SALT LAKE CITY — Saying he is an alcoholic who relapsed three months ago, the head of the popular "Shaytards" YouTube video blogging family has announced he is entering rehab.
Shay Carl Butler, who calls himself "The Vlogfather" on Twitter, has shared the importance of his Mormon faith in the Shaytard vlogs, a centerpiece of a digital media empire that has generated 2.6 billion video views and millions of dollars.
Butler co-founded Maker Studios, a multichannel network he and his partners sold to Disney for $650 million in 2014. Maker Studios is in the news this week as an apparent albatross around the neck of Disney, which is planning layoffs, according to a story in Digiday.
Butler said he has struggled with alcoholism for years. He called it a lifelong disease when he announced via Twitter on Feb. 12 that he was going to stop vlogging and enter rehab.
"I have a problem," Butler wrote, saying his wife and children are supporting him.
"My purpose is to rehab," he said. "It's my only priority. I will not be on the Internet. I'm sorry if you expected more out of me. I'm sorry I've let you down. I'm sorry I let my family down. I'm sorry I let myself down."
The family had planned to take a break. On Sept. 28, the Butlers announced they would "vlog" until March 5, Butler's 37th birthday, then take a year off, according to tubefilter.com.
"I want to make it a personal goal to not post anything to YouTube for a year," Butler said then. "I want to kind of internalize and re-calibrate and just process this crazy journey that all of this YouTube adventure has been for us."
The day after Butler's Twitter message that he had relapsed and would enter rehab, an adult webcam actress alleged that Butler had exchanged explicit messages with her via Twitter, again drawing attention to the video blogger. Butler has not responded to the allegations.
Relapses are common among alcoholics. About one-third of people who are sober less than a year remain sober, according to a scientific study of 1,200 addicts, reported Psychology Today. Of those who achieve a year of sobriety, less than half will relapse. The chance of a relapse for those who reach five years of sobriety is 15 percent.
Butler has been making videos with his wife, Colette, and their five children for more than six years. The "vlogs" allow millions to follow the family's humorous and energetic daily life. The family's main channel has 4.9 million subscribers and has generated hundreds of millions of video views.
Butler helped create an original, full-length YouTube Red documentary "Vlogumentary," about the website's biggest "vlogging" stars. "If life is worth living, it's worth recording," Butler said in an advertisement for the show.
The family seamlessly shared its Mormonism in its videos, visiting Temple Square in Salt Lake City and talking about their children's Primary events.
Butler brought his family to Provo, Utah, in December 2014 to join other Mormon and Christian YouTube and entertainment stars in setting the record for the largest live nativity scene. More than 1,000 people joined the event with Butler as a wise man.
"We figured this was the best place to be, rather than in the mall or cyber shopping somewhere," he told the Deseret News.
Several people have credited the joyful portrayals of the family's YouTube life with inspiring them to investigate and eventually join the LDS Church, including one man whose mother struggled with alcoholism.
ABC's Nightline featured the family in 2015.
"The ultimate answer to the question, 'Why do people watch your videos?' is because inside I think people want a happy family," Shay Butler told Nightline. "I think that is a longing for a lot of people. And I think that is why a lot of people watch, to get hope that they can have that."