Nick Carter on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros
02/19/2009 at 10:00 AM EST
Speaking candidly about his 10-year struggle with substance abuse, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter says his road to recovery was rocky.
"I would make excuses to just go out to drink and party," he says on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
, airing Thursday. "It was excessive ... Alcohol kind of kicked it off and then once the alcohol wasn't doing it for me I would lean on other things."
As for when things changed, "I had a lot of rude awakenings, warning signs, DUIs," Carter, 29, tells DeGeneres. "I realized that it was wrong, [but] I decided to go and sort of punish myself. I went to the classes, did everything I was required to do. Then I'd . . . get back into it. Sort of fool myself in a way."
Being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy
, a weakening of the heart muscle, last year helped him turn things around, he told PEOPLE.
Working out changed his focus, too. "It helped my self esteem and then other things started replacing drinking and parties, [like] sports," he tells DeGeneres. "I am sober now. I realize that I'm human and my goal in life is to be the best person that I can be."
2007: The Backstreet Boys look back at 15 years together
2000: Nick makes PEOPLE's 'Most Beautiful' list!