Musician Christopher Tait, founder of Passenger Recovery, is changing the world for recovering addicts who travel.
By Taylor Morris
Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh
For some, it takes reaching their lowest point to realize what they’re meant to do. That’s exactly what happened to Christopher Tait, founder of Passenger Recovery and longtime band member of Electric Six.
Since he was young, Tait, 41, has been involved in music. When he was 15, he was in a serious car accident that changed his life forever. The experience also led him further away from doing what he loves most: playing music. After the accident, Tait spent more time alone. It was then that he turned to alcohol, and eventually drugs. It wasn’t until years later, while he was on tour as a musician, that he began to abuse the two.
Fast forward to today, and Tait, a Hamtramck resident, has been on tour as a singer-songwriter for over 16 years. Seven years ago, he made the decision to become sober. Tait says when he went back on tour, he had trouble finding support groups on the road.
“There’s a lot of information online (about recovery groups), but not all of it is legitimate,” he says, adding it’s tough to make time to attend meetings. “You only have very small windows of the day when you’re not driving or sound-checking or playing a show.”
In 2015, while working at the Center for Recovery, Tait began Passenger Recovery. The nonprofit started as a way to provide transportation to local support groups for touring musicians who are recovering addicts, as well as offer a “clean green room” before and after shows. Since then, Tait and his team have started working on a “national meeting finder” called Compass, which is a new phone app that locates support meetings for people in select metropolitan areas in the Midwest, including Metro Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Milwaukee and Chicago. It’s also available in Reno, Nevada; Austin, Texas; Colorado and is expanding to the United Kingdom.
Tait says even though Passenger Recovery was created to help sober musicians find support groups while traveling, the program is open for anyone in sobriety who travels and is seeking resources to stay on track.
“Our mission is to help people who are traveling and trying to maintain a different lifestyle, because that can be very difficult,” he says. “I learned that firsthand for many years.”
Hamtramck resident and bandmate Matthew Tompkins, who assists with Passenger Recovery efforts, has known Tait a long time. Tompkins says trying to be impactful within a community, particularly when it comes to recovery outreach, can be challenging.
“It has been uplifting to watch Chris’ emboldened persistence toward manifesting a strong and directed idea into a platform that will go on to help a lot of people in need,” Tompkins says, “and I’ve been happy to provide what help I can in realizing his goals.”
Cole Cooper, an East Coast musician who’s been sober for five years, met Tait in November 2017 while his band was on tour in Detroit. Cole says his sponsor in Brooklyn mentioned Passenger Recovery to him about a week before they went on the road.
“I hadn’t been on the road sober before, and it was a huge comfort knowing that Passenger was a real thing and could bring me back to sanity through all the madness of post-show debauchery,” he says.
Cole adds that Passenger Recovery has helped by offering the right resources to stay sober.
“Passenger was the best thing to have because I was able to get my four-year (sobriety) coin on the road because of the service Passenger offers,” Cole says. “Highly recommended.”