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Former Disney Star Adam Hicks Talks About the Pressure He Felt to Hide His 'Secret' Addiction: 'I Was Struggling' (Exclusive)

Six years into his sobriety, the former Disney star — who also spent 4 years in prison — opens up to PEOPLE about why he spiraled: "I didn't get the help I needed"

<p>Adam Hicks/Instagram</p> Adam Hicks

Adam Hicks/Instagram

Adam Hicks

Adam Hicks has come a long way.

The former child star, known for Disney Channel projects like Lemonade Mouth, Zeke and Luther and Pair of Kings, struggled for years with substance abuse. He later had a string of headline-making arrests, one of which led to him being incarcerated for four years.

Now six years sober, Hicks is proud to say his addiction to alcohol and Xanax — as well as his illegal behavior — is in the past.

"I feel good about myself, I do. I do feel good because I know how far I've come and I know what it was — and stuff like this, you never get over," Hicks, now 31, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I think the people I let down and the people affected, this is going to live with me forever. It's always going to be there as a reminder of how bad things can get."

Related: PEOPLE Explains: Who Is Former Disney Star Adam Hicks, Recently Accused of Armed Robbery?

The actor-musician's journey to sobriety and self-acceptance took years.

As a child star appearing on the Disney Channel, Hicks says he "never drank" on set because acting was a "high in itself" throughout his "incredible" experience with the network. But he admits to feeling as if he was leading a double life; out of the studio he was secretly battling substance abuse.

<p>Bob D'Amico/Disney Channel via Getty</p> (L-R) Disney Channel's 'Lemonade Mouth' stars Blake Michael as Charlie, Hayley Kiyoko as Stella, Adam Hicks as Wen, Bridgit Mendler as Olivia, Nick Roux as Scott and Naomi Scott as Mo.

Bob D'Amico/Disney Channel via Getty

(L-R) Disney Channel's 'Lemonade Mouth' stars Blake Michael as Charlie, Hayley Kiyoko as Stella, Adam Hicks as Wen, Bridgit Mendler as Olivia, Nick Roux as Scott and Naomi Scott as Mo.

"The major issue is that I tried to keep it a secret. I tried to keep it to myself because of the pressure of having to sustain," he explains. "The career, everything was going as planned, but mentally, I was struggling."

"That is a hard balance, especially when you're not seeking any help," he continues. "And I think that was the major issue. I didn't get the help I needed, and it just spiraled into a mess, it really did."

Hicks considers his "the lowest moment" to be when he was sent to a state hospital after being "deemed incompetent to stand trial."

<p>Jaimie Trueblood/Disney XD via Getty</p> (L-R) Adam Hicks, David Gore and Hutch Dano on the Disney XD series 'Zeke and Luther'.

Jaimie Trueblood/Disney XD via Getty

(L-R) Adam Hicks, David Gore and Hutch Dano on the Disney XD series 'Zeke and Luther'.

Related: 20 Former Child Stars on the Ups & Downs of Growing Up in the Spotlight

"When I did come around, everything hit me at once," he explains. "It was the gravity of the situation, the people I had let down, how sorry I was for what had happened and my actions. And knowing that I wasn't in my right state of mind, but still knowing that that's not an excuse."

Eventually he was sent to prison, where he "learned a lot about myself being in a cell" on "24-hour lockdown" for four years.

"I'd always masked my emotions, masked my feelings with substances or whatever it may be. And that was the first time that I actually was in tune with my own self and trying to figure out what to do from here on out," he says.

"So that was the start of my sobriety. From the hospital to getting out to now, I've been sober six years, and I've made a commitment to try to help people."

<p>Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Hulu</p> Adam Hicks is pictured attending the premiere for Hulu's 'Freakish' at Smogshoppe on October 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Hulu

Adam Hicks is pictured attending the premiere for Hulu's 'Freakish' at Smogshoppe on October 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

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Now Hicks wants to share what he has learned. Through American Addiction Center's Addiction Talk series, he hopes to impact other people who may be struggling with substance abuse.

Hicks has also launched a nonprofit called Soundtracks of Life. "It's focused on people who have been formally incarcerated, people with addiction problems or mental health issues and basically, it's therapy through music," he shares.

"The love of my life has been acting — I've always been an entertainer, and music," he added. "So I started this to try to connect with people and get the word out there and get them some help before they end up back in this cycle."

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. Support is also available at American Addiction Centers.

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Read the original article on People.