Carter was born April 30, 1990, and grew up in Hurley, NY surrounded by his older brothers, parents, and a large extended family. He spent his childhood summers on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and it was there he developed a deep connection to the land and to the sea that he would nurture for the rest of his life. The first years of Carter’s early life were truly the ‘stuff that dreams are made of’…
He grew to be six and a half feet tall, but his physical height was in direct contrast to the tender, shy and incredibly sensitive young man inside. He was a compassionate and humble man who loved his friends and family, and developed deep and personal connections with almost everyone he encountered. The people who knew him best understood that Carter rejoiced in their happiness as much as his own.
When he was ten years old, Carter experienced a unique kind of trauma – exposure to an unstable individual who harassed and stalked a member of his family for several years. He was an unintended victim of a hateful act, but, in many ways, he would carry the trauma with him for the rest of his life. He tried to find his new place and rhythm in this world, but it was due to the combination of these intense emotional triggers that his family sought alternative solutions to offer Carter the peace that nature and structure could offer. He went with an open mind and heart, looking for the best in everything and everyone that he encountered. During high school, Carter spent time in the mountains of southern California, and then graduated from high school in Utah, where he celebrated his special day at Sundance. Through it all, Carter made friends across the country and kept close touch with many of them throughout his life.
A second defining milestone in Carter’s battle with addiction came three years ago. While attending college, he suffered from severe complications following back surgery that prolonged his recovery and led to an extended regimen of pain medication. Although the attending doctor was informed about Carter’s predisposition to addiction, it wasn’t until several months later that family and friends learned the medicinal patches he had been prescribed contained Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Carter’s first experience with in-patient addiction treatment began shortly thereafter. It was the perfect storm of events and led to an escalation from drinking and smoking marijuana to the use of prescription drugs and, in the end, heroin.
To call him a “fighter” wouldn’t begin to qualify the challenges he faced, and we now know that there are so many more people just like him. Each time he went to treatment, Carter did so willingly and with real hope that it might be the last time. Along with him, we learned that addiction was not a flaw in Carter any more than in someone with heart disease or cancer – substance use disorder is a true medical disease. During one of the most challenging periods of struggle, Carter’s own words (in a letter to his mother) reflect his desire for peace: “Tonight I looked up at the stars and realized how special they are. People always say it’s the simple things in life that matter and I know exactly what they mean.”
Today, we remember Carter not for his addiction, but for what he accomplished in spite of the disease. He brought humor, love and peace with him wherever he went, and he brought pieces of all of his experiences back home to us: memories of the West Coast from his time in California, and of course a love of the land and the water which he found on the Vineyard and nurtured in the Rocky Mountains. We’re pretty sure he’d want us to remind you he finished a mini-triathlon in Utah, too. And don’t forget: Girl Scout cookies aren’t just a seasonal food item!
Carter’s story will continue through the work of Safe Sober Living, and we will leave you here with his words (written several years ago on a former roommate’s memorial page following that boy’s own overdose): “If I could give you one thing, it would be a second chance, because you are a great person with a great heart, and I know that it’s hard sometimes, but, as I’m learning, we just have to keep on working on….”