Aaron Carter is the first to admit his life has been a bit of a roller coaster over the last few years.
Months after his father died suddenly from a heart attack in May, the singer and former child star, 30, split from his photographer girlfriend Madison Parker, was arrested for a DUI and marijuana possession and faced vicious bullying online for his skeletal frame.
“I definitely felt like I hit a rock bottom personally and emotionally,” Carter tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I started getting really stressed out about things like my relationship or the expectations people had for me, and then I just stopped eating. That’s when I thought ‘This is a time for me to really go take some time and do some self-healing.'”
Two months later, he came out weighing 160 lbs. and happier than he’s been in years.
“It’s amazing to see what happened when I just took some time off for myself, looked around and found ways to appreciate life,” he says. “I’ve seen a huge change in myself and my attitude and my demeanor and my morale. It’s beautiful.”
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Carter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the sudden deaths of his father Robert and sister Leslie (“It was just one punch after the next,” he says) while in the treatment facility, and it’s “something that I’m still learning a lot about,” he says. “I find myself getting into those moments where randomly I just want to cry. It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie.”
For all the details on Aaron Carter’s new music and his life now, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
But by focusing on all the positives in his life — including LøVë, his first album in 15 years — Carter is able to remain grateful.
“I’m happy that I came out on the other side,” says the entertainer, whose single “Sooner or Later” has been streamed nearly 76 million times since its release. “I was a very happy baby growing up. [Now] I just want to have fun, be healthy — mind, body, soul, emotions … all of those things, and really be responsible for my own actions too.”
He’s also getting better at tuning out the naysayers, many of whom accused him of abusing hard drugs while he was at his lowest weight.
“I’ve never even touched any of those drugs,” he insists. “It’s just not a part of who I am. People trying to paint this picture, it’s just really defaming. It hurts. They would never talk to me like that in person.”
Looking forward, he hopes to continue creating music that his fans can relate to and enjoy his new lease on life. After dedicating time to learning about different software, instruments and music production, he also served as co-producer for his new album.
“The album started off kind of like a diary-type of thing,” he says about the emotional music, which was largely inspired by his past two relationships. “It was more so just putting art and poetry together and turning it into this sonic depiction.”
Now with his new music finally out, he’s ready to face whatever may come next — good or bad.
“I had to immerse myself in it to really get the best out of it that I could,” he says about his time in treatment. “I’m going to stay in that path and focus on my music, my life and my health. I’m really excited to just start this new chapter in my life.”