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AJ McLean recalls first his first time trying cocaine before Backstreet Boys video shoot



AJ McLean has been pretty transparent regarding his past struggles with addiction, recently opening up about the first time he dared try cocaine, revealing it was shortly before he and his Backstreet Boys bandmates filmed a music video.

“I never really had a desire for the drugs, but being an addict — to me, that word encompasses everything,” McLean told People. “I was introduced to cocaine literally the night that we shot the video for ‘The Call.’ It was the first time I ever tried it because it was a late-night shoot. 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.”

“The Call” was the second single released from the group’s fourth studio album, “Black and Blue.”

The 42-year-old singer continued, “When I showed up on set and I got in the makeup chair, I told everybody. I was like, ‘I’m freaking out. I’m on this. I’m on that.’ They were like, ‘You need to stop. Don’t tell the world that you’re on drugs right now.’ Somehow someway, I kept it a secret from everyone for the next at least 18 months before the boys caught on, before my family caught on, before my real friends caught on. I found a way to really keep it under the rug.”

McLean went on to detail his worsening habits, including excessive drinking, adding, “I thought drugs and alcohol would make those feelings of insecurity go away, but it doesn’t work that way.”

Eventually, his group mates confronted him when things got out of control.

“The most crucial part of that conversation was the final thing Kevin [Richardson] said to me: If I continued using, he said, ‘I will never trust you again. You’re dead to me.’”

AJ McLean with daughters, Ava and Lyric.
AJ McLean with daughters, Ava and Lyric.Instagram

Soon after, he sought treatment, but would continue to battle addiction for almost 20 years. In December 2019, however, a comment from his daughter set him straight after he returned home from a Vegas trip reeking of alcohol.

“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.”

The “Dancing with the Stars” contestant now attends daily 12-step meetings online and checks in with his sponsor six times a day.

“As hard as it is to say, I have zero regrets and am beyond lucky to still be here,” he added.” I can genuinely say I love myself today.”


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If you read these books, you’ll be a better communicator




1. Speak with No Fear: by Mike Acker

“Go from a nervous, nauseated, and sweaty speaker to an excited, energized, and passionate presenter”

I took a look at this Amazon book review to help guide me in formulating this comprehensive list. This is where I gleaned the author’s tips and tricks for mastering the art of public speaking and the reasons why you should pick it up yourself.

It’s rated number 1 of 7 top books that will help you conquer the fear of public speaking according to Rhett Power from Forbes.

Fear of public speaking is the number 1 fear for most Americans, even scarier than death to most!

“Mike Acker has written a book that anyone needs to read, not just for public speakers but if fear is something that is holding you back from pursuing your dreams. I love the authors’ anecdotes and the stories he uses to back up the material. Mike’s book is built on 7 strategies he uses to overcome and push through the fear of public speaking.”

Facing your fear is the first step to conquering it!

2. Talking with Confidence for the Painfully Shy: by Don Gabor

“How to overcome nervousness, speak up, and speak out in any social or business situation”

Don Gabor is an interpersonal communication skills trainer. He wrote several personal growth-oriented books, one of which is the bestseller How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends.

He takes a similar approach to work on your personal inner self-talk and replacing any limiting or negative thoughts and dialogue with positive affirmations. Confidence is key to any powerful speaker’s arsenal whether it be in the boardroom or trying to convince your partner to try swing dancing on Zoom.

This review on Goodreads breaks down the book’s content here.

3. Pitch Perfect: by Bill McGowan and Alisa Bowman

“How to say it right the first time, every time”

Looking for a fast-paced engaging read from media-guru and Emmy Award-winning correspondent Bill McGowan?

His resume of clients and collaborations are impressive, to say the least. On the list, we have Eli Manning, Kelly Clarkson, Jack Welch, Thomas Keller and Kenneth Cole and he’s successfully pitched and worked alongside executives at tech companies such as Facebook, Spotify, Airbnb, Dropbox and

If you’re working on a strong pitch for that promotion, story idea, or marketing strategy I highly recommend picking this book up. He teaches the best verbal and non-verbal cues to master the “Principles of Persuasion” to deliver the most powerful message to get far in your career.

4. Thinking, Fast and Slow: by Daniel Kahneman

“Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics”

If evidence-based statistics and hard science used to back up hands-on advice to better your communication and interpersonal skills sound fascinating to you—this book comes highly recommended.

The best-selling book published back in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Daniel Kahneman is highly rated amongst academicians and those who find dense reads delving into the science behind what makes a strong public speaker be riveting.

Here’s what one reader had to say,

“Evidence-based cognitive science at its best. Written by Nobel-prize winner Dr. Kahneman. Interesting take on behavioral economics. Can be quite a heavy read and it may take longer to read than any other books with similar numbers of pages. But it is worth it because you’ll be able to understand the unconscious biases that we have and attempt to overcome them to make better decisions and acquire a higher quality of life.”

Since this is a tedious read it sounds like a great quarantine read to add to your list with all that extra downtime.

“3 habits to influence others and make things happen”

Brevity is the soul of wit and the key to standing out in a business meeting if you ask Connie Dieken.

She might be on to something since communications veteran Connie Dieken is the country’s foremost Fortune 500 leadership communication coach, an Emmy Award-winning former television news anchor, and an inductee of the Radio/Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame. That’s quite the resume so how can you channel your inner Dieken?

In a fast-paced, meme-driven, distracted world where breaking news stories stay on your timeline maybe 24 hours at the most, you must keep communications short, sweet, and streamlined for efficacy.

She has 3 key tips to do this and if you want to know more you’ll have to pick up either of her award-winning books.

“It’s the first book to deliver a proven method to master the core leadership skill of influence. Talk Less, Say More lays out a powerful 3-step method called Connect, Convey, Convince and guides you in how to use these habits to be more influential. This succinct book solves your modern communication issues in today’s demanding, distracted world at a time when interaction skills are plummeting.”

She founded the Dieken group to train CEO’s with her own keen instincts of an investigative journalist that gets to the core of the issue quickly, succinctly, and with just the right amount of word economy.

6. Speak with Impact: by Allison Shapira

“How to command the room and influence others”

An opera singer turned career coach Allison Shapira demonstrates the apropos importance of “finding your voice.”

She outlined simple exercises you can practice in your daily life to aid you in the process of finding your unique voice that include the following:

Shapira claims all public speaking is performance and there are practical applications in overcoming this “stage fright” so to speak.

7. Talk Like TED: by Carmine Gallo

“The 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds”

Some of the world’s greatest minds speak truth to power with their honest experiences on their TED Talks but they didn’t get there overnight!

Here’s what New York Times bestselling author, Daniel H. Pink, who finished Carmine’s TED Talk tell-all had to say in this review upon completion.

“Talk Like TED is a smart, practical book that will teach you how to give a kick-butt presentation. But Gallo goes deeper than mere instruction. This book is ultimately about discovering what moves you and then creating the means of moving others with your vision.”

8. iConquer Speech Anxiety and Interview Anxiety: by Karen Kangas Dwyer, Ph.D.

“A workbook to help you overcome your nervousness about public speaking and interviewing”

I prefer a more tactile approach to learning. For those of you who would enjoy doing daily or weekly assignments and exercises to curb anxiety related to public speaking, I’d purchase a hard copy of this book.

There’s only so much self-help life advice I can take from gurus already more successful than me. If you want to take matters into your own hands to discover what personality type you are and how to strengthen your weaknesses while playing to your innate strengths you’ll love this book!

Here’s a review of its helpful contents written by a respected PhD. in the field of communications Karen Kangas Dwyer. Dr. Dwyer started the University of Nebraska Speech Center and has published multiple books, papers and published articles on how to overcome speech anxiety.

“This book presents a unique multi-dimensional approach to help you pinpoint the source of your anxiety, and develop a plan to fit your personality. You will learn a combination of anxiety-reduction techniques that work. Strategies, exercises and examples will help make communication anxiety a thing in your past. The original iConquer Speech Anxiety book has helped thousands overcome public speaking anxiety. This new edition has added help for employment interviews. You will become a confident communicator!”

9. Confidence-Charisma, Public Speaking and Social Anxiety: by Cameron Laws

“The Best Tactics to Be More Charismatic, Likable, and to Impress Anyone”

Sometimes the greatest pitches come down to having charisma. If you’d like to ooze charisma at your next meeting pick up Cameron Laws how-to on how to at least fake it until you get there.

One reader found Laws deep dive incredibly helpful in this review here.

“Surprisingly useful book that was set out in a clear and concise format that made it easy to take in. Lots to learn in the book, tying together multiple aspects of personal development in order to improve upon one’s confidence.”

If you’re looking for a light read to pick up more confidence and charisma building skills I’d suggest checking this one out next.

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