Lady A‘s Charles Kelley has opened up to CBS Mornings about his yearslong battle with alcoholism, which the singer said had a major impact on his relationship with his bandmates and family. “Cassie [Charles’ wife] would tell me some stories about how little things that [their seven-year-old son] Ward would say that I didn’t even know he was noticing. You know, ‘Daddy’s talking a little funny,’ or, ‘You and Daddy argue a lot,'” he said in the interview.
Last August the band postponed a tour to allow Kelley to enter treatment for alcohol abuse at a time when the singer said his drinking was taking a dark turn. “I remember joking, you know, with buddies. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m definitely a functioning alcoholic.’ And I said, ‘I know I’m gonna have to stop at some point, but that’s not today,'” Kelley said.
And while he called it his “little joke,” Kelley said he knew it wasn’t funny. His bandmates, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, confronted him about his drinking five years ago, telling him, “‘Hey man, you might have had a little too much to drink that night.’ I was like, ‘Okay, well, has it affected how hard I work? Has it affected the shows?'”
Kelley said at the time he was dismissive of their concerns and snapped at them, leading to what he described as emotional and verbal “outbursts” that didn’t escalate to physical fights, but made him realize alcohol was fueling his anger. It was his son Ward’s comments pointing out the effects of his drinking, though, that “crushed” him.
The singer told Gayle King that he’d tried to quit before but had never gone to rehab because it scared him and he thought people who entered treatment had serious drinking problems. “What I’ve learned is, there’s degrees of alcoholics,” Kelley said. “You know, I think that’s one of the things too that I want to even share is, like, just because you’re not living on the street, or you’re not waking up in a bush, like some stories you may hear, it can get there.”
Realizing it was time to make a change, Kelley entered rehab for a month and he said the combination of attending “lots” of group meetings with other alcoholics and learning to use tools helped him, as did having a device he has to blow into to check it blood-alcohol level every morning and night.
“Slowly, but surely, that has built the trust back that eventually I think that won’t be a necessity,” Kelley said of building back his relationship with his wife, band and everyone else in his life. HIs wife Cassie told King that she learned that Kelley’s journey to sobriety would also require her to do some heavy lifting while he was in rehab after their marriage hit a rocky stretch on a trip to Greece last year when the singer got into an argument with her and turned off his phone and took off for the night to drink with strangers.
When Cassie threatened to call a divorce attorney and urged him to get help Kelley saw the light and flew directly to treatment. “It just makes me feel so grateful at how close I came to losin’ it all,” Kelley said. “And I think the thing that’s hard is to know how much it affected Cassie the most, and my band, and the people around me. And how much it emotionally kinda wrecked them for a while. And that, I can’t really say I’m sorry enough. And it’s just gonna take time to rebuild that.”
Lady A are on tour now, on which they play Kelley’s original song, “As Far As You Could,” which he’s described as his goodbye letter to alcohol.
Watch the interview below.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) is available 24/7.