In an interview with The New York Times, the 55-year-old actor reveals that, after 44-year-old Jolie filed for divorce in September 2016, he entered Alcoholics Anonymous for a year and a half.
"I had taken things as far as I could take it, so I removed my drinking privileges," he says. "You had all these men sitting around being open and honest in a way I have never heard. It was this safe space where there was little judgment, and therefore little judgment of yourself."
Despite his fame, no one in the group sold his story to tabloids. "It was actually really freeing just to expose the ugly sides of yourself," Pitt shares. "There's great value in that."
"I can't remember a day since I got out of college where I wasn't boozing or had a spliff, or something. Truthfully, I could drink a Russian under the table with his own vodka. I was a professional. I was good," Pitt said at the time, at which he had been six months sober. "You realize that a lot of it is, um- cigarettes, you know, pacifiers. And I'm running from feelings. I'm really, really happy to be done with all of that. I mean, I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family."
"But even this last year, you know -- things I wasn't dealing with. I was boozing too much," Pitt continued, referencing his divorce from Jolie after two years of marriage. "It's just become a problem. And I'm really happy it's been half a year now, which is bittersweet."
Just months after Jolie's divorce filing, Pitt committed to starring in Ad Astra. While playing Roy McBride, both Pitt and the film's director, James Gray, noted that Pitt infused his own personal struggles at the time into the character.
"I had family stuff going on. We'll leave it at that," Pitt tells The Times. "The fact is, we all carry pain, grief and loss. We spend most of our time hiding it, but it's there, it's in you. So you open up those boxes."
"He definitely used the stimuli from his life," Gray agrees. "Now, I didn’t get personal with him about it at all -- I don’t think it’s my business, or even my job -- but he investigated the essence of the character through himself."
As for Pitt and Jolie's relationship now, the two are focused on parenting their six children, Maddox, 18, Pax, 15, Zahara, 14, Shilo, 13, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne. Back in May, a source told ET that "there's no more drama," adding that "all the dust has settled."
Pitt and Jolie's highly-public relationship was the most recent thing in a long line of moments making up Pitt's life in the public eye, which began in earnest after his 1991 breakout role in Thelma & Louise. All that focus on him, Pitt admits to The Times, prohibited his private life from being "the lottery it appeared from the outside."
"In the '90s, all that attention really threw me. It was really uncomfortable for me, the cacophony of expectations and judgments," he says. "I really became a bit of a hermit and just bonged myself into oblivion."
Though Pitt grew up in a "don't-show-weakness" household, as he aged, he began to appreciate the necessity of vulnerability and identifying your own weaknesses.
"I’m grateful that there was such an emphasis on being capable and doing things on your own with humility, but what’s lacking about that is taking inventory of yourself," he says. "It’s almost a denial of this other part of you that is weak and goes through self-doubts, even though those are human things we all experience. Certainly, it’s my belief that you can’t really know yourself until you identify and accept those things."
"... Those dubious thoughts, the mind chatter, the rat in the skull -- that’s comedy," Pitt adds. "It’s just ridiculous that we would beat ourselves up that way. It doesn’t matter. I spent too much of life wrestling with those thoughts, or being tethered to those thoughts, or caged by those thoughts."