“I made the mistake of getting a beer license. He would drink more than we would sell,” Melody Childs-Clark says as she recalls the moment that her husband’s, Matt Childs, drinking started to really get out of hand. The couple met in August of 2002, hit it off, and decided to open a restaurant in June of 2003—they both had restaurant experience. Child’s parents, Donna and James Childs Sr., had owned one for many years—and eight months in Melody decided to get the beer license.
He had his first drink at 14-years-old; Childs recalls that it “made him feel cool,” but it wasn’t until he had unrestricted access to his restaurant’s booze that things started to really get out of hand. “More was coming home than going to customers,” Childs says agreeing with Melody. Five years later the restaurant closed down and the drinking persisted.
At first glance you would never know that Childs had a severe alcohol problem. In fact, nowadays, he looks like the kind of guy who has never touched the stuff. But if you ask him about his past he rattles it off in a matter-of-fact manner: “ 30 total arrests, 40 or more emergency room visits, 20 detox’s, three trips to rehab, two visits to the ICU and I’ve been to the psych ward a couple of times.”
Finally after 20 years of black outs, fits of rage, suicidal thoughts and false promises of getting clean, he hit rock bottom. Three days into another detox attempt Childs couldn’t take it anymore. Armed with whatever money had on him, he called his mom asking for five dollars—he swore it wasn’t for beer. But Childs couldn’t sleep or eat; this was a vicious cycle he was all too familiar with. His hopeful mother handed over the five bucks and minutes later he did what everyone expected.
“I bought two six packs of Natural Light and chugged them all in ten minutes,” recalls Childs. “I blacked out then the police showed up.”
He doesn’t remember how he got to the hospital. Melody though, remembers the night perfectly—she’s witnessed these episodes all to often.
“The whites of his eyes were glazed over, Melody remembers with a glum tone in her voice. “He looked possessed and when the police came over, they said the same thing.”
When Childs finally came to, the head of his anger therapy group—which he attended once in awhile—was staring right back at him. “You remember me?” he chortled, mockingly. He once told Childs that he would see him on the front page of the newspaper for murder, after kicking him out of his class. At this point, Childs wasn’t giving him a reason to believe otherwise.
“I never knew how to handle that,” Childs says as he remembered the instant flood of motivation that one comment filled him with. “I looked at him and said ‘I’ve been through this s**t a thousand times but when I come back [from detox] it’s on. I’m not looking back.”
On December 17, 2014, Childs was sent to Atlanta, GA for, what he recalls to be his “twentieth or so” detox. Six days later Donna was there to pick her son up. This time, the routine was different.
“It was 3:30 in the afternoon and I told her ‘mom, you have to take me to a meeting.” Childs had regularly made fun of Alcoholics Anonymous but over the course of the following 90 days he attended 217 meetings, whether it be through AA, his church, or therapy.
While his family has always been supportive, Childs wasn’t ignorant to other’s skepticism. He did, after all, spend most of his life going to rehab, coming back and then relapsing again. He knew he just needed to show not tell.
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