Chris Klein: Alcoholism Nearly Killed Me

Chris Klein Rehab; Opens Up About His Struggle with Sobriety
Chris Klein
Jeff Lipsky

updated 03/28/2012 AT 07:00 PM EDT

originally published 03/28/2012 AT 05:00 PM EDT

Chris Klein became an overnight heartthrob after starring in Election and the 1999 breakout hit American Pie.

"It was nothing short of magic," says the actor, of his early stardom – something he quickly learned wouldn't last forever.

Klein slid into a battle with alcoholism that nearly cost him his career – and his life.

"I would have died, and I think about that every single day," the actor, 33, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive new interview.

After two DUI arrests and a jail sentence, the Nebraska-reared actor knew he had to turn his life around. Now nearly 19 months sober, Klein opens about his struggles for the first time.

"It got to the point where I was a fragile shadow of the young man that came into this business," he says. "Today, I'm the luckiest guy alive."

For more on Klein during his darkest days, the truth about his relationship with Katie Holmes and his return to the big screen in American Reunion, out April 6, pick up this week's PEOPLE magazine, on stands Friday
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