12/11/2006 at 01:00 AM EST
Cradling his infant son Ethan Page on the patio of his modest Los Angeles rental, Edward Furlong admits that he is still getting a grip on the whole dad thing. "It's so weird—I sort of feel like a teenager with a baby," says the 29-year-old actor, who married Ethan's mom, actress Rachael Bella, in April. Still, he is catching on to fatherhood. "The other day I got him to calm down by myself for the first time," says Furlong, trying to wiggle a pacifier between Ethan's tiny pursed lips. "It felt great. Awesome. It made me feel a little grown up."
Finding his way to adulthood has been a long, troubled trip for Furlong, who was 13 when he was plucked from a Boys & Girls Club in Pasadena to star in the 1991 blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day
. Suddenly famous, he soon descended into drugs, drinking and family drama. And then in 2004 he was arrested for freeing lobsters out of a supermarket tank (see box). "I realized I was kind of turning into an E! True Hollywood Story
," says Furlong, who just made his television debut with a two-episode gig on CSI: NY
. Of his decision to finally kick his drug habit almost four years ago and refocus on work and family, he says, "I was sick and tired of being sick and tired." These days, "I don't even think about [partying] anymore. It seems lonely now: running and clubbing and doing coke. I have nightmares about doing hard drugs. I'll wake up and I'm like, 'Did I relapse?' "
Looking back on his years of turmoil, Furlong—who still has the mussed hair and perma-scowl familiar from his T2
days—alternates between candor and dark humor. "I was a nice little kid," he says. "Hollywood f——me up, man!" From 22 to 26, he says he was "on and off" hard drugs. "Lots of money and lots of free coke will turn anybody into a cokehead," he says. "I was a heroin and cocaine addict. It was really scary."
During that time, he had a brief fling with Paris Hilton
("a nice girl") and a rocky affair with his onetime on-set tutor Jacqueline Domac, who is 13 years his senior. "If I could push rewind on that relationship, I would. And delete," he says. "The problem is, nobody told me it wasn't good for me."
After years of strained relationships with his family—including a battle between his mother and the aunt and uncle who took custody of Furlong during his teens—Furlong says he and his mom are on good terms. (He's not in touch with his father.) But it is his relationship with his wife and baby, who was born in September, that has most changed him. "Rachael's turned me into a mushball," says Furlong. His preferred escapes nowadays are Xbox 360 and DVD marathons. "People think he's this brooding, troubled person," says Bella, 22, who met Furlong when the two filmed the movie Jimmy and Judy
in 2004. "He's so the opposite. He's happy and funny. He's not this lost little boy."
As for fatherhood to Ethan, whom his parents have nicknamed "E," "it's definitely trippy," says Furlong. "I did a lot of stuff when I was a kid, and I've never seen anything so trippy as my own kid looking at me." Furlong still has his vices: He smokes two to three packs of cigarettes a day, but "I'm supposed to quit on my 30th birthday. It's for E," he says. The little guy now snoozing in his lap has already changed his dad in other ways. "The fact is that I'm holding him in my arms and I'm happy," says Furlong. "I've still got a roof over my head and I have a beautiful wife, a beautiful son, two cars. I think I appreciate what I have even more because I almost lost everything."