Jesse James: Childhood Abuse Made Me Cheat on Sandra Bullock

Celebrity News May. 26, 2010 AT 10:01AM
Jesse James: Childhood Abuse Made Me Cheat on Sandra Bullock Credit: Rachel Kelly/Photo Image Press; James Devaney/WireImage.com

Jesse James says childhood abuse led him to cheat on Oscar-winning wife Sandra Bullock with numerous women.

"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."

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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."

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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.)

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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."

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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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