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.

Say somethin'.