By Steve Helling
Updated May 25, 2015 12:00 PM
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EXCLUSIVE People EXCLUSIVE

On a sunny Saturday morning in May, Scott Stapp looks like any other suburban dad. His 8-year-old daughter Milan has just had her First Communion, and the family’s Florida home is overrun by loved ones. Dressed in church clothes, he and Jaclyn, his wife of nine years, share an affectionate squeeze in the kitchen. After Milan runs up to Stapp to whisper a secret in his ear, she beams as he kisses the top of her head. “This is what it’s all about,” Stapp tells PEOPLE. “This is when I’m the happiest.”

It’s a happy family scene that seemed impossible last fall, when Stapp, 41, was in the midst of a terrifying breakdown. After finding fame in 1998 as the lead singer of the rock band Creed, his life spiraled out of control. Struggling with substance abuse issues for years, he relapsed last year and began abusing prescription drugs and alcohol and used marijuana. In November, after he refused to seek treatment, Jaclyn kicked him out of their home and filed for divorce. “I wouldn’t listen to reason,” says Stapp, “and I went on a wild, crazy ride in a Holiday Inn hotel room.” That “ride” resulted in a bizarre video (see box, right) claiming he was homeless and under “vicious attack”—he also believed he was in the CIA and made threatening statements about President Obama. “I had a psychotic break. I had delusions,” he says. “I thought an angel was sitting on the hood of my car. I grew a beard to look like Jesus. I made threats that had the Secret Service coming to my door. My behavior became dangerous.” Stapp’s recording was viewed by millions, including his family. “I was watching him die a slow, painful, public death,” Jaclyn, 34, says quietly. “And I was terrified.”

Jaclyn, a former Miss New York and a children’s book author, made several attempts to help her husband. She asked authorities to intervene (to the family’s dismay, her 911 call was widely circulated on the Internet), put locks on their bank accounts, and had him committed to a rehab facility, which he escaped from after two days. “I jumped the fence,” he says. In a last-ditch effort to save Stapp, Jaclyn texted him Christmas photos of their family: Daniel, 4, Milan, 8, and Jagger, 16, Stapp’s son with his first wife, Hillaree Burns (Jaclyn adopted him in 2008). “I began to have momentary breaks where I would snap out of the psychosis,” he says. “I was like, ‘My wife. My kids. What am I doing?’ I realized I needed help.”

For Stapp, finding balance has been a lifelong battle. Born in Orlando, the singer was raised by his mother, Lynda, and stepfather, Steven, a dentist, and brought up in a strict religious home. He found his passion in music, and in the ’90s, he and friends formed Creed (see box, below), a band with evangelical roots that crossed over to mainstream success. But Stapp’s issues with mental illness and addiction were made worse by stardom. After his latest breakdown, Jaclyn reached out to the Grammy Association’s MusiCares program. With their assistance, he checked into a Malibu clinic and received treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. He was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “I finally got some answers,” says Stapp. “But there was a fear in me since there is a stigma associated with it. I wondered, ‘How will my kids and wife look at me?’ ” Jaclyn, who wed Stapp in 2006, felt relief: “I knew something was going on for years, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. This completely makes sense.” Today Stapp takes medication, follows a 12-step program, does individual and group therapy and meets with a sponsor. “We’ve been down this same road four, five times before,” he says. “But I’m determined not to relapse.”

Now living at home with Jaclyn and their kids, following a stay at a sober living facility, a major focus on his recovery is repairing damaged relationships. While his two youngest kids were shielded from most of the drama, Jagger was not. “He was very angry with me,” says Stapp. “It’s going to take time to earn that trust back.” He and Jaclyn are in counseling, and she has withdrawn her divorce petition. “She saved me again,” Stapp says through tears. Given their history—which includes a resolved domestic assault charge in ’07—Jaclyn balances hope with pragmatism: “I told Scott, ‘I can’t be your mom, your nanny or your nurse.’ I’m here to support him, but he has to support himself.”

Now Stapp is active in his children’s lives, has found renewed faith through Jaclyn’s Roman Catholicism and is involved in his wife’s charity CHARM (Children Are Magical; http://www.children aremagical.org), which raises money for kids in need. “Jaclyn is really doing great things,” Stapp says. “It’s time for me to think of what she’s doing and be there for her.” After nearly losing it all, he’s willing to do anything to keep what he’s regained. “I would give up music tomorrow if I had to,” he says. “Nothing is more important than my continued sobriety. I love what I do, but that doesn’t define me. The only thing that matters is preserving and protecting my family. I had to be broken and split into a million pieces in order to come to my senses. I’m trying to be a good man.”