AJ McLean is opening up about the ups and downs of his decades-long sobriety journey — including his rock bottom moment 10 months ago following a relapse during a December 2019 trip to Las Vegas. The Backstreet Boys star shared his experience on Monday's Good Morning America, revealing the first time he ever tried hard drugs was "literally an hour" before his call time for "The Call" music video, when he used cocaine.
"I was off the walls," he recalled of the moment, which led to a years-long downward spiral. His bandmates knew that he was struggling, and even "broke into" McLean's house to beg him to seek help. "Everybody started to catch on. I wasn't me — I was just living a lie," the musician recalled. It was part of a cycle of sobriety and using that would only come to a "turning point" 10 months ago during McLean's trip to Las Vegas, during which he was "never sober, not for a second."
"The turning point for me was when I came back home, my wife could smell it on my breath," he recalled of wife Rochelle, with whom he shares daughters Ava, 7, and Lyric, 3. "And my youngest of my two daughters would not sit with me." McLean has been sober ever since, and is actively seeking help this time around from a 12-step program and a sponsor, with whom he checks in six times a day. "There's too much to live for today — my beautiful children, my amazing wife, my career, my brothers," he said. "I've never felt more grounded than I do today."
McLean, who is currently competing on the 29th season of Dancing With the Stars, opened up further to PEOPLE last week about his sobriety journey. "I thought drugs and alcohol would make those feelings of insecurity go away," he explained. "But it doesn't work that way."
Before his Las Vegas trip to see Shania Twain perform, McLean admits he had already "mapped out" a night of drinking and using drugs. "I knew all of it and I figured, 'OK, 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 recalled. "It never, ever works out that way."
Upon returning home, McLean was heartbroken to see the consequences of his wild weekend. "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," he explained. "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."
"That was it for me," he continued. "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.'"