On this episode of Pretty Messed Up, AJ McLean, Cheryl Burke, and Rene Elizondo welcome AJ’s wife Rochelle onto the podcast to talk about what it’s like to love an addict for eleven years, what she thinks is different this time, explain the flaming jean jacket story, and who of the Backstreet Boys she would kiss, marry, and kill. But first, they give us a peek behind the camera of Dancing with the Stars, from the out-of-order editing to the scoring process, and have a profound conversation about actor and Armchair Expert host Dax Shepard recently revealing his relapse. Rene understands how Dax must be feeling, because he relapsed after 14 years of sobriety, and was a mentor and sponsor to so many other people; “You have to walk through a lot of shame that you put on yourself,” he says.
AJ’s been sober for ten months, the longest period in he and Rochelle’s entire eleven year relationship. Rene and Cheryl both want to hear Rochelle’s perspective of living with and loving an addict; Rene acknowledges that it must be very frustrating, because “the disease of addiction is such a weird thing that you can’t apply reason to….what we do makes no sense,” comparing it to eating shellfish, almost dying from an allergy attack, and then ordering it again. Rochelle recounts her experiences learning that AJ had a problem, and how at first she would just throw things out or water down his alcohol behind his back, before she realized she was just enabling his addiction. Things got really bad when AJ called her from Las Vegas, telling her his jean jacket had spontaneously burst into flames. He swore it had nothing to do with him; “I knew he was wasted.’
She was “ready to leave him,” she says, “able to see a life without AJ,” and he knew it; he told Rene he was really done this time, and was willing to do whatever it took. Rene told him to be at his house at six the next morning, not really believing that he would show up. But at 5:30, he was there, “ready to work,” Rene says. “I thought, ‘I’ve waited so many years for you,’ and I know you did too, Rochelle.” Now, he checks into his daily AA meeting from the DWTS rehearsal room. “All of a sudden, we’ve got Aladdin in our group!” Cheryl says she makes sure to stop rehearsal for it: “That’s the priority, not to learn the samba or whatever,” she says. They learn a lot more about AJ, and talk about what triggers a relapse, why Rochelle stayed through so many ups and downs, and why Nelly should be wearing dancing shoes; hear the whole real and raw conversation on Pretty Messed Up.
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