Lady A's Charles Kelley and Wife Cassie Recall Frightening Rock Bottom Moment Amid Struggle With Alcoholism

Charles Kelley
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

The couple candidly addresses the musician's road to recovery in a new interview with Gayle King.

Charles Kelley is sharing his story. The Lady A musician opens up about his battle with alcohol addiction in a new interview with Gayle King on CBS Mornings, candidly addressing the rock bottom moment that set him on the road to recovery. 

The country band announced last August that they would be postponing their planned Request Line Tour while Kelley embarked on "a journey to sobriety." 

In his new sit-down, which aired on Wednesday, Charles says that he used to joke with friends about being "a functioning alcoholic." 

"I said, 'I know I'm gonna have to stop at some point, but that's not today,'" he tells King. "That was always kind of my little joke. It was like, that tells you I kinda knew."

The artist is joined by his wife, Cassie McConnell, as the couple shares details about a trip to Greece that turned terrifying. 

"Basically, we got in an argument and I just turned my phone off in, you know, the middle of nowhere and just took off and stayed up drinking with all these random people I didn't know," Charles says. 

Cassie adds that she "never went to sleep" that night. 

"We had gotten in an argument and I had one of those moments where I'm just like, 'I'm so sick of being told what to do' and I turned off the phone," Charles recalls. "I didn't realize I had eight of my friends looking for me all night." 

Cassie continues, "The next morning I said, 'You need help. You have to deal with this.' And he said he knew. He made a plan with his manager and he flew directly from Greece to treatment. But at that point, I thought I was fully flying back to the U.S., going to meet with a divorce attorney, like, that was it."

The couple, who wed in 2009, shares a 7-year-old son, Ward. It's their child, Cassie says, who was the primary reason she decided not to call it quits on the marriage. 

"I think a marriage is built on a lot more than just love," she says. "But I think ultimately when I thought about, well, we have a 7-year-old who is either going to be in my home all the time or he's gonna be half the time in a home with his dad where I have no idea what's happening in that environment. And in order for me to take myself out of his life every day, it just never got to be that bad. Until it just is, you know. And that's kind of where we were leaving Greece."

Charles' road to recovery was a long time coming, as even his bandmates -- Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott -- had staged something of an intervention with him five years ago. 

"Dave and Hillary had sat me down," Charles says. "It was the first time that they had really, you know, I mean we would have shows like, 'Hey man, you might've had a little too much to drink that night.' I was like 'OK, well has it affected my - how hard I work? Has it affected the shows?' I think it was more, just, 'I'm worried about you.'" 

Charles admits that while drinking, he would often come across as "dismissive" and have emotional "outbursts." 

But he says that the most heartbreaking observations came from his young son. 

"Cassie would tell me some stories about how little things that Ward would say that I didn't even know he was noticing. You know, 'Daddy's talking a little funny.' Or, 'You and Daddy, you know, y'all argue a lot,'" he recalls. "That crushed me." 

Despite being "scared to death," Charles entered a rehab facility for one month of treatment. Today, he says, he relies on meetings to stay sober and blows into a "little device" every morning and night in an effort to win back the trust of his wife and his band. 

"What I learned is there are degrees of alcoholics," he notes. "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. And it can get there really easily. It's like no one that starts drinking starts at the top, it's just this gradual thing."

Today, Cassie gushes how "proud" she is of her husband. 

"It's not easy to walk through and it's not easy to, you know, stay connected and to just put your head down and do the work -- because it is a lot of work," she says. "Because he keeps showing up every day, I get to keep showing up every day and our family gets to be intact. So I'm really, really proud of him."

For his part, Charles adds that he "couldn't do it without her support." 

He concludes, "I feel a lot of love." 

Back in December, Charles channeled his experience into music with the new song "As Far As You Could." The redemptive ballad was considered to be "a goodbye letter to alcohol." 

"For me, the biggest word I’ve been holding on to is gratitude, not pride," he said via a news release at the time. "I’m grateful. I finally see the light and am connecting with what life is all about. Some days are hard, but the good so outweighs those bad moments. There’s some beauty in all this and I’ve had time to reflect, time to get healthy, time to write. I’ve probably written 50 songs this fall, and I feel like all of it was leading to this one song."

Last year, Charles also thanked fans for their enduring support. 

"I want to thank everyone who has shown me so much support and encouragement so far on my journey of sobriety," the "Need You Now" singer wrote.  

He continued, "Y’alls kind words have meant the world to me and really lifted me up over the past few weeks. I can’t wait to get back on the road with Lady A next year. Getting on that stage and being able to see, hear and feel everything through a clearer lens is going to be a gift that I won’t take for granted. ⁣ I’m grateful for this time to focus on my family and my health.⁣ Love, Charles."