What my current (30×40″) work-in-progress looked like yesterday…
I did some searches today with terms like “jacksonville art.” A lot of groups that want artists to apply, pay application fees, and then (if accepted) pay membership dues in exchange for better percentages on pieces sold in juried exhibitions (if selected). Also a lot of stuff about “acceptable” frames and wall mounts. A lot of other rules too.
I guess that’s how this sort of thing works?
Do I know anyone that’s ever attempted (and succeeded to any degree) to participate in any kind of “professional” arts world/scene?
Before that, I took some duct tape and fliers down to an area with foot traffic and put ’em on walls and streetlight posts. That’s a little more my speed. It feels a little more “right” but I’m trying not to be discouraged or turned off by that other stuff. And I’m not really. I mean – a little bit I guess. Really, I’m just not sure what to make of it. I’m still pretty new at this.
I’m usually up ’til 4 am and up by 9. It must be catching up with me today ’cause it’s only midnight and I’m exhausted.
I’ve struggled with whether or not I should post this image. I drew this the day after “Clarity” and the day before “No Accident.” If you haven’t read the entries that I wrote to go along with those pieces, you should. This week in December may have been the most significant of my life. I’m very glad that it played out as it did.
“Success rates” for slit wrists and knives to the heart are surprisingly low. I didn’t want to go to a hospital…
Forty-eight hours before “No Accident” and the moment when I started to finally “get better,” I was in my room – researching suicide methods that didn’t require anything that couldn’t be found in my apartment at Tranquil Shores. I was going to kill myself because a girl was mad at me. A girl that I wasn’t even sure that I liked.
Earlier that afternoon, we did an exercise in group. We had to pull a couple items out of a basket and relate to them. I declined to say anything aloud, but when it was time for art therapy group, I started writing.
The fortune was absurd, the paper it was printed on was dirty and crumpled. Together, they were useless. This pencil is not useless. It has incredible potential. It is an instrument of a higher purpose. In the right hands. It is comforting. I like holding it in my hand. With paper, it can save me from almost anything. And it is forgiving. It has an eraser. If I make a mistake, it allows for correction. Or at least undoing. The mistakes I make with it are rarely entirely forgotten. I don’t know how to apply this to my life. Is it by chance that the trauma I addressed [in group] this morning, that I was supposed to see is not happening anymore (but which I claimed could and would (and sort of was) still taking place) – is it by chance that just hours later it pretty much is [happening again]? Or did I choose that memory because it had already begun? Yes, that’s it. It’s just more clear now. Because I realize I’m no longer willing to be honest which means I can’t get better. I can’t be helped. So there’s no reason for me to be here. Except that to hope that things will change once more. I no longer believe that I’m a drug addict. Sort of. I know I can’t use drugs (or that it’s not worth the risk in any case). But I’m not going to pick up. Fuck that. I’m over it. It’s not appealing anymore. But I’m miserable. Like I realized on my first weekend here, people are unhappy for countless reasons other than drugs. Me? I have no legitimate reason to be unhappy. It’s all in my head and it’s illogical. Is that recognition enough to get help in getting well without disclosing my irrational stressors? Celexa is an SSRI. Cymbalta is an SNRI. Which means that it does the same thing as Celexa, plus more. Adding Celexa to my prescription [regimen] adds little to nothing. And it will be another 3½ to 5½ weeks before we even know if it’s having any effect. I need something different and I need something faster. I am chemically imbalanced. I need chemical balance. Abilify might work. It’s too expensive. It’s less expensive than inpatient treatment. Maybe I’d be better off with Abilify and outpatient treatment. Here or elsewhere. At this point I’m not afraid to leave.
I don’t like art anymore. I don’t like treatment anymore. I don’t think I’m ready to get better anymore.
This piece is called “Clarity” because that’s how I actually felt in this moment. I thought I had nailed it. I was deluded enough to think that my primary issue was chemical, thoroughly confused as to whether or not I needed any kind of mental health therapy or substance abuse treatment, yet I was somehow lucid enough to know that those feelings (and my written rant) were totally insane. The title is “Clarity” because I thought it was hilarious. I wasn’t laughing, but I knew it was funny. Even then.
Later that night, I made a half-hearted attempt to kill myself by asphyxiation. (Success rates are in the seventy to eighty percent range).
When I handed over the Traffic Street inventory to Kiss of Death, Glenn gave me a few new KoD releases. One was The Slow Death’s first LP. I listened to that record a lot while I was at Tranquil Shores. My name is on the thanks list even though I didn’t have any hand in its release. (Though I had been a big fan and supporter of The Slow Death and helped them out in other ways, so it wasn’t totally shocking). Still, I wasn’t expecting it and it was a really nice surprise. I had become so far removed from the world that I had lived and breathed for so long… Little things like that helped me feel connected in those days. It meant a lot to me. It seems appropriate that my first experience back in that world was the little tour with Rational Anthem this month, up to the fest that Jesse (of The Slow Death) organized. Here’s a song from that first LP that came to mind while I was writing this entry. And here’s a second song from their brand new record.
On October 2, 2012, I was kicked out of Tranquil Shores. It was my third time being kicked out of rehab that year. This time was different though. I knew what I needed to do and, on October 19th, I was welcomed back.
When I had been kicked out of Hazelden and the Wellness Resource Center, a lot of what was going wrong with me had to do with girls. At both facilities, I got “involved” with another patient. That hadn’t been the case this time but, when I was readmitted, I started doing it again. This time, I was determined enough to succeed that I didn’t let it control me the way it had before. We had more than a few conversations about how we were just friends (even once in the presence of the treatment staff when they began to worry about what might be developing). But I held on, I didn’t give in and do anything that would have been automatic grounds for my being kicked out again. Still, it eventually got to a point where we had resolved to be together after we got out of treatment and that’s the kind of emotional attachment that’s not good for anyone early in recovery, let alone a basket case like myself.
I don’t mean it as an excuse because I don’t see it that way but my thoughts, emotional responses, and consequent behaviors are not like most people’s. I “have” borderline personality disorder.
Something happened. It doesn’t matter what. She and I weren’t getting along and it was fucking ruining me. And because I wasn’t supposed to be involved with anyone (let alone a girl I was in treatment with) I couldn’t be honest with my counselor or anyone else about what was eating at me. It occurred to me that – if I wasn’t willing to talk about my issues – there was no longer any reason to be in treatment. Things got worse until one night, alone in my room, I lost it. [Since that’s a whole story of its own though, I won’t go into the details here].
The next morning I woke up feeling thoroughly empty, thoroughly hopeless. In my head, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong because I hadn’t actually slept with the girl. But I was fucking destroying any shot I had at ever getting better. I was already contemplating leaving and I knew, if I went down that path, I’d be shooting heroin again in no time. I was keeping my mouth shut for the sake of my relationship with this girl, but if I didn’t start talking and sort this shit out [if I left Tranquil Shores] the relationship was over anyway; I’d lose everything. I talked to a friend and realized that I had no choice. So I told the truth about everything that had gone on between us.
And she denied everything. She told them that it was all in my head – that I was even sicker and more confused than I seemed. I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was going to be the best thing for us. We weren’t supposed to get mixed up with each other in the first place but… it happened (nothing could change that) and now we’d be able to deal with it. And get better. It was going to be awesome. The greatest relief ever. But she wasn’t interested. She stuck to her story: that I was out of my fucking mind. I had an encyclopedia’s worth of Facebook and text messages to prove otherwise, but when my counselor said I could show them to her if I wanted to it felt petty. I realized that the truth didn’t matter. It was a big epistemological lesson for me. Emotions are stronger than facts. If I held that this relationship had happened, my treatment was going to progress as if that were the truth. If she held that it hadn’t, her treatment would address the issue as if that were the truth. [Weeks later, she did come clean and acknowledge that everything I said was true, but that’s not relevant to this piece].
After the dust settled from the shit storm that had been that afternoon, I went back to my room and wrote.
Pretty bummed out right now. Sad about the person I’ve let myself become. Not feeling totally lost though. I’m grateful for the lesson I was able to learn today and for the opportunity to use that knowledge to make my future better than my past. It hurts now, but this will be a good thing so long as I’m willing to utilize it, grow, and change.
I needed to get out of my self for a little while so I started to draw. Three hours later, I was flooded with feelings that I didn’t know what to do with. I stopped drawing. I scrambled around my room looking for something to write on. I found a piece of paper that I had traced my arms onto three weeks prior [for a project I hadn’t finished; I still needed to draw a knife into my right hand, for starters]. A few days prior I had that intention, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now, I didn’t care about that. I just needed something to write on. What spilled onto the paper was very stream-of-conscious. Just before I touched my pencil to the page, I decided to put it in my left hand since (it’s said that) writing with your non-dominant hand helps with honesty and hinders pretension.
i didn’t know who i was or what i was doing
i’m not whole yet but I’m closer than ever
i realized I could choose to not be an obnoxious, negative problem
november ended, i forgot
today is 12-12-12 and i just remembered
and i learned something new today
i can choose more
i don’t have to be confused
i don’t have to send mixed messages or be inauthentic
i can be whoever i want to be
I KNOW WHO I AM TODAY
i am honest sincere loving compassionate kind intelligent fun dedicated loyal creative talented doing my best sorry for the harm and hurt i’ve caused proud of my achievements and sam NICE TO MEET YOU
I’m embarrassed of this piece sometimes. The old, guarded me would call this the dumbest shit ever. But – as I commented when I first made it – it’s the most positive, productive thing I’ve ever produced. In recovery, there’s lot of talk about a “spiritual awakening.” This is the unintentional document of mine. I’m sograteful that I have it to remind me of exactly how I felt in that moment. I only wish that I could feel that way all the time. My resolve to be the kind of person that I described had (and has) never been stronger.
I finished a cartoon that I was especially proud of and posted it online. But five minutes later, when the anticipated tidal wave of adoration failed to materialize and knock me out of my chair, I actually started to feel bitter. So I picked my pencil back up and drew this – to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with the world and show everyone just how clever (I think) I am. It (of course) got even less feedback than the first cartoon.
But making it made me feel a little better all the same.
I can make myself pretty unhappy when I allow my self-esteem to be dependent on other people. Feeling validation as a consequence of my own actions (rather than other peoples’ responses) has been a huge part of my struggle to be a mentally and emotionally competent human being. It’s still tough sometimes but – for the first time in my life – it’s possible. I no longer need you to like me, in order for me to like me.
“You’ve got a five star enterprise here, and it sounds like a great opportunity, but – what, with huffing gasoline in mom’s basement and wearing out my Like Bats cassette, my schedule just can’t accommodate anything new right now. Thanks for letting me use your bathroom though.”
I thought of this cartoon back in March when I was planning on reissuing Like Bats demo as a cassette. Anyway, the Like Bats cassette hasn’t happened yet for a couple of reasons, but I requested a new quote on it today and decided that it was TIME TO DRAW THIS CARTOON! (The plan was to get it printed up on a poster that’d come free with the cassette). Maybe we’ll still do that. I don’t know! (I haven’t talked to the kids yet). In fact, they’re hearing about/seeing this cartoon for the first time just like everybody else.
I put off smoking cigarettes (and eating/drinking) all afternoon just so I could get it done. I think it came out well. I like it!
In 2011, I was still turning up to shows and fests but, each time, it would be more obvious that I was deteriorating into heroin shit. At that year’s Fest in Gainesville, I remember standing with a big crowd of friends outside Durty Nelly’s. I forget the context, but I declared myself to be “the coolest kid in the world.” Servo corrected me: “No. You used to be.”
While in rehab for the first time, he sent me an email and reminded me of that moment. “What I forgot to add,” he wrote, “is that you will be again.”
A few months back, I was asked to help out with some stuff for Rational Anthem’s new record. One of my tasks was to get the high-res logos for each record label and forward them to Bill Pinkel, who was doing the album art. One of the labels was Servo’s. When I asked for his logo, he asked me if I’d draw him a new one.
Here’s one of many great songs (“So Happy For You” by Lipstick Homicide) off of one of Bloated Kat’s many great releases (LH’s new full-length, “Out Utero.”)