The 46-year-old actor recently appeared as an escaped convict named Frank in the movie Labor Day. The character hides out with Kate Winslet's character Adele, a melancholy single mom, and begins to play surrogate father to her son Henry.
The actor told The Guardian that aspects about the character reflect his own life, "It's not just Frank who is in flight from his past."
Brolin was born to actor James Brolin and wildlife activist Jane Cameron, and enjoyed a privileged upbringing in California. He had several acting roles by the time he was a teenager, but was also a member of the surf gang Cito Rats.
"It was the 80s. It was punk rock. You either had the children of rich, neglectful parents or children of poor, neglectful parents," the actor began. "I tried heroin. That sounds so horrible when you put it like that. But yeah, I tried heroin."
Brolin admitted that he and his friends used to rob cars in order to buy drugs, but said he never got in over his head. Others were not as lucky.
"I never got into it, and I never died from it... [but] I've had nineteen friends who died," he acknowledged. "Most of those guys I grew up with, they're all dead now."
The actor has avoided old habits since, but has seen some recent slips. Brolin was arrested for public intoxication in January 2013, and his marriage to actress Diane Lane deteriorated shortly after.
"It was another turning point," he said. "I realized that I was on a destructive path. I knew that I had to change and mature. It was like I stepped back and saw the hamster wheel."
"I used to think you should try to...experience everything...but I don't believe that anymore," the actor expressed earlier in the interview. "Having adventures is all very well, but an imagination can make up for all that. That's the more intelligent way to be. And it keeps you out of harm's way."
Brolin has returned to a clean lifestyle, and will appear in several upcoming films. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Inherent Vice, and Everest are all projects the actor is currently involved with.