"You can't go backward. You got to keep pressing forward," the Backstreet Boy said in an interview about his sobriety

By Tomás Mier
January 11, 2021 03:45 PM
Advertisement
AJ McLean
| Credit: Kelsey McNeal via Getty

AJ McLean is continuing to open up about his sobriety journey.

On Monday's episode of the Recovering from Reality podcast, the Backstreet Boy, 43, opened up about his years-long fight to stay sober and the steps he takes to make sure he doesn't fall back.

After describing an instance in the early 2000s when he grabbed a drink following rehab and drank half a bottle of beer, the singer called himself a "chronic relapser."

"I can do short bursts and I'm okay. Because even when I would relapse, I wouldn't go on a bender," he told host Alexis Haines. "I am a chronic relapser, but I've never gone for like a month straight of just drinking and partying. It's been like one night and then I'm sober for a week or two. And then it's one night. It was always back and forth."

On the podcast, he spoke about how while on tour with the group, his alcoholism wouldn't impact his performance on stage but he would "black out, fall asleep and wake up as if nothing ever happened."

"I didn't even see the sunlight for two years, literally," he said. "But today, that insecurity level has gone significantly down."

"I am at a place now where I don't give a s— what you think about me," he added. "I am the person I am for all the reasons and all the life lessons that I've learned and will continue to learn."

The singer — who says he's "finally comfortable in my own skin" — continued by revealing that he's in a 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program and that he's "terrified" to take someone under his wing as a sponsor once he completes the program. However, he's grateful for the successes and point he's at today in his journey.

"I can look at myself in the mirror and be more confident before I leave the house," he said. "And I can tell myself in the morning how grateful I am for this, this, and this. For the most unbelievable wife [Rochelle] putting up with my s— for 11 years. And then having two gorgeous kids [daughters Ava Jaymes, 8, and Lyric Dean, 3½] that are just my lifeline."

RELATED VIDEO: How Backstreets Boys' AJ McClean Kept Drugs a Secret from His Bandmates and Family for 18 Months

Later in the podcast, the singer spoke about a reversed tattoo on his neck of a Winston Churchill quote that says, "If you're going through hell, keep going." (Since it's reversed, he can see it clearly in a mirror.)

"That is how I live my life today. There's going to be s—ty times, but you gotta keep going. You can't go backwards. You gotta keep pressing forward," he said.

Elsewhere, McLean revealed that — before the coronavirus hit and he was on the road — he'd often have "already mapped out" where he'd have his first drink in a city and "which one of my dealers I'm going to call."

"I figured, I'm not in town. If I can monitor my drinking and monitor my drug use, then I can sober up enough to at least call home and say goodnight or FaceTime, not appear to be wasted and then get away with it," he said. "And that worked until it didn't."

AJ McLean with daughters Lyric and Ava

"I have a very strong foundation before I even step foot on the plane or on the tour bus," he adds, explaining how he approaches his sobriety today and moving forward. "My tour bus is wiped and has been wiped of any kind of alcohol or any drugs. I need to make the same environment that I have at home when I'm not at home."

The singer went on to explain how his wife Rochelle, 39, has seen the change in him thanks to his sobriety — and that even she had her doubts when he restarted his journey in December 2019.

"When you met me, you had the older model," he recalled telling her. "You pre-ordered the good model and it was on backorder for a while. And now, thankfully, you finally got it delivered."

The recent contestant on Dancing with the Stars added that he "could never" have done the show while drunk given the stress. "It would've been a trainwreck," he said.