Now sober, the Danish pop star — whose band just released their fourth record, 4 (The Pink Album) — reveals how becoming a father himself helped him confront his demons and come to terms with his own dad's death.
"I have two wonderful kids, a wonderful wife and an amazing home," Forchhammer, 34, tells PEOPLE of his life with wife Marie-Louise "Rillo" Schwartz, 33, and daughters Viola, 6, and Billie, 2. "I'm in a very happy place.
When his father Eugene died of a heart attack at age 61 in 2012, Forchhammer's career was just taking off in Europe.
"I kept going, without really acknowledging that I'd lost my role model and one of my best friends," he recalls. "I was just pushing it in front of me like a f---ing freight train."
The weight of his heartache only grew when "7 Years" — a soulful, sentimental hit inspired by his father — blew up in 2016, topping charts around the world and scoring three Grammy nods.
"Everything escalated so quickly," Forchhammer adds of the band's success and breakneck touring schedule. "There was never this calm moment to process all the greatness and all the grief and everything happening at the same time."
Courtesy Eugene and Lukas Graham
For years Forchhammer numbed the pain with weed and alcohol. But when the pandemic put the world on pause in 2020, he faced the music.
"I looked in the mirror and realized I needed to change. I was either drinking or smoking or both, and I wasn't a very good version of myself," says Forchhammer, who went to rehab and, with the help of a therapist, is now two years sober.
Courtesy Lukas Graham with his family
He also credits his kids for helping him get clean.
"My daughters saved my life, in terms of me slowing down," he says. "Now I always get up with my kids — I'm never hungover. I realized I'm a great guy in my own right, I don't need anything to top it. And I'm more creative than ever."
Forchhammer poured that energy into Lukas Graham's new LP, 4 (The Pink Album), which chronicles his hard-fought path to happiness — and into becoming the kind of dedicated dad he sang about on "7 Years."
"When someone calls me with an opportunity, I'm fine saying, 'I'd like to spend some time with my kids,'" says Forchhammer.
Indeed, Forchhammer has found the balance he yearned for years ago — and is most content when he's with his family in Copenhagen, enjoying life's sweet, simple moments at home.
"Sometimes I'll be in bed at night reading for my oldest daughter, and she'll hold my arm and talk about how strong I am," he says. "I remember feeling that way with my dad. He was the strongest person in my entire life. Just knowing that I can be that rock for my kids, it means more than joints and cocktails."
Shutterstock Lukas Graham
For more on Lukas Forchhammer, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.