Celebrity journalist and author David Carr died on February 12, leaving behind an extraordinary tale of addiction and recovery. He was hailed as a paragon of integrity and consideration for others—a description he would have found ironic, given his self-acknowledged history of dishonesty and general disregard for his fellows.
Carr chronicled his addiction in his book Night of the Gun, approaching it forensically as if investigating someone else’s life. In a peculiarly insightful twist, Carr compares his personal memories of events to the facts as they emerge when he interviews people who in most cases were more present—less intoxicated—than he was at the time. As observed by producer Robert Evans in his own autobiography, “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth,” and Carr digs earnestly to uncover the truth of his ordeal.
At the height of his addiction to cocaine, at which point he was both smoking and shooting the drug, Carr and his addict/dealer girlfriend became the parents of twin girls, born premature and requiring lengthy hospitalization and special procedures. After months of desperate and incompetent parenting, Carr and the girlfriend entered rehab. For Carr, it took, and when he died he had more than twenty six years of recovery.
As a newcomer with limited resources, Carr wound up with custody of the twins. His participation in recovery took him from a deep bottom—in treatment he had to soak his arms in a tub of antibacterial solution in order to heal the massive infections from IV drug use—to a new marriage, another child, and a successful career. Regarding his recovery, he wrote, “Slogans saved my life. All of them—the dumb ones, the imperatives, the shameless, witless ones. I lustily chanted some of those slogans and lived by others. There is nothing romantic about being a crackhead and a drunk—low-bottom addiction is its own burlesque that needs no snarky annotation. Unless a person is willing to be terminally, frantically earnest, all hope is lost . . . Hope is oxygen to someone who is suffocating on despair. ”