Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jason Carter Is Helping To Change Our World

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Nobody cares. If you’re worried about what people might think or how they’ll react, don’t. 99% of the people in your life understand less than 1% about the real, genuine soul brimming inside you. And you’re under no obligation to explain it to anyone who’s not 100% interested in hearing about it.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Carter.

Jason Carter is a husband, father and entrepreneur who struggled for decades with depression and alcoholism before beginning the journey to recovery. In his new memoir, To Hell I Ride: When a Life Examined Became Worth Living (Lioncrest Publishing, Jan. 2022), he takes an unflinching look into the darkest corners of his past and how he found clarity — and ultimately redemption — on a reflective road trip from Texas to Telluride.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I have to start by saying, wow! Thank you for this platform, created to connect people and ideas on a global scale. It’s not lost on me the number of heroic challenges you and your team have conquered, pouring your best efforts into building this connective repository of extraordinary, idealistic voices.

So, I was born in San Diego at the US Naval Hospital. My dad served in the Marines and got stationed at Camp Pendleton in the 70s. But the first time I felt like I had a legitimate place to call home came nearly six years later after bouncing around the Midwest while my dad tried stitching a life in the private sector together. First by working on his family farm in southwest Nebraska, then opening a bar called The Last Resort, before earning an MBA on the other side of the state in Lincoln, where he commuted 60 miles to campus each day from my grandparent’s lake house. Near graduation, the job offers came rolling in. And one day, he asked my older brother and me if we’d like to live in Detroit or Southern California. No offense to Motor City, but the decision was a no-brainer — even as a five-year-old. So, we migrated to Laguna Hills, California, where I started trying to stitch together my own normal childhood. Which I did, for three years, before coming unraveled the second my parents divorced.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

There were so many great books I tumbled into when I was young. But I can whittle the impact factor down to two. First, in second or third grade, I read The Cricket in Times Square. Great lessons on friendship, survival, and appreciating the simple beauty in life, even under the worst circumstances, like living in squalor underneath the subway. But the star of the book was New York City itself. And despite Garth Williams presenting New York as a tough place to live, all gritty and merciless, it planted this seed in my head that I’d never know a full life until I lived there.

Flash forward to high school when I got my hands on The Prince of Tides. It was the first book I read where the writer’s command of language took center stage over the story. Of course, it was a mind-blowing family saga. Still, I found myself re-reading specific passages repeatedly, fascinated by how Pat Conroy painted these delicate, stirring pictures with words, using them the same way Miles Davis used a horn and Georgia O Keefe used a brush. More inspiring to me was the way Conroy used 500 words to describe the smell of an otherwise ordinary salt marsh or cornmeal biscuit, essentially giving Strunk and White, and every conventional composition teacher obsessed with brevity and thrift, the middle finger. On a deeper, more dysfunctional level, my dad was a tried-and-true Hemingway man, obsessed with using sharp lines to connect A to B, driven mad by adverbs and adjectives. He chided my loose and manic writing style, often saying my drafts, creative papers written in middle and high school, were too thick for a cow to chew on. In Conroy’s work, especially in the Great Santini, I found damaged heroes I related to and rooted for. Unconventional, well-meaning young men trying to get out from under their dad’s steel-toed boots. Introducing myself to the idea it was okay, maybe healthy, for independent thinking boys to love and worship their fathers while at the same time understanding that they’re shattered versions of their best selves. This is what makes most fathers complicated, if not complete assholes.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

A summer internship at an ad agency turned into a full-time job offer, which I took in a heartbeat, leaving college to do so. But before I finished daydreaming about all my Clio awards I’d win once they put me in creative, I was tasked with running a critical function of their new business arm, managing a database of prospects and the agency’s systematic outreach. This was in 1995, so the entire business unit ran on DOS, an acronym that might as well have stood for Distressed or Scared. I had no idea how to use it and was too stupid to ask for help. I came into work every day terrified I’d be labeled a fraud. Ultimately, I sent out a holiday mailer to their clients in a mail merge. I sent what I wrote to my older brother, John, to check the long, year-end holiday message for quality. To be fair, it was a terrific letter. Smart, witty, futuristic. But I didn’t realize the software program would default and pull the same name for every letter unless the space after “Dear” on the source letter was left blank. So, at home over Thanksgiving, believing life was great and about to get a whole lot better, I got a call from the agency informing me I’d just sent a “Dear John ‘’ letter to every one of their clients, representing a book of business in the 50M range. I might’ve thrown up. They rightly fired my ass, and I slinked back to college, numb and thunderstruck. I still have nightmares about sending e-mails to this very day. The takeaway is so obvious. ASK FOR HELP. But what I’ve seen in my 20 years of experience afterward is that asking for help is hard for people to do, be it in work or life in general, because asking for help exposes our biggest imaginary fear, that we’re vulnerable and weak.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

According to The World Health Organization, over 400 million people struggle to keep their alcohol use in check. And since most problem drinkers are Olympic-grade liars, that number could be well north of a billion. Either way, the guardians of culture concluded that the only way for these morally bankrupt people to move forward and function in society is to admit they’re ridden with an incurable disease and accept that they’re too weak and powerless to evolve. After which, they’re expected to spend the rest of their lives groveling for forgiveness, cloaked in shame.

It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ask for help! The way I see it, each of us, the 7 billion or so people living on earth, are unique in ways that defy numerical measurement. So, forcing everyone into a one-size-fits-all solution to solve a delicate issue with infinite limbs motivated me to tell my own story. So that others might find the courage to review the game tape of their own drinking lives and find their own original path forward.

I’m not advocating against treatment programs, not even a little bit. But when a drinker is hovering over or breaking through rock bottom, there’s no lonelier place on earth, exposing the kind of vulnerability capable of crippling clear, confident thinking.

I was reminded by a friend who finished my book of a CS Lewis quote. He wrote me a note saying, “We read to know we’re not alone.” The most humbling feedback I’ve received, coming from various people, different generations and even religions, is how relatable my story feels to them, which they found comfort in, empowering most to at least entertain the idea that a course correction is needed — and absolutely possible. To be sure, To Hell I Ride is not a how-to quit drinking book. It’s a how-to think about your drinking book.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Oddly enough, something I realized just now is a dubious connection to The Cricket in Times Square and Chapter 21 in my book, “Start Spreading the Booze,” which details my bewildering experience of moving to and living in New York after college. All those ethereal lessons about survival and connecting the beauty of life to the present moment, living in squalor be damned, were left way behind. This could’ve been helpful to remember because I pinpointed my year in New York when I marched forward towards my destiny with the steady footing of a hummingbird flying through a cloud of meth smoke, as when I shifted from a fun guy binge drinker into a full-blown alcoholic.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

As any of the incredible writers and producers and business leaders profiled in The Authority Magazine can attest, the total commitment required by anyone, much less a procrastinate-prone writer, to bring a meaningful idea to life, at least on the page, takes the better part of a year, in most cases, many more. Knowing this, I sat with my own story in silence for months, struggling, intimidated and guilty because I believed in the absolute truth that God called on me to write it. Still, understanding the grind of doing it right, I resisted the call, tapping into the darkest powers of self-loathe and personal doubts about my ability to do it.

And one day, I was playing golf. It was mid-July in Texas, over 100 degrees, and I was walking 9 holes alone. Dragging myself up the steep hill of a long par 5, I had a vision. I was sitting at some tropical resort by the pool, minding my own business. And I noticed that a man across the pool was staring at me. He had pale skin, which was sunburned. And a head covered with thinning red hair. About 45 years old. The next thing I know, he comes over to my side of the pool, with who I assumed were his wife and young kids. He stops in front of me, “Are you Jason Carter?” “Yes,” I say. He looks to his wife and kids, suddenly short of breath. “This is the guy who wrote the book that saved my life.” When I finally found my wayward tee shot, I found myself sobbing tears of joy, alone on the golf course, just me a God, which gave me the resolve I needed to bite down and write the words, Chapter 1.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

When I finished the first draft, which took about a year of intermittent spurts, I asked a friend I’d known since college who I suspected was seeking a way out of King Alcohol’s grip to give it a read. Within a week, this friend reported back the most positive feedback I’d ever received. And this was coming from a strong, voracious reader. Which helped me keep charging forward. Then, about six months later, as I got deeper and deeper into my rewrites, this friend quit drinking, citing the draft she read as the reason why.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Recently I listened to Rob Lowe’s podcast, Literally. His guests were Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry, who were on the show to discuss the book they co-wrote — What Happened to You? Mind. Blown. A treasure trove of specific, human observations and actionable advice. As it turns out, their thesis is built around insights on what our culture needs for a deeper understanding of the core issues individuals and communities face. Now when I see someone screaming at a Starbucks barista for screwing up their order, instead of my natural reflex to think, “what the hell is wrong with this bozo?” Instead, I make an effort to think, “what the hell happened to this person?” This triggers my sense of compassion. I’m not perfect, but this helps me see the world through a softer lens when I’m intentional about it. So on the community level, as far as problem drinking goes, a little individualized understanding and compassion might alter the course of the people living in it, then humanity. For the most part, the people who get carried out of dinner parties, stained red with wine, are vilified behind closed doors. And the ones who finally quit drinking to improve their lives, consequently, are condemned even more. In either case, people rarely stop to ask “why?”

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Anyone I’ve ever wanted to volunteer my best for is a great leader. In sports, I practiced and played harder for the coaches I admired. In school, I got As in the classes taught by the teachers I wanted to impress. The same held true in my professional life. We’ve all worked for an insane idiot boss. And even if we asked, “gosh, what happened to this dude?” a million times, we’d still despise that person. The one thing connecting all the great leaders I’ve followed thus far is that they demonstrated a total commitment to improving their personal craft while taking the time to discover, understand and ultimately maximize the individual strengths of those they lead. Think more Phil Jackson, less Bob Knight.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Nobody cares. If you’re worried about what people might think or how they’ll react, don’t. 99% of the people in your life understand less than 1% about the real, genuine soul brimming inside you. And you’re under no obligation to explain it to anyone who’s not 100% interested in hearing about it.
  2. Anybody struggling to quit drinking telling you it’s hard or impossible never wanted to quit drinking. Everything in life boils down to a choice.
  3. People not pushing you forward are actively pulling you back. By deciding to quit drinking, you decided it’s time to unleash your latent superpowers on the world. Anybody not excited about that or who seems flustered by your interest in doing new things has got to go.
  4. It’s not personal. Be it social drinking or binge drinking, people who do it want to be doing it more than anything else on earth. Which is fine. Drinking is awesome. So don’t expect anyone to join you Friday at 5pm for goat yoga or a spin class.
  5. The greatest gift we have as humans is the ability to choose how we feel. Get in the habit of choosing joy. It’s not easy. As with anything, it takes practice. Try smiling while flying coach cross country on a Spirit Airlines red-eye. If you can do that, the world, my friend, is yours.
  6. Bonus round: You might quit drinking and go on to climb Mt. Everest, start a crazy new unicorn company or find the cure to cancer. But anybody who knew you back in the drinking days will always think of you as the guy who ruined the wedding or wrecked Sunday buffet. That is until you stop thinking about yourself that way.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In the early days of sobriety I found myself overly excited with new ideas, leading me to make new plans for my future. Naturally, I shared many of those ideas with people I know. And soon learned most people, even the ones who love you the most, are wired to protect their own from the risks associated with change, so they’ll counter everything with statements leading back to the status quo. Then I came across a quote from Robert Downey Jr. that relieved me from the frustration of trying to convince anyone that what I wanted or wanted to do needed to be justified by them. “Listen, smile, and agree, then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.” It’s like Chicken Soup for the soul’s drive-in version.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Wow, this is a tough one. My list includes Bill Clinton, Phil Jackson, Russel Brand, Dax Shepard and Rob Lowe. I’m a big fan of GP and her team at Goop, folks fully committed to the idea that curiosity applied to wellness is in fact wellness. But it’s topped by Oprah. Her personal story and global accolades are well known. She’s bigger than everything. But I get the sense when she’s sharing time over lunch with another person that she’s there, entirely present, and spiritually connected. Which I can only imagine as an overwhelming, transformative experience — as close as we can get to meeting God on earth.

How can our readers further follow your work online? acts as the defecto hub for my various social channels like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Jason Carter Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.