Singer Aaron Carter, now 26, has been performing around the world since he was a kid, but he said anxiety on Dancing With the Stars fueled his drug addiction.
"When I was doing Dancing with the Stars, I developed an addiction to Xanax — because of stage fright, actually," Aaron told Entertainment Tonight. "I developed stage fright during the show."
Aaron and Karina Smirnoff made it to fifth place on DWTS Season 9, back in 2009. That was a super-sized season, with 16 couples, new dance styles like the Bolero and Two-Step, and multiple double eliminations. So it was extra stressful, on top of the built-in anxiety of having to perform live in front of millions of people.
On top of that, while Aaron was on DWTS, he was being served lawsuits related to his multi-million-dollar debt — and he’d get the papers right there on the ballroom floor after the show. "Right in front of my partner and right in front of interviewers,” Aaron told ET. “It was so embarrassing."
Aaron said he went on DWTS to restart his career, and instead the stress fueled his addiction. At the height of his Xanax addiction, he said he was taking about 14 milligrams a day, which is around three times the average dose.
He said his sister Leslie was heavily into Xanax as well, but he was offered an opportunity to save his own life, and she never got an opportunity like that. "I had a second chance to live and she died from an overdose in my father's bed." Leslie was just 25 when she died.
Aaron didn't seek help on his own, he didn't even recognize that he had a problem. His mother and brother teamed up to get him to the Betty Ford Center. He said he's clean now, and doesn't even drink anymore. He's trying to get his life completely back on track, and you may have heard that he's still in love with his old sweetheart Hilary Duff, and he said he'll never give up on her.
We wish Aaron the best of luck on his path to a better life. It’s sad that his sister Leslie wasn’t able to get this second chance, but maybe Aaron can inspire others to make a change before it's too late.
DWTS Season 18 airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.