The 36-year-old Jersey Shore star is currently waiting to be sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of tax evasion in January. The sentencing comes one day after Sorrentino celebrated being 34 months sober following a years-long prescription painkiller addiction — and as he prepares to say “I do” to Pesce, his college sweetheart.
Speaking to PEOPLE in April ahead of the Jersey Shore Family Vacation season premiere, Sorrentino revealed that the two met in math class in community college.
“We went out together for about four years, and then once Jersey Shore started we decided to take a break throughout seasons 1-6,” he said. “Once it was over, we eventually reconnected and have been together ever since, for over four years now.”
“She’s my best friend, my better half,” he added. “She makes me a better person. I’m so excited that she’s in my life.”
Sorrentino’s emotional Valentine’s Day proposal unfolded on the show in June, with the MTV star getting down on one knee in front of a slideshow of photos that opened with a heartfelt declaration that brought everyone to tears: “I fell in love with you because you loved me when I couldn’t even love myself.”
“We’ve been through so much, and for us to finally get engaged, it’s really special,” he told viewers. “Because it wasn’t guaranteed. It’s been very stormy for a while. The odds were against me. People bet against me. But against all odds, she’s been there throughout the ups and downs, the good times and the bad times.”
“I’ve been wanting to get to this day for so long,” he admitted. “And right now, I’m feeling like all these bad times that I’ve been through, it’s all worth it for this moment right here. Lauren is the light at the end of my tunnel. Lauren is my everything, Lauren is my best friend, she is my soulmate, she is my better half. And knowing that I found that, I’m willing to face anything in life.”
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Indeed, Sorrentino has credited Pesce with helping him turn his life around — and in turn, she’s said her faith is what helped her get through the tough times.
“I’ve always been Catholic, but it’s not so much just going to church,” she told PEOPLE in May. “It’s finding my belief, that God has a reason for everything, and knowing you’re able to overcome anything as long as you have your faith and trust in God. That’s what I did, and Mike really came into that as well and found his own spirituality. So I think it’s a combination of us really putting our whole trust in God and not worrying about the next job, not worrying about how things were going to get taken care of — just believing that it was going to be as it’s meant to be.”
“What I dreamed of, the expectations I had set for him, him getting healthy and sober — I didn’t know that our relationship would survive had those miracles not happened, and they did,” she added. “He put in the hard work and thanks to the faith in God that we have, we’re in the position we’re in today.”
Sorrentino said Pesce is the reason he strives “to be the best version of myself — and to fight for our future.”
“When I met Mike, I met him as a person and not as a celebrity,” said Pesce. “So I’ve always known him at his core — him being the most giving and loving family-type of guy in his soul. And through any kind of ups and downs, any kind of darkness that he went through, I always knew that person inside was so important and worth fighting for. I always wanted him to see how special he is so that he would be willing to fight for himself.”