Jesse James says childhood abuse led him to cheat on Oscar-winning wife Sandra Bullock with numerous women.
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"I grew up with a huge amount of shame and fear and abandonment on my shoulders from a very young age and I think, you know, the way my mind rationalized [cheating], 'Well, you know, I might as well do whatever I can to like run her off cause she is going to find out what I am anyway and leave me anyway,'" the biker, 41, said in a Nightline interview that aired Tuesday. "The struggle within myself for the things that I did ...to damage marriage and my life and everything else, it's all me. I'm doing it because, you know, I've basically never felt good enough for anyone."
That's partly why he checked into rehab for a month in March.
He said he went in with "a little bit of an ego," but "after about two days I realized, 'Wow, I'm kind of more messed up than most of the people here.' It was like peeling an onion. Every day it was a new revelation about myself and the things I've been doing. I cried more in rehab in the last 30 days than I have in my whole life. No BS. That's the truth."
Seeking treatment made him realize "Bike builder, Monster Garage TV star, all that stuff is a huge smokescreen so that people won't see that I'm a scared, abused kid, a seven-year-old."
Raised by his single father, James said his dad "beat my ass pretty good a bunch of times ... I just remember, like, clinched teeth, strained-neck look on his face. My whole childhood, I never had a chance to be a kid. ...I was always scared."
One time, "I tripped over this little low fence wire and snapped my wrist and I remember my dad laughed at me when I hit the ground and called me a dummy," James recalled. "I was petrified of my dad ... It wasn't so much getting the s*** beat out of me or getting my arm broken or getting kicked or whatever or punched, it was the in-between time. It was the fear of that happening again. I was a terrorized kid and, I mean, it's really tough for me to think about now because ...Sunny [his 7-year-old daughter] is the age that I was when my dad broke my arm." (James' estranged father Larry denies the abuse allegations.)
James said he isn't a sex addict, but cheating on Bullock, 46, was a way for him "to sabotage my life ... I think I do a lot of things in my life that I shouldn't be doing that aren't conducive to being a perfect husband, you know, and the affairs are just one of them."
Abuse victims "self-sabotage their life ... because of their abuse; they've never felt good enough," he said. "Why would I totally destroy my wife's life and humiliate her when I knew it was bad, you know? I may seem like a monster in people's eyes, but I'm not that kind of person where I will willfully, you know, 'I'm gonna get her, I'll show her,' that's not what it's about. It's about trying to push someone away that I thought was going to leave anyway."
Although Bullock filed for divorce in April and said she plans to raise their adopted 3 1/2-month-old son Louis as a single parent, James said he hopes they'll reconcile.
Said James, "I really wish I didn't have to go through all this and put everybody else through this to get to this place, but hopefully with time and my actions, and the things that I do, I hope people realize that, you know, Hey, I'm human, I make mistakes and I'm sorry for what I did."
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