How Dennis Quaid Turned His Life Around After 1980s Addiction Battle: 'I Really Am at Peace Now'
The actor plays an abusive father in the new faith-based hit film I Can Only Imagine
After four decades in Hollywood, Dennis Quaid has learned how to handle the ebbs and flows of his life.
The Texas-raised star, who rocketed to stardom with films like The Right Stuff, has weathered his fair share of struggles as well—from divorces to addiction. So how has he stayed grounded over the years? “A lot of it had to be learned,” he tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “And part of it is just where I come from, I guess. Sometimes your hopes get ahead of your dreams, so you can get disappointed that way. Adversity is the thing that teaches you how to handle that.”
Since his breakthrough role in the 1979 cycling film, Breaking Away, Quaid, 63, has worked steadily in Hollywood, starring in movies such as Innerspace in 1987, Great Balls of Fire! in 1989 and The Parent Trap in 1998. But in 1990 he went to rehab for cocaine addiction and went through a very difficult and public divorce from his second wife, actress Meg Ryan, in 2001 (the two had one son, actor Jack, now 25).
For more of Quaid’s interview, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday
Since then Quaid has turned to cycling and golf to stay focused and healthy—and meditation, “which puts me into the present moment because that’s all there really is,” he says. “Because either you worry about the future or there’s something about the past, but if you’re in the present moment, then there’s no problem at all. I’m sitting here. I’m just fine.”
Now in a relationship with Latvian-born model Santa Auzina, 31, whom he began dating in 2016 after he split from his third wife, real estate agent Kimberly Buffington (with whom he had twins, Thomas and Zoe, now 10), Quaid insists the two “just have a blast.” Despite their 32-year age difference, “I kind of feel like we’re both the same age on the inside,” he says. “When I look in the mirror, I see myself older than I feel, and then I go, ‘Oh, whatever.'”
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Aside from acting—he is now starring as an abusive father in the hit faith-based film, I Can Only Imagine, based on the life of Bart Millard, the lead singer of the Christian rock group MercyMe—and performing with his own band, The Sharks, which recently opened for MercyMe in Nashville, Quaid says he is just grateful for his journey in life.
“I’m most happy when I just kind of get out of my own way and let things happen,” he adds. “I’m not the guy that’s living an enlightened experience all the time; I blow my top many times. In life we’re either forced, kicking and screaming, into change—or we learn to cope with it. But I really am at peace now.”