The Most Optimistic Guy in Hollywood

Actor Michael J. Fox talks to Beliefnet about his battle with Parkinson's disease, why he looks at life more spiritually now, and how he stays optimistic and grateful.

Michael J. Fox

It was a sad day in the entertainment world when actor Michael J. Fox, best known for his roles as young Republican Alex P. Keaton on "Family Ties," Marty McFly in "Back to the Future," and deputy mayor Mike Flaherty on "Spin City," publicly announced in 1998 that he had the degenerative brain disease, Parkinson's.

Since then, Fox has become a tireless advocate for Parkinson's disease research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. But he doesn't let his disease get in the way of seeing "the possibilities in everything." He just published a new book, "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist" and plays a guest role in the FX series "Rescue Me."

He recently spoke with Beliefnet Entertainment Editor Dena Ross about what inspires him.

What has been the most difficult part of battling Parkinson's disease--the physical challenges, emotional, spiritual?

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For the last 15 years or so, it's been physical. I mean, the first part of the battle was the emotional, spiritual, and to an extent, intellectual.But, having done a lot of that work early on and getting through that battle, it put me in a place where now I just focus on the physical. The physical are daily battles. But, having done the previous work, I feel sufficiently armed to deal with it.

In your new book you write that your experience with alcohol and Parkinson's led you to look at life in a more spiritual way. How so?

I started drinking more to deal with the Parkinson's when I was first diagnosed. I don't know which came first. I'm trying to think which came first, the chicken or the egg. With the alcohol what you deal with is that you don't have any control over it, that you don't have power over it—that it's more powerful than you in a way. It's gonna do what it's gonna do and you can't stop it. And so, you have to kind of surrender and give up the battle and say "I can't control this. I can't drink in a way that's safe. It's just too powerful for me."

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