Carrick Forbes and her struggle to get stay away from drugs was the subject of a Dateline documentary in July 2005. Since then, viewers have been asking for an update on how Carrick and her family are doing. Carrick checks in with Inside Dateline, and tells us in her own words, below:

January 16, 2006 | 1:45 p.m. ET

How I'm doing (Carrick Forbes)

I truly could never have anticipated the outpouring of concern and encouragement my family and I received after “Saving Carrick” first aired, July 29, 2005 on Dateline NBC. Since then, the show has aired several times on MSNBC and has been downloaded by people all across the world, from as far away as Australia. It has been used as a teaching tool in universities and clinics, I’m told, and will soon be updated for airing as part of the “Cover to Cover” series on CNBC.

'Saving Carrick'Strangers on the streets on Manhattan have congratulated me, or asked me how I was doing. I have also received hundreds of emails, mostly through The Elephant on Main Street Web site, an “interactive memoir” headed up by my father Thom Forbes, engaging people in open and frank dialogue concerning addiction, and involving all who are affected by the disease.  Statistically, most of us who have not been consumed by this disease ourselves know of someone close to us who has been.

It took a great deal of thought and meditation, both singularly and as a family, before deciding to go ahead and share our stories on a national platform as widely viewed as Dateline.  Although we all had our separate concerns and hopes for the project, ultimately our goal in participating was to encourage open dialogue regarding addiction, to address the pervasive impact that addiction has on the addict, the family the community, and in the bigger picture, the world. For some it may be hard to believe that in the year 2006, the majority of people would rather not address the issue, or flat out deny it is there in their community. The fact is that addiction in all its forms is the number one cause of premature death in America, and as a disease it does not discriminate.  And yes, it even hits the “nice, wealthy, well-educated” suburban communities like ours.

As for myself, I did not reach the point in my life where I was not only ready to put the drugs down, but not pick them back up and face my addiction and the many factors that contributed to it, until taping for the show was already wrapping up.  Because of this, I have heard some criticism that there was not enough focus on my recovery. It may be true, but as I have said in response before, none of this was scripted and my recovery came as a result of my readiness to pursue it, not for the benefit of a “happy ending.”

There was a significant and deep history to my addiction to heroin, among other things, before "Dateline" entered my life, and life continues to go on now without the occasional run for the video camera (for those who don’t know, much of the intimate taping was done by us; we did not have camera crews camped out in our living room.)

So, since those involved in the program are often asked “How is Carrick now, anyway?” I am grateful to have the opportunity to share my progress with those who do find hope or reassurance in my family’s story as an average American family touched by the impact of addiction.

About a year and a half ago I decided I would like to go back to school and college.  I had dropped out of high school a few years earlier, only three credits, and a few tests including the SATs, short of graduation. I chose to complete my academic requirements by attending Hunter College in Manhattan as a non-matriculating student.  I took an English and Poly Sci. class as per requirements, and passed both with high scores.  I found that I enjoyed going so much that I continued my studies at Hunter College part-time, still non-matric, with the understanding that any credits earned would be transferred over to my college transcript once I did begin matriculating. I took my SATs that winter, which was a huge challenge not only because I had not been in school in years, but also because I have always been a very poor test taker and my scores rarely reflecting my comprehension with a few exceptions, leaning more toward the arts.  I studied hard and, luckily, my high verbal and reading comprehension scores, as expected, counterbalanced my poor math scores.  I officially graduated from high school last summer, and having had the chance to participate in college life, I decided that I would continue my studies, focusing on writing and journalism.

After taking a break this past semester I am now preparing to resume my academic career at the end of this month (January 2006) at Borough of Manhattan Community College.  I plan on receiving an Associates Degree from BMCC in Writing and Literature, and plan to continue my studies at Hunter College for my Bachelors degree.

I am also working on a proposal for a memoir with the working title "Suburban Brats in for Thrills," which is a line from cartoonist Stan Mack in his brilliantly funny and accurate map of Tompkins Square Park in the late Eighties.

Courtesy of the Forbes family
I have also gotten involved in some advocacy work with Faces and Voices of Recovery. My mother, Deirdre Drohan Forbes, started my local chapter. There is no denying that it was her encouragement that made me embrace, as she puts it, my “activist genes.” I have become very impassioned by the power and hope that I find in speaking for those who cannot or will not speak for themselves, but there is no question that my involvement has been very much of my own accord.

I have had the opportunity in the past year, in part due to the exposure we have received through Dateline, to speak to all different kinds of people from all different walks of life of all different ages. Last winter my mother and I were invited through WINR ( Women In New Recovery) to speak at a celebration of recovery in Arizona. I spoke this past fall at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administrations press conference in Washington, and most recently met with high school students involved in the Peers Influence Peers Partnership, to name a few.

I am still on a methadone maintenance program, but began a slow descent to detox about six months ago, and have come down from 90 to 60 milligrams a day. I expect that I will have to spend my last week or so on methadone in a hospital detox, and I will continue to keep all who are interested updated on my progress.  Methadone detox is extremely difficult but I feel fortunate to have the support of my family and all those who have reached out over the past year, and I feel that this is the best time and I am a prime candidate for detoxing off of the methadone.  However, I have been approaching this detox with caution and I am prepared to stabilize if need be, rather then run right back out onto the streets.

I am eternally grateful to all who have both quietly and publicly voiced their support for me, my family, and/or the recovery movement.  I am very happy to that I continue every day more and more grateful for being able to pursue my recovery and better my self as a person. I am personally aware that there are many beautiful people who have lost their battle with this disease and I am grateful for every day that I am given to apply the lessons I have learned in a life that has not always readily done so.

Thank you all for your encouragement and support.

Carrick Forbes

You can also e-mail to let us know what you think.

January 16, 2006 | 1:00 p.m. ET

Thom Forbes, who Dateline viewers were introduced to in the Dateline hour “Saving Carrick” which aired July 2005, is the father Carrick.

Forbes, a freelance writer, was an alcoholic himself, and is now actively helping and speaking out in the recovery community. Read their family’s story, as featured on Dateline. 

Below, is an excerpt of Thom’s take on the latest controversy surrounding “A Million Little Pieces,” James Frey’s million-copy seller memoir on addiction.  Less discussed in the controversy surrounding the book and Frey’s truthfulness about his criminal past is that the memoir is about addiction and recovery.

An excerpt is adapted from his interactive memoir, below. You can read more on Forbes’ interactive memoir and discussion boards on

Words on addiction (Thom Forbes)

I am an avid reader of addiction memoirs. When “A Million Little Pieces” came out a few years ago, however, I decided to skip it after reading a few reviews that suggested that some of the scenes, starting with an airplane trip where the author seemed like he should be in an emergency room instead of an airline seat, were implausible. When the book got Oprah’s imprimatur, and suddenly everyone else was reading it, and book agents and the like began touting it as a model to be emulated, I broke down and ordered it.

It was slower slogging for me than I anticipated. I found the protagonist to be pretty dull, despite some memorable scenes — such as his having root canal without anesthesia — in the first 200 pages. (But I did wonder why he wasn’t allowed to use anesthesia, and so did my dental hygienist. There may be some Novocaine addicts out there, but we’ve yet to meet one.)

There were some other details that bothered me later, such as an improbable list of juvenile transgressions that went far beyond anything I’d ever heard anyone do with such persistency and vigor (and I’d done a few myself), and the pummeling of a priest in Paris who too conveniently attempts to seduce a young Frey contemplating suicide.

Mind you, these are none of the details that The Smoking Gun, in a piece titled “A Million Little Lies: Exposing James Frey’s Fiction Addiction,” contradicts. I won’t bother recounting those here.

I found myself engrossed in the story once Frey became a three-dimensional character, capable of both love and friendship, in the second half of the book. All of a sudden, I cared about him. The story took on a dramatic arc. I bit my nails over whether he’d get caught in his trysts with his girlfriend, and wondered what would happen to the judge he befriends. I was fascinated by his overnight perspicacity. Most of all, I was captivated by the larger-than-life Mafioso, Leonard, who decides he’ll be Frey’s guardian angel whether he likes it or not.

If these characters turn out to be as fictional as Frey’s trumped-up criminal record appears to be, I’ll be disappointed. But the biggest fraud Frey could commit, in my book, is being dishonest about his own character. Did he trump up his John Wayne, I-did-it-my-way, take-your-12-steps-and-shove-them persona just to create a more distinctive literary protagonist?

I think Frey’s self-righteousness worked for him, and that’s fine, too, but there’s a lot of AA thinking that creeps into the consciousness of someone who thinks he’s going it alone. I can say that because I’m one of them.

What’s dangerous about the book, to me, is the emphasis he puts on self-control, as if it all comes down to will power. In rejecting the disease model, he really places addition back about 75 years when it was seen simply as a moral failure. It seems to me that the untreated earache that Frey had as a baby had a lot to do with his “Fury” and self-medication, as he puts it, as does the genetics of his grandfather, but for some reason he wants to reject any explanation of his drinking and drugging outside of a loss of control.

Frey’s message, loud and clear, is that addiction is not a disease. That is hogwash.

But we can have it both ways. The addict is still responsible for treating his or her disease, as Alan I. Leshner, former director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, clarifies so well in his article, “Addiction Is a Brain Disease.” 

People have been inspired by Frey’s message. That’s good. I, too, believe that it is possible to achieve recovery outside of a 12-Step program, if for no other reason than I did myself. But I also believe that 12- Step programs have proven themselves as the single-most effective way to recover and it serves no purpose, in my mind, to put them down as vehemently as he does.

Everyone seems to have finished “A Million Little Pieces” in a day or two or three; I muddled through. On some levels I identified; on others I didn’t. He was so self-absorbed and one dimensional that I found it difficult to empathize as much as I wanted to. I found his transformation from adolescent cad to enlightened Taoist in six short week to be a bit unbelievable. I don’t think that the James Frey in the second part of the book could have had anywhere near the insight that he exhibited in so short a time. I do believe that James Frey, writing the book several years later, is imposing what he’s learned on the poor lost soul in the book.

I regret that Frey was is not being entirely honest about the details of his recovery. But the messengers are irrelevant in the long run. The truth is, the only final word on addiction is in the last breath of someone caught in its grips.


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