Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean opens up about addiction and relapse: 'I have no shame'

Amid a persistent national epidemic of addiction, AJ McLean is speaking up.

The Backstreet Boys star first entered rehab in 2001, and nearly two decades later he's still fighting to stay sober, he told People in a revealing interview.

"Look, I have no shame in saying I've relapsed over the past year," McLean said of his alcohol addiction. "It's no secret that this is a disease, and that it's a daily struggle."

The singer, 40, says his wife and kids are a constant source of support and inspiration, but his family-first mindset has at times impeded his battle for sobriety. "In my my mind ... you should put family first. You should put your kids first," he explained. But when an addict doesn't prioritize getting well, "you forget about taking care of yourself, and you do tend to get lost in the sauce. And that’s happened to me numerous times."

As he prepares to embark on the Backstreet Boys' upcoming world tour, McLean cites support groups and his sponsor as important motivators to stay on track.

His career mentality, he said, has effected his progress. "I'm Mr. People Pleaser, and I think a lot of that comes from being a performer and wanting to see the crowd happy, and seeing everybody around you, and loving the attention. I want to make sure everyone's cool."

When he's not performing with the crew, McLean is with his wife Rochelle, who he wed in 2011, and their two kids.

Before he became a father, McLean said, he "never really understood" why his bandmates wanted to "rush back home after a tour was done." Now, with little Ava and Lyric at home, he said, he gets it.