Less than two years ago, DJ Tyler Cater was a homeless, suicidal drug addict who was in the midst of a relationship breakup and a stalled career.
Now, he’s drug free and in a positive head space. His music career is lifting off as he tours across Canada with rapper Merkules. He’s even opened for Snoop Dogg.
Although the 27-year-old admits, “My life’s not perfect. I still have terrible days where I feel lost and alone,” Cater wants his personal turnaround to inspire other young people to realize their lives can get better too.
“I know how hard life can be sometimes. But it can also be amazing if you let it,” he posted on Facebook during Suicide Prevention Month.
Cater, who moved to Red Deer about five years ago, was born in Newfoundland and raised in Thompson, Man.
Since there wasn’t a lot for teenagers to do some 760 kilometres north of Winnipeg, where his parents worked in the mining industry, Cater started “shadowing” his uncle, a DJ hobbyist, and started making his own music on a turntable at age 14.
Eventually, he moved west to try to make it as a professional DJ.
Cater thought Red Deer would provide a good jumping off point to Edmonton and Calgary. But he started using some of the opioid-laced street drugs that are making the rounds at electronica shows.
As his drug use grew, his music career stalled. He lost his apartment and began sleeping on friends’ couches, while “pretending that I had somewhere to go.”
Being homeless, “you feel really alone,” he recalled. “But you’re too scared to reach out to ask for help.”
One night, feeling especially weighed down by a bad relationship breakup, Cater said he tried to take his life.
“I basically woke up one morning with four cops standing at my door.”
A friend had called 9-1-1 expressing concern about his well being, he recalled.
He remembers this as his lowest point. Cater realized he’d better get off drugs and start taking his music career seriously, or “get a real job,” so he didn’t end up dead.
He found the courage to reach out to Red Deer-based rapper Merkules, who had been to some of his shows.
Since Merkules had survived his own emotional difficulties after being attacked on the streets of Surrey, B.C., “I thought he wouldn’t judge me,” said Cater.
He credits the renowned Canadian hip-hop artist for “taking me under his wing.”
Cater, who quit drugs with the help of a mental health therapist, has since toured the country with Merkules, and they are planning a tour of the U.S.
“Last year, I was in and out of the hospital because I was so suicidal, thinking my life was never going to get better,” said Cater in his Facebook post.
“This year, I’ve toured across Canada and seen so many places I’ve never thought I’d ever see,” including performing at the Calgary Stampede.
If somebody needs to hear that life can get better, he wants to send out the message: “Don’t ever give up.”
Reach out to someone — preferably in person, not through social media, said the DJ.
Cater feels he got nowhere posting negative messages and hoping people would read his desperation between the lines.
He believes friends often don’t show the emotional turmoil they are experiencing. Yet young people, in particular, can think the problems they are feeling today are permanent — not realizing they won’t even matter in a year or two, he added.
“Life is whatever you make it … once you take that step and get help, the world becomes the most amazing place.”