Robin Thicke is getting real about how the death of his beloved father, Growing Pains star Alan Thicke, was a major turning point in his life.
The singer tells PEOPLE in this week's issue, on newsstands Friday, that losing his father due to a heart attack in 2016 made him decide to "put everything aside" in order to focus on his then 6-year-old son Julian, whom he shares with ex-wife Paula Patton.
"I wasn't in a good place when he passed, and I wasn't in a better place right after," Thicke says. "However, a few months later, I decided to dedicate my time to raising my son, and that really was a big turn for me. Instead of focusing on my music, I focused on my son. That's how I got through that period."
Prior to Alan's death, Thicke had hit a rough patch in his life. The troubles all started in 2013, shortly after he achieved crossover success with his massive Pharrell Williams and T.I. collaboration, "Blurred Lines." But as Thicke's career reached new heights, his personal life started falling apart.
"My marriage to Paula was crumbling," he says. "I started using painkillers. It was a melting pot of trouble brewing, and I was so arrogant that I thought I could handle it all."
After 21 years together and almost nine years of marriage, Patton filed for divorce in 2014. Alleging infidelity, physical abuse and drug use, the actress, 45, and Thicke battled in court over their son. (Thicke has denied the cheating and abuse allegations.)
"Everything seemed to burn down there for a few years," says Thicke.
Indeed, after facing backlash over his infamous performance with Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV VMAs, Thicke took another hit when he, along with Williams, was sued by Marvin Gaye's estate for copyright infringement of Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" on "Blurred Lines." (In 2015, Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $5.3 million when they lost the case.)
In his deposition, Thicke admitted to abusing pills and alcohol when "Blurred Lines" became a hit.
"That year was a whirlwind of fame, and overindulgence all coming to a head," Thicke — who says he initially began taking painkillers to manage "terrible" back pain from frequent flights across the world — reflects now. "The painkillers became part of the release."
"You don't realize you're not in control," he adds. "Fame and a lot of those things — they got to me. I was in a bad place. I'm happy to have closed that chapter."
The loss of Alan in 2016 was a wake-up call, as was the burning down of his Malibu home that he shared with his fiancée April Love Geary, whom he met six months after his split from Patton, their daughter Mia, who turns 3 on Feb. 25, as well as Julian, now 10, in the Woolsey fire of November 2018.
"I was suffering blow after blow, loss after loss," says Thicke, who was months away from welcoming his second daughter with Geary, Lola, at the time. "But I saw the house burning down as a chance for me to step up and say, 'We're going to laugh today. We're going to smile today. We're going to play today. We're going to dance. We're not going to let losing our stuff matter because we've got each other.' Loss does beget gratitude."
On his new album, On Earth, and in Heaven, Thicke sings about a boy growing into a good man on the track "That's What Love Can Do," the first song he wrote after his father's death.
"It's about the passing of the torch of my father to me and the kind of man I want to be," he says. "After my father's death, I remember a friend of his said, 'A big tree has fallen.' That's what my dad was: the big tree. Now here I am, this medium-size tree, and I've got to grow my branches and protect everybody. Every day I try to make him proud of me."
Now a dad of four, Thicke — who welcomed son Luca with Geary in December — is keeping in mind all his father taught him as he raises his own kids.
"Every time I speak to my son Julian, I feel him because I'm saying the same things he told me," he says. "When I was young, I wanted to be a rebel because my dad was Mr. Good Guy. Now I just want to be as much like him as possible. In the end, all the advice he gave me was correct."
Currently preparing for the upcoming season of Fox's The Masked Singer, Thicke is "totally and happily" following in his dad's footsteps.
"My dad loved television," he says. "I know my dad would be like, 'Prime Time. Prime Time. Big show!' My dad would be so excited about this show and smitten, so I feel really close to him when I'm doing it."
For all the details on Robin Thicke's new chapter, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.
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