Robert Downey Jr. has come a far way from early public struggles with drug abuse to headlining blockbusters like Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes.

"Not having done drugs for literally five or six years is a lifetime," he said in this month's issue of Playboy. "I think of myself as someone who has no desire, use for or conscious memory of that life. And yet I don't shut the door on it, and I don't pretend it didn't happen." Downey, 45, spoke reflectively of the person he used to be. "I have a very strong sense of that messed-up kid, that devoted theater actor, that ne'er-do-well 20-something nihilistic androgyne and that late-20s married guy with a little kid, lost, lost in narcotics — all aspects of things I don't regret and am happy to keep a door open on," he said.

He likened the experience of his past battles with drugs to more literal battles. "More than anything I have this sense that I'm a veteran of a war that is difficult to discuss with people who haven't been there," he said. But he's definitely learned from the hard times. "To me, here's the only thing: You take responsibility, whether you're outraged by the results or not, that you in some way participate in and create what you're experiencing," he said.

Downey is happily married to producer Susan Levin and feels himself to be at the top of his game. "My age and my recent set of experiences … have left me feeling I'm in the zone," he said. "This is just the sweet spot of my career and my life so far, and strangely, they've come at the same time." –AMY LEE

Read more about: