I don’t know if you guys read the article and watched the video AJ did for People Magazine. It’s why I’m here writing this however instead of one of the many other ideas I’ve had listed for awhile now. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s why I linked it just now. I debated doing this post a lot because I knew if I did I was going to get personal. And while there’s some subjects I never minded sharing about, this is one pretty personal to me. But writing sometimes is about putting a piece of yourself out there with the world. After a lot of debate I decided to write this and I hope those reading this can relate. It may not be the best thing I’ve ever written, it comes from the heart. Because while I’ve never experienced the demons of addiction first hand, I have witnessed them. And it’s why I find it so commendable that AJ is being so open with us. Because this story is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring.
Now I remember so clearly the day it was announced back in 2001 he’d be going into rehab. When there were only four Backstreet Boys sitting on TRL and looking downcast and serious. At the time, I was only fourteen years old. Hearing your teen idol has a problem with drugs and alcohol tends to be confusing for a lot of people that age. Admittedly however, it wasn’t for me.
You see one of my brothers (I’m the youngest of five kids), who happens to be six years older than me, is an addict. It makes him horribly angry, crazy, and violent. By the age of fourteen I’d already seen the dark side of what it can all do. It caused a lot of chaos and despair growing up. Because that’s what addiction does. As a kid, I never understood why it seemed so appealing. Why anyone would ever want to take something or drink something that made them so terrible. I remember watching TV as they talked about AJ going into rehab, and wondering if AJ was why Nick had a brace on his wrist. Because that’s where my mind went from my own experiences with my brother. It turns the people you love into someone else.
Someone you don’t recognize, a monster with the face of someone you used to love.
When his mom, Denise wrote her book about AJ and what substances did to him, I bought it because I hoped it would help me understand my brother. It didn’t. Not really. But it helped me understand myself. Those helpless feelings, that hurt, the pain, and the anger you feel about all of it. The way you can’t force someone to see how self-destructive they’re being, all you can do is be there for someone when they finally reach that place. I can emphasize with Rochelle and how hard it must have been to watch her husband go down that path. To wonder what will happen to them, will it be too late to save them? Can they be saved? Some people will never reach rock bottom. That’s the hard truth of it. To this day my brother hasn’t reached it and I had to cut him off because of it. Sometimes that’s all you can do. I have no idea if he’s dead or alive right now.
AJ is luckier than that. I’m thankful that his daughter got him to see exactly how far down he’s gone. It has been an unspoken thing in the fandom when we’d see him drink. Because it wasn’t our place to say anything. We wouldn’t talk about it outright but there’d be mumurings and worried looks. We’re all adults now and of course we see. But what would we do? We were helpless to do anything. I think a lot of us just accepted it and hoped with all our hearts things would turn out alright.
In AJ’s case, it was his daughter that in essence, saved him. When I read the words “you don’t smell like my daddy anymore”, I got teary eyed. Sometimes children have a way to having you see what’s right in front of you. Sometimes people will see it and dive deeper into the drugs and alcohol to try and escape that truth. That wasn’t the case here and I wonder how many people realize just how much it had to take inside AJ to face that, face himself, and make the decision to get sober once again. It’s not easy. Not even close.
And to speak so openly about it? That can’t be easy. But I wonder if he’s thinking about all those who can be helped or motivated by his story. That’s the thing about those with a platform, they can change lives, even when admitting to their struggles and failings. This right here though, isn’t a failing. This is a success story because of the fact AJ is still here to tell it.
Staying sober is a process and there’s no simple road there. He might fall off the wagon again. I hope he never does but there’s no way to know. What’s important is that he’ll keep trying to get back on. I have full faith in that, and that’s enough. The fact he refuses to give up will be what sees him through. There’s so much truth when they say it’s day to day. That’s exactly how it is. I hope he realizes just how much support he has. Not just from his family, or the other Boys, but from millions around the world. Because his voice has been there for us, his music has helped save lives, helped many through darker times. Even so, his strength to keep going and keep fighting the demons that come with addiction are downright inspiring.
So take a minute and appreciate just how big of a deal this is. The fact he’s been able to turn it around again these past ten months in a year that’s caused darkness for so many. There’s so many other ways this story could’ve ended. The fact it hasn’t ended yet is a damn blessing. We are so lucky. We could be waking up to different headlines right now. He hasn’t let this beat him. That’s why I needed to write this. Because rather than let it destroy him, he’s admitted to his mistakes and keeps coming back. Keeps trying to do better and be better.
That’s nothing short of admirable. Period.
AJ, if you ever read this, thank you for always fighting.
One thought on “A Fan’s Thoughts On AJ’s Journey To Recovery”
I was watching Britney Spears’ story and I thought he could have turned out like her All of the Backstreet Boys l could have turned out like that. As crazy as the fans were at least the media gave them space to overcome their diffculties and never tried to tear them down so much.. AJ was never my favorite ( Clean cut Brian appealed to me more) I respect him for his decision to get sober.