Charles Kelley Reveals That He Nearly Got a DUI Before Getting Sober
Lady A's Charles Kelley has been candid with fans about his journey towards getting sober. But there's one incident he's never spoken about directly until now: The time he nearly got a DUI while driving drunk.
During an appearance on Elizabeth Vargas' Heart of the Matter podcast, Kelley admits that while he was drinking, it became a "common occurrence" for him to have "four or five drinks" during a day on the golf course — then drive himself home.
"I was driving home drunk," Kelley admits. "It was a 10-minute drive, but there [was] a couple moments where I was like, 'Wow, that was really, really dumb, really dangerous.' ... Next day, I was like, 'Gosh, I could've killed somebody. I could've killed myself.'"
Then there was one particular occasion when Kelley had a near-miss with a DUI charge. It was around Christmas, he remembers, and his wife Cassie and son Ward were out of town for a couple of days — leaving the singer free to drink as much as he wanted without any family obligations. He spent a day playing golf and drinking at a local bar, and towards the end of the night, other patrons started to express concern about whether or not Kelley planned to drive home.
"And I was like, 'Man, if I don't drive back, my wife's gonna be like, 'Where's your car?'' Even though I could've gotten it the next morning. She wouldn't have known. She wasn't there," he recounts.
But, determined to make it home solo, he snuck out the back of the bar and drove away. On the very short drive back to his house, he got pulled over.
"[The police officer] looked at my license and he goes, 'Are you the guy in that band?' I was like, 'Yeah,'" Kelley continues. Rather than arrest him on DUI charges, the cop had him pull his car over, and drove him the rest of the way home. "Didn't give me a ticket or anything. I was like, 'Holy moly.' Bullet dodged," he adds.
Still, the event was a wakeup call: Kelley knew he had to tell his wife what had happened.
"I was like, 'I'm done. This is exhausting. I just got pulled over. I just literally almost ruined my life. Created all this chaos for the band.' Because it would've been awful press, of course," the singer continues.
He swore off alcohol and spent three months "white knuckling it," but eventually slid into old drinking patterns. It would be another year before he went to rehab and fully committed to sobriety.
After rehab, it wasn't long before Kelly let Lady A fans in on his battle with alcohol: The country trio was open with their fanbase about the fact that protecting Kelley's fledgling sobriety was the reason why they postponed their 2022 Request Line Tour. That honesty was Kelley's decision. His bandmates, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood, both suggested coming up with other excuses about why the band wasn't going on tour.
"I said, 'Nope, let's just be honest ... I'm not shameful of this ... This is the hardest thing I've ever done.' The easy way out would've been to just keep drinking and burn everything to the ground. I said, 'I'm grateful for this,'" Kelley relates. "... And that was kind of the turning point of, like, 'Alright, I guess I'm sharing it now.' So it's kind of snowballed in a very positive, good way."
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Gallery Credit: Billy Dukes