Henry Earl had been sober for about five months as he participated in an alcohol recovery program at the Hope Center. Then, on Sunday, he was arrested at Woodland Avenue and Maxwell Street for alcohol intoxication.
It was the longest Earl had ever gone without drinking, he said Tuesday during an interview at the Fayette County jail. Earl, 59, said he started drinking in his late teens as he coped with his mother's death and being alone in the world.
Earl, who has been arrested more than 1,000 times on alcohol-related charges, was supposed to graduate from the Hope Center's program at the end of April. He would have gotten a certificate: "Something I could frame, put up," he said somberly.
In October, Fayette District Judge Megan Lake Thornton, along with Earl's defense attorney and prosecutors, encouraged Earl to check himself into the recovery program.
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He was given two years probation in a plea deal and the judge said Earl would receive a 90-day sentence if he got arrested again.
"He was really doing really well," said his lawyer, Stephen Gray McFayden. "It's a little disappointing."
Lexington police picked up Earl about 2 a.m. Sunday. He was staggering and his speech was slurred, according to a police report.
Earl pleaded not guilty in court Monday and is scheduled to appear in court April 9 for a preliminary hearing.
"Before I go to court, I would like to tell the judge that I'd like to have another chance at it," Earl said.
McFayden said he thinks Earl might benefit from a program outside of Lexington — away from the people who might "pull Henry back."
But Earl, an Internet celebrity and Lexington's most famous alcoholic, said he likes home and doesn't want to get lost in a strange town.
"I'd rather be where I'm known," he said.
Earl talks about the meetings and familiar routines of the recovery program, saying rehab wasn't all that bad. But his craving for alcohol persisted and eventually won.
Still, Earl insists he can get clean. And he wants to do it before it's too late. Earl said he wants to recover before he gets drunk and something bad happens to him on the street.
"I might not look it," he said, "but I ain't getting no younger."