Fresh Start

updated 02/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

Ninety days after first admitting himself to an alcohol treatment program, Keith Urban was overjoyed to return to the two things he loves most in the world: his music and his marriage to Nicole Kidman. "It felt like an eternity to me," he told Germany's Stern magazine about his lengthy stay at the Betty Ford Center. "[My wife's support] is what carried me through.... She was a good ray of sun in my life." Though Kidman was permitted to visit her husband at the Palm Springs facility and the two, both 39, managed to steal a few days together in Sydney over the holidays, the recovery process was difficult for both. Still, Urban told the magazine, "I think it's been the strength of our marriage that has gotten both of us through this."

So why did the country star, who first went to rehab in 1998 to treat a cocaine addiction, seek help in the first place? In a video message taped Jan. 18 and posted on his Web site (, Urban, who married Kidman last June, says there was no particular event that got him to seek help but rather a series of signs that perhaps he needed a refresher course in sobriety. "A lot of small moments that were starting to accumulate ... were telling me loud and clear that I was a long way from my program of recovery, and they were making my life unmanageable," he said. Although Urban was originally going to stay just a month, "Thirty days became 60, 60 days became 90, and with each week that passed, I found myself really learning to surrender," he said. "It's been one of the most impactful times of my whole life." It certainly helped that through it all "my wife stayed extraordinarily strong and loving," he added.

Reunited after Urban left rehab on Jan. 13, the couple appeared inseparable two nights later when they were seen at a Golden Globe Awards after-party. "They were hand-in-hand pretty much the whole time," says a fellow guest. Then on Jan. 18, Urban bid his wife goodbye for a quick trip to Germany (she was busy working in L.A.), where he performed a song on the popular TV show Wetten, dass..? to promote the album that was released while he was in rehab, Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing. But it was back to the U.S. the very next day. Before heading back to Europe in April for a tour (he's also doing a show in Chicago on Feb. 8.), Urban will get to catch up on lost time with his loved ones. "My family is very, very important to me, and what I've got to offer is being the best husband I can be, the best son, brother and uncle," he said to Stern. "That's really what I've been working on." As for the question of whether his roles may include "father" someday, Urban doesn't rule it out. "We'd love to when the time is right," he said. For now, he's just enjoying the moment. "I sit here full of thankfulness," he told Stern. "And with a clarity that I didn't have before."

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