The Dallas icon was left in deep shock when cinematographer Cheddy Hart died from heart failure at the age of 54 the day before Christmas Eve in 2009.
She admits her grief sparked seven months of darkness during which she feared she too would die - but she pulled herself back from the brink for the sake of her daughter, Cherish.
Tilton tells Britain's Daily Mail, "I was in such shock. I still am. I was an absolute mess. I couldn't get off the couch. I couldn't do anything. Then, about seven months later, something clicked. I thought, 'What am I going to do? Just lay down and join him?' He wouldn't have wanted that. My daughter wouldn't have wanted that either.
"Somehow I had to get out of that depression, so I changed everything. I don't drink any more. I don't smoke. I try to be really healthy and grab any opportunity that comes along with both hands.
"That's not to say I'm not still affected by it. But hey, I'm coming out the other end... I drank to try to stop feeling anything. I had a moment where I thought, 'I'm either going to live or I'm going to join my man.' But then I thought about my daughter and knew that there was a lot I still wanted to do. I knew I had to pick myself up."
The actress will compete against stars including former child actor Corey Feldman and Sugababes singer Heidi Range in the ice skating series when it launches this weekend (08Jan12).
Tilton, who is reprising her role as Lucy Ewing in the upcoming new Dallas season, opted to take up the challenge because she wants to grasp every opportunity since losing her partner, cinematographer Cheddy D. Hart, to a lung condition in 2009.
She tells Britain's The Sun, "I decided to do it because my fiance passed away at Christmas two years ago. It was unexpected and was right in front of me. It really made me realise we are not guaranteed our next breath, our next heartbeat - only God knows.
"I thought, 'I'm going to take every opportunity life brings.' I want to live life to the full."