Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock Robert Downey Sr. and Robert Downey Jr. in 2014
Robert Downey Jr. is reflecting on past drug addiction from a young age.
In the new Netflix documentary Sr., the Iron Man actor, 57, pays tribute to his director dad Robert Downey Sr., who had Parkinson's disease and died in July 2021 at 85. At one point in the film, Downey Jr. addresses his past addiction and the influence his father had on that by bringing it up during a phone call with him.
"You know, I think we would be remiss to not discuss its effect on me," he told his father, who said, "Boy, I could sure love to miss that discussion."
He recalled becoming addicted around the time he made the 1987 film Less Than Zero. "It was just a wild era," said Downey Jr. "That whole world, it gets tied into creativity. We were all altering our consciousness with substances. I was just kinda playing a game of just wanting to self-soothe or just stay loaded rather than deal with the fact that things had gone off the tracks a little bit."
"Honestly, more than anything, I look back and go, 'It's shocking that a single movie came out finished,' " he added, later referencing the "drug-culture life that we all got stuck in."
In an archive interview featured in the doc, Downey Sr. says while Downey Jr. is next to him: "A lot of us did things and thought it would be hypocritical to not have our kids participate in marijuana and stuff like that. So we thought it was cute to let 'em smoke it and all that. It was an idiot move on our parts, a lot of us, to share that with out children."
Downey Jr., who is now sober, said it took him another 20 years to "get my own s--- together."
Kimberly White/Getty Robert Downey Jr.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Elsewhere in the film, Downey Sr. said his advice to his younger self would be: "Don't touch drugs." He told the camera, "I was a drug addict. Mainly cocaine and marijuana. Total, total insanity."
Back in 2000, Downey Sr. told Vanity Fair about the moment he gave drugs to Downey Jr. at age 6 when he caught him sipping wine.
"We were all sitting around, smoking grass and playing poker down in the old West Village loft, and Robert was staring at me kind of funny — Robert was always an observer of it all, even at a very young age. And I go, 'You know, you ought to try a little of this instead of drinking.' I passed him a joint," he recalled at the time. "And suddenly I knew I had made a terrible, stupid mistake."
"Giving a little kid a toke of grass just to be funny," he continued. "The story keeps getting repeated. By now you'd think Robert was Jimmy Cliff's dealer at age 8. I'll never forgive myself, but Robert and I have dealt with it, and he's said to me, 'I'm not a victim, Dad. I don't blame anybody.' "
Downey Jr. reflected on his dad's addiction as a disease in a recent Deadline interview, saying it's an "uncomfortable" conversation in general since "nobody wants to admit complete defeat over trying to deal with something like alcoholism or addiction."
"I still think there's this section of our culture that thinks it's a moral weakness. And also, you feel bad about all the crazy s---, so then there's the guilt button," said the Avengers actor. "I don't really know if my dad ever made peace with those many lost years...."
Sr. is now streaming on Netflix.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.