In a People magazine exclusive, Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, who is in recovery, has opened up about the very first time he tried cocaine — and it was on the night of an iconic music video shoot.
McLean, 42, talked with People during his "Dancing with the Stars" run, saying, "I never really had a desire for the drugs, but being an addict — to me, that word encompasses everything."
That made him particularly vulnerable when "a friend" urged him to try cocaine the night BSB were set to film the music video for "The Call," which was released in early 2001.
"It was the first time I ever tried [cocaine] because it was a late-night shoot," McLean remembered. "I was with a 'friend' at the time — who's clearly not a friend anymore — and [they] offered it to me. I said, 'No.' Then I caved and I did it."
McLean went on to say he didn't keep his indulgence a secret on set, yet his bandmates and others close to him didn't realize he was slipping into drug addiction right away.
"I would go to bed when the sun was rising and I would wake up when the sun was down," he explained. "Like they say, the definition of insanity, repeating the same mistakes over and over expecting different results."
In July 2001, McLean's fellow BSBers staged an intervention, with Kevin Richardson telling him that if he continued drugging, "I will never trust you again. You're dead to me."
Even then, McLean's path to sobriety was spotty — and took 20 years.
Ten months ago, McLean returned from a messy trip to Las Vegas reeking of alcohol. His wife Rochelle had already mandated that smelling like booze meant no face time with their kids, Ava, 6, and Lyric, 3.
McLean recalled, "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."
During the pandemic, McLean has been checking in with his sponsor six times a day and attending 12-step meetings, and wants people to know there is hope for those dealing with addiction.
"As hard as it is to say, I have zero regrets and am beyond lucky to still be here. I can genuinely say I love myself today."