"The biggest regret of my life is this divorce. Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame," admits Affleck, who ended his marriage with Garner in 2018 following a long separation. "It's just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing."
"It's not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures -- the relapses -- and beat myself up," he adds. "I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you've got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward."
He started drinking more when things started "falling apart" with Garner.
"I drank relatively normally for a long time. What happened was that I started drinking more and more when my marriage was falling apart," he confesses. "This was 2015, 2016. My drinking, of course, created more marital problems."
Affleck admits that relapsing was "embarrassing," especially for the three kids he shares with Garner -- Violet, 14, Seraphina, 11, and Samuel, 7.
"I wish it didn't happen. I really wish it wasn't on the internet for my kids to see," he says. "Jen and I did our best to address it and be honest."
It took him a while to admit to himself that he was an alcoholic.
"There's a lot of alcoholism and mental illness in my family," Affleck shares, telling the outlet that he saw his father, Timothy, drunk almost every day growing up until he sobered up when the actor was 19 years old. "The older I've gotten, the more I recognize that my dad did the best he could."
In addition to his father, Affleck's 44-year-old brother, Casey, has been vocal about his own struggles with alcoholism and sobriety in the past. As the NYT notes, their paternal grandmother and an uncle both died of suicide, and the two also have an aunt who was a heroin addict.
"The legacy of that is quite powerful and sometimes hard to shake," he says. "It took me a long time to fundamentally, deeply, without a hint of doubt, admit to myself that I am an alcoholic. The next drink will not be different."
He admits to struggling with compulsive behavior.
"People with compulsive behavior, and I am one, have this kind of basic discomfort all the time that they're trying to make go away," Affleck explains. "You're trying to make yourself feel better with eating or drinking or sex or gambling or shopping or whatever. But that ends up making your life worse. Then you do more of it to make that discomfort go away. Then the real pain starts. It becomes a vicious cycle you can't break. That's at least what happened to me."
Bradley Cooper and Robert Downey Jr. helped him get back on his feet.
"[They're] guys who have been very supportive and to whom I feel a great sense of gratitude," Affleck reveals. "One of the things about recovery that I think people sometimes overlook is the fact that it inculcates certain values. Be honest. Be accountable. Help other people. Apologize when you're wrong."
Now, he puts extra thought into acting projects.
Last January, news broke that Affleck was stepping back from reprising his role as the Caped Crusader in the Matt Reeves-directed The Batman, a role that has since been filled by Robert Pattinson. "I showed somebody The Batman script. They said, 'I think the script is good. I also think you'll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again,'" Affleck, who also stepped down from directing the film, recalls to the NYT.
Affleck did say yes, however, to starring in The Way Back, a sports drama that hits theaters on March 6. He plays the role of Jack Cunningham, a high school basketball coach who is struggling with alcohol, a failed marriage and feelings of regret.
"I've never been very risk-averse -- for better or worse, obviously," he says. "Regarding The Way Back, the benefits, to me, far outweighed the risks. I found it very therapeutic."
"I resented that somebody got a picture of it by spying on me. It felt invasive," he says of the phoenix tattoo that covers his entire back. "But you're right. I could have said, 'That's none of your business.'"
"I guess I got a kick out of messing with Extra. 'Is your tattoo real or not real?' Of course, it's real!" he adds. "No, I put a fake tattoo on my back and then hid it."