"It wasn't a popular decision by any means, obviously, but there was really almost no choice about it. I had a lot of conscious work to do around (my personal life)," Sambora, the group's former guitarist, told People.
"We've been through a lot of things together. That was a time of psychological maintenance for the family," Sambora, 61, added. "You know, I ain't no angel. But I realized, Ava needed me to be around at that point in time. Family had to come first, and that's what happened."
He used to fly home for short visits while the band toured.
"Luckily I was making enough money to be able to have a private plane... and see my kid even if it was only for one day. If it was Halloween, it was boom, home," he told People.
He's now had the time to connect more with Ava, 23, whose mother is Heather Locklear. "I'm very, very proud of her and the way she turned out," Sambora told People. "She's an amazing young woman with a bright future. She's just dedicated to being a good person. And she is."
Sambora publicly struggled with substance abuse problems for years and abruptly left the band in 2013.
Jon Bon Jovi discussed Sambora's exit from the group with USA TODAY earlier this year. "Professionally, I've survived trends that have come and gone, and I've even had to mourn the loss of a bandmate who just couldn't effectively keep up anymore. And that was tough," he said.
Bon Jovi, 58, said he last spoke to Sambora at the band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2018. Since his departure, the remaining members have only grown “closer and stronger," said drummer Tico Torres.
Echoed keyboardist David Bryan: "Our bond is unbreakable. Jon has grown, like us, as a person, and he has definitely grown as a songwriter."
Sambora pushed back against comments from Bon Jovi earlier this year, when he told the German outlet Rock Antenne that he "didn't have his life together."
"When people say I don't have my life together — are you kidding me?" said Sambora recently to Daily Mail TV. "I'm the happiest dude on the block."
Contributing: Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY; Chris Jordan, Asbury Park Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora talks leaving rock group, parenthood