wine at dinner and so on. I was able to for about eight years.

I started to drink more, and more. And it was really hard for me to accept that that meant that I was an alcoholic. I was like, ‘I could just go back. I was fine before. You know, I just need to take a break.’

I started to drink every day. I’d come home from work and I’d start to drink. And then I’d just sit there and drink till I passed out on the couch.

On growing up with an alcoholic dad
[My dad] was drunk every day and that was just life. And as that got worse, that was really, really painful. And I always said, ‘That’ll never be me. I am never gonna do that.’

I wish he had been sober during those formative years. But what he’s taught me is how important it is for me to be sober now during this formative years for my kids.

On his regret at his divorce
I never thought I was gonna get divorced. I didn’t wanna be a divorced person. I really didn’t wanna be a split family with my children and it upset me because it meant I wasn’t who I thought I was. And that was so painful and so disappointing.

He was worried about how his drinking affected his kids
I really don’t want my children to pay for my sins. Or to be afraid for me, which is one of the hard parts of being the child of an alcoholic. You think, ‘What if my dad gets drunk? What if he does something stupid? What if he ends up on TMZ,’ you know? And on my newsfeed and other kids see it?

He took time off after that to be with his kids
I took the last half of the year off. And I just got to be dad. Drive ‘em to school, pick ‘em up. Go to the swim meet. That’s where the parenting happens. It’s in the moments where you’re just taking them back from soccer. And they see something profound. Or they talk about how they’re really feeling about something.

That’s where you get to be the parent. And that’s what I don’t wanna miss.

Diane asked him about pain
It’s very painful. Divorce is very painful. And alcoholism are very painful. If there’s something that your child is suffering, that’s a level of pain that is just not easily gotten past, not easily forgiven, not easily forgotten.

You’re not gonna avoid causing your kids pain. Pain is a part of life. I take some comfort in that.

I’m doing my very, very best. It has to be good enough. I don’t really have a choice. I have to be the man I wanna be at this point. I don’t have any more room for failure of that kind.

Diane Sawyer read a statement from him about Garner
Ben’s statement: What I want to say publicly and privately is thank you. Thank you for being thoughtful, considerate, responsible and a great mom and person.

[From Good Morning America, headers added]

I’ve been sober three and a half years, but like Ben I first got sober in the early 2000s and had two years before I started drinking again. It was manageable until it wasn’t. I also tried to moderate and found it impossible. So many of us have similar experiences and his story resonated with me. He’s trying to be open and vulnerable as he reboots his career with a film that’s personal for him. I liked what he said about trying to be a better person for his kids, and not like the dad he had. Plus it was nice nice the way he acknowledged Garner and thanked her. This was definitely hard-fought and I bet Garner isn’t holding her breath that this time is going to stick. Maybe he’s doing this to keep himself accountable too.

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Photos credit: Avalon.red and Getty

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54 Responses to “Ben Affleck: ‘I really don’t want my children to pay for my sins’”

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  1. Originaltessa says:

    Violet is growing up. A young woman. I’m sure she has free access to computers by this age. She knows he got driven around for weeks by a very young playmate. That must be so hard to explain.

    • Tiffany says:

      I made a comment on a Jen story awhile back that I think still. She really is just waiting for Samuel to hit the teen years and start making decisions about his relationship with Ben for himself and then she can truly wash her hands of him and his brand of B.S.

      • Originaltessa says:

        I actually forgot he was actually cheating on Lindsey Shookus with the playmate, not Jen. Whoops. Yeah, I think Jen is strictly in it for her kids. She wants them to have a good relationship with their dad. And I think he wants that too. He always shows up seemingly. Even while bloated and with donut crumbs on his clothes, he’s holding their hands and taking them to karate or whatever.

  2. Snap Happy says:

    He’s following the Brad Pitt be nice to your ex campaign.

    • Alissa says:

      he’s never spoken badly about Jennifer or smeared her that I can recall. they’ve always seemed to maintain a close co-parenting relationship. he also seems to be much more involved with his kids. I don’t think you can compare the two except that they both struggle with alcoholism.

      • Snap Happy says:

        I’m comparing their campaigns. They both had movies to promote and Hopefully Oscars to chase. Highlighting his personal struggles that also just happen to align with the topic of his movie is also quite obvious.

      • gal says:

        He cheated on her constantly.

    • Heather says:

      I don’t think that’s what he’s doing, here. He’s promoting a film about an alcoholic divorcee, so the majority of his questions are going be about those topics, and how they compare to his real life.

  3. Hellohello says:

    Last year I ended a relationship with an alcoholic. Ben’s bit about rationalizing his drinking is what I heard verbatim over and over. And it’s so hard, because you love the person, but living with the behavior is untenable. Over the years, there has been a lot of talk on this site about Jen being a doormat, but I can really see how complex it must have been, especially given that they have children together. Addiction and codependency are no ones’ fault, but awareness and management are essential. I wish them all well. It’s a tough road.

    • Flamingo says:

      I spent the majority of my 20s in a relationship with an alcoholic. The rationalizing, the promising to change, the quick rehab stints, were all just a lot to handle. For the last year or so of the relationship, I walked on egg shells so to not do anything that would stress him out or allow anyone else to do anything that would cause stress and give him a reason to drink. I don’t think Jen was a doormat, but I do suspect that she thought she could manage his behavior. I’ve been there and it really takes it all out of you.

  4. Lucy2 says:

    I hope he’s able to stick with it this time, it has to be very difficult, especially seeing that he became his father, essentially. I hope his own kids are able to break the cycle when they are older.

  5. Birdy says:

    I mean good on him for having some clarity about it but I really didn’t hear accountability. No concrete steps about how he is taking responsibility. It was all politician speak – clichés and say lots without saying anything of substance. .
    Personally I think a better version would have been:
    I never wanted to be a divorced person. I wanted to screw the nanny and any random that I fancy without any consequences for my actions. I expected everyone to pander to me. They didn’t so I’ll use my alcoholism as an excuse for my failed marriage – not the affairs, gambling or being an absentee partner. I also want to use my failing marriage as why I started drinking heavily again even though my ex wife repeatedly went out of her was to help me and support my relationship with the kids. I took 6 months off to be with kids and be a dad cause no insurance would cover me so I couldn’t get acting work and no woman was willing to publicly date me so I might as well see my kids after being an absentee father whenever girlfriends, work and PR campaigns took precedence over being a any type of hands on parent.

    Maybe I am being too hard and too cynical but it all sounded like platitudes.

    • damejudi says:

      Birdy, I had some of the same thoughts. I hope he’s genuinely working a program and getting his life back on track (particularly as a parent), but…

      I wish with regard to questions about his kids he’d said something along the lines of wanting to protect their privacy, only that he owes it to them to be a good parent. It’s his choice to share what he experienced at the hands of his dad, but respect your kids by not going into details in interviews.

    • Originaltessa says:

      No, you’re spot on Birdy. He’s got issues. Lots of them. And blaming all of his sins on alcohol is an easy way out. I don’t think he’s a faithful loving husband when sober. He’s a trapped rat, and just scratching to get out. The alcohol just lowers his inhibitions enough to say eff it, and do what he wants. He needs to work through all of his issues, and there are many.

    • Redgrl says:

      @birdy – good points. His drinking doesn’t explain or excuse his lackadaisical attitude to fidelity or his repeated disrespect of women’s bodily integrity. Those attitudes are there in him- drinking just reduces his ability to control or hide them…
      @tessa – well put..

    • Erinn says:

      I think you’re being pretty hard on him, but I also can see why, if that makes sense. You’ve definitely got some fair points, and I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. And maybe I’m being a bit too easy on him, and if that’s the case, maybe between the two of us, we might have it right haha.

      One point I will mention is that he doesn’t have to outline any concrete steps. It’s a fluff interview for the most part, but really, we don’t need to hear about the inner workings of what he’s doing. He doesn’t OWE us that, I guess is what I’m saying.

      He absolutely has issues, and they’re not going to be resolved quickly. His issues are so ingrained in him from the time he was a kid, and he’s 47 now. It’s not going to be something he’s going to overcome on any set timeline. Especially when in the past he had managed to drink in moderation for a time – that would make you feel like you have a lot more willpower than you might have, and I can imagine that further complicates the healing.

      To me, it sounds like he’s been seeking therapy. You’re right – it’s a lot of platitudes, but it kind of gives me the vibe that he’s trying to actually unpack a lot. I don’t think he’s especially far into the process, but it sounds like he’s trying. And you know, I think as long as he IS trying, that’s enough for now. I think it’s probably a huge step for him to acknowledge that he’s becoming his dad – and I think he’s starting to realize that his kids could become him. I also suspect that he might have seen all of the hub bub around the Pitt/Jolie’s and is pretty intent on not being THAT guy to his kids.

      The infidelity issues are probably linked to the drinking. If he was getting hammered to the extent that he says, I can imagine the filter is just gone. I think he obviously has a tendency towards being unfaithful on a good day, though.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      I think you are being too hard on him. I get what you’re saying but I dont think he owes the public a step by step of how he plans to stay sober. He owes that to Jen and he owes that to his kids and himself. I applaud him for holding himself accountable by being public about it but I also think the steps he takes to stay sober are between him, his family and whoever he is seeking treatment from whether that be a sponsor or a therapist.

    • tcbc says:

      He should also be publicly held to account for his repeated sexual assaults and defending/shielding his brother, who, like him, is also menace to women.

      He’s hoping the “forgive the addict” narrative will obscure his unforgiveable behavior towards women. And it’s working.

    • Jules says:

      Yea, he’s saying all the right things and seems sincere, but at the same time this is all just a media/marketing ploy. You know he has an agent and advisors telling him what to say, how to look, how to dress. This shit is all staged to some degree. It is the life of a celebrity.

    • Justwastingtime says:

      Birdy, I don’t think you are off here.

      The thing that gets me is that celebrity kids already have a general burden in being compared to or having to discuss their famous parent.

      His cycle of relapses that include embarrassing cheating with inappropriate people and then the subsequent apology tours to promote whatever movie is coming out.. along with the relentless pap photos with his children just make it that much worse for these particular kids.

  6. tempest prognosticator says:

    I hope Jen has considered al-anon.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Who is to say she’s not already in al-anon??

      • Carrie says:

        I’ve done Al-anon for adult kids (ACOA it’s called). It really didn’t help except to connect with other grown ups who had an alcoholic parent (which isn’t a great idea in some ways). That was a bit helpful but did nothing to aid understanding or healing or self protection or anything necessary to survive being a product of that or a witness to it.

        I’m glad he’s talking about this only because it’s public and that helps the wider world. Publicly airing what it is helps everyone. He doesn’t owe us his own personal details and I genuinely hope the best for him, Jen and their kids. That he is doing all this is worth A LOT in healing and maintaining wise discernment skills for his kids. Their kids will be ok unless they make the same choices he did. And if they do, that’s their journey. I hope they have good supports if anything happens. But in other news… life is hard for everyone. Everyone has something. Kindness helps as a starting point and I’m glad to see some kindness in the comments.

    • Nicole says:

      This for sure! Alanon is a great way to disrupt the cycle.

    • Silas says:

      Oop. I didn’t realize this was an older story

  7. wellsie says:

    Congrats on 3.5 years, Celebitchy! I stopped drinking about 5 months ago and I never want to go back. Reading about your choice to stop drinking here and finding other women who have done it really helped me see that I could do it too and that it wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s true for me that sobriety delivers all that alcohol promises.

    Ben is glossing over some terrible stuff but I can totally see how the booze fog contributed to all those bad decisions.

    • MC2 says:

      Congratulations on 5 months Wellsie!!! I have almost 3 years sober & those first few months were the hardest, and best, for me. I agree that I found what I was looking for in booze, by finally getting sober (good friendships, less anxiety, peace, sleep, relief, comfort, confidence, etc). It’s so ironic because alcohol seems to promise these things, but the more I drank, the worse they got, & they finally started coming in to place once I got sober. I thought it was the end of the world when I quit drinking too, and I guess it is in a way, but I’m fine with closing that chapter of my life & the next ones are soooooo much better! I am happy to hear you are doing it & in your own corner in this game of life <3

      • Lady D says:

        I understand your “I thought it was the end of the world when I quit drinking too”
        For years and years every time I thought about quitting smoking, I would be overwhelmed by a feeling depression so strong, it was almost unfightable. Just the thought of not being able to smoke was a world I didn’t want to in live in. It was six years in January. I still can’t believe I did it.

  8. Lala11_7 says:

    At least he’s being open this go round…I always thought one of Ben’s issues is that he was such a control freak and had his biggest F ups when he just didn’t let things flow…

    I’ve always loved his work…and I wish more good than bad for him and his children….

    • pineapple says:

      “I’ve always loved his work…and I wish more good than bad for him and his children….” this is just how I feel too Lala11_7. XO

      Addiction is a horrible illness, it takes not just from the addict but everyone who loves them. It can be heartbreaking. Kudos and tons of love and strength to those who can decide to fight it.

    • minx says:

      Same, I wish him well.

  9. a says:

    Oh man, his voice breaking when taking about not wanting a “split family” got to me. He and Jennifer both seems like real, sincere people to me.

    First time he’s discussed suffering from depression (I mean, most alcoholics do but I don’t think he’s mentioned it before).

  10. Say what says:

    I really don’t want my children to pay for my sins. Or to be afraid for me, which is one of the hard parts of being the child of an alcoholic. You think, ‘What if my dad gets drunk? What if he does something stupid? What if he ends up on TMZ,’ you know? And on my newsfeed and other kids see it?

    He may be an azz and has done his family wrong but this right here is so true and hopefully they won’t have to anymore. I real wish him well.

  11. Noodle says:

    His interview goes to show you how deep addiction and trauma get passed on to children. He so desperately wanted NOT to be like his dad, and yet he couldn’t control the compulsion to drink. In some ways, he ended up exactly like his dad, although he seems to have some insight now that perhaps his dad didn’t have. Addiction and trauma are cyclical, and you see the cycles of abuse so often. I hope he is able to maintain sobriety and the goal of sobriety, both for himself and for his kids.

    • Valiantly Varnished says:

      Exactly this. Generational trauma is real. And if we dont take the steps to recognize the cycle and end it we will repeat it.

      • Carrie says:

        Ditto. That’s the choice I made – to focus on and dedicate life to avoiding it and ending the cycle (for me personally). It hasn’t been easy but it would’ve been far worse otherwise.

  12. stormsmama says:

    this is the first time he has ever even seemed aware of himself and maybe even humbled by his awful behavior and by his powerlessnesss over alcohol

    I hope he can stay sober bc my fear is that the next relapse will kill him :(

    • Elisa says:

      I agree, this is a good interview. Also, his kids are quite big now and maybe they are also starting to address his issues (he mentions in the interview his kids are telling him how they really feel). I guess this can make quite some difference.

  13. Megs283 says:

    He looks good. Sober. Keep it up, Ben. ❤️

  14. Pixie says:

    Addiction is a hell of a thing, and it can’t be easy dealing with this in the public eye. He mentioned in the video he got sober in 2001, and after a couple years started drinking again, which he did normally for only 8 years. After that, he says he’d been working and drinking every day, so does that mean he has been drunk for the last 7/8 years? If so, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for his family. It is also insane to think how well A listers can hide things whilst functioning in the public eye, and just how bad things have to be to actually make the front pages. Good he is doing okay now!

  15. locamg says:

    It seems like he’s trying to take responsibility. Either he genuinely is, because I feel like this is a totally different Ben (in looks too!) from who we’ve seen – or he has a hell of a PR team coaching him. I really do hope for his kids and ex-wife (with whom he’ll always have a relationship) that he is genuine.

  16. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I wish Ben the best in his sobriety. We can say a lot about him but it’s clear he loves his babies and wants to be a better man for them. I pray that he does the work and stays the course to do that.

  17. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    I root for him and am a huge advocate for treatment and recovery services. Addiction is a family disease and the ripple effect is vast. My sister’s toddler was removed from her and placed with us in January. She’s in rehab now and doing wonderfully. At age 38, this is the first time she’s ever had the chance to work on herself and address her addiction. I’m hopeful. But having her child with us has been difficult because of some behavioral issues.

  18. Carolnr says:

    I think Ben is working through his ” regrets.”
    While I do not condone his ” bad choices”, I do think that he has probably beat himself up internally with what he did to his family& for his recovery , he has to let it in the past & move forward. I believe him when he said he never wanted this divorce & never thought he would divorce Interestingly,Jen said the same thing! I feel that Ben& Jen are in family therapy for their children & will be for a long time. I believe that all of Ben’s addictions& compulsions are genetic & hopefully his children do not have that gene.
    I found it interesting that Ben wrote down his thank-you to Jen but then had Diane Sawyer read it AFTER the interview.
    I wish Ben & his family well!

    • hello says:

      Maybe he had her read because he didn’t want to become emotional? Then the story would be less about his words and more about his delivery…

  19. JoJo says:

    I do wish the best for him, and I hope he’s able to stay on a good path. But I’m not buying into the “drinking caused my divorce” narrative. Sure, there’s no question it played a role. But by most accounts, he wasn’t faithful to Goop or JLo, and that pattern was no different when he married Garner. The only difference was they had kids, and she was going to stick it out.

    I mean, he (allegedly) had a years-long affair with Shookus before he and Garner ever split up, supposedly starting in the 2013 timeframe. He always seemed to want out of marriage, until he was actually out and now claims he “didn’t want to be a divorced person.” Aside from concern about his kids (who I do think he truly loves), I think him “not wanting to be a divorced person” is more about him not wanting to be painted negatively in the public eye (remember “Finding Your Roots?”) and also the fact that he doesn’t seem to like to be alone and relies on having a caretaker/mother figure.

    • Ali says:

      i think he’s a complete dick for saying he never wanted to be divorced three years after the fact. Jennifer Garner also never wanted to be divorced but actually did the adulting it takes to be a spouse and the only healthy parent for as long as she could. And got dragged mightily for all her efforts.

      • damejudi says:

        I agree. Not wanting to be divorced is not the same as wanting to be on a loving, committed marriage.

        He doesn’t want whatever perceived divorce stigma, and shared custody isn’t easy.

  20. Lowrider says:

    I have empathy for him but this guy is slick and selling a movie. He is saying what people want to hear but i just do not see honesty in his words when watching his interview on GMA.

  21. Chickaletta says:

    He looks a lot better. Maybe that’s why I believe his sincerity, he looks healthier than he has in years so I think he is, for the moment, clean and sober. I’m not going to make excuses for all his shitty behavior and lack of decency, but I think he’s been a drunk on various levels of “functional” most of his life. I really hope he is able to turn things around.

  22. What. . .now? says:

    It sounds nice, and he is saying the right words, but to be even more cliché–only time will tell.

    Let’s see how he’s doing a year from now.

  23. Jules says:

    He mentions Jennifer Lopez in this interview was too. I’m going to have to look up the whole thing myself, sounds interesting.

  24. Cel2495 says:

    I hope he is able to overcome his addiction for the sake of his kids and himself. Alcoholism takes you to an early grave. Unfortunately I seen very up close the destruction alcohol brings to a family… my grand-uncle died a few years ago , destitute and in the streets. My uncle and young brother are both alcoholics and I live in fear for both of them. I’m terrified of getting a call one day that my brother has been on an accident, killed someone or is dead… he thinks he can control it or moderate it but he is not.

    I was a wine drinker but gave that up a year ago. I feel good not waking up with headaches and stick strictly to tea and water.

  25. Kay says:

    Ben Affleck is intelligent and his father was an alcoholic – his mother went to Harvard. At least he didn’t trash the mother of his children publicly and got his friends CAA/PR to attack her in the media.