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How Hayden Panettiere Is Healing from Pressures of Child Stardom as She Manages Sobriety, Mental Health (Exclusive)

The actress is proud of how far she's come since seeking treatment for addiction and mental health struggles — and now wants to help others

<p>Michael Buckner/Getty</p> Hayden Panettiere in 2022

Michael Buckner/Getty

Hayden Panettiere in 2022

Hayden Panettiere is ready for her comeback — and a closeup with her fans.

The actress, who found massive success on shows like Heroes and Nashville before stepping back from the spotlight to seek treatment for substance abuse, will be getting candid during three upcoming "Intimate Conversation with Hayden Panettiere" engagements.

"I'm really excited for them," she tells PEOPLE exclusively of the events happening in New York, D.C, and Philadelphia later this month. "They'll be moderated conversations where I'll touch on my career as a whole and my journey, the lessons that I've learned and the valuable advice that I've been given. I want them to be really intimate, uplifting, encouraging and motivational."

Panettiere, 34, has plenty to discuss — and says nothing is off the table when it comes to the conversations, including her recovery from opioid addiction and alcohol abuse, which she opened up about in a 2022 PEOPLE cover story.

She says her recovery has been going well, and she's grateful to be in a position to help others who might be struggling.

"I want to let them know that there is a time when you get over the hill," she says. "Recovery is real. It can happen, and you can be happier than you've ever been before in your life. When you're an addict, it's really hard to believe that you can feel relief, so you've just got to hear from people who have come out the other side, people who can tell you that it is possible and that they can do it."

<p>Storm Santos</p> Flyer for the upcoming Conversation With Hayden Panettiere

Storm Santos

Flyer for the upcoming Conversation With Hayden Panettiere

Related: Hayden Panettiere Marks Brother Jansen Would-Be 29th Birthday 7 Months After His Death: 'Love You Forever'

As she returns to Hollywood, Panettiere says it's been crucial to remember how far she's come.

"If you forget you were an addict, that can lead you astray," she says. "As long as you remember, you can stay on the same path and keep on doing those things that make you happy, make you feel healthy, make you laugh and keep you sober."

Related: Hayden Panettiere Reveals Addiction to Opioids and Alcohol: 'I Was in a Cycle of Self-Destruction'

Panettiere will also open up about being a child actor, and the toll that took on her mental health.

"I was 4 years old when I was on Guiding Light," she explains. "And I did a bunch of commercials before that. So taking some time off after Nashville was important. I literally hadn't taken a break from the industry since I was like, 8 months old."

"It was difficult," she continues. "It's difficult to keep up with your friends, to stay in the groove. I was the outsider."

She also relied heavily on the team surrounding her to make her career decisions for her — and that wasn't always in her best interest, She previously told PEOPLE that she was first introduced to illegal substances at 15 when someone on her team began to offer her "happy pills" before she walked the red carpets.

"They were to make me peppy during interviews," she said at the time. "I had no idea that this was not an appropriate thing, or what door that would open for me when it came to my addiction."

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Later, after she had her daughter Kaya, 9, whom she shares with her ex Wladimir Klitschko, she suffered from postpartum depression and grew even more dependent on drinking and drugs.

Related: Hayden Panettiere on Her Relationship with 'Smart, Funny' Daughter Kaya, 7: 'She Still Loves Me'

"It was difficult," she says of postpartum depression. "Nobody taught me about it or said, 'Hey, watch out for these symptoms.'"

After putting in the work to get to a healthy place, Panettiere is looking toward a bright future, which includes getting back in front of the camera. And for the first time, she's trusting her own instincts.

"It very much has been a process," she says of her return to the spotlight. "It's one foot in front of the other for me, getting back on stage and trusting my instincts as an actor and trusting my instincts as I read scripts, deciding whether I like them or not and not just letting somebody else say, 'Hey, this is the project that will make you shine because of A, B, and C.'"

She adds, "So I'm still in the process of trusting myself, but I'm getting there."

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, please contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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Read the original article on People.