Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino Says His College Sweetheart Lauren Pesce Has Stayed with Him Through His Darkest Times

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is focusing on his sobriety with the help of longtime love Lauren Pesce

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino has seen a lot of change in his life since he found fame as a breakout star of MTV’s Jersey Shore, yet through most of those times, his constant has been college sweetheart Lauren Pesce.

While opening up exclusively in this week’s PEOPLE about his escalating legal woes and recent relapse with painkillers, Sorrentino revealed how he’s leaned on Pesce in the last several years — and what he hopes for their future.

The pair met and dated for nearly four years while they were in college but took a break as Sorrentino rose to household name status on Jersey Shore.

They rekindled their relationship after the show and it was Pesce, who’d seen Sorrentino grapple with prescription pill abuse leading up to a 60-day stint in rehab in 2012, who most recently tried to help him avoid falling into another addiction spiral.

They were driving to the hospital after he cracked his ribs at the gym in June 2015, Sorrentino recalls, and Pesce “was pleading, ‘You know [painkillers] are not good for you — whether they’re doctor prescribed or not. You’ve been down this road before.’ ” But, he says, “I really had the excuse at the time, you know, that it was under doctor’s orders.”

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And while Sorrentino acknowledges that his struggle with addiction has taken a toll on his relationship, Pesce has continued to stand by his side — even finding herself in the reality TV spotlight at points. The pair took their issues publicon Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars just before his relapse in 2015 and, according to Sorrentino, “It really helped us out and it still helps us out to this day.”

He continues, “You sort of learn how other people communicate and [that] they’re coming from a different perception or a different view, and you have to value that view and listen to respond.” And that experience inspired Sorrentino to enlist his older brothers Marc, 36, and Frank Jr., 40, to join him on Boot Camp‘s Family Edition.

  • For more about Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s journey to overcoming addiction and how longtime love Lauren Pesce has stood by him through years of legal battles, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

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As for what’s next, Sorrentino — who was once notorious for his hard partying — is happy to “Netflix and chill” with Pesce most nights (they even watch old episodes of Jersey Shore some days).

And after finding fame, traveling the world and finding his partner, Sorrentino says, “I’ve definitely attained a lot of the goals that I’ve set out for myself. Now one of the most important ones is having a family and kids.”

Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars — Family Edition premieres Friday at 9 p.m. ET on WE tv.

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