At age 17 McCready left Ft. Myers, Fla. and moved to the country music capital of Nashville, with hopes of stardom. Just one year later her debut album, "Ten Thousand Angels" sold two million copies.
When McCready first jumped on the scene she really did seem like she had it all. She wore a lot of midriff baring tops. She had a spunky girls-can-do-it-their-way attitude.
But her next three albums were all considered commercial failures and her personal life spiraled out of control with a substance abuse problem.
Whitney Pastorek, a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly, told CBS News, "It really seemed like McCready became more of a tabloid headline than a music headline, and that her scandals started to outweigh the significance of her singles."
McCready fell into an abusive relationship with singer Billy McKnight in 2005 he was charged with attempted murder after beating and choking her.
More problems followed in 2008 when it was rumored that McCready had an ongoing affair with baseball pitching legend Roger Clemens. She says the relationship was sexual, Clemens claimed they were just friends.
Then just this March, a sex tape surfaced showing her with an ex-boyfriend.
But McCready says her low point came during the last of her three stays in jail. Her 17-month-old son came for a visit, but didn't even recognize her. The moment inspired her to go back to her cell and write the song, "I'm Still Here." The song is the title track to her latest album.
This year she appeared on VH-1's reality show, "Celebrity Rehab," which is part of her battle to overcome the addiction problem that reportedly led to several suicide attempts.
But McCready told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill she didn't consciously make any suicide attempts.
"I didn't knowingly ever try to kill myself," she said. "I was never if a state in which I was conscious and with it and said, 'Oh, I want to die.' It was after there had been a depressing moment or, you know, a crushing thing had happened to me that I, you know, I would drink too much and I don't really remember making those decisions."
However, she said she did reach her lowest point when her son came to visit and didn't recognize her.
"It was crazy," McCready said. "I had been in jail for about two months. When I left Zander at my mom's house in Florida, I didn't know that I was going to be jailed for very long. I thought that I would go and make bail and then get to come back and get my child. So, the custody that I signed over to my mom was very temporary. And it turned into them not letting me out for six months. And so, a couple months into the stay he came up to visit. The night I went to jail was actually my very first night to sleep without him."
She continued, "And so when he came up, I walked in the visiting room and he didn't remember me. He started crying. It was just -- I remember being the most painful experience ever, that I've ever had."
And that's when McCready says she realized she needed some help. So she decided to go on "Celebrity Rehab." But why go so public with her struggle?
"Everybody thought they knew everything about me," she said. "Everybody thought, 'Oh, there's a drug problem, an alcohol problem, there's this. There were so many articles that were written that were, you know, a slight bit of truth but mostly very, you know, tabloid-y. And the scandals were a lot bigger than the real deal."
McCready said the show wasn't just about getting help, but also addressing rumors.
"'Celebrity Rehab'" was something that Dr. Drew talked me into as far as him being a doctor," she said. "You know, I didn't expect to get help on TV. People think, 'Oh, that's a TV show.' But it really did save my life. Dr. Drew was amazing."
On the show, McCready said she learned she had a relationship addiction, rather than a substance addiction.
"I didn't even know that existed," she told Hill. "I knew co-dependency was -- I knew a little about it. I knew about battered woman syndrome and a little from being on the Oprah Winfrey Show what that was like, but I didn't understand co-dependency and that it was actually dangerous, that it was considered to be as dangerous if not more dangerous than drugs and alcohol. Dr. Drew explained to me he felt my acting out when I drank too much or the things that I was doing were just symptoms of a much larger problem that needed to be addressed."
McCready, who has been trying to make her way back, was rushed to a hospital in Florida. McCready broke her toe.
"I had a really severely broken toe," she said. "My mom overreacted to -- I really honestly would like to say that it was just a situation where I think there was -- my mom was taking advantage of the situation. If I had been there for an actual overdose I would be locked up. They don't allow you to leave the hospital if there was any sign of suicide attempt or if I was -- my life was ever in danger, they never would have let me leave."
Now McCready is fighting to get custody of her son, Zander.
"It's been a very difficult road for me," she said. "Other mothers in Florida have definitely not had to face the things I've had to face regarding getting my son back. They are made it as difficult on me as possible where, you know, family services is supposed to help families come together. They've really actually driven ours apart. Zander is now showing signs of being in the same household in which I grew up in. There's some anger issues and some aggression that's there that, you know, he's 4 years old and it's very disturbing to go down there and visit my son and see him acting like that."
But McCready said she's going to "absolutely" get her son back.
"He's my son," she said. "He belongs with me."