Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Night of the Gun by David Carr

The Night of the Gun by David Carr in 2008 was a remarkable memoir of addiction, single parenting and a career in journalism from the New York Times writer who died recently at the age of 58. The book is a sort of going back in time for Carr, with him researching and conducting interviews about his past and he writes of how our memories can selective, and not actual representations of what occurred. Carr provides an incredibly honest account of his life, with details about the depths of his addiction to crack cocaine, horrendous parenting decisions prior to rehab, and events after his successful six-month stint in drug rehab, including the difficulties that can come with a blended family and then Carr's trouble with alcohol years after kicking drugs.

At the beginning of the book, Carr wrote of how he grew up in a Minneapolis suburb and while in high school drank, smoked pot every day along with doing other drugs, and then did cocaine for the first time on his 21st birthday. He went to drug treatment for the first time in 1984 and was a successful journalist by the mid-1980s, then freebased cocaine for the first time in early 1986 at 29 years old and after that started smoking crack cocaine. Crack took things to a whole new level, both in how great the experience was and in its negative ramifications. In terms of the dangerous situations that alcohol and drugs got him into, it's amazing that he made it through and a dominant thing that comes out about the wild times is how the life really was exciting, until it wasn't anymore.

In April 1988, Carr became a father when fellow junkie Anna gave birth two months prematurely to twin girls, Erin and Meagan, and Carr on November 18th of that year gave them to his parents to watch (after he left the girls in a cold car to go and get high) and a week later entered Eden House, a state of Minnesota-funded six month treatment program. During a fair amount of this time the twins were with excellent temporary foster care and Carr's parents would bring them by Eden House every weekend to visit. When Carr got out, he lived in a house for recovering addicts and the girls were living with Anna at the time after she did a rehab stint. However, while Carr was able to throw his energies into rebuilding his journalism career, Anna fell back into the drug dealing life and Carr in May 1990 successfully filed for full custody. At that point, so many people, especially family, helped Carr raise the girls with he as a single parent and increasingly more successful journalist. Related to his career, Carr at one point in the book notes how his goal was to have enough juice that he would not get pushed around by lesser men or women who were his superiors.

In December 1991, Carr got cancer, a disease that at the time resulted in the removal of his spleen and difficult rounds of chemotherapy. This is the disease that eventually killed him some 23 years later and it's sad reading what Carr in his book wrote about how cancer becomes a part of you that keeps it's own schedule, with your body as the host. In 1993, Carr met Jill, who would become his second wife when the twins were six years old and the family moved to Washington D.C. in 1995 when Carr got the job as editor of the Washington City Paper. Their daughter Madeline was born in December 1996 and in 2000 Carr moved to New York to write for The site ran out of money after a year and he did contract writing for New York Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly and then got a call from the New York Times about working there and became a staff writer.

Carr had a drink again in November 2002, later realizing that he had stopped thinking of himself as an alcoholic and figured drinking not a big deal, and in 2005 he could have killed his daughters while driving drunk and then was arrested for a DWI while driving solo to college night at the twins' high school. He then went to detox for a few days, came out and went back to regular meetings and there's no mention in the book of drinking again. It was a great book from Carr and sad that cancer took him when it did, regardless of how lucky he may have been to have made it past his drug and alcohol abuse unscathed.