As is true of most anyone battling addiction, Ben Affleck has spent a good amount of time reflecting on his recovery, examining the particular set of circumstances that determined this would be his cross to bear and figuring out how exactly to best it.
Just a few years ago he saw rehab as the sort of thing that happens to an actor who derives too much pleasure from the Hollywood club scene and the myriad destructive paths it can point you toward. "I went to rehab for being 29 and partying too much and not having a lot of boundaries and to clear my head and try to get some idea of who I wanted to be," Affleck detailed to The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. "It was more a 'let me get myself straight,' before it became a rite of passage."
Several stints later, though, he now sees treatment as necessary maintenance, not all that different from a diabetic tracking blood sugar levels. "Battling any addiction is a lifelong and difficult struggle," he shared on Instagram last week after finishing a 40-day stay for alcohol issues. "Because of that, one is never really in or out of treatment. It is a full-time commitment."
And not one to gamble with. As outlets were predicting the 46-year-old would join best friend Matt Damon at a presumably cocktail-laced Las Vegas birthday bash, culminating in the UFC fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, The Batman producer was quietly making plans some 800 miles away. Hoping to derive healing from the vast expanses of pine trees, snow-capped mountains and meditative streams, Affleck joined Shauna Sexton, the 22-year-old Playboy model and veterinary technician he'd been courting in the days leading up to his rehab stay, for a getaway to Big Sky, Mont.
One of his favorite spots and the setting for many a Christmas celebration with ex Jennifer Garner and their kids Violet, 12, Seraphina, 9, and Samuel, 6, Montana is "a good and healthy place for him to be," an insider tells E! News. "He goes there to clear his mind and be out in nature. There's no distractions and it's very peaceful."
Much more than, say, your average Sin City casino. Appreciative of how far he's come in the past two months, Affleck has no intention of rolling the dice on his hard-earned sobriety. Says an insider, "He takes this all very seriously."
There was no arguing, no bargaining, no rush to have one final drink when Garner pulled up to Affleck's Pacific Palisades bachelor pad last August.
For weeks, admittedly, he'd held just a tenuous grip on his sobriety. His yearlong relationship with Saturday Night Live producer Lindsay Shookus had unraveled and with his latest film, Triple Frontier, wrapping up he found himself with long swatches of time to himself, the sort of situation that inspires phrases about idle hands being devil's tools. "He started to slip up and began drinking again," an insider revealed to E! News, and by late August he was "heavily drinking alone at home."
Though Garner had relatives in town, the photos that circulated the Internet of Affleck accepting a large shipment of liquor were hard to miss. "That was the breaking point," said the source. Working swiftly as she had in the past to support her estranged husband, she made the necessary arrangements to secure a spot for him at an L.A.-area facility and drove over to his house with a professional, ready to stage a full intervention.
Instead she found a contrite Affleck with a deep sense of gratitude for her tough love. "Ben was not resistant and knew he needed help," the source revealed at the time. "He was grateful that Jen was there for him again and did not fight it."
Quite the opposite. Insiders reveal he has embraced this, his third trip to rehab in nearly two decades, with arms outstretched. He'd stay on premises, he agreed, only making trips to his seven-bedroom mansion for workouts, accompanied by both a therapist and coach. And if 30 days were not enough to squeeze everything he possibly could from the intense counseling sessions and group meetings, then, fine, he was open to bunking there as long as the pros saw fit.
"He is trying very hard to work on himself and get to the root of his addiction," a source shared. "He has a lot of demons but he wants to understand himself and have the results be different this time." His acceptance that the standard month might not be long for him left friends feeling that this time might truly be different. Said the source, "He is taking strides to better himself and is hopeful about the future."
His post-treatment life, which includes continued outpatient care, comes with its own fresh start. Some 18 months after he and Garner finally took the steps to legally file for divorce, their decade-long union is this close to coming to an official end. Having already reached a settlement before Affleck entered treatment, they planned to sign off once he was back home. And while an insider insists reports that the split had been finalized were a bit premature, the end is definitely in sight. Says a source, "They both want to move on and end the financial negotiations and the custody discussions."
Mentally, the Peppermint actress, 46, has already put their split in the rearview enough to not let herself be bothered over Affleck's changing love life. Whether or not she has reservations about the father of her children dating a model some two decades younger who's professed her love for whiskey and bourbon, she's sees no need to voice them. "It's not her problem and it hasn't been for a long time," a source told E! News back when Affleck was first spotted treating Sexton to sushi at Malibu's Nobu. "He's a big boy and can take care of himself."
Arguably, he is. Affleck's focus since completing in-patient treatment has been his children (a source reported to E! News that Garner told them "Ben is sick and needs help from a doctor,") and getting back to work. His dalliance with Sexton, who visited him in rehab, is just a bit of relaxed fun.
While the Virginia Beach native is unabashedly a fan of a good time, in Affleck's presence she trades her whiskey and soda for something a bit more PG-13. "I have limitless respect [for] people who have the humility and maturity to admit when they need to fix something in their life," she told critics on Instagram, insisting she's never drank around the actor. For now, the workout fanatic (she's up at 5 a.m. daily for high-intensity interval training sessions) "is good company for Ben," says an insider. "It's not serious." Affleck, says the insider, enjoys that she's up for anything (say, a spontaneous trip to Montana) "and he likes spending time with her. That's the extent of it. She doesn't have any baggage so it's very easy and casual."
Should that change, though, Affleck may be just the man that the May Playmate is looking for. On her Playboy profile, she cites a good sense of humor and a working understanding of sarcasm as musts, but a strong mind and sense of self are also of utmost importance. "I want someone who's able to compromise but doesn't sell himself short," she shared with the outlet. "I appreciate people who are the truest forms of themselves and brutally honest about who they are."