rachel's Reviews > The Night of the Gun

The Night of the Gun by David Carr
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Feb 12, 2015

it was ok
bookshelves: own, 2012, true-story
Read from April 13 to 17, 2012

UPDATE: Rest in peace, David Carr. Sending hopeful thoughts to your daughters.

If I have learned anything from my life over the past couple of months -- obsessively watching prison documentaries, reading The Night of the Gun, volunteering -- it is that there is great courage and great utility in being honest about your past. Raising awareness of what you have done not only helps the world understand, it helps you complete your own recovery. I know some people do not heal from talking about things, but I do. So here is my admission: the hospital I mentioned in a previous review was actually a behavioral hospital. I have been in rehab too. Not for addiction like David Carr, but for related mood disorders that I have struggled with for at least 12 years. At this point, it has officially been half of my life. I have never done drugs and my coping skills right now are top notch...but I have done some very stupid things because of this faulty wiring in my brain.

So I completely understand David Carr's impulse, upon leaving rehab and beginning his sober life after a sordid few years of crack/cocaine abuse and abuse of women, to detail his addicted past in his resumes and cover letters and to eventually write a book. Completing recovery means you have truly gone through some shit in your life. It also means that because you have seen the worst you're capable of, you will always be cautious of slipping back into that, even when your mind and body seem healthier than ever. Carr describes this well in his brief relapse with alcohol towards the end of the book.

One thing that impressed me about the book was that Carr's twin daughters were his impetus to change. Even though he didn't go get help immediately after their birth and the babies spent some time in crack dens, he wised up soon and committed to change in order to be a good father to them. I can tell you from my time spent in rehab among addicts that this is the exception, not the rule. And I'm not disparaging the people I met who had kids and were in for drug & alcohol. The addicts with children are most deserving of sympathy. They just illustrate the fact of how hard it is to overcome addiction even when your children come along and give you renewed strength. What Carr did is exceptional.

I got bored with his post-recovery life, if only because the journalism part of most journalist biographies tend to be very boring. See also: Rick Bragg. I understand that that part of the book is necessary -- to go from addiction to the New York Times is kind of a big deal. But I still have less than a passing interest in the details of most people's professional success. (Sorry, that sounds harsh.)

I do think this book is pretty inspirational, however. It is sweet and beautiful that he put so much effort into being a good parent and came out on the other end having achieved that, with two capable and happy adult children. At the risk of being a cheeseball, that is clearly his most important success.
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message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Beautiful review. I liked this book a lot, too.

I can tell you from my time spent in rehab among addicts that this is the exception, not the rule. And I'm not disparaging the people I met who had kids and were in for drug & alcohol. The addicts with children are most deserving of sympathy. They just illustrate the fact of how hard it is to overcome addiction even when your children come along and give you renewed strength. What Carr did is exceptional.

Yeah. Just....yeah.


rachel Thank you, Moira.

You know, when you mentioned depression before, I really considered saying something to you. I don't know why I didn't -- probably a little bit of fear. When I was really in its throes as a teenager and all through college, I never thought I would ever be thankful to have gone through what I did. But it has made me so much more compassionate and so much stronger, and in that way I don't regret the time lost.


message 3: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell Oh yeah, I know just what you mean - I remember being depressed (not "sad," depressed) when I was eight, and suicidal when I was 11. It basically chewed up decades of my life (right along with the alcoholism! dual diagnosis FTW!) - it got a LOT better when I was put on a mood stabilizer, which is supposedly how you can tell you're bipolar, ha. And yeah, the gift of suffering is basically compassion. (I also have a weird hail-fellow-well-met good feeling towards fellow ex-suicides ((as Walker Percy has it)) - "Oh a member of the club!")

It's amazing how much this stuff has been destigmatized in my lifetime....I guess that's partly the gift of Big Pharma, heh. But I remember in the eighties suicide and depression were just about as unmentionable as cancer in the fifties and sixties. And now it's changed completely. That was one reason why I always spoke out about it (one person called me a 'professional depressive' - hah) - just to let other people know they're not alone. That is such a big thing.

And in fine, as another friend of mine said when put on atypical antipsychotics for her bipolar: BRAINS. IF THEY WERE SO DAMN IMPORTANT, YOU WOULD THINK THEY WOULD WORK.


message 4: by rachel (last edited Apr 17, 2012 06:23PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

rachel It's amazing how much this stuff has been destigmatized in my lifetime....

For the most part, yes. The laziness stigma is the one that still upsets me. It's really tough to make people who've never had mental health issues understand, for example, that when you're having trouble finding motivation to get through the workday it's NOT because you're lazy but because your brain is sabotaging your success. I also grew up with my parents actively calling me lazy because I never had the energy to clean up after myself, and I was unmotivated in most of my schoolwork (English being the exception, natch). They're super supportive now and I know that they did it because they didn't understand, but at the same time it probably helped my anxiety go haywire.

Anyway. Very glad to hear that you are doing better these days, and that you've made peace with it. Mood stabilizers are wondrous things.

BRAINS. IF THEY WERE SO DAMN IMPORTANT, YOU WOULD THINK THEY WOULD WORK.

Hahaha. Truer words have never been spoken.


message 5: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell GOODREADS, Y U NO EMAIL ME UPDATES? Augh.

For the most part, yes. The laziness stigma is the one that still upsets me. It's really tough to make people who've never had mental health issues understand, for example, that when you're having trouble finding motivation to get through the workday it's NOT because you're lazy but because your brain is sabotaging your success.

....yeah....my dad still does the "You could have a teaching job/a play on Broadway/a bestselling novel" thing, which is....odd, because he's very depressed often himself (and probably bipolar, as are many, many other people in our family). My parents were really unsupportive right when it counted most, when I lost my mind in grad school and my life went completely into the shitter for about a decade, so I'm glad yours aren't like that.


rachel my dad still does the "You could have a teaching job/a play on Broadway/a bestselling novel" thing, which is....odd, because he's very depressed often himself

I don't want to get into further detail about my family history of depression, since that's their decision about whether or not they want to reveal it. But...it has been my experience that the family members who are most hypercritical and cruel are the ones who are also depressed. It's so hard to see it as their unhealthiness and not your fault. There are some nasty, heartless things that were said to me as a preteen by members of my family that I haven't gotten over to this day.

So, that's disheartening re: families but! The really awesome thing I saw when I was in inpatient is that there appear to be many families who have learned to support their depressed, anxious, angry and addicted kids, even if they don't always understand. That gives me hope.


message 7: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell rachel wrote: "it has been my experience that the family members who are most hypercritical and cruel are the ones who are also depressed. It's so hard to see it as their unhealthiness and not your fault. There are some nasty, heartless things that were said to me as a preteen by members of my family that I haven't gotten over to this day. "

That is OH, so very true. Yes.

The really awesome thing I saw when I was in inpatient is that there appear to be many families who have learned to support their depressed, anxious, angry and addicted kids, even if they don't always understand. That gives me hope.

-- That is also indeed very hopeful! I do think a lot of that is due to the medical model, and destigmatization. Even if the parents don't understand it at all, if it's presented as an actual disease that needs treatment and support, that must help a lot on all fronts. (My very first real therapist, in 1989, was awesome on all fronts except he said "Well I don't really think you need medication." Ahahaha.)


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