gh valentin GENERAL HOSPITAL - The Emmy-winning daytime drama "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday (3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. GH19(ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)JAMES PATRICK STUART, LYNN HERRING, DONNELL TURNER
Credit: ABC

“I reached a point where I was unemployable.”

Like the rest of us, James Patrick Stuart has made a few mistakes over the years. Fortunately, General Hospital‘s Valentin believes that sharing even difficult, painful stories is key to helping others realize that they aren’t alone and they, too, can change. With that goal in mind, he sat down for an intimate conversation with co-star Maurice Benard (Sonny) which was in turns humorous, heartbreaking and — ultimately — healing.

On the latest edition of Benard’s State of Mind vlog (which can be seen in its entirety below), Stuart admits that he lost his way at a relatively young age, thanks in part to the way he handled anxiety. “My father was in rock-and-roll, he was part of the British invasion,” says the actor, “so weed and alcohol was just a given. That was just part of life. So when anxiety showed up, well, pot and alcohol took care of that.”

Or so it seemed at the time.

Here, he pauses to make it clear that this is his story, and “if you follow my example you could go off a cliff very easily.”

Continuing, he explains, “My father had put me in therapy for a couple years because my anxiety was turning into anger. Real anger and isolation. I’m talking at the age of 13, 14… and for whatever reason, the first time I smoked that joint, it felt like the planets all lined up.”

There is, of course, more to the story. “The bummer was, and I tell this to my children, you’re going to have to develop your own relationship with drugs and alcohol. I won’t be there. You’re going to be there with the coolest kid, the prettiest girl, and you know what? You’re going to have to make up your own mind. I’m just going to let you know that in my case, it worked great at first until, jump-cut, I’m doing All My Children in New York City, and I’m pretty much stoned all the time.”

AMC James Patrick Stuart

During his years in Pine Valley, Stuart played Will Cortlandt, who would eventually be murdered.

Credit: Robert Milazzo, ABC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

More: Maurice Benard’s special message to his daughter

He had, he says, “traded one reality for another.” But this new world had a dark edge that was difficult to keep under wraps. “It affects your personal life, because before you know it, you’re hanging out with guys you wouldn’t introduce to anybody… I remember running into people from the show on the street, and they’d look at [my dealer and his associates] and be like, ‘How do you know these people?'”

From there, things quickly went downhill. “I reached a point where I was unemployable, the girl that I was deeply in love with had gotten rid of me because she had… realized I was no longer a safe bet,” he recalled. “I’m talking 25 years ago. I mean, the only person who loved me was my mom, and she could’ve been jiving, too.”

More: Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda) shares painful memories

Then came “one of those come-to-Jesus moments where it’s like, ‘This isn’t working.'”

Eventually, a very simple moment helped turn everything around. It started when his brother suggested Stuart join him in walking the dog. Instead, the troubled young actor sent them on their way, saying he was busy fixing his life. “I remember thinking as soon as he left, ‘That’s stupid,'” Stuart reflected. “And I looked outside and I saw a rake leaning against his shed and I saw all these leaves and, again, I know this sounds silly, but it was a pivotal moment for me. I walked outside and said, ‘I’m going to rake his lawn.’

“Until that moment, it had always been about me and my career,” he went on. “I just raked his lawn, and I started feeling the hole inside of me… start to shrink.”

Since then, he believes that every good thing that has happened to him has come about as a direct result of helping someone else. He’s also not afraid to give some credit to a higher power.

“People have a problem with the word ‘God’ until [bleep] hits the fan,” he mused. “Then all of a sudden, [it’s] ‘thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers.’ It’s like, no, no, no. How about we bring God into the equation a lot earlier than that?”

After all, he added, “Who doesn’t like love?”

As we reflect on that simple yet powerful sentiment, why not join us in looking back at some of the triumphs and tragedies which have befallen Stuart’s alter ego, Valentin, via this photo-filled gallery. Then perhaps share your thoughts on who the character’s true love might be in the comment section below.