Backstreet Boy AJ McLean Discusses Addiction, Sobriety

By David Konow 01/30/19

"To be 41 and still be sitting here talking to you is a miracle within itself."

Backstreet Boy AJ McLean
Photo via YouTube

Boy band legends the Backstreet Boys are back on tour with a new album, DNA, and received a Grammy nomination for the single "Don’t Go Breaking My Heart."

As the band reflects on its career, AJ McLean is also looking back on his addiction and recovery journey.

As he told NPR, “I just turned 41. To be 41 and still be sitting here talking to you is a miracle within itself. With drugs and alcohol and all these things that I’ve had to overcome will forever be a daily struggle.”

McLean has been open with the public about his struggles for years, adding, “We’ve always prided ourselves on just being honest with our fans and being honest with each other. That is probably one of the biggest reasons why we’ve been together for almost 26 years. We’re family, we’ve seen the highs and lows with each other… We’ve literally lived lives together—good, bad or indifferent.”

McLean has taken trips to rehab in 2001, 2002 and 2011 for depression and alcoholism, and he admitted to relapsing in 2018. As he told People, “It’s no secret that this is a disease, and that it’s a daily struggle… It will win if you don’t take care of yourself.”

McLean also renewed his fight to stay sober after the overdose death of rapper Mac Miller last year. “With what recently happened with Mac Miller, people need to really understand how serious addiction is. It’s a huge killer and you’ve just got to surround yourself with the right people, go to your meetings and get a sponsor. It’s a marathon, not a race.”

Like many who’ve struggled with addiction, McLean’s family has also been a saving grace for him in his recovery. “They’re my everything,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “Them and my wife. So, I would never in a million years want to let them see me drunk or high or dead or in jail. I want to walk both my girls down the aisle… when they’re 35!”

McLean also posted on Instagram that he’s going to be cutting down on social media, which he says can be “overconsuming.” Again, family has been McLean’s focus, not allowing “social media [to] control me and my time—my valuable time with my kids especially.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.