May 3, 2011— -- It was only a year ago that Jesse James seemed like the most hated man in America after an affair not only cost him his marriage to Sandra Bullock but also the baby the couple had spent years waiting to adopt.
"I think, you know, a marriage ending, all this crazy stuff...that was like a lesson to work on myself and fix what's wrong with me," James told ABC News in an exclusive network interview. "So I don't transfer it and keep it going, like my parents did."
Now after closing up his motorcycle shop in California, the 42-year-old has started a new life at his home on 15 acres in the countryside near Austin, Texas.
"It's what I needed," James said. "Where I can finally breathe."
While Bullock also has a home in Austin, James said the two of them don't have any contact and he doesn't get to see Louie, the son that Bullock ended up adopting as a single parent.
"I don't want to try to second guess what she thinks or something like that," he said. "I mean, I know why I moved…I moved initially so the kids could keep a relationship and I could kind of keep a relationship with Louie, and then whatever else happened besides that. But I mostly moved to, for me. To get out of California."
James said his daughter Sunny has seen Bullock only a few times, but that there has been "no contact at all for several months."
"You know, the painful stuff, like with Louie," he said. "I could only cry so much about him until I have to, like, suck it up and keep a stiff upper lip, and realize, hey, I have three kids that I do have."
James said his new home and fresh start has allowed him to develop a whole new relationship with his three children, Chandler, Jesse Jr. and Sunny.
"I think I was just dad again," he said. "And like, eliminated all of the things, that distracted me from being a dad."
"I think we're all connecting better," James added. "I think for the first time in their lives, they can depend on me to be there and I think the life here is better, you know, for the family."
Once known as the star of Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage," James became infamous as the husband who cheated on "America's Sweetheart."
Stalked incessantly by paparazzi at his Long Beach, Calif., home last year, James entered a 30-day stint at the Sierra Tucson treatment center in Arizona where he said he dealt with childhood and anger management issues. It's these issues he discusses in his new memoir, "American Outlaw," out in stores today.
He sat down for an exclusive interview with "Nightline" shortly after his release from rehab in May 2010, to talk about why he threw away what seemed like the perfect life.
"I don't know," he told ABC News at the time. "I knew it was horrible. It made me feel horrible. [I] think I wanted to get caught, I mean I was trying to self sabotage my life."