David Arquette Opens Up About How a Near-Death Experience Changed His Life

"I let go of so much pain I was holding onto," says David Arquette, of turning his life around following a near-fatal wrestling accident

David Arquette still bears some scars from his stint in the professional wrestling world — including one from the brutal fight that nearly cost him his life two years ago.

"I thought I was dying," the actor, 48, who was accidentally stabbed in the neck with a cylindrical light bulb during a so-called "death match" with Nick Gage, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I got out of the ring and I was totally lost. I couldn't see and I couldn't hear."

Arquette, whose terrifying ordeal is featured in the new documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette (available online and On Demand Aug. 28), was rushed to the hospital where he received stitches and surgery. Once he recovered, the brush with death proved to be a wake-up call, and he was able to finally come to terms with a past that had haunted him for so long.

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David Arquette. Koury Angelo

"There was a certain carefree, daredevil aspect about the way I lived life previously," says Arquette, who struggled with demons from a troubled childhood, rejection in Hollywood and the loss of his sibling, Alexis, in 2016. "But I didn't want to die. With the death match, I was doing it on purpose. I was feeling pain to numb pain. Afterwards, I realized I needed to be kind to myself."

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David Arquette. Koury Angelo

Thanks to therapy and the support from his wife Christina McLarty Arquette, to whom he's been wed since 2015 (they have two sons, Charlie, 6, and Gus, 3; he also has 16-year-old Coco with ex-wife Courteney Cox), "I learned to love myself," says Arquette. "I had to stop being self-destructive and making choices that were throwing bombs."

Arquette, who doesn't know if he will return to professional wrestling, also reevaluated his 30-year career in Hollywood. "I always approached Hollywood in a different way," says the actor, who became famous for roles in the Scream films and other hits like Never Been Kissed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. "I did kids movies, I did horror movies, I did comedies. People didn't really know where to put me. And I'm a different kind of character. I'm silly, I wear flamboyant clothes. That can paint a picture in people's heads of who I am and I started feeling like a joke."

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David Arquette with wife Christina. Koury Angelo

Now, Arquette says, "I'm not worried about the future. I'm trying to live in the moment."

Adds the actor: "I'm not invincible and there have been times in my life where I didn't want to go on. But I'm proud of my kids, I'm proud of my wife, and I'm proud of my family. And when you start to like yourself, it's easier to feel at peace."

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