Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean Talks Addiction: ‘I Wasn’t Me Anymore’


Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean is ready to open up about his decades-long struggle with addiction.

The star sat down with Good Morning America on Monday, where he opened up about his 20-year battle with substance abuse.

AJ McLean Recalls the First Time He Tried Drugs

It all started one fateful day in 2001. And although it was nearly 20 years ago, he remembers it like it was yesterday.

“The first time I tried drugs was literally an hour before my call time to ‘The Call’ video shoot,” McLean told GMA‘s Will Reeve. “I was off the walls.”

McLean also shared more details after his shocking admission with PEOPLE Magazine over the weekend.

“I never really had a desire for the drugs. But being an addict — to me, that word encompasses everything,” the star told PEOPLE. He goes on to recall the first time he ever tried cocaine, right before the Backstreet Boys’ late-night video shoot for “The Call.”

“I was with a ‘friend’ at the time — who’s clearly not a friend anymore — and offered it to me. I said, ‘No,'” McLean recalled. “Then I caved and I did it.”

Fellow Backstreet Boys Bandmates Encouraged Him to Seek Treatment

The substance abuse continued for about 18 months before anyone caught on. That’s when, on July 8, 2001, his bandmates staged an intervention and encouraged him to go to treatment.

Although McLean did seek treatment, he continued to fall in and out of sobriety for the next couple of decades. He “was never sober. Not for a second.” That is, until he had an ultimate awakening in December of 2019.

“So literally 10 months ago, I went to go see my girl Shania Twain in Vegas,” McLean told PEOPLE. “Before I even got on the plane, I had already mapped out the whole night. I knew where I was going to go get my drugs. I knew where I was going to go get drunk. I knew all of it and I figured, ‘Okay, it’s one night. As long as I don’t go past a certain time and I don’t smell like it, I can go have a nice last hurrah and then come back home. My wife won’t know; everything’s going to be great.”

Of course, things didn’t go as he planned. After missing his first two flights back home, he finally arrived home to wife Rochelle, reeking of alcohol. But it was when his youngest daughter, Lyric, wouldn’t sit with him, when McLean realized it was finally time to get clean.

McLean’s Ultimate Awakening

“My youngest daughter Lyric said to me that night, ‘You don’t smell like my daddy.’ And when she said that to me, that was it. Enough said. I felt disgusting.”

These days, McLean — who is currently competing on the 29th season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars — is attending daily 12-step meetings. Plus, he checks in with his sponsor six times a day. He says the “silver lining of the pandemic” is that he has been granted the time to really work on his addiction. He’s feeling good about building “a foundation of recovery before going back on tour next year.”

“There’s too much to live for today: my beautiful children, my amazing wife, my career, my brothers,” McLean said. “I’ve never felt more grounded than I do today.”