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Keith Urban is "Lucky to Be Alive!"

Keith Urban seen at American Idol filming in a studio in Los Angeles

Credit: Picture by: Splash News

He’s a multiplatinum recording artist with two daughters and a gorgeous, supportive wife — but during his days as a hard-partying Nashville newcomer, Keith Urban came perilously close to missing it all.

In a Star exclusive, Keith’s pals from his presober years reveal that the American Idol judge’s past struggle with addiction was darker — and more dangerous — than anyone ever imagined. “I don’t really want to cast a bad light on Keith, but if you see him crawling around the carpet looking for a rock of crack, that’s definitely a warning sign,” the country singer’s old friend Max Hutchinson tells Star. And another friend agrees. “He did a lot of drugs and he didn’t handle it well,” the friend says. “He’s lucky to be alive.”

According to his old friends, Keith’s addictions began with a desire to fit in. New to America in the early ’90’s, he stood apart from most country stars. “Everything back then was a ‘hat act,'” says Max, referring to the old-school cowboy-hat-wearing singers. “Good luck getting signed in the Nashville world if you weren’t one of them.”

Eager to be part of the Nashville scene, Keith fell in with a wild crowd — and before he knew it, he was drinking and partying to excess every night. “They just egged him on because they were very enthusiastic users themselves,” says Max, who reveals that, while everyone smoked pot, Keith got into harder, highly addictive drugs, including crack. “That crowd would make fun of him behind his back, saying, ‘Man, that guy can’t hold his substances,'” Max says. “They would be cool, and then there’d be Keith crawling around on the floor, wasted.”

But to those who cared about him, it was no laughing matter. “I remember he had these burnt lips — they looked all scabby from smoking a crack pipe,” the other friends says. “He was definitely addicted for a while. Everyone was worried about him.”

And drugs weren’t his only unhealthy habit. As Keith became more popular, scoring record deals and filling clubs, women flocked to him. Though he was engaged during the late ’90s to vet technician Laura Sigler, Max says that Keith destroyed their relationship with what seemed to be a sexual addiction. “When you’re taking substances regularly, you can make bad decisions,” Max says, explaining that Keith’s lack of self-control came from a “lack of being centered.” Adds the friend, “He loved Laura. But once he got famous, he turned into a s—head.”

Laura eventually left him, and Keith struggled with drugs for years — but then Nicole Kidman entered his life and managed to clean him up. When he fell off the wagon shortly after their 2006 wedding, the singer went into rehab for the third time. He’s been sober ever since.

“He can still go off the rails, though. It’s always possible,” the friend says. “That’s why Nicole doesn’t let him out of her sight for more than two weeks at a time. He needs to be on a tight leash, and she knows it.”

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