Three days after A.J. McLean entered a rehabilitation program, the Backstreet Boy is feeling optimistic and safe, according to his mother.
"He's very, very positive," Denise McLean said Wednesday from Orlando, Florida. "The first thing I heard in his voice was relief. He felt he was safe and getting what he needed."
McLean, who's spoken with her son since he left for an unspecified rehabilitation center on Sunday, said that A.J. has already begun to make progress in battling the depression and anxiety that led him to abuse alcohol.
McLean added that both she and her son were grateful to the many fans who've expressed support since the singer's fellow Backstreet Boys made his struggles public on Monday (see "Backstreet Boys Postpone Tour As A.J. McLean Seeks Treatment").
"I just think [that with] this compassion and this outflow of love that people are giving, how can he not get better? It's strength for all of us," she said.
She plans to visit A.J. in rehab this weekend, and hopes to bring him letters from fans, including those sent to this Web site's "You Tell Us" page, she said.
A.J. has already begun talking about how he could use his problems to help "others kids and adults who are going through the same thing," his mother said.
Meanwhile, the Backstreet Boys' sometime-rivals 'NSYNC expressed support for A.J. on Wednesday through their manager, Johnny Wright, who once managed the Backstreet Boys as well.
"Although I no longer have a professional relationship with A.J., my personal relationship still remains very strong," Wright said in a statement. "I consider A.J. part of my family and I am very proud of A.J. for recognizing he needs help. Not only myself, but all five members of 'NSYNC send our thoughts and prayers."
A.J.'s mom said his troubles could be seen as an inevitable result of the stress of the pop-music world he'd lived in since he was a young teenager.
"I don't think people realize the amount of pressure that's put on an individual [in this business]," said his mother, who also serves as his manager. "I think it's practically like all the odds are against you. If something doesn't happen, it's definitely by the grace of God. You lose your identity and become this icon people want to look up to. That puts pressure on you."
McLean also suggested A.J. had been pushed toward alcohol abuse by "having the wrong people around him" a crowd that cared only about being seen with a Backstreet Boy, she said.
She was hesitant to promise that A.J. would be done with rehabilitation in time to rejoin the Backstreet Boys on tour next month.
"I'm hoping that if this program is everything they say it is, because it's so intensive, it will give him a lot of what he needs over the next 30 days," McLean said.
"He's definitely going to be levels above [where he was]," she continued. "But whether he's ready to go back into that environment again and fight off all he was fighting off before I don't know. That remains to be seen."
Fans can write to A.J. McLean at the following address, according to his mother:
A.J. McLean/Johnny No Name
P.O. Box 691809
Orlando, Florida 32869
For MTV News' full-length interview with the group, check out "Backstreet Boys: 'We Want To Be Honest.' "