Kathryn Dennis lost custody of her two kids after failing a drug test in 2016 — and now, she's back in court

Kathryn Dennis knew motherhood would change her life, but she never imagined her children would save it.

The Southern Charm star opens up to PEOPLE about getting sober after the birth of her second child with ex Thomas Ravenel, saying she “needed to change.”

“I made mistakes and wanted to be held accountable,” she says in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. (The interview took place April 30.)

Dennis, who shares daughter Kensie, 5, and son Saint, 3, with Ravanel, lost full custody of the children and entered rehab in 2016 after testing positive for marijuana. Ravenel was awarded full custody at the time, but Dennis has since earned back 50/50 custody.

In October, she filed documents in Charleston seeking to obtain primary custody of the two children after Ravenel was arrested and charged with assault and battery in the second degree.

“Staying sober, putting 100 percent into being the best mom, and learning the court system got me to an even playing field,” she says.

Kathryn Dennis with kids Saint and Kensie
Credit: Allison Michael Orenstein
Kathryn Dennis with Thomas Ravenel and their two children
| Credit: Kathryn Dennis/ Instagram

Dennis has spent the last three years focused on her sobriety — and getting her kids back.

“Whenever I lose sight of what’s important, I just think about my children,” she says. “No matter what your struggle is, you really will do anything to protect your children.”

  • For more on Kathryn, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
6/10/2019 cover featuring Alex Trebek
Credit: Ramona Rosales

And looking back, Dennis knows she wouldn’t be the healthy, stable woman that she is now without her children.

“My family means everything to me,” she says. “They’re like my angels. They saved me in so many ways.”