It’s hard to imagine Suzanne Somers without a big smile on her face, but her childhood was often joyless due to her father Frank Mahoney’s battle with alcohol. “That great guy [he was] faded and the person who emerged was the drunken one: mean, frightening, abusive,” she revealed in her new book, Two’s Company: A Fifty- Year Romance With Lessons Learned in Love, Life & Business. “Laughter was replaced by long scary nights hiding from him in a locked closet, where my brother, sister, mother, and I trembled in fear, praying he wouldn’t find us and hoping he’d just pass out.”

Still, even in her darkest hours, Suzanne, 71, was determined to stay positive. “When all seemed hopeless, I had never become depressed,” she shared of her survival instinct. “I had always been able to see the light, to see what was good about the new day.”

suzanne somers getty images

Suzanne on Three’s Company.

Even now, with her long list of achievements that includes several hit TV shows, 15 New York Times best-selling books, and 40 successful years of marriage to Alan Hamel, 81, the grandmother-of-six is clear about what she’s most proud of: “That I’m not a victim,” she insists.

Often the target of her dad’s angry put-downs, Suzanne’s self-esteem suffered when he’d call her stupid or worthless and, once she was a teenager, tell her he knew she’d get ‘knocked up.’ “I believed I was what he said,” said Suzanne, who did get pregnant at 18, marrying Bruce Somers and welcoming son Bruce Jr. in 1965. “When I look back on it, I believe Bruce was sent to save me,” she says of her son, to whom she promised, “I will make a good life for you” on the day he was born.

After a brief marriage, Suzanne divorced and became a single mom, working any odd job she could to make ends meet. She dove into acting and found those struggles she had growing up could be used for a positive purpose. “Making up things was how we survived during my childhood and adolescence,” she admits. “You make up stories to save face. You learn to be on all the time; so it makes sense that acting felt second nature to me.”

Suzanne, of course, hit it big in 1977 — the same year she married Alan — when Three’s Company skyrocketed her to fame, though she hardly lived a wild lifestyle. “All during the Three’s Company years,” she says, “I rarely went to Hollywood events on weekends, choosing instead to spend time at home and be a mother.”

Her devotion to Bruce Jr., now 52, combined with her years as a successful actress, author, and entrepreneur, has helped Suzanne make peace with her past — and her father, who is now deceased. “It’s taken a lifetime to realize that his struggles were my opportunity,” Suzanne reflects. “All I learned as a result of his alcoholism and criticism gave me my drive. I now realize I am who I am because of what we went through — that his disease was my greatest teacher and that forgiveness is liberating.”

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