Skip Navigation

Family Room

The Bruce Carroll most people know is the laid-back country/folk balladier with a heart full of Jesus and shelf full of Dove and Grammy Awards. But the man responsible for encouraging and challenging the church with songs such as "The Great Exchange," "Walk On," "Who Will Be Jesus" and "Sometimes Miracles Hide" didn't always turn to God for emotional highs. In 1996 we spoke with the singer, whose drug-clouded past left him with a burden for young people tempted to sample the addictive substances that nearly cost him is life. Carroll shared his past with Plugged In, hopeful that his experience might help families avoid similar pain:

Before you surrendered to Christ, you struggled with drugs and alcohol. What factors led you to experiment with drugs, and how did that habit evolve?
When I was 15, everybody that I knew was doing drugs. It was the late '60s when there was this big deception that we could tune in, turn on and drop out. But it's a big lie. Drugs tune you out. They make you numb, and give you an unrealistic picture of what's going on inside and in the world around you. I was a pretty rebellious kid who got involved with the wrong people, and they were doing drugs. I was scared to try them at first. My spirit was saying, "Don't do this. This is stupid." But I wanted to be accepted. I had a really low self-esteem. I was feeling pretty inadequate, didn't know where I fit in, and saw this as an opportunity to get in with the popular people at school and have something to belong to. And I think that's an issue a lot of kids, especially those of us from broken homes, have to deal with. Satan knew full well that I had a compulsive, addictive personality, and he saw this as a great chance to get me addicted and ultimately try to take me out.

Were there times he almost succeeded?
Sure. Any time you get on a motorcycle on acid or drive a car high on a mind-altering substance, you're taking your life in your hands. I did that a multitude of times. I had a couple really close calls. I overdosed a couple times, and ended up in the hospital. And I lost a lot of friends who died as a direct result of drugs. I did drugs for a lot of years, and it didn't help that I was singing in clubs and bars, and was in that whole scene. So I got into drinking, taking speed and smoking pot. There's years of my life that I literally don't remember.

And what turned things around?
God used my older brother, Milton, who was my hero. He was a drug addict/alcoholic, too, and was in the recording industry on the road with Willie Nelson before getting radically saved in 1978. It totally changed him. So Milton went on a quest to get me saved. He had peace and purpose and joy—not the same guy he used to be. I wanted to know what he knew because I found something attractive about it. That, in conjunction with the Lord bringing me to the end of myself, led me to step out in faith. I began the odyssey of Christianity in 1979.

Your Speed of Light album includes "Rise Above It All," a song dedicated to your oldest brother, Bill, who is currently* battling addiction.
Billy just relapsed several months ago. Drugs have really ruined his life. He's been in prison, which amounts to seven or eight years that drugs have indirectly robbed him of. Though I believe he knows and loves God, it's a demon he still fights. But he's sober right now, living in a Salvation Army. We're all praying for him.

When you were a teen, society wasn't as well-educated about the dangers of recreational drug use. Young people today have the benefit of your generation's mistakes, but they don't seem to have learned much. Why?
Peer pressure is still a big draw, because kids still don't know who they are. And we can't really know who we are until we know who we are in Christ. That's where we get our peace, purpose and identity. The temptation to dabble with drugs is like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It promises something it can't deliver. And what it does deliver is devastating.

Do you think the media makes a parent's job even more difficult in this area?
Yeah. So many popular records embrace that whole scene. It's important for us parents to know what kind of music our kids are listening to and what the lyrics are saying, because we have to counterbalance that.

Bruce, if you could give other parents a word of advice about preventing drug and alcohol addictions among adolescents, what would you tell them?
Invest your life in your kids. You don't get to know somebody until you spend time with them. Treat "love" as a verb and reach out. Show them the reality of a walk with Christ and encourage them to experience it for themselves. Then they'll know who they are, and that they don't need drugs to fulfill them or make them feel accepted.

*Published September 1996