In 2018, the Family Ties alum, 59 — who revealed he had Parkinson’s disease in 1998 — had a noncancerous tumor on his spine, which was causing him a lot of pain. "I was heading for paralysis if I didn’t get it operated on," Fox told PEOPLE in an interview published on Wednesday, November 4.
Ultimately, doctors "had to be very careful" when "removing it so they wouldn’t do further damage," Fox explained. Fortunately, the Back to the Future star’s surgery went well, and he had to learn how to walk again.
But one morning, Fox had a setback — he fell in his kitchen and broke his arm. "That was definitely my darkest moment," he recalled. "I just snapped. I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, 'This is as low as it gets for me.' It was when I questioned everything. Like, 'I can’t put a shiny face on this. There’s no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.'"
As a result, Fox was in a bad place and wasn’t upbeat about his recovery process. "Parkinson’s, my back, my arm … it still didn’t add up to moving the needle on the misery index compared to what some people go through," he continued. "I thought, 'How can I tell these people, 'Chin up. Look at the bright side. Things are going to be great?'"
The Golden Globe winner eventually was able to change his attitude by watching game show reruns from the ‘70s.
"Optimism is really rooted in gratitude," he said. "Optimism is sustainable when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it as a punishment or a penance, but just put it in its proper place. Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.
"It’s not that I wasn’t sincere before, but my gratitude is deeper now, from having gotten through the darkest times," he added.
These days, Fox — who shares son Sam, 31, twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, both 25, and daughter Esmé, 19, with wife Tracy Pollan — is enjoying being with his brood.
"My life now is quiet, and I’m actually having a really good time," he gushed. "People don’t believe me, but I love life. I love being with my family. I love being with Tracy. I love that I don’t do a lot of useless stuff that I used to do, because I don’t have the energy or the time.
"I’m so grateful that I went through a crucible there in my late 50s," he shared. "I figured some of this crap out finally, and it didn’t haunt me into my 70s and 80s."