Things weren't always easy for A-list actor Rob Lowe. From his days of partying to a sex tape scandal, it took The Outsiders star some time to realize that he was finally ready to become a family man. And today, he's just that.

"Family means absolutely everything to Rob," a friend of the actor tells Closer Weekly in an exclusive interview. "It’s what’s kept him grounded and sober now for nearly 26 years. It helped Rob organize the priorities in
his life." Rob married his now wife of 26 years, Sheryl Berkoff, in 1991, and the couple is parents to two sons, Matthew, 23, and John, 21.

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Matthew went to Duke University and John is currently at Stanford University. "Rob and Sheryl knew they did something right with these two boys," the friend added. "And Rob is so close with his sons, they truly are his two best friends, along with their mother."

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Today, he co-stars with Matthew and John on A&E’s new reality series The
Lowe Files
. "I got early on that my boys were going to be my life’s work," he said about being a father in a previous interview. "I loved coaching the teams. I loved going on the field trips." And now with the show, Rob says, "My boys and I [are fulfilling] our lifelong dream of searching for freaky, unsolved phenomena."

MORE: See How Rob Lowe Celebrated His Son's 21st Birthday!

When Rob was a young boy, his parents got divorced, so now Rob makes it a point to be there for his sons every chance he gets. “Rob was determined he wasn’t going to miss the big moments in his sons' lives," the pal adds. We're glad to see the star being such a great father figure to his boys!

For more on Rob, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for exclusive news!