Robert Downey Jr. Talks About Addiction and Passing It to His Son

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Robert Downey Jr.'s recovery from drug abuse is about as legendary as his days of addiction.

"For some folks it's just a function of age," the 49-year-old "Iron Man" star told Vanity Fair's October issue about overcoming his demons.

"It's perfectly normal for people to be obsessive about something for a period of time, then leave it alone."

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For a time, it didn't seem like Downey, who had been getting high since he was a kid, would be able to leave it alone. The actor's drug use spiraled after he made it big in Hollywood. In 1996, police found heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine as well as an unloaded .357 Magnum in his car when he was stopped for speeding. Then, Downey was famously found by his neighbors passed out in their 11-year-old son's bed.

The actor told Vanity Fair that was "an uncommon occurrence for me. Happened to be a very public one. I was not a guy who blacked out."

Instead, he escaped from rehab twice and, in 1999, was sentenced to 36 months in jail, though he served just under a year.

After two more arrests, including the time he was found wandering the streets of Los Angeles barefoot, Downey checked into rehab and finally got clean.

"Job one is get out of that cave," he told Vanity Fair about what he learned from his rehab and prison stints. "A lot of people do get out but don't change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal. Or whatever. But I don't even know if that was my experience."

He continued, "It's funny: five years ago, I would've made it sound like I'm conscious of my own participation in seizing the similarities. But so many things have become less certain. I swear to God. I am not my story."

Hollywood's highest paid actor does acknowledge that he likely inherited his addictions and passed them on to his oldest son, Indio Downey, a 20-year-old musician who was recently arrested and charged with drug possession.

"Pick a dysfunction and it's a family problem," Downey said.

"He's his mother's son and my son, and he's come up the chasm much quicker than we did," he told the magazine. "But that's typical in the Information Age; things get accelerated. You're confronted with histories and predispositions and influences and feelings and unspoken traumas or needs that weren't met, and all of a sudden you're three miles into the woods. Can you help someone get out of those woods? Yes, you can. By not getting lost looking for them."