We are all vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction: no matter where we come from, no matter how much money we make, no matter what our lives looked like prior to the development of our drug or alcohol use. This is a disease that we can all catch. While I’ve written these words many, many times, they were driven home particularly hard during a recent conversation with Florida songwriter and recovering addict Dan Carr. Recovery Unplugged had the privilege of speaking with Dan via telephone to discuss his addiction, the impact of music and spirituality on his recovery, and how he maintains it every day.
In 1994, Dan watched as his son passed away in his mother’s arms. A self-described social drinker prior to the tragedy, this profound and unspeakable loss sparked a descent into alcohol abuse and subsequent addiction: “For about 15 years, I went on the bender to end all benders. I managed to remain functional, but as the disease progressed, I just sunk deeper and deeper.” Carr is just as candid and matter-of-fact about his journey to recovery: “Finally, when I got tired of causing everyone around me pain, I surrendered to God and went into recovery. It was only then that I was able to get rid of the resentment toward the doctor who was responsible for my son’s death and move on with my life.”
A deeply spiritual person, Dan found his way to God through the 12- Step Process and Narcotics Anonymous. “The minute I lose my spirituality, I lose myself, I lose others around me and I go backwards. That’s just not for sale.” If anyone doubts Carr’s commitment to recovery, consider the fact that he got through the post-operative care of brain surgery without the use of any narcotic painkillers. “I’m an epileptic, but I didn’t really start to have problems with it until I was in recovery. I’ve actually had part of my brain removed and got through the pain of recovering from brain surgery with prayer and Tylenol.” His doctor sent him home with a bottle of OxyContin (his former drug of choice) and a script for pain management. He flushed them both down the toilet when he got home.
Carr also credits his closeness to God with being able to play bars every weekend without even the smallest desire to run back to alcohol. A lifelong musician, Carr has been writing lyrics and music for decades and has worked with artists and managers from all over the music industry, including legendary manager Bill Aucoin. A bass player by trade, he was mentored by former Yngwie Malmsteen bassist Wally Voss. “Music was my escape from everything; my escape from living in an abuse home…everything. I lived and breathed music.” Carr discloses being heavily influenced by Steven Tyler and fellow Floridian four-stringer Jaco Pastorious.
Carr’s substance abuse also dictated much of his material when he was actively using, eliciting angrier and more pained works that spoke to his current state within the disease. “The music I wrote was ridiculously angry. It was very dark and full of resentment. Little did I know, I was writing about myself AND the disease of addiction. After I got clean, low and behold, I wrote some beautiful music.” Carr is currently a working bass player in a funk cover outfit and the bass player of his church worship band. His original material is divided between a core group of musicians he plays and contracted outside musicians.
Carr remains ever mindful of the role music has played in his recovery and his everyday life and treats it like a gift from his higher power: “It’s this simple: music is a gift from my god; the ability to write and play music is a gift that God gave me. I continue to play and get spiritually charged because I’m honoring the gift that my god has given me, and without it I’d be lost.”