After a long, dark struggle with addiction, Backstreet Boy Nick Carter has emerged from the other side, strong and sober. Sadly, his sister, Leslie, wasn't so lucky: Her own demons overcame her and she died of a prescription drug overdose at the age of 25 last January. In his new memoir, Facing the Music and Living to Talk About It, Nick opens up for the first time about the pain of losing Leslie, and reveals why he didn't attend her funeral.
Nick admits he feels some guilt for being a bad role model for any part he played in his sister's demise. "The other kids in my family looked up to me, and when they saw me partying and getting into trouble, they figured that's how they should act too," he writes. "I didn't take my responsibility as their role model seriously enough."
His brother, Aaron, went to rehab in 2011 after being photographed smoking a pipe. But his sister Leslie, in particular, seemed unable to shake her addictions. "Leslie would get into trouble or do something hurtful," he writes. "I felt she was reaching out to me with one hand but pushing me away with the other. She wanted money and love, but at the same time, she lashed out at me. I wasn't equipped to handle it."
And so, he pushed her away as she went deeper and deeper into addiction.
"About a year before she died, Leslie showed up at my getaway home in rural Tennessee," Nick reveals. "I was in Los Angeles at the time. My security company called and said the alarm had gone off. Leslie had somehow found a way in. I had no idea she was there."
"Another time," he remembers, "she came out to L.A. and I heard she was trying to find sources for Xanax. I told her to stop, but she let me know in no uncertain terms that it was none of my business."
Nick writes, "Leslie was breaking my heart." But he felt there was little he could do.
"People have asked why I didn't intervene and send her to rehab," he admits. "But for rehab to work you have to be ready to heal yourself. … And as much as I wanted to help Leslie and my other siblings overcome their problems, I was wary of getting in too deep with them because I had my own challenges."
In January 2012, Leslie's struggle ended when she was found dead from an overdose of several prescription drugs. Shockingly, the family blamed Nick.
"It breaks my heart to even think about it now, but I did not go to Leslie's funeral," he reveals. "I was in New York City when she died. I couldn't get on the plane and go up there because some members of my family were blaming me for her death. It hurt me so badly to hear them say things like that. It really stung me."
"Some were saying that if I had been there for her, she wouldn't have died," he writes. " … I did intend to go to Leslie's funeral. I wanted to see my sister for the last time. I wanted to say goodbye to her that day, yet I also knew I had an obligation to take care of myself."
He continues, "When I spoke with the family members organizing the services and they unloaded on me like that, I just knew I couldn't be there. I got sick talking to them. I was crying, lying on the floor in the bathroom for two hours. I was so upset; I couldn't go up there to our mother's place because I didn't want to be around all that negativity. My body and mind couldn't have taken it."
Instead, he chose to perform at a concert in NYC just two days after her death.
After years of therapy and soul-searching, however, Nick says he finally knows that "I loved her and she loved me, despite our differences … I've made peace with my memories of Leslie now, but it took a long time."