Brad Pitt Opens Up About the Agony of Watching His Kids See Their Family Get "Ripped Apart"

Since Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt eight months ago, the War Machine actor has remained relatively quiet when it comes to speaking about their split. Not anymore. Brad appears on the cover of GQ Style's Summer issue, and the interview with writer Michael Paterniti offers an in-depth look into how he's coped with the end of his and Angelina's two-year marriage and 12-year relationship, as well as the struggles their six children now face. Fortunately the Hollywood heartthrob is dedicated to making a change for the better. "You know, I just started therapy," he said, noting that the entire family also signed up for group counseling in the aftermath of the split. "I love it. I love it. I went through two therapists to get the right one."

Though details about what caused the divorce have been murky save for an official statement (he said "so little of [the rumors] are accurate"), there was reportedly a violent incident between Brad and 15-year-old Maddox aboard a private plane, which was followed by Angelina's divorce filing five days later. An FBI investigation into Brad's behavior was opened, and despite the fact he was later cleared of wrongdoing, he didn't escape the incident unscathed. "I was really on my back and chained to a system when Child Services was called," he said. "After that, we've been able to work together to sort this out. We're both doing our best. 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. 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."

The announcement of their split was followed by a vicious back-and-forth in the court system, as well as multiple reports of Brad's alcohol and drug abuse popping up in the tabloids. A divorce is never easy on a child, especially one in the public eye, but Brad says he and Angelina have now agreed to handle their split "with great care and delicacy" to protect them. "There's a lot to tell them because there's understanding the future, there's understanding the immediate moment and why we're at this point, and then it brings up a lot of issues from the past that we haven't talked about. So, our focus is that everyone comes out stronger and better people — there is no other outcome."

Now that the dust has somewhat settled, he's been crashing at the home of friend and sculptor Thomas Houseago, since he can't stand to be alone in his Hollywood Hills mansion without the family. "This house was always chaotic and crazy, voices and bangs coming from everywhere, and then, as you see, there are days like this: very . . . very solemn," he said. The quiet has an upside, though, since it's offered the 53-year-old a much-needed opportunity to examine his life. "I remember literally having this thought a year, a year and a half ago; someone was going through some scandal," he recalled. "Something crossed my path that was a big scandal — and I went, 'Thank God I'm never going to have to be a part of one of those again.' I live my life, I have my family, I do my thing, I don't do anything illegal, I don't cross anyone's path. What's the David Foster Wallace quote? 'Truth will set you free, but not until it's done with you first.'"

There's no doubt he's had the support of his friends during this difficult time, but he revealed he's "really good at cutting myself off, and it's been a problem. I need to be more accessible, especially to the ones I love." He also admitted he has a hard time letting go, which is why he didn't want to divorce Angelina at first. "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. 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*ck-all to me until you live it."

His reexamination of his family was not only good for his mind but also his body, since he hasn't had a drink or a smoke for half a year. "I can't remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn't boozing or had a spliff, or something. Something. And you realize that a lot of it is, um — cigarettes, you know, pacifiers. And I'm running from feelings . . . 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," he said, before adding that he didn't "want to live that way anymore."

"In the end, you find: I am those things I don't like. That is a part of me. I can't deny that," he concluded. "I have to accept that. And in fact, I have to embrace that. I need to face that and take care of that. Because by denying it, I deny myself. I am those mistakes. For me every misstep has been a step toward epiphany, understanding, some kind of joy. Yeah, the avoidance of pain is a real mistake. It's the real missing out on life. It's those very things that shape us, those very things that offer growth, that make the world a better place, oddly enough, ironically. That make us better. By the way, there's no love without loss. It's a package deal."