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It Wouldn’t Kill You to Be a Little Nicer to Ben Affleck

The media coverage of Affleck’s alcoholism shows how unwilling we are to understand substance abuse — or kill the stigma around it

I’m sorry, the headline “Why Ben Affleck Entered Rehab for the Third Time” is some insulting shit. I’ll save you a click: It’s the same reason as the first two times. He’s battling an addiction, and it’s not going well. Only a third of alcoholics “fully recover” from the disease. This isn’t hard to understand.

The last major media cycle about celebrity addiction, surrounding singer Demi Lovato’s near-fatal drug overdose, was as invasive as any other — but the stories tended to foreground how supportive fans were in this dark time. Affleck, both because he’s understood to be a bit of a dirtbag (he had an affair with the nanny, was hit with a #MeToo accusation, etc.) and his off-screen image has become fodder for miserabilist memes (whether he’s staring at the ocean, smoking or experiencing Batman-related depression), apparently doesn’t deserve the same empathy. It’s gross, and it shows how unwilling we are to understand substance abuse — or kill the stigma around it.

I’m not sure how Affleck’s access to a luxury Malibu rehab center, interest in a Playboy model or apparent love of Jack in the Box are invitations to mock the pain he finds himself in. However messy his personal life, Affleck — unlike other men — hasn’t blamed his bad behavior on drinking. He’s faced up to this chronic problem more than once, which is often necessary to overcome it: Relapse isn’t a sign of failure, and the standard recovery programs are far from bulletproof. Why kick a guy when he’s this low just because he starred in Gigli? Aren’t you busy making fun of Pete Davidson these days anyway? Yes, poor addicts lack the resources to battle their condition the way Affleck can — but he has to do it with the paparazzi dogging his every move. That must be agony.

Maybe I’m taking this personally since I also drink too much, or as I project enough beardy sorrow that a Lyft driver in L.A. made me take a selfie with him so he could tell his wife he gave a ride to Ben Affleck. (I don’t note any striking resemblance besides being large and white and seeming to struggle through existence.) I just know that all the money in the world doesn’t make another stab at sobriety any easier, and any level of fame means people will all but cheer to see you fuck up yet again. Would Affleck give you a hard time for trying to get healthy? No! Didn’t you enjoy Gone Girl? Sort of!

So maybe lay off the guy for a week.

Anyway, you get the idea — and if you were about to detox while eating nothing but brown rice for a month, you’d want to stop for a burger beforehand, too. Jennifer Garner deserves great respect for helping him, and Affleck deserves credit for accepting help at all. It’s an extremely vulnerable decision to make in a society where men are supposed to demonstrate a stoic self-mastery at every turn.