Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino has a long road ahead of him, but he’s doing his best to remain optimistic.
The reality star is facing possible jail time from multiple charges that he tried to cheat the government out of taxes owed on more than $8 million in income after he became an overnight sensation on MTV’s Jersey Shore.
Though Sorrentino, 34, is limited how much he can say about the ongoing court case, he tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue, “I’m trying to take these experiences that are coming my way and make them a positive.”
Both Sorrentino and his older brother Marc, 36, face criminal charges including allegedly filing false tax returns, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and tax evasion. They have pled not guilty to all charges, some of which were handed down in 2014 and another set earlier this month. (Sorrentino asserts that the allegations “do not portray me accurately. That’s all I can say for now.”)
“Obviously these certain circumstances that are going on right now aren’t the best,” he admits, “but I’m just living the simple life — I have a girlfriend, I’ve been clean and sober over a year and a half, I go to meetings, I take care of my body and I’m just kind of enjoying the next chapter of my life.”
Part of that next chapter is an appearance with Marc and their oldest brother Frank Jr., 40, on Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars — Family Edition. The brothers will delve a little into the impact of the tax evasion allegations on the entire family, as well as the fallout of Sorrentino’s descent into prescription pill abuse.
Sorrentino completed a second stint in rehab in November 2015, in part motivated by his legal troubles. “I have a court case that’s in the media, and if I’m not healthy mentally and physically, I’m not going to make it to the end,” he says.
“If I was to be negative about it and be all stressed out and possibly take a substance to relieve my stress — I tried that two years ago, and it just makes things worse. I made that mistake already,” he continues.” Now I just try to live a positive life and be healthy and happy, and I value my peace today. I don’t want anything to take away from my peace.”
- 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 Friday
RELATED VIDEO: Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino Charged with Tax Fraud
Sorrentino’s legal woes are set to remain in his life for some time ahead because of the trial, which is expected to take place next year, but for now he’s leaning on the support of his college sweetheart, Lauren Pesce, as well as his family and even the occasional kind word of friends and fans.
He shares, “Any time that myself and my girlfriend went out to eat or went to the gym [after my court date last week], people are like, ‘Mike, I’m really rooting for you, I’m praying for you,’ and it’s really nice to see that.”
Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars — Family Edition premieres Friday at 9 p.m. ET on WE tv.