This is a story of addiction, decline, recovery and family. It is also the very embodiment of empathy.
In Lost in Ghost Town, Dr. Carder Stout recounts a middle-class upbringing and a childhood of privilege, at least from outside appearances. Underneath was a family history of alcoholism and crime that shape Stout’s destiny – or at least until he could take control of his own life journey.
He grew up without enjoying the benefits of family. Rather than having an emotional and social safety net, he felt alone, lost and without a sense of purpose or direction. He remembers running away from a lot of trauma in search for the things that were missing in his life. His first experiences with alcohol were at seven years old. First experiences with pot at nine. And recollections of his first addictive behaviour at eleven years old with an eating disorder.
At boarding school at 14, he began experimenting with drugs. But it wasn’t until he lived in New York that his appetite for cocaine grew. An early career in film brought a remarkable collection of actors and entertainers into Carder Stout’s life. That world also brought temptation. And drugs would eventually be one of the things that drew him to Los Angeles.
Ironically, the west coast was meant as an escape. He drove across the country to Beachwood Canyon to get back to himself – to be good to his body and mind. He moved to Venice after a month-long stay in rehab. It was to be a test of willpower. One that he would lose. Lost in Ghost Town is the story of one year in Oakwood. An confessional, depressing and humorous tale which proves that before you can be found, you must get lost.
Through a set of strange circumstances Stout becomes a driver, ferrying around Flynn, who was a prominent member of the Shoreline Crips, on drug deals. It is in this unlikely environment that he found self-worth, belonging and comradery. Not, as you would expect, with gang members, but with Flynn and his grandmother Beatrice who provided the sense of family that he was missing most of his life.
In this lowest of moments, he found kindness, laughter and levity that reignited a sense of possibility and established a belief that he was going to be ok. A feeling that had disappeared since childhood.
Lost in Ghost Town, and Stouts life story so far are point to something more crucial for what ails society today. There is tension, uncertainty and a growing empathy recession. Stout firmly believes that we are more alike than we can imagine. And despite differences in lived experiences, religions and politics, we hold a similar same belief system.
A search for solidarity; to see and embrace our commonalities could be way to find the perfect companion on the road to purpose just as Carder Stout did.
In his darkest moments Stout came across a pile of books. Sitting on top was Extravagaria by Pablo Neruda. A book that was meant to be discovered by him. In the pages and specifically within the poem Keeping Quiet, he found his internal monologue and a sense of peace and purpose.
by Pablo Neruda
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Keeping Quiet was a message that Carder Stout needed at moments in his life. And now, as we are all living through some element of isolation, it is useful medicine for our souls too.
Stout speaks frequently about the wounded healer and now uses his experiences and insight to support others in their journeys from addiction, depression and fracture. Wisdom and comfort can be found in Lost in Ghost Town and his many talks and podcast appearances. When we spoke, Dr. Carder Stout also prescribed a dose of Van Morrison – especially his appearance at the Grand Opera House in Belfast to take you to a better place.