Ben Affleck has been out of rehab for a year now. Last week all the headlines about Ben were related to his romantic life – how he may or may not be using the Raya dating app to meet people. On Saturday, seemingly addressing the rumours, he posted this on social media: 

That night he went to the UNICEF Masquerade Ball in Hollywood. He wore a mask and a purple suit and if this post wasn’t about his sobriety, I’d be commenting on how his suit seemed like it was straight out of his Bruce Wayne wardrobe. Fashion, unfortunately, is not the point here. 

There were photographers at the event – it was a celebrity party: Noah Centineo, Avril Lavigne, Olivia Culpo, Billie Eilish performed – and Ben was papped on his way out, at first with his arms around an unidentified woman, then stumbling towards his car. TMZ has the footage here. A source close to Affleck then gave both TMZ and PEOPLE the same statement: 

“Sobriety is difficult and elusive for everyone struggling with addiction. Ben has acknowledged he’s going to slip up from time to time. It was never as if this was simply behind him.”

The next day, Ben was seen arriving at Jennifer Garner’s. He did not seem surprised to see the paps there and when asked how he was doing, he addressed it directly

“Well, you know. It happens. It’s a slip, but I’m not gonna let it derail me.” 

Addiction is a disease and relapse is a part of recovery. It’s really, really f-cking hard to stay clean and it’s also hard not to feel shame after relapse. Ben is not hiding from it, and it seems like he’s committed to not being shamed for it. There was a time, though, on this website, during our early years ( started as a newsletter in 2003 and then became a blog in 2004), when I contributed to that shame. And that’s a shame on me. 

I was fortunate to train at Covenant House Vancouver during that time, to learn about mental health, the relationship between mental health and addiction, and how the stigma around mental health conditions and addiction is a barrier to recovery and wellness. There have also been people in my life who’ve been devastated by mental health challenges and addiction. It takes a long time to unlearn bias and socially and culturally, we are still unlearning and deprogramming our biases – while so many people continue, like Ben Affleck, to struggle. My point is that I didn’t know how to cover Ben’s relapse today. I thought about not posting about it and leaving it alone. Then I decided I shouldn’t leave it alone because I was just writing about him last week, about how he’s preparing for a comeback in 2020. But in covering it, does it contribute to the stigma or does it matter HOW it’s covered, so that we can talk about the stigma and how Ben is pushing back against it? 

Still is it even possible not to add to the sensationalism around the story? What if I try to direct some of your attention to The Midnight Mission that helps the homeless community in Los Angeles? More and more these days there’s a direct link between homelessness and the opioid crisis. I made a donation today but I’m conflicted about that too because could my donation also work as an attempt at absolution if writing about Ben today was the wrong decision? Also, have I somehow made this about myself? Should this have only been about Ben? But is it unfair to make it about Ben and better instead to have a larger discussion about what each of us, individually, can do to create more awareness? If you have the answer, or a suggestion, I would so appreciate if you could share because all we know now is that the way we used to do it was not the answer.