Aside from a couple hours of fliering, I spent all day painting. It’s still not done but I did put a small part of it online.
When I coined out at Tranquil Shores, a friend told the story of his first day. He got out of the van, stepped into the courtyard, and the first thing he saw was me: shirtless with a giant butcher knife, carving a pumpkin, smoking cigarettes, and listening to punk records on a portable turntable. I tried to hit him up today but got no response. I heard a few weeks ago that he wasn’t doing well and was probably shooting up again.
Earlier this morning, I got a call from another kid I was in treatment with (in January and February of 2012). We hadn’t talked in 18 months. He’s still shooting up but he’s still young… My heroin use didn’t become a heroin problem ’til I turned twenty-five so… The important thing was that he said he was doing well overall (and I believe him). When I get a phone call like that, it’s almost always from someone that wants to know if I’m still in [whichever city] and if I’m still clean – ’cause if I’m not could I maybe help them find some dope? He’s up in New York though and was just calling to catch up. It was really cool to hear from him.
I think I broke up with my girlfriend this morning. I’ve journaled about it a lot over the last few days but – whatever I choose to share of those – I’ll hold off on until my painting is done.
While in rehab last year, I drew a cartoon for a Christmas card to send my friends. It’s me and Santa hanging out with The Devil, Borderline Personality Disorder, an undefined higher power, a Disney-fied syringe full of heroin, myself at age four, an identity issue monster, and two girls that I’m either in love with, trying to fuck, or just looking to get some kind of self-esteem bump out of.
We didn’t have a community event that week so I had Saturday almost entirely to myself. After trying and failing to create something a little more self-serving, I decided to do something nice. I drew this – my most detailed piece up to that point – for a card I could send to all the people I care about. My list had 110 names on it. That wouldn’t have been all that difficult had I not made it into the most emotionally intensive project ever. If these were people I cared about, I decided, then I should write each of them a letter letting them know why I cared about them, just how much I appreciated them, or [you get the idea]. It was more than I could handle. In the end, I got around 60 cards written (and about 55 actually mailed out). The people that have meant the most to me over the years: their cards were the hardest to write. I forced myself to scratch a few of those out early in, but others I kept putting off ’til I could find what I needed to give it the focus and honesty it deserved. Since I had about 50 names left to cross out when I threw in the towel though, some of those people never got any card at all.
As a whole, this was one of the toughest things I ever tried my hand at. Though I ultimately fell short, I’m still really glad that I did it. The 50 or so people that did receive cards – well, that’s still something.
As for the content of the image, sitting around me are physical manifestations of all of my “issues.” From the bottom-right, we’ve got Satan as my dark, sarcastic, attention-seeking behavior; the mask I made in our expressive art group on identity [it’s not up on the site yet and won’t be ’til I can summon some bravery]; a syringe filled with heroin; the ghost that I used in this period as a symbol for borderline personality disorder; Santa’s just hangin’ out ’cause it’s like, Christmas, yo; the girl represents different issues with sex, love, and codependency; the empty chair is for my [then] undefined higher power; the little kid is me at four years old, an age that came up a lot in the course of my treatment and that a lot of my core beliefs can be traced back to; and the second girl is for sex, love, and codependency. Yeah – two chairs for that set of issues. They come up a lot.
Status update (10/30/13): This isn’t exactly my strongest entry but I don’t have much in me tonight. I feel pretty hollow right now. [More on that later, I suppose]. Earlier today I was extremely productive though and got a lot of writing and editing done. I’m really happy about that. While most of that work isn’t anything I want to share here yet, I did completely overhaul the statement for one piece, edit the fuck out of another, and add a good amount to a third.
I drew this eleven months ago. It’s only the fifth thing that I ever made by choice (and not as part of a treatment assignment). People say that Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (or, more generally, recovery) is a “selfish program.” It’s not about self-interest or self-serving as much as it is… well… let me put it this way. The girl I dated for most of 2012 – we went to go “visit” her family in St. Louis when Miami got to be more than we could handle. (I say “visit” because her parents agreed to a week but – desperately wanting to not go back to our lives in Florida – we stayed for more than a month). Anyway, something her dad always said that stuck with me is this oxygen/airplane metaphor: “Put on your own mask before assisting other passengers.” Meaning – if you don’t take care of yourself first, there’s a good chance you’re not gonna be much good to anyone else either.
At Tranquil Shores, the first major assignment everyone has to complete is the “First Step” (not to be confused with the first of the twelve steps; this is something different). Anyway, it’s the assignment where group feedback is the most important (and the only one where everyone’s really supposed to be as honest and blunt as possible and call the person out if they’re full of shit). The morning that I drew this, I was losing my mind (a pretty regular occurrence back then). On the one hand, a friend was presenting her First Step and I felt like I’d be letting her down if I didn’t give her my full attention. On the other hand, I had my own mess to sort out and I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to get out of my head, get away from damage, destruction, hell, and shit. Iwanted to color.
So I did.
Mental health doesn’t happen on a schedule. As much as I’d love to always be there for everyone, I can’t. If my own life/head is a mess, I’ve gotta deal with that first. And it’s worked out; if you were to ask my friends, I’m certain they’d say I’m a better friend today than ever before. So – as the block letters behind the fence in this drawing say…
This piece is currently on display, as part of my first art show, now running at Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville.
Last week I got a package from Taylor, which included a book called “Selling What You Make.” It wasn’t really the information in the book as much as its tone… I read about forty pages before I decided that I needed to get up and make something happen. Why wasn’t I trying to get stores to sell my prints or hang my paintings? I went to a few places downtown and a bunch more in Riverside trying to talk somebody into letting me do something. I was feeling pretty okay about the general responses I got early in but – when I decided to take a chance on the movie theater – I was kind of stunned. I only told a few people over the weekend ’cause I had a hard time accepting that it wasn’t going to fall through for some reason; It just seemed too cool to be real. The theater’s owner, Tim, took a look at some prints that I had brought with me and told me that I could come back on Monday to hang up (pretty much) as much of my artwork as I wanted (and after looking at all of them today, whichever pieces I wanted as well). It’s gonna be on display for the next month and I couldn’t be more excited (or grateful – for the opportunity from Tim, as well as the inspiration from Taylor).
Between the photos and the flier, you can gleam a lot of this info but… Sun-Ray Cinema is at Five Points in Riverside (at 1028 Park Street). And not only do they play movies, they’ve got an awesome kitchen and the seats in the theater have tables. It’s a really cool place and it’s been around since the 1920s. And it’s only a mile or so from my house. I guess it’d be cool to have a show at an art gallery, but an independent movie theater gets way more traffic and (probably) gets a crowd that’s a little more likely to “get” what I do. So – yeah – really, really excited. Tomorrow, I’m gonna flier the fuck out of this city and contact all the arts/weekend papers. Tonight, I’m gonna go to bed!
For a long time, I thought this was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever made. I was hesitant to even call it “art.”
Immediately after figuring out how I felt about myself, I decided to see if I could use the same approach to figure out how I felt about the girl. With my non-dominant hand, I wrote until I had completely filled the two sheets in front of me (taped together earlier for some other purpose). My only pauses were to change colors and even that was done without real consideration – a quick swap when I felt the urge. I tried my best to be totally blunt, perfectly honest, and entirely concentrated on my feelings. I didn’t want to rationalize, bullshit, or otherwise fuck myself up. I wanted what came out of me to be real. I’m not sure whether or not it was…
Some parts were written in such a way that they wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – and there was no punctuation in any of it – so I’ve made a few minor edits.
Your first group, the buddhist monk we had coming was running late. I was manic but I caught myself and asked the group to keep me in check. I didn’t want to be a spazz on your first day even though I preemptively disliked you. (You seemed too level-headed and assembled to like me).
I didn’t like the way the other guys talked about (and sometimes to) you. We didn’t talk much but you were nicer than I’d assumed and smarter too. When I ran into you after getting kicked out, you were so sweet to me. I thought, “I’d like to have sex with her.”
I didn’t really understand friendship but ,when I came back, we became friends. It was outstanding. We were exceptional. I liked it when we’d touch but knew that was the limit. We had both made that mistake in treatment before. Our counselors said they were worried about us getting too close. We talked about it and you said, “If this were last year, we’d be in trouble.”
We respected the physical boundaries we were given (for the most part) but got carried away otherwise – we loved each other too much. I didn’t know what was real. A pretty girl, an interesting boy, codependency issues, rehab and limited options… Was it love or something like it, or just compulsion and fear?
You didn’t seem too interested when I presented my life story. (Punishment for how I acted at your first step?) It hurt. That and more. It got worse. I needed to talk. I still don’t understand that night. I got mean enough to get rid of you when all I really wanted was for your door to open.
I couldn’t handle it. I told the truth and you denied everything but, in between, I realized that I really did care about you, contrary to what I thought and said when I first spilled our guts to everyone, while you were away. It gets worse: I think i love you. I admit, I’m still not 100% but I’m going with it – even if you hate me. And not ’cause I wanna be tragic.
I still want to have sex with you but, mostly, I want to be friends.
Two months later, when I had my coin out, the staff decided that we should have an “art show” – everything I had made since arriving (more than one hundred pieces) was hung up on display in the group room. Each had a title card with a short statement. The one next to this piece said, “If this thing actually ends up on the wall at my coin-out then I am way fucking braver than I have ever suspected. And way more honest. Well, honest about disclosing my art and my thoughts from the past (as evidenced in my art). There’s very little that’s honest about this thing in and of itself.” I’m not totally sure how I feel about that. The things I said with this piece were definitely honest when I wrote them… By February though, I had convinced myself that I had been seriously deluding myself – to such an extent that “the truth” was something completely beyond my reach. Today, I think that was probably an example of my “putting walls back up” to protect myself. My feelings were real and I shouldn’t have tried to discount them just because things played out a certain way and I now (then) felt silly about them.
Update (a couple hours later): Wow – kinda funny. I just looked at the Storenvy listing for this piece and it has a different statement that I wrote back when I first listed it for sale (sometime in August, I think). It’s interesting how much my attitudes and perceptions shift over time.
Initially, this was to be a painting of me and this girl, having a picnic under the shade of a tree. You know – cute, innocent. Except not really.
Toward the end of 2012, there were a couple times in the van when I took out my headphones and noticed that the female patients were a little more giggly than usual – and talking about trees. On both occasions, I was the only male in the van and had been listening to music but it was still pretty dumb insofar as it was painfully obvious. Trees was a code word (and not a particularly clever one). I didn’t say anything though (who was I to ruin their fun?) I just rolled my eyes and put my headphones back in.
But that’s how I got the idea and I thought was really clever. On the surface, it’d be really sweet and innocuous but – underlying that – something a little bolder. I wanted it to say, “Hey, I like you, you like me, we’re really cute together,” as well as, “I know what your little code word means and – oh – here’s a picture of my dick — how ’bout that?”
So I set to work. First thing’s first: I needed to trace my penis (you know – the “tree” under which we’d be having our picnic). I chose not to start tracing from the bottom edge because I wanted to leave a little ambiguity. (Like, “Is this the whole thing? Maybe! Maybe not!”). After all, you don’t wanna give it all away, right? I still needed to camouflage it to some extent with branches and leaves, but I decided to draw the two of us sitting in the grass first.
I couldn’t fucking do it. I couldn’t get the characters to look the way that I wanted. I erased and began again over and over until I got frustrated. And then it occurred to me: this wonderful new thing (art) that had recently come into my life — I didn’t enjoy it because it was a way for me to showcase my dazzling fucking wit (or my penis), I enjoyed it because it was a way for me to legitimately work through my feelings and express myself authentically. This – what I was currently engaged in – was bullshit. And what do you know? Like so many of my mistakes and fuck-ups, both big and small, what was at the root of this misstep? My dick.
I changed course, painted without intent, and looked at the page. Yeah – there it was, right in front of me: WHY I FAIL.
Aside from a commission, my first sale was for two pieces: this painting and a drawing.
My first sale as an artist was a painting of my dick.
The buyer had to have seen it, right? Jacob certainly spotted it when I posted it on Facebook back in December. I opted to respond vaguely with comments like, “Eye of the beholder, my friend!” (even when he posted his own derivative work on Imgur to support his interpretation).
I think I was scared because if I acknowledged it, anyone that saw it could play mathematician based on the dimensions of the painting. Unless I also added that it wasn’t my entire penis. And then I’m suddenly the kid on the internet writing about how “my dick is at least this big (and who knows how much bigger?)!”
This was an assignment at the end of group one day. I forget the specifics, but I think it pretty much amounted to “here’s the outline of your brain – fill it in.”
While everything here is rooted in truth, there’s obviously a self-deprecating humor underlying it all.
I started to write up a statement but so much felt redundant when taken in conjunction with a lot of my other writing that’s already online here. Since it’s really sort of an index of my brain anyway though, I decided to use this entry as a sort of directory. In the course of compiling it, however, I came to realize a few things…
First, I’m great at pointing out those weaknesses of mine that make me sympathetic (lovable), but am significantly less inclined to open up and and shine a spotlight on my more deplorable faults and flaws. Especially when it comes to dishonesty, manipulation, or anytime I’ve caused another person harm.
Second, when it comes to the things that have really hurt me: same problem. Hurts that I’ve conquered, I’ll talk about all day long because it feels like victory – but the things that really left a scar: not so much. I’m embarrassed by them and they make me feel weak. (This is especially true of events from childhood that now seem petty or trivial).
Third, for a recovering heroin addict that still thinks about heroin on a daily (if not hourly) basis, I don’t seem to ever write about heroin, except in the past tense, like when I’m telling a story.
Fourth, while I’ve shared more of my thoughts on it than a lot of people ever will, I’m still pretty meek when it comes to writing about sex – at least relative to my approach to lots of other socially taboo subjects.
Anyway, here’s the little directory I put together with regard to each “segment” of my brain, as depicted in this drawing from December, although a few are either curiously thin or entirely absent…
Lovesickness (girls, relationships, and associated consequences)
This… what you’re reading right now… the fact that I’m still making this fucking list when I know that I really ought to stop, elaborate on the things that warrant elaboration and not just keep thinking up pieces that fall under each of these headings. But I’ve made it this far and I don’t want to feel like this was all for nothing….
It was at this point that I paused and rewrote the introduction to this entry so as to include the things I learned about myself in the course of “curating” this directory. Although, remember – you can always use the search box at the bottom of every page to find content related to whatever you might be interested in. The tags just below the title of each entry can be useful too, although I haven’t always done a great job of using them as well as I really should. (I know of at least one tag that’s never been misapplied to an unrelated entry though)…
This entry is TOTALLY two to three hours past due but I was locked out of the site for a few hours on account of all the super 1337 h4x0r5 that have been fucking up my shit (and my webhost’s server) these last few days. I’m just glad they weren’t able to do any serious damage, so I’m not gonna bum out over the little stuff.