AJ McLean Shares His Experience With Addiction

To be a member of the Backstreet Boys in the '90s was to truly have it all. Women of all ages were enamored with the boy band, each pining for their favorite member. The group smashed records and drew enormous crowds everywhere they looked. Their brand was successful then and continues to be decades later.

Yet in all those good times, amid the prosperity and partying, AJ McLean had a dark secret. For 20 years, the artist was privately battling addiction. "The first time I tried drugs was literally an hour before my call time to 'The Call' video shoot," McLean admitted to Good Morning America. "I was off the walls."

Like so many who suffer from addiction, McLean worked hard to keep his secret safe. His band members didn't even know how bad things were until they were impossible to ignore. "When the boys kind of caught on, I missed out on rehearsal," he recalled, "They basically broke into my house, and they dumped ice water on me while I was passed out in my bed."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

After some time in Vegas, an incident told AJ it was time for change

AJ McLean struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for 20 years, with only a few people close to him knowing what was going on. Things came to a head in late 2019, however, when McLean went to Las Vegas to see Shania Twain perform. 

"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,'" he told People.

"I never slept. I missed my first two flights back home and reeked of alcohol when I got home. 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."

His daugher's words forced him to confront his addiction

AJ McLean knew then and there he had to make a change. "As we say in the sober world, that was my moment of surrender. That was the moment I dropped to my knees and I said, 'God, I cannot do this on my own. I can't. I have tried and I have failed miserably. So help a brother out,'" McLean told People.

"Literally the very next day, I went to a sober living house to celebrate a friend of mine's three years sobriety date. I was still hungover, but my sponsor looked at me and said, 'Okay, he's here. I see the final desperation in his eyes.' The next day he said, 'Be at my house at six o'clock and we're going to start the work.' I showed up at 5:20. I'm like, 'I'm in this, dude.'"

McLean has done the work and reaped the benefits. He's been sober since December 2019 and is committed to the lifestyle.