The Brad Pitt image rehabilitation tour is officially underway. In his first interview since his messy divorce from Angelina Jolie eight months ago, Pitt told GQ Style that he came to rely on drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the pressures of life.

“I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something,” he said. “And you realize that a lot of it is, um—cigarettes, you know, pacifiers. And I’m running from feelings.”

It’s been six months since the actor last had a drink, a struggle he says is well worth it.

“I mean, we have a winery. I enjoy wine very, very much, but I just ran it to the ground. I had to step away for a minute. And truthfully I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good,” Pitt said.

“And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again. I think that’s part of the human challenge: You either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve.“

News of the mega-couple’s divorce sent shockwaves through Hollywood and around the world. The reported plane altercation between Pitt and his 15-year-old son Maddox badly damaged the actor’s reputation. The indicident led to an FBI investigation into whether or not Pitt was guilty of child abuse. But after a string of tumultuous court battles, Pitt — who also started seeing a therapist — says that he and Jolie decided to put the well-being of their children front and center.

“I was really on my back and chained to a system when Child Services was called,” Pitt said. “After that, we’ve been able to work together to sort this out. We’re both doing our best.”

The actor sounded relieved that the U.S. justice system is no longer involved in deciding how often he gets to see his children.

“I heard one lawyer say, ‘No one wins in court—it’s just a matter of who gets hurt worse.’ And it seems to be true,” he said. “You spend a year just focused on building a case to prove your point and why you’re right and why they’re wrong, and it’s just an investment in vitriolic hatred. I just refuse. And fortunately my partner in this agrees. It’s just very, very jarring for the kids, to suddenly have their family ripped apart.”

Pitt said that he was reluctant to divorce Jolie at first but soon realized that their marriage had run its course.

“The first urge is to cling on. And then you’ve got a cliché: 'If you love someone, set them free.’ Now I know what it means, by feeling it,” he said. “It means to love without ownership. It means expecting nothing in return. But it sounds good written. It sounds good when Sting sings it. It doesn’t mean f–k-all to me until you live it. That’s why I never understood growing up with Christianity—don’t do this, don’t do that—it’s all about don'ts, and I was like, 'How the f–k do you know who you are and what works for you if you don’t find out where the edge is, where’s your line?’”

The inward looking Pitt also discussed his “weaknesses and failures,” namely a “need for justice” that has dogged him throughout his life.

“I don’t know where it comes from, this hollow quest for justice for some perceived slight,” he said. “I can drill on that for days and years. It’s done me no good whatsoever. It’s such a silly idea, the idea that the world is fair. And this is coming from a guy who hit the lottery, I’m well aware of that. I hit the lottery and I still would waste my time on those hollow pursuits.“

You can read the rest of Pitt’s stunningly candid interview here and watch the lottery winner do his thing when War Machine premieres May 26 on Netflix.