Backstreet Boys’ AJ Mclean is currently winning hearts with his dance performances on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. The singer recently opened up about his substance abuse problem and keeping it hidden from his bandmates.
The ‘Give You Away’ singer also opened up about how substance abuse affected his personal and family life while shedding light on what finally made him clean up his sh*t.
During a recent conversation with PEOPLE, AJ McLean opened up the moment he ‘caved’ and did cocaine for the first time. The Backstreet Boys singer also opened up about his years-long addiction to drugs and alcohol as well as how he kept his substance abuse a secret before seeking treatment.
Said AJ McLean, “I never really had a desire for the drugs, but being an addict — to me, that word encompasses everything. I was introduced to cocaine literally the night that we shot the video for ‘The Call.’ It was the first time I ever tried it because it was a late-night shoot. I was with a ‘friend’ at the time — who’s clearly not a friend anymore — and offered it to me. I said, ‘No.’ Then I caved and I did it.”
He continued further, “When I showed up on set and I got in the makeup chair, I told everybody. I was like, ‘I’m freaking out. I’m on this. I’m on that.’ They were like, ‘You need to stop. Don’t tell the world that you’re on drugs right now.’”
AJ McLean added, “Somehow someway, I kept it a secret from everyone for the next at least 18 months before the boys caught on before my family caught on before my real friends caught on. I found a way to really keep it under the rug.”
Adding that for a couple of years after that he didn’t see sunlight due to his substance abuse, he said, that in July 2001, the other Backstreet Boys confronted him and encouraged him to go to treatment. Though he was initially resisted, his bandmates eventually got through to him. He said, “The most crucial part of that conversation was the final thing Kevin [Richardson] said to me: If I continued using, he said, ‘I will never trust you again. You’re dead to me.’”
Since then, AJ McLean continued to fall in and out of sobriety for two decades until his youngest daughter, Lyric, made him feel disgusted about it. Talking about the trip when he returned from Las Vegas reeking of alcohol he said, “My wife and I had always had this agreement, which was if I smelled like alcohol, I wasn’t allowed to play with my kids — I couldn’t be around my kids. But what really hit me was the moment, 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.”
As of now, Now AJ McLean attends daily 12-step meetings online and checks in with his sponsor six times a day. On the work front, he is currently competing on the latest season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.