Jesse James said he cheated on “perfect” wife Sandra Bullock with multiple women because his father used to beat and emotionally abuse him as a child, leading him to think he didn’t deserve to live a fairy-tale life.
"I've basically never felt good enough for anyone," the 45-year-old bad boy motorcycle mechanic and reality star told ABC’s Vicki Mabrey Tuesday in his first TV interview since a cheating scandal tore apart his marriage.
In the interview, James acknowledged stepping out with more than one woman but said the count “doesn’t matter.”
He said once news of an affair with a tattoo model hit the tabloids he sat Bullock down and told her “basically everything.”
“I think she’s had her suspicions in the past,” James said. “But I lied my way out of it. I lied to everyone about everything -- even to myself."
He said he used to rationalize his cheating ways by thinking the "Blind Side" star would “find out what I am anyway and leave me anyway."
Bombarded by paparazzi, James fled to a Tucson facility for sexual addiction and anger management treatment where he learned his issues ran deeper, he said.
"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,” James said. “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."
Over the course his monthlong stint in treatment, James said he realized he “never had a chance to be a kid” because his father used to “terrorize” him. (James’ father denied all abuse allegations to ABC News in an email).
"He beat my ass pretty good a bunch of times,” James said. “I just remember, like, clinched teeth, [a] strained-neck look on his face."
James became overcome with emotion when describing one incident in detail, and then briefly halted the "Nightline" interview to regain his composure.
At age seven, James said, his father chased him in the dark until he fell and broke his arm. Afterward his father laughed and called him a “dummy.”
"I was a terrorized kid and, I mean, it's really tough for me to think about now because ...[my son] Sunny is the age that I was when my dad broke my arm," James said tearfully.
The psychic damage from James' childhood later manifested through infidelity and other destructive behavior, he said.
"I don't think I have a sex addiction where I'm running around trying to have sex with everyone and I can't stop," James said. "I think I do things to sabotage my life, including having extramarital affairs, texting, overworking myself, injuring myself, doing stunts and stupid things. 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."
Despite breaking Bullock's heart and the divorce being "100 percent" on, James said he still has hopes of the pair reconciling. He said he wants to earn forgiveness and become a “decent person.”
“If you can squint and visualize that, that’s the basis for recovery,” James said.