In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the youngest member of the iconic boy band — who released their latest single “Chances” last week — opens up how becoming a husband and father to his 2-year-old son Odin have inspired him to be a better man.
“I’m proud of the person that I am,” says Carter, 38. “I’m proud of the person I’ve become. Proud of the things that got me to this point. I don’t regret anything in my life. I think things are there to teach you and give you layers and make you the person who you are.”
He adds, “I’ve always had a love for family. And then obviously, things kind of happened for me in my life. And now that I have Odin, words can’t explain how happy I am right now and how much more invigorated I am. I realize how blessed I am to have him, my wife, to have my group.”
Carter struggled with substance abuse throughout the 2000s, resulting in numerous legal troubles (including a DUI arrest in 2005) and health problems.
“You’re going to live and have experiences,” says Carter. “And thankfully I have the most incredible guys I’ve known since I was 12 years old, and such an incredible support group with my wife and her family. We all love one another. When we go on the road, and when we’re traveling together or we’re backstage, or whenever we are with each other, we know that we trust each other, we love each other and we can depend on one another.”
In 2014, Carter married Lauren Kitt, and two years later the couple welcomed their first child together. Since starting his own family, Carter — who got candid in his 2013 memoir Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It about “toxic” relationships in his family — says the word has taken on a whole new meaning.
“It’s definitely a very special situation to be in, to be able to have great role models and examples that you can, especially being the youngest member of my group, of my family, with the five guys,” says Carter. “They definitely rubbed off on me. They’ve helped me be a great father.”
“You’re honest with one another,” he adds. “You talk to each other. You’re always an open book, and that creates a foundation. It’s funny, I have two families. I have one with the boys, and I’ve had that since I was 12 years old. Now I have my new one, ever since I met my wife, going on 10 years now. And it’s interesting, because for me to have a strong woman like her, who I love and trust … I knew she would be a foundation and a rock for me whenever times got tough. I knew that I would be protected with her. And we protect one another.”
As Carter and the rest of the Backstreet Boys prepare to embark on a new world tour and release their tenth studio album DNA, the Florida native is taking what he’s learned and applying it to live a better and fuller life.
“Never take it for granted,” he says. “I am very grateful and very optimistic about the future and all the things that are happening.”
For more on the Backstreet Boys and their families, as well as their upcoming album and tour, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.