While many Americans have increased their drinking during the pandemic, AJ McLean tells HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY that the COVID-19 lockdown has helped him ‘really commit’ to staying clean.
“To be able to be sober for a year for the most challenging year that I’ve been alive, ever, the most challenging year,” AJ McLean said during an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife. The Backstreet Boy and co-host of the Pretty Messed Up podcast celebrated one year of sobriety on Dec. 8, after struggling with substance abuse for more than two decades. That’s quite an accomplishment, considering all that has gone down in 2020. “Between politics, between a pandemic, between racial injustice, between all of this insanity that has happened this year,” said AJ, 42, “To be able to stay sober and to really commit to it is an absolute blessing and a testament to this program.”
AJ, who spoke to HollywoodLife along with his Pretty Messed Up co-host and former DWTS partner Cheryl Burke – said that the COVID-19 pandemic was “a blessing” in disguise. While American adults say they’re drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus months, per NPR, AJ has found that he could stay clean better because everything was shut down. “Literally, since I got back from our South American leg March 16th,” he said. “March 19th, we went into a lockdown. A bunch of my sober friends and I — we started a zoom every day at 4:30, and it’s been going on every single day, 7 days a week.”
“The fact that I’m not on the road right now,” added AJ, “to be able to be home and to really have to look at myself and face this thing head-on but to have an outlet with my sober friends and now Cheryl being a big part of my life and her and I being able to share our experience and hope with each other on and off the show, it’s been a great time. To be honest, I see the silver lining in this pandemic for me personally. This has been a really good thing for me because had I been on the road, who knows if I would’ve stayed sober.”
Cheryl, 36, recently celebrated two years of sobriety. “I now put my addiction into ornaments, clearly, behind me,” she told HollywoodLife during the EXCLUSIVELY interview. “I also do diamond painting. Literally, I’m into arts and crafts. Is it another addiction? Maybe. But it’s a lot healthier, that’s for sure.”
During the interview with HollywoodLife, AJ also dished on the Backstreet Boys’ plans for 2021. The group just fulfilled the dreams of every ‘90s kid by releasing a duet with Britney Spears. As for what BSB will do next, AJ hinted the boy band is working on some holiday music. “We’re still talking about it, trying to find out how we’re going to make it happen for next year, but we’re talking about songs now. Next year, the next thing you’ll hear as a group will be a Christmas album.”
Until then, fans can listen to the Pretty Messed Up podcast with hosts Cheryl Burke, AJ McLean, and Rene Elizondo Jr., presented by iHeartRadio.