That feeling when you get to the grocery store, unaware of anything that you’ve done wrong, yet the one person who’s supposed to love you, is very clearly feeling anything but love for you. So you withdraw and stop trying, only to have her take out the car keys and say she’d just rather go home. And since the idea of going back to your “home” with this person, who clearly has no degree of affection for you, sounds about as appealing/energizing as … its not an exciting prospect. So you walk back to the car with her, grab your bag, smoke a cigarette in the parking lot as she drives away, and then start wandering in the general direction that your *current* residence is. But you look down a side street and see the water. And it strikes you that maybe the best course of action is to just sit on the ledge with your feet resting on a rusted out sewer pipe just above the water’s surface.

This isn’t anything I’ve ever experienced, but it seems like something a lot of other people might be able to relate to.
[end sarcasm]
When I’m away, she’s terribly in love with me, can’t stand to be away from me, and can’t wait to see me. And once I’m back, she’s just frustrated with me almost all of the time. For no reason. Or at least not one that she’s willing to share with me or address in any way.
I meet with mental health professionals twice a week. I might not be the poster boy for wellness, but I think I’ve achieved some level of awareness and I think I do a pretty good job at expressing myself, my feelings, and my needs.
She, on the other hand, won’t talk to me about shit.
What am I doing here? Why are we a couple? Why are we living together?
Maybe it was naive to think that the first girl I got involved with at the end of my two years in and out of inpatient treatment would be the one for me.
Or maybe it can work.
I don’t know, but this is a bummer.
Did I mention that it’s raining?
“Uncertainty.” 7/29/31. Acrylics and Ink. 16×20″ stretched canvas.
Painted two days ago, at a time when I was feeling pretty disconnected. The only thing that I could recognize when I was painting it was the way i felt so in love with her every time I looked at her.

Pop Punk Was Dead and That Wasn’t a Bad Thing

I spent a really long time on a new painting/statement today – and I can’t take a picture of it so I can’t use any of it! Yeah!

On a more positive note, I got an excellent package in the mail today from Adam Ali! Not only did it include a bunch of awesome new 7-inches from It’s Alive, but it ALSO included a bunch of the stickers that I designed for Adam back in January!

poppunkwasdead“Pop Punk Was Dead and That Wasn’t a Bad Thing.” 1/16/13. Vinyl sticker! 2¾x4¼”.

Check it out. Frankenstein likes The Dopamines! This was the first thing I ever drew in my first (and only) sketchbook. It has a hard cover ’cause I’m a serious fucking artist. Duh. … Actually, now that I think of it, it doesn’t have ANY cover. I cut it off a month after I got it and used it as a canvas for my “I’m Also Available to Babysit” painting.

Anyway… had I not buckled to heroin, The Brokedowns / VBS split 7-inch would have been on Traffic Street, but I’m just as happy to see it out on It’s Alive. IAR was one of the five or six labels that inspired me to start my own back in 2008 and continues to release some of the best music on the planet. I’m really honored to have one of my crappy little doodles on something of theirs. And check out how clever I am – I got a stream of the record right here in my post so you can give it a listen.

You can grab a copy (and lots of other records) from It’s Alive! (Ask for a SC sticker when you checkout)!

My Year in Review

On September 10th, 2012, I was still in my first month at Tranquil Shores and (surprise!) was not having the best day. In that morning’s group, we each had to come up with a question to ask and then we had to draw an “animal card.” Each one had some quality on it and some relatively generic mental health stuff that we would then, as a group, figure out how to apply to our question. I was emotionally exhausted. Playing with animal cards was not at the top of my “things I’m excited to do” list. I asked my question – “Why do I even try?” – and drew a card. It was a turtle. And in bold letters at the top of the card it said, “STOP TRYING.”

Two and a half months later, I went into art therapy group. The theme for the week was emotional and spiritual healing. For some reason, I had the turtle in my head. I forget the context but, before we started, Marcia said something about “having yourself [over] for dinner.” Because my brain receives all messages through a pop punk filter, I immediately thought of a Turkish Techno lyric, “I wanna eat you so I can shit you out.”

Turtles and fertility, the new year just days away, spiritual healing, and eating/shitting people. That’s where I was coming from.

“My Year in Review.” December 28th, 2012. Colored pencil with ink outline. 9×14½”.

The idea is sort of two-fold. First, that I had been destroying myself for (at least) the last two years. Second, that I was going to take all of the bad in me and transform it into something new and better. Or – in a metaphorical sense – eat it and shit it out so that it could grow into something better. (Look at my shirt – it has the word “soil” on it).

So why did I choose my flesh to represent the “bad parts” of myself? Eh, I didn’t really. I’m just fucking fascinated with krokodil and I like to throw in an allusion to it every chance that I get.

Obviously, in this instance the turtle stood in as symbol of fertility rather than retreat, but I also thought it was appropriate as a symbol of the walls I had put up to protect myself, as well as the slow speed at which I had been getting better. (Even though I had checked into rehab more than a year prior, I made this piece just sixteen days after what I consider to be the turning point in my recovery).

I chose to draw a stage as the backdrop as an acknowledgement that much of 2012 had been a performance of one kind or another. I had a script memorized and I turned to it often.

Fun fact: I remember holding my arm up to my mouth every so often while drawing this so I could figure out which pieces of it I could conceivably chew off.  Obviously I can’t bite the flesh directly off of my face, but I chose to have half of it missing to create a sort of two-face thing in reference to my mask, which (in terms of emotional healing) had been really significant for me.

I Am Not As Interesting As I Think I Am

Somehow, at the end of my ride home, the perfect song always seems to come up to remind me that life is spectacular. Tonight it was “Why’d You Walk Away?” by The Potential Johns.

Here’s the first real break in the chronology. I spent between four and five hours painting it earlier tonight.

"I Am Not As Interesting As I Think I Am." 7/27/13. Acrylics and ink. 16x20".
“I Am Not As Interesting As I Think I Am.” 7/27/13. Acrylics and ink. 16×20″.

As I mentioned earlier, I had been stressing out about this site. Heather asked me the other day what I was trying to get out of it. “Money and attention,” I told her. And then I backpedaled because I was really thrown by my answer. And then I was just sort of confused. Was that really what I was after? If so, what the fuck was wrong with me?

Tonight I realized that nothing’s wrong with me – well, not that anyway. That is the purpose of this site and I’m totally okay with that. Because that’s NOT the purpose of the content, just the site itself. My journals (both while in treatment and today) aren’t something that I write for money or attention. They’re usually the product of intense psychic trauma that I’m trying to get rid of – especially these days. In treatment, I tried to journal every day just for its own sake. Lately, I really only journal when I’m incredibly stressed out and need to get some shit out of my head and in front of my eyes. Similarly, my artwork is all about emotional balance. I make it because it’s what I have to do in order to stay sane. When I don’t make it, I start stressing out about stupid shit (like this website).

But I don’t need to share any of this stuff publicly, on the internet, in order to be well. I do it because I was encouraged by counselors and peers to dedicate as much of my time as possible to doing these creative things and to see if I could find a way to use the products of that time to support myself as well. I was told that the things I was making had value to other people and I decided to put myself out there and see what would happen. Thus far, the return I’ve gotten on that emotional risk has been incredible in just about every sense. It’s true that – since this site has launched – I haven’t gotten a ton of feedback, but we’re only talking about five days. I can’t even count how many people have reached out to me because of the things I’ve put out there prior to this week. I can hardly comprehend the amount of love and support people have shown me as a result of all of this.

The site is about marketing in a sense and so it’s disappointing when I’m not selling anything or getting as much attention as I’ve become accustomed to, but that’s some bullshit on my part. I need to remember to be grateful for all that I have received. I also need to remember to be humble. Posting old journal entries from when I first got into treatment… there may be some value to it, but it’s probably not quite as fascinating to read as I initially thought it might be. Which leads me to the most important point – that I need to remember to honor myself with honest self-expression. Yesterday has happened. What matters is today. What matters is how I’m feeling, how I’m doing, and what I’m doing today. And today, I’m back to focusing on the process of creating art, rather than what might come of it down the road.


Psst… If you notice any weird lines in the image, it’s ’cause I had to use a low-resolution camera and I pieced together a few close-up photographs. (I’ll replace it with a better photo once I’m able).

Bonus! Remember when I was talking about “Why’d You Walk Away” by The Potential Johns?

(And if you don’t already have it, go pick up their most recent 7-inch, which has maybe my favorite Potential Johns song ever).


  • Signed 12×15″ prints of “I Am Not As Interesting As I Think I Am” are available in my webstore.
  • If you’re interested in purchasing the original painting, feel free to contact me.

The No Self-Esteem Engine

This blog has been fucking with me. On the one hand, I want a chronological, comprehensive gallery of my artwork. On the other hand, I like making art and this doesn’t feel like a creative project… I feel like a fucking archivist and it’s boring and the feedback I’ve gotten doesn’t seem sufficient to justify it. So from now on, fuck what I *think* I should be doing with this website. I’m just going to do what I *feel* like doing with it. Limiting myself to one post each day is putting an unnecessary restriction on my ability to express myself and what’s currently going on in my life. I’ll post whatever the fuck I want, however often I want. The point of this whole thing is to honor myself by expressing myself freely and honestly. Somehow I lost sight of that really early in, but now I’m ready to correct it.
And I feel better already.
By the way, all of this came to me while – SURPRISE – painting. Funny how that always works for me. I’ve been stressing out about this for the last three days, unable to figure it out. Of course, I hadn’t painted anything new in that time, so it makes total sense.
With that said, I do feel like posting the next piece in the chronology now. It’s called “The No Self-Esteem Engine.” An alternate equally clever title suggested by a friend was “The Little Engine That Wouldn’t.” When I made it, I was pretty miserable and had very little grasp on why that was. I was losing my temper a lot. Things were not going well. That same week, I completed a treatment assignment that I think illuminates that particular struggle pretty well. I’ll type that up and share it later. Along with the new painting that I’m working on today.
thenoselfesteemengine“The No Self-Esteem Engine.” September 19th, 2012. Tempera. 12×18″.
You know that Green Day song, “Having a Blast,” and the lyric, “Do you ever wanna lead a long trail of destruction and mow down any bullshit that confronts you?” That was my favorite song when I was eight years old and it was on my mind when I painted this. And that’s a target on the front of the train because I felt like I must have had a fucking target painted on my face for all of the shit that the world seemed to be constantly hitting me with. The world, of course, was not actually doing anything to me at all, but when you’re a self-absorbed drug-addled asshole, it can feel that way sometimes.
Oh – also – Noelle asked me the other day if I’d make the flier for Rational Anthem’s homecoming show. And, earlier today, I did just that.rational8:3

Fuck This / Fucking Miracles

Strange: the last thing I made had the word “fuck” crossed out because I felt like I was unnecessarily using that word more often than I needed to. And yet the two pieces that I made the following week… well…

fuckthis“Fuck This.” September 12th, 2012. Tempera. 12×18″.

fuckingmiracles“Fucking Miracles.” September 12th, 2012. Mixed media. 12×18″.

“Fuck This” is the result of my decision to blow off art therapy group that day and try to paint a bench. It didn’t work out. Later that day, I made “Fucking Miracles,” a birthday present for Candace. It took seven hours.

No journal excerpt today. Instead…

Letter to Candace. Written April 21st, 2013.

I guess you weren’t done fucking up, huh? That’s okay. I’m glad nothing too terrible happened and I’m glad you’re back in treatment. Everybody knows that I wasn’t exactly a quick learner either and if you relapsed and are inpatient again, it’s ‘cause you needed to relapse and be inpatient again. All of this shit happens exactly as it’s supposed to happen. You didn’t get what you needed last time around, but hopefully you’ll get it this time around. Now that your parents aren’t having to pay for it, the only consequence (for everyone but yourself) is the emotional toll, which is only as significant as we allow it to be. For you, I’m choosing to see the only real consequence as being wasted time. You’ve been cycling in and out of rehabs for a while. In theory, I guess that cycle could continue indefinitely, but (more likely) at some point, you’ll either “recover” or die. I’d like to believe that it’ll be the former.

Speaking as someone who’s spent a good chunk of his life stuck in serious mental illness, I can say pretty confidently that you’re a wreck of a human being. You can agree with that, right? I don’t mean that in any way that should hurt or offend you. We’re fucked up, but it’s cool – ‘cause we can get better. And when we do, it’s really awesome. For you, it’ll be especially awesome. Mental illness is all that stands between you and an awesome, happy, positive, productive life. For yourself and for those that will be lucky enough to have you in their lives. You’re a smart kid; you can do a lot of good. You can help a lot of people. But most importantly, you can help yourself. Trust me, it’s gonna be rad as fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that it feels pretty rad to live like a fuck-up. Just yesterday, I was thinking about all the bullshit schemes we used to pull to get by. There’s something tragically romantic about living in a hole. About stealing allergy medicine to exchange for “groceries” (I don’t think sour patch kids, lemonheads, and brownies technically count as groceries). About bouncing around from city to city. Running from drug dealers. Running from police. But along with the thrill of all that shit, you know as well as I do, that it comes with a lot of awful, negative, miserable, crippling, nightmarish days and nights. Notice that I said that it “feels” rad to be a fuck-up. It’s not really. It’s a fucking bummer. Think back to those days before we went to St. Louis. Sitting in that little box of an “apartment.” Puddles of shit, piss, and toilet water covering the floor. Soaking into our bags, our laundry – soaking into everything. Us not having the energy to go outside for anything. Not even having access to a working toilet or a vehicle to even get to a working toilet. The stomach pain. The debilitating fatigue. The sweating, the chills, and the body aches. You on the bed and me on the couch. Too uncomfortable to even lay beside another human being. The little victories that made us feel like winners (getting away from the cops, getting drugs) these things were not worth the misery that came with them.

I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I still don’t fully subscribe to everything in the AA or NA texts. I don’t think for a second that I’m powerless over any and every mind or mood-altering substance. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t fuck with any of them anyway. Because it’s not worth the risk. Proving that I can exercise control over some substance is not worth the risk of losing control to any of them. I could take a Xanax and it wouldn’t lead me down some shitty path. Maybe. But here’s the thing: it’s not even totally about it “not being worth the risk.” You know what the bigger piece is? What really motivates me to not drink alcohol, eat some pill, or (!!) shoot heroin? The fact that – not doing those things – is fucking awesome! For real. I had no idea how great it feels to be alive. To actually experience life. The good and the bad. ‘Cause when you choose to live (like that) the good is even better and the bad stops being all that bad. Sure, I still get bummed out sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to the way it used to be and I can usually spot the silver lining in it almost immediately. But I don’t really wanna dwell on this. You’ve heard all of the “now that I’m off drugs, life is amazing!” shit a million times. It’s true, but it’s nothing new and it’s nothing that’s gonna be of any value to you until you figure it out and see it for yourself.

What is gonna help you? I don’t know. You’ve been in a lot of really awful situations. You’ve experienced some pretty terrible things. You’ve felt a lot of serious pain. A lot of severe emotional pain (which is the worst kind of pain). I don’t care what anyone says – the feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, and fear that I’ve felt hurt just as badly – if not more than – anything else that anyone else in the world has ever experienced. And I’m pretty sure that the same is true of you. My point is just that I don’t think you really need to go out and “hit bottom.” “Bottom” is a different place for everyone, but we’ve both experienced what would have been bottoms for plenty of other people. What I guess I would call my bottom happened while I was already in rehab, almost four months after my clean date. It didn’t have anything to do with drugs. It was over a girl. Or it was triggered by a girl anyway. I’m not saying this to upset you and you shouldn’t be upset by it; it’s just reality. I’m codependent. I get attached to people. Sometimes it involves real feelings, sometimes it’s just a result of a compulsive need to feel validated by attention or affection from some girl. That’s been a huge part of my “illness” and I think it’s been a huge part of yours too. Of course I care about you (or I wouldn’t be writing this letter) but let’s be honest – a big part of why we got together was just unhealthy, codependent bullshit. We started talking about running away together five or ten minutes into our first conversation. We didn’t know anything about one another. So while real feelings may have developed later, it was definitely all nonsense at the start. And if we’re being totally honest, we were so fucked up on chemicals for most of the time that we were together that any feelings we had were, more likely than not, (in essence) little more than a survivor’s bond (the same kind of bond any two people share after experiencing some tragedy, trial, or dilemma together). We’re not soul mates, we were just dedicated to convincing one another that we were worth loving. I wanted to make you love me so that I could believe that I was worth loving and you wanted to make me love you so that you could believe the same about yourself. That’s what’s up. I’m sorry if that’s hard to hear, but it’s not by accident that I’m never without a girlfriend and you’re never without a boyfriend. Somewhere along the way, we both grew into needy little brats with little to no self-esteem but enough ego and arrogance to hide that fact from most of the world. But I’m getting off track.

So December of last year, I hit bottom in my room (in rehab). I had been flirting with this girl that had arrived sometime after me and though we weren’t explicitly acknowledging it, we were moving into dangerous territory (more than friendship). On this particular night, she did something that hurt my feelings, I retaliated by doing something to hurt her feelings, and she got so upset that she told me she never wanted to talk to me again. And I was so upset and so full of hate and fear that I wanted to kill myself. I hated myself so much for making the decision to say what I had to her and fucking up the friendship or relationship or whatever you want to call it. And I was terrified that I’d never be able to “get it right” and actually live and maintain some degree of happiness or self-esteem – that I was going to be miserable forever. I made a half-hearted attempt to kill myself that night but that’s not really important. Nobody found out about it until I was ready to disclose it. I only mention it so you understand just how spectacularly wrecked and pathetic I felt.            But the next morning I decided that I had had enough. I was constantly upset about different little things with this girl (or [insert girl’s name here] over the course of the last ten to twenty years) and I wasn’t talking to anybody about it because I was afraid they’d cut us off from one another and (basically) because I was embarrassed to admit that I had these adolescent feelings for this random girl – so I wasn’t getting any better and my treatment was pretty much a waste of time. I was still improving, but by holding back in this one area, I was keeping myself from getting all of the help that I’d really need if I was ever going to “recover” in any sense. I came clean in group – I tattled on myself for all the inappropriate stuff going on between this girl and I, and I talked about how much it had been fucking with my head and how unhappy I had been as a result. She wasn’t in group that day though. She was about to coin-out so she had scaled back and was out on pass with her parents for a couple of days. When she got back the next afternoon, we had a meeting together with my counselor (who was also her counselor). She denied that there had ever been anything going on at all. It wasn’t until two weeks later that she told her counselor the truth. She had already coined-out though so they were only meeting once a week. She stopped showing up to her appointments the following week. And – today – she’s still out there, shooting up and fucking up her life.

Back to that day though – I had had high hopes for the meeting with our counselor. I thought she’d be caught off-guard initially, but come to terms with it and we’d be able to move forward and actually be honest with the treatment team about our feelings and be able to sort through them and start to get healthy. When she denied everything and told the counselor that I was delusional and making it all up, I got pretty depressed again. A few hours later, in my room, I don’t even remember what I was doing, but I was thinking about myself, trying to figure out what I was about – who I was, what kind of a person I was. Something clicked in my head and I decided that I was whatever I wanted to be. People always told me I was a good person, but I suspected that there was a pretty good chance that I was actually a rotten, evil, little shit that just happened to talk a good game and make people think otherwise. Even if I did good things, that was probably bullshit too. I mean, if I still had evil shit going on in my head, then that just meant I was an evil person who behaved well, right? No, not really. We’re all fucked up. We all have disgusting thoughts. What matters is what we choose to do with them. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started writing. I wrote out a bunch of affirmations (something on my treatment plan that I had been told to do a million times, but wouldn’t – not in any serious way anyway). I wasn’t doing it with any thought for my treatment plan, I was just writing about the kind of person that I wanted to be, but writing in the present tense because I had decided that the moment that I wanted to be that kind of person, then that was the moment that I could be, and was. This was that moment.

After that, something was just different. Immediately, for example, I finally called the guy that I had asked to be my sponsor for the first time. Made plans to start step work (and then actually followed through with those plans). I also started doing the things that he had told me I should be doing every day. And I asked him what else I should be doing – and then I did them. I did a lot of stuff I hadn’t done before, but – maybe most importantly – I got honest. Thoroughly honest. In a way I had never been before. Nothing was off-limits, I talked about everything, no matter how uncomfortable it was for me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t 100% perfect from that moment forward, but I consistently made an effort to be. If I did something wrong, I admitted it. And I still did plenty of stupid shit. On the same day I did my seventh step, I had made plans to meet up with a different girl that I had met at a meeting. I realized that I couldn’t really ask my higher power to remove my defects in character – to help me be honest – if I was actively making plans to sneak out to meet up with a girl. So I called her up and I cancelled. And I told her why I was cancelling. Can you imagine how much of a fucking geek I felt like in that moment? But it also felt good. It was the right thing to do. Plus, I got to brag to my counselor later about what a fucking champion of recovery I had been.  (Apparently, pride wasn’t a defect in character…)

I’m getting away from the point of all of this maybe. I’m not trying to make this storytime. Here’s what fucking helped me: (1) the (aforementioned) realization that I was whatever kind of a person that I wanted to be, so long as I behaved in ways that such a person would behave; (2) deciding that whether or not I believe in a higher power and whether or not I believe that everything ultimately works out for the best, I’m going to fucking live like I do (I’m constantly telling people shit will work out for the best – do I believe it? I don’t know, but they’re gonna work out however they’re gonna work out, so we might as well just call it “the best” (really it’s “the only” but… um, whatever… you follow me, right?)); and (3) recognition of the fact that feelings are temporary phenomena that come and go, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly – but always at a pace consistent with my own attitude toward them. I’ll expand on that a little… you’ve probably heard this shit before too: the whole “be a witness to your feelings” concept. Like, “witness your feelings, rather than become them.” You know: “I’m not miserable, I only feel miserable.” These days, when I start to get upset, once I pick up on it, I take a look at it. Like, “Okay, I’m feeling upset and it’s because of A, B, and C. I can either dwell on it, put on my fucking grumpy face, withdraw from everyone, and revel in my unhappiness as the grand champion of depression and the king of self-loathing OR I can decide that it feels much better to not be upset and take a look at what I can do to deal with A, B, and C and what I can do to stop D, E, and F from ever happening and causing me to feel this way in the future. (Not getting “romantically” involved with girls in early recovery, for example, was a pretty good start; keeping in touch with my sponsor, doing everything my counselor tells me to do, and telling the truth were good follow-ups (for me) as well). I also recognized what kinds of things help me get through bad feelings until they pass. That’s one way that painting has been really important to me.

Backtrack for just one second. I know what the one thing that helped me the most was – or at least made the biggest difference in my recovery and got me really moving in the right direction. It was the willingness to do things that I didn’t want to do. Someone would tell me to do something and I’d do it. I didn’t think about it, I just did it. You and me are not people that like to do what they’re told. Fuck it. You can go back to making your own decisions some time later on down the line. For now, just do whatever the fuck you’re told. Trust me on this one. You will be so much happier. And do shit with sincerity. Don’t do anything half-assed. Really do it. Anything you do, do it for real. 100%.

I don’t know, kid. This shit’s the easiest shit in the world and it’s also the trickiest. If I could boil it down to just one thing, it’d be a question. “What would Jesus do?” is not that question, but it’s not totally off the mark. If I’m struggling with something, generally or even in a moment, I ask myself, “What’s the loving thing to do here?” By which I mean, how can I demonstrate love for myself, as well as love for others, with my actions? Neither is more important than the other. It’s a careful balancing act. Real love doesn’t ever require you to put someone else’s needs ahead of your own needs. (I mean that in a narrow sense though, when I say “needs,” I mean needs – not wants or wishes or whatever else). Sometimes it’s relatively easy to figure out what I should do and sometimes it’s even relatively easy to follow through and do it. Other times, not so much. Last week, I was in a pretty dangerous interaction (emotions running high) and I asked myself what would the loving thing to do right now be. And I didn’t know. I actually had to stop, tell the person to give me a minute, and I sat there like an idiot, in silence, for maybe two or three minutes, going through all of the options in my head playing each one out and trying to determine what my best move might be. As this person stared at me, waiting. So I definitely looked like a fucking dolt, but – in the end – by taking that time, not reacting emotionally (as was my first impulse), recognizing my priority (being a good, loving human being), and playing out the different tapes to the end and really considering the impact that each potential action was likely to have… I saved myself from a situation that – in the past – would have either put me in the throes of a suicidal depression or had me on my way to go cop some heroin. So… yeah, it’s a neat trick when I can manage to pull it off.

I didn’t bother to edit this letter at all (after I wrote it or even while was writing it) because I figured the worst case scenario was that I’d come across as a rambling lunatic, which I’m pretty okay with. Especially since it’d also result in a longer letter for you to read. And who doesn’t like to get long letters in rehab? And shit – how’s that for some positive from the negative? Silver linings, kid. Bright sides. It all works out in the end. But recap: the way I see it, you can (A) keep fucking up (A.1) until you get better or (A.2) until you die or (B) just fucking get better already. Either way, it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be and it’s gonna be fine. Some outcomes are more desirable than others, but they’ve all got good in ‘em and the world’s gonna keep spinning as it should regardless. If you die, there will be some good that comes from it. Personally though, my favorite outcome would be for you to just get better (and get better now). Faith, no faith, whatever – it’s cool when seemingly bad shit happens that I’m able to spot the good that results, but it’s even cooler when things happen that just make me smile.

I’m gonna burn you a CD, but I’m gonna print and mail this letter out right now. Just in case I procrastinate on it. I don’t want you to not get this ‘til later just ‘cause I’m taking too long to put some songs on a disc. So – obviously – I haven’t done it yet, but it’ll probably be about half songs that I think are inspiring/cool/helpful/positive and about half songs that we used to listen to during our little five-month terror spree. That’s the plan anyway. Either way, you know it’s gonna have “Your Heart is a Muscle” on it.

Be well, kid.

For what it’s worth, this letter was never read. Both times that it was mailed, she left treatment before getting it.

Two notes:
1. The main caption in this painting is stolen from the song, “Good Morning, Sunshine” by The Steinways. All of the smaller (printed) captions are lyrics from songs as well. The bands responsible are Dear Landlord, Shorebirds, The Credentials, Sloane Peterson, and Ramshackle Glory. I don’t usually use other people’s text in my art, but – in this relationship – these lyrics are from some of what we’d have called “our songs.”
2. Even with fake names, some people will still be able to identify themselves (or people that they know) in a lot of what I’m posting here. Rather than change as many details as possible in an attempt to cover up identities (because I don’t think I could really be successful at that anyway) I’ll just point out that nothing you read on this website is absolute truth. It’s my truth, but my experiences (like everyone’s) are colored by my own perception, my own attitudes, and my own [whatever]. I’m not out to misrepresent anyone (or anything) but at the same time – if you read something and are offended by it… I’m sorry you feel that way, but – whatever I’ve written that upset you – I stand by it.

Rat With Wings

I’m really having trouble with this. I really wrote these journals with the intention of never sharing them. And they start to get a lot more personal and substantial. I think there’s value to posting them online, if only because I’m afraid to do so. But if that’s the extent of it – if nobody else is getting anything out of it – I’m not sure that the benefit of my “being brave” is enough to make it worthwhile. So unless I get some indication to the contrary, I’m going to stop posting the full entries and just post the parts that I’m only somewhat uncomfortable sharing. If you’re reading this though and appreciate the total, fully transparent approach I had been taking, let me know because that’s something that’s worth considering to me.

“Rat With Wings.” September 5th, 2012. Tempera. 12×18″.

From my third art therapy group (but my first with paint). I was still in the process of detoxing and I wasn’t sleeping well at all. The word “fucking” is crossed out because I felt like I put it there just to be offensive and I didn’t want to be that kind of person anymore. At the same time, I couldn’t get myself to just paint over it and obscure it completely. It’s pretty emblematic of the struggle that started in December 2011, a few weeks after I first checked into a treatment facility and – to some degree – continues today (at least in moments). I’ve always been a brash, caustic kid. Adding “heroin addict” to my identity was an easy fit. Getting off drugs and actually trying to be healthy – trying to be well – that was fucking up my shit a little bit. Not only was I supposed to become some sort of positive human being, they told me I shouldn’t even be sarcastic anymore! “What am I supposed to be then?” I asked my counselor. “Sincere.” “Stop it, I’m asking a serious question!”

Mid-update change of plans! Fuck what I said a minute ago. I’m just going to skip ahead sixteen days and post an excerpt from my journal entry on the night before I painted “Rat With Wings.” The lyric that heads this entry is from the same song as the lyric that headed the other entry. I was listening to the album every day at the time though so… makes sense.

Tranquil Shores journal – Day 18
September 4th, 2012. Tuesday. 8:17 pm.
“I’ll always be that creep insomniac, afraid to sleep, and hoping that tomorrow never comes.” – The Credentials

I broke down and cried back at property shortly after I should have left for the gym. I got into it with Fletcher. The details aren’t important. I struggled to bite my tongue and just disagree with him respectfully. Eventually though, I said something a little too condescending, he told me I couldn’t go to the gym, and I rolled my eyes and said, “You’re a fucking baby.” At which point, he flipped out and charged into the office yelling, “Something has to be done! Something has to happen!”

I walked upstairs and Fletcher took the rest of the group to the gym. On the balcony, smoking a cigarette a few minutes later, Todd walked out and started telling me I needed to cut the shit (breaking rules, staying up past curfew, etc). Somehow it got to the point where I crumbled. Feeling like a total fuck-up loser, realizing that no matter how hard I try and no matter how much progress I make, it will never be enough and I might as well give up now. Fletcher may have been the instigator today, but the one constant in my life is me and all that matters is that I’m a perpetual failure. Even absent Fletcher, it seems clear that I’m not compatible with the rest of the world. It was only at the start of that conversation with Todd that I realized one of us should have just said, “Hey – we’re not in agreement and that’s no big deal, but this discussion is moving in a bad direction so why don’t we both agree to step away for a minute, cool down, and just let it go.” But it was all I could manage in that moment to keep myself from telling Fletcher what a fucking asshole he was being. I was proud of myself at the time for managing my nerves well enough just to hold that back. And while I take responsibility for my part in the incident and totally could have been the mature one to deescalate the situation – as Fletcher made me state in his effort to belittle me – I only have eighteen days clean, whereas he has years. Not to mention that he’s twenty years older than me.

Once I broke down, Todd realized that I was not the confident rebel he thought he was talking to and he asked the sad, lost boy to come into the office. The tears continued to slowly creep out of my eyes (despite my effort to hold them back) but I did feel better after that. Todd told me that I’m incredibly sharp and that not everyone can keep up with me and that I was using that as a weapon against Fletcher, which wasn’t really fair, and was why Fletcher was getting so upset. He also said that I’m essentially the voice of the community and that people follow my example. I told Todd I wasn’t so sure about that. No one looks up to me. I’m the same weird punk sometimes-likable but ultimately outcast misfit that I’ve always been. None of the other patients at Tranquil Shores sees me as anything but a fringe character. Todd was really cool with me but said I need to bite my tongue sometimes. (“I can do that,” I said) and learn when to swallow my pride. “I don’t have any pride,” I told him, “just insecurity that’s sometimes mistaken for pride.”

Anyway, I do need to get better at following the little rules, but night is when I’m the most productive. Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come through journaling late at night. I don’t think I’d be anywhere near as far along if I didn’t have those hours. And while others may not be impressed by my progress, they don’t know just how far down I’ve come from. I don’t know. Maybe my progress isn’t shit, but it feels like it is to me. I don’t want to die and I can’t afford to fail again. Apparently, it doesn’t look like it from the outside, but I’m trying so fucking hard. In the moments when I’m fucking up, it’s not for a lack of trying to do better.

I’m tempted to go down a tangent of self-pity and how waking up every day – in my body, as Sam North – is such a fucking curse, but that feels like bullshit. It feels like “playing to type.” I don’t think there’s anything left to say tonight.