For Billy Bush, the last 15 months have been a turbulent ride.
It was in October 2016 that the prominent entertainment journalist, then a rising star at the Today show, was abruptly fired after a videotape was leaked to The Washington Post, in which then-Apprentice host Donald Trump bragged to a Bush about groping women.
“I was ashamed and embarrassed,” Bush, 46, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue (on stands Friday) of the scandal. “And then I went through stages of grieving because I lost my career. For a man, that’s the ultimate degradation.”
Within a year, another blow: Bush announced his separation from Sydney, his wife of 19 years and the mother of his three daughters.
“I was a happy-go-lucky guy,” says Bush. “Everything is going great and I was like, ‘Hey, this is awesome!’ And then, kaboom.”
Still, Bush did not wallow in despair, and instead found comfort in self-reflection and in the renewal of his faith.
“I have done so much self-help work,” says the former host, whose daily routine includes a Bible reading, scripture and a daily stoic. He’s also taken ownership of his role in the controversy. “There is a term for what I did,” says Bush. “It’s called bystander abuse. It says by not doing anything you are endorsing the moment. I have to live with that.”
And the father of three says his perspective has shifted, especially given the current #MeToo movement.
“I have three daughters,” Bush says. “They are going to be in the workplace one day. I want them to be paid equally, I want them to be treated well and when they walk out of a room I don’t want to ever hear anyone talking behind their back in a degrading way.”
Ultimately, Bush, who is the nephew of former President George H.W. Bush and the first cousin of former President George W. Bush, admits that his journey may have been preordained.
“I had some growing up to do anyway in life,” he says. “I did so much exploring and figuring out. I’m a deeper person. And I’m happy about using my knowledge for a good purpose.”
When it comes to his marriage, Bush remains hopeful that his union will “find its next leg.”
Says the host, who reveals the marriage had “difficulties” even before he began at the Today show: “We got married young and had our first child right away. We’re taking a step back. We get to explore and take our time. She’s been so awesome through everything. I love her very much.”
- For more on Billy Bush, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
In terms of his career, Bush has no plans to return to entertainment journalism. Instead, he is focused on Beach Whiskey, the spirits company he co-founded two years ago, and one of its brands, American Harvest vodka. But Bush is most passionate about a soon-to-be-announced project inspired by his journey.
“I have a plan to make this mess my message,” he says. “I know I’m coming out with a purpose. And I want to use what I know to help other people.”
As far as the future, Bush sees smooth roads ahead. “I have my dark moments,” he says. “But I’ve learned to embrace them. I’m grateful to be a more conscientious person. And I walk again with a spring in my step.”