How Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt Got Sober With the Help of Their A-List Friends

brad pitt ben affleck split
Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Getting sober has definitely been a journey for both Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt, but they've had some support along the way.

Getting sober has definitely been a journey for both 47-year-old Ben Affleck and 56-year-old Brad Pitt, but they've had some support along the way.

Both Hollywood leading men have been incredibly open about getting sober after acknowledging that their addictions have gotten the best of them over the years. Most recently, it's been Affleck as he promotes his latest film, The Way Back, in which he plays a basketball coach who struggles with alcoholism. Affleck has been candidly discussing his own longtime battle with the disease, and in an interview with The New York Times last month, he specifically cited Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey Jr. as two friends who have helped him with his sobriety.

"[These are] guys who have been very supportive and to whom I feel a great sense of gratitude," he said. "One of the things about recovery that I think people sometimes overlook is the fact that it inculcates certain values. Be honest. Be accountable. Help other people. Apologize when you're wrong."

He again mentioned 45-year-old Cooper and 54-year-old Downey Jr. in a later interview with Diane Sawyer for Good Morning America.

"Bradley and Robert have been really helpful to me, and really supportive," Affleck said. "They're wonderful men."

Larry Busacca/WireImage
Lester Cohen/Getty Images

Of course, we also can't forget Affleck's longtime best friend, Matt Damon, whom he's publicly thanked in the past. Affleck's first stint in rehab was in 2001, but he has been open about being exposed to alcoholism throughout his childhood due to his father, Timothy's, own battle. In 2012, Affleck spoke to Barbara Walters about his difficult upbringing and how 49-year-old Damon helped him through it.

"Yes, [my dad] was an alcoholic. . . . I did know that as a child," Affleck told Walters. "He drank a lot. My father was a -- what did they call him -- a real alcoholic. He, you know, drank all day, drank every day, and to his credit, he got sober, ultimately, and he's been sober for several decades, which I think is pretty impressive."

"But I had good friends -- I had Matt Damon, my brother's a great guy," he added about how he coped at the time. "I had a nucleus of friends that I grew up with and I had support from."

In January 2017, Affleck talked to ET about the importance of his friendship with Damon at the Live by Night premiere.

"I can't tell you how valuable it is to have somebody who's been through things with you, ups and downs, who knows what your life experience is like, who can identify with that," he said. "It's an incredibly valuable friendship and it's very precious and so is my friendship with my brother. I don't know what I would do without those guys."

In September 2018, a source told ET that Damon had actually stopped drinking with Affleck a long time ago, in order to avoid enabling him.

"When Matt and Ben were young, they loved to party together and have fun, but as soon as Matt realized Ben had issues with substance abuse, he made sure he wouldn't enable him," the source said. "Matt stopped drinking with Ben because in no way does he want to support another downward spiral. Matt is a very loyal, stable and grounded friend who only wants success and happiness for Ben."

"Matt wants to be a good influence on Ben," the source added. "Ben's team, his closest friends and family truly support their friendship. They want them to hang out more, which in turn could help keep him away from the crowd that doesn't support his sober lifestyle."

Getty Images

ET recently spoke to Affleck about his new film, and he talked about his friends going through similar problems as him.

"I know and have a lot of friends who have dealt with issues like this, compulsive behavior and addictive behavior, and the vast majority of them are really honest, accountable people living good, healthy lives," Affleck said. "The idea that life gets better, that you can get better, that you can overcome your obstacles, is a really important one to me and that's the approach I liked about [The Way Back]. It was not just like, 'Oh, there is alcoholism.' That's kind of ordinary."

But perhaps nobody has been more visibly supportive of Affleck during his personal struggles than his ex-wife, 47-year-old Jennifer Garner. Garner drove a distraught-looking Affleck to his third stint in rehab in August 2018, and in October, he was snapped by paparazzi visiting his ex-wife's home as he admitted that he "slipped" with regard to his recovery. In his recent NYT profile, Affleck called his divorce from Garner the "biggest regret" in his life, though he also acknowledged that his struggle with alcohol picked back up again during the time when he said their marriage was falling apart.

"I drank relatively normally for a long time," he said. "What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart. This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems."

Still, Garner has been there for him even after their split, the two continuing to spend time together as they co-parent their three kids -- Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11, and Samuel, 8.

Most recently, The Way Back director Gavin O'Connor revealed how it was Garner who personally asked him to still make the film even after Affleck entered rehab again in 2018.

"Just as we started prepping the movie, Ben fell off the wagon," O'Connor said in an interview with 34th Street. "So he ended up going to rehab, and I didn't know if the movie was over. The studio certainly thought the movie was over. His ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, called me up, and told me that when he went to rehab, he took a basketball with him. She said, 'Gavin, he's asking you, please don't pull the plug on the movie, he really wants to do this.'"

Getty Images

Meanwhile, when it comes to Pitt, he has also acknowledged leaning on those close to him to get him through particularly tough times. In January -- like Affleck -- he specifically thanked Cooper for helping him get sober during his speech at the National Board of Review awards after Cooper presented him with the Best Supporting Actor award for his work in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

"Thank you, Bradley. Bradley just put his daughter to bed and rushed over here to do this," Pitt said, referring to Cooper's 2-year-old daughter, Lea. "He's a sweetheart. I got sober because of this guy and every day has been happier ever since. I love you and I thank you."

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for National Board of Review

Another person in Pitt's life that has been affected by his sobriety journey is his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston. Aniston memorably called Pitt insensitive in her legendary 2006 Vanity Fair interview after they split and he quickly moved on to Angelina Jolie, and he also publicly apologized to Aniston in 2011 after a Parade interview in which he suggested that their life together was uninteresting before they split in 2005.

"I spent the '90s trying to hide out, trying to duck the full celebrity cacophony," Pitt told the magazine. "I started to get sick of myself sitting on a couch, holding a joint, hiding out. It started feeling pathetic. It became very clear to me that I was intent on trying to find a movie about an interesting life, but I wasn't living an interesting life myself. I think that my marriage had something to do with it. Trying to pretend the marriage was something that it wasn't."

In January, a source told ET that Pitt had made peace with Aniston after getting sober. The source said that the two had moved on from their complex past and that the actor, in particular, "apologized" for some of the past issues in their relationship.

"Brad is completely sober now and is in such a different place than he was when they were together," the source said. "Brad is truly an introspective guy who has worked hard on himself. He has apologized to her for many things he felt were his issues in their relationship. He truly takes ownership for his mistakes and that has changed their relationship with each other today."

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner

There are definite parallels between Pitt and Affleck's struggles. While Affleck acknowledged his drinking picked up again as he began having marital issues with Garner, Pitt's issues with alcoholism also became apparent after his split from 44-year-old Jolie in 2016. Pitt told GQ Style in May 2017 that he had been sober for six months -- around the time his split from Jolie was announced.

"I can't remember a day since I got out of college where I wasn't boozing or had a spliff, or something," he told the magazine about his past. "Truthfully, I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good."

Pitt said he was using substances to avoid his feelings.

"You realize that a lot of it is, um- cigarettes, you know, pacifiers," he shared. "And I'm running from feelings. I'm really, really happy to be done with all of that. I mean, I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family. But even this last year, you know -- things I wasn't dealing with. I was boozing too much. It's just become a problem. And I'm really happy it's been half a year now, which is bittersweet."

Both Pitt and Affleck have also talked about their fathers contributing to their issues with sobriety. While Pitt hasn't referred to his father as an alcoholic, he noted of his upbringing to GQ Style, "I grew up with a father-knows-best/war mentality -- the father is all-powerful, super strong -- instead of really knowing the man and his own self-doubt and struggles. And it's hit me smack in the face with our divorce: I gotta be more. I gotta be more for [my children]. I have to show them. And I haven't been great at it."

Both Affleck and Pitt name their children as the single most motivating factor in getting sober.

"For me seeing my dad was just, he was drunk every day and that was just life," Affleck recalled in his GMA interview. "And then as that got worse, that was really, really painful. And I always said, 'That'll never be me. I'm 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 these formative years for my kids," he added.

Affleck said that he didn't want his children to "pay for my sins or to be afraid for me."

"[That] is one of the hard parts of being the child of an alcoholic," he said. "Do you think, 'What if my dad gets drunk? What if he does something stupid? What if he ends up on TMZ and it's on my news feed and other kids see it?'"

"I took the last half of the year off and I just got to be Dad," he continued. "Drive them to school, pick them up. Go to the swim meets, come home. That's where the parenting happens. It's in the cracks. It's in the moments when you're just taking them back from soccer and they say something profound or they talk about how they're really feeling about something and it's like that's where you get to be the parent. That's the joy of it. And that's what I don't want to miss."

Meanwhile, Pitt -- who dedicated his Oscars win to his kids last month -- talked about, above all, wanting to be there for them in his revealing GQ Style interview. Pitt and Jolie share six children together -- Maddox, 18, Pax, 16, Zahara, 15, Shiloh, 13, and Knox and Vivienne, 11.

"People on their deathbeds don't talk about what they obtained or were awarded. They talk about their loved ones or their regrets," he shared. "I say that as someone who's let the work take me away."

"Kids are so delicate. They absorb everything," he continued. "They need to have their hand held and things explained. They need to be listened to. When I get in that busy work mode, I'm not hearing. I want to be better at that."

Interestingly enough, in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2014, Downey Jr. -- undoubtedly one of Hollywood's biggest success stories when it comes to overcoming addiction -- said he probably inherited his addiction issues, and also discussed his son, Indio, who was charged with felony drug possession in 2014. Indio's felony cocaine possession conviction was eventually dismissed in 2016 after he successfully completed a 20-month rehab program.

"He's his mother's son and my son, and he's come up the chasm much quicker than we did," Downey Jr. said. "But that's typical in the Information Age; things get accelerated. You're confronted with histories and predispositions and influences and feelings and unspoken traumas or needs that weren't met, and all of a sudden you're three miles into the woods. Can you help someone get out of those woods? Yes, you can. By not getting lost looking for them. ... Pick a dysfunction and it's a family problem."

In 2012, Cooper -- who had yet to be a dad at the time -- discussed his own motivation to get sober at 29 in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

"I was at a party, and deliberately bashed my head on the concrete floor," he recalled, citing one of the many self-harming incidents that he said would leave him recuperating for days. "And then I did it again. I spent the night at St. Vincent's Hospital with a sock of ice, waiting for them to stitch me up."

"I don't drink or do drugs anymore," he continued. "I realized I wasn't going to live up to my potential, and that scared the hell out of me. I thought, 'Wow, I'm actually gonna ruin my life. I'm really gonna ruin it.'"

And much like Affleck's role in The Way Back, Cooper confronted his own personal demons when he played a singer struggling with substance abuse in 2018's A Star Is Born. Cooper also directed the critically acclaimed film, which he starred in opposite Lady Gaga.

"Anytime you're trying to tell the truth you need to go to places and use things that have happened to you, or you've read about or experienced," Cooper told Variety in 2018. "And that's all part of the beauty of turning whatever things you've gone through into a story. I find that to be very cathartic. I remember learning that in grad school, our teacher said all the insecurities, all the dark stuff you get to use that and that's really the truth."

These days, Affleck, Pitt, Downey Jr. and Cooper all appear to be in healthy places in their lives. On Tuesday, Affleck gave another big shout-out to a fellow actor -- this time, his The Last Duel co-star, 36-year-old Adam Driver -- for an act of kindness to his son, Samuel, that had him fighting back tears.

Watch the video below to hear the touching story: