I’ve been such a reckless fuck-up that the state might put me in jail.
That’s pretty fucking crazy when I pause to really think about it.
My heart’s stopped a few times. I’ve been arrested, committed, and hospitalized more times than I can even remember now.
Why am I still alive?
I’ve taken everything for granted. I’ve wasted everything. And yet here I am.
I don’t know how my story ends but I have a really hard time envisioning any kind of future. I’m staying clean but I’m not sure what for.
I’m still working on my “Suicide Stitches” series. Tonight I’ve been sewing up “Shitty Children.” If you look close at my blurry iPhone photo, you can see that the biggest tear goes across the entire painting. It’s definitely coming together though. And this one was especially bad. In addition to the rips, the frame that the canvas is stretched over was snapped in three places. Earlier today this painting was nothing more than a crumpled pile. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made on it so far.
Did you see I’ve got a webstore up on my agency’s website now? I don’t even know if it’s live and processing payments yet but check it out.
If it’s been a while since you’ve checked in with me, I have some bad news. You know how I used to be that heroin addict who got (and stayed) clean by making art? Well, sometime last year that all fell apart. (And this year, I’ve really gone downhill).
Twice this year, I’ve made serious plans to detox from heroin, get my life back on track, and start painting and writing again. Both times, ended disastrously but – in this entry – I’ll be focusing on the first. (Details of the more recent incident are in two blog entries: the first was written more manically upon my release from jail; the second with greater reflection the following evening).
It’s not generally a great idea for two people in the depths of addiction to be in a relationship together. If one is feeling weak and wants to use, it’s easy for the other to be dragged down right along with them. Regarding, my girlfriend and I, our relationship worked for quite some time because I already had a couple years of clean time racked up when we met. I was able to help her get and stay clean for about a year. When we relapsed together though, things went downhill. Nevertheless, having been together and having been able to successfully stay clean for so long, we didn’t think that we needed to separate. We had used together but there was no reason we couldn’t once again be clean together. Detox is painful, however. Especially in those first few days. I might be able to handle my own symptoms but seeing Wallis in that much pain really hurts me. During previous attempts to detox, as soon as I’d get the slightest inkling that it might be more than she could stand, I couldn’t help myself from going out and getting more heroin to make her feel better. After all, it’s not as if one dose in the middle of a detox is a nail in the coffin. That’s what titration is all about. You can always reason with yourself that one last hit, halfway into a detox period, will cure the worst of your symptoms and help you coast the rest of the way to the finish line.
But that “one last hit” all too often does not, in fact, retain its status as the last hit. You convince yourself that “just one more” will be okay. And then another. And another. And then you’re back to where you started.
We decided that we should detox separately to make it easier on each other. Wallis made plans to detox in Gainesville. I was to stay home in Jacksonville.
As anyone who’s ever detoxed from opiates will tell you, the best medicines to help ease you through the process are benzodiazepines. Xanax. Klonopin. Ativan. Those ones. While these drugs have an immense potential for recreational abuse, they’re not something that we’d ever otherwise take. We did, however, procure some for our detox.
Unfortunately, I have a track record of strange behavior while under the influence of these drugs. Well, I do now. Up until this point, there had only been one previous incident. When I took too many and became erratic and suicidal. And that’s exactly what happened this time around.
We began our detox the night of August 16th together. Wallis was to leave sometime the following afternoon but when I woke up, she was gone and I was confused. Already under the influence of the drug from the night before, I couldn’t understand what was happening. She had invited one of our friends to come over to be there for me when I woke up, but it didn’t make any difference.
I’m not the sort of person that breaks things when I lose my temper. I’ve never thrown a phone at a wall or anything like that. But under the influence of too many benzodiazepines, this did not hold true. I broke virtually every one of my possessions. Both of my televisions. My MacBook Air. My iPhone. And then I went around the house, from painting to painting, slashing at my canvases and smashing or shattering all of my frames.
Then I left the house, procured a large amount of heroin, went somewhere that I presumed I wouldn’t be found for at least several hours, and – after swallowing the rest of my benzos – injected what I presumed would be enough heroin to kill me.
When I woke up in a haze in the hospital three or four days later, I discovered that I had not been discovered hours after my intendedly-lethal injection. I was discovered almost immediately and thus my life was able to be saved.
Upon release from the hospital approximately one week after the overdose, I was no longer under the agitating effects of any drugs but I was in no better shape mentally. I began racing around town, trying to procure the money I’d need to buy enough heroin to once again attempt to kill myself. It wasn’t long before a suspicious and concerned Wallis (who I had spoken to on the phone at some point) alerted the police. They found me and took me into custody before I could try anything. I’ve been hospitalized often enough for suicidal behavior that I know what to say to doctors to procure my own early release though. I was back out on the street again the very next day but, fortunately, had calmed my mind and was no longer suicidal. I recommitted to getting clean, picking back up with my art and writing, and getting my life back on track.
As time has shown, it turns out that I wasn’t quite ready. I was not able to stay clean successfully for much more than a week or so. Even still, I was able to get my head clear for long enough to do something. I began sewing and repairing my damaged paintings. These would become what I’m now referring to as my “Suicide Stitches” series.
When I make art, I don’t plan very much ahead. I kind of just let the images take shape on their own. If I make a mistake – some mark that’s somehow other than I intended it to appear – I don’t correct it. I embrace it. “That’s how it’s supposed to be,” I tell myself. I find a way to rearrange my ideas about how the painting should look. The same is the case with my Suicide Stitches paintings. These pieces are not “damaged”; they don’t have rips or holes in them. This is how these paintings were always meant to be. Each one of my paintings and drawings tells a story and those stories are usually all about my emotional and mental state at the time I’m working on each one. My Suicide Stitches paintings tell those stories, plus one more: the story of August 17, 2016. The story of the day I lost my mind and almost ended my life.
The first of these paintings that I stitched up has already sold. In fact, it was stitched up because it was sold. It was the first good news I had gotten in quite a while. Through Instagram, I got a message from reality TV star, Scott Disick. He wanted one of my pieces and, more than that, he wanted to help promote my art. That opportunity was the first spark I’d had in a great while to actually do something productive. And the publicity and consequent sales I’m expecting are what’s motivating me to get back to work right now. (Although I do have other similarly exciting opportunities also in the works at this point). That first painting has been shipped to Scott but the other Suicide Stitches paintings are still available for purchase. For pricing (on both the originals as well as limited edition hand-numbered/signed prints), contact my new agent, Jennifer Levin of newly formed agency, Blow the Dust. (Jen’s last enterprise is currently on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies, so I’m pretty amped on this new partnership). Blow the Dust’s website is still very much a work in progress but it’s already been launched with a webstore featuring some of my prints and one of my original paintings. It should actually be operational by sometime this week. Check it out.
While the pieces have not yet been rephotographed since their Suicide Stitches updates, you can get the general idea from a couple photos I snapped quickly with my iPhone in my blog entry from October 8th. Six of the seven paintings in the series are as follows:
The final (seventh) painting in the series (and only one not pictured here) also happens to be the largest, newest, (most expensive) and my favorite of the whole lot. It’s called “The World Revolves Around Me.” For more information on (and images of) that piece, like the others, just get in touch.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to note that (at the time of this posting) I currently have 13 days clean (a record for me so far in 2016) and I plan on that number continuing to climb through the year’s end. I’d also like to note that money from the sales of my work no longer goes directly to me – a safety measure taken in case of a potential relapse.
Response on social media seems to indicate that some people feel like I might not be responding to my current situation as… well… – as some people would like me to. And while I have zero interest in conforming to anyone else’s ideas of “how Sam should be feeling,” I’d like to make something clear. Last night’s blog entry was the consequence of the pure rush of adrenaline that comes with a surprise release from jail. To some, a week in jail may not seem like much. For me, it was a baptism by fire. What people might not understand is that I’ve (obviously) been arrested before and have had court cases draw out for as long as eighteen months. Without bail, a defendant sits in jail until their case is concluded. When it looked like no bail was forthcoming, I was settling in for the long haul. I was virtually certain that no clemency was coming my way anytime soon and that I was going to be stuck in jail for a very, very long time. And – as anyone who knows me is well aware – I am not the sort of person that could do well in jail for very long. I absolutely don’t know how to keep to myself and – let’s be honest – I’m “soft.” I’m gonna be overly familiar and friendly with the wrong people, I’m gonna get taken advantage, and when I do inevitably attempt to stick up for myself, it’s gonna go really south for me really fast. And exactly that almost happened just in my short time there. I had some twice-my-size wannabe gangster in my face at one point screaming at me, “tighten up, cracker!” (Slang for “fists up, we’re fighting now”). I was extremely lucky to get out of that situation unharmed and am still not entirely sure how I managed to do so. Finding out that I wasn’t going to be stuck in that world anymore and then being released so suddenly after what was likely the most challenging week of my life (remember: I was also detoxing / withdrawing from heroin the whole time) – that made for an incredibly celebratory mood last night. It was the greatest natural high of my life.
With that being said, I’d like to address some things that didn’t quite make their way into last night’s entry. Regarding the victims of my traffic accident: Holy fucking shit. Am I ever lucky that no one was hurt (as they SO EASILY could have been). I thank God no one was injured. Because I want to make something clear: sitting in jail all week, I didn’t just feel terrible about my situation and the situations (caused by me) of those I know and love but – how could I not – also about that traffic accident. I don’t know the extent of the damage I did but those people didn’t deserve any of that. You shouldn’t have to worry about some emotionally troubled drug addict fuck-up every time you decide to drive somewhere. That’s not a concern anyone should have. And even when they’re not “horrible” even mild traffic accidents can be pretty traumatic. I sincerely hope that this wasn’t the case for any of the other drivers I effected but I don’t really have any way of knowing. And the thought that I might have had that kind of impact on someone pains me to think about. For all my brashness and my loud personality, on the occasions that I discover that I’ve so much as genuinely annoyed anyone – even that shit bums me the fuck out. I like to be a light. I absolutely have NOT been for the last year but the notion that I’m actually doing more harm than good makes me feel sick to my stomach with self-loathing.
And while most of the people reading this already know that I’m not the world’s biggest supporter of the police forces of the world, I’m also not so resentful at this point in my life to have the kind of animosity that would lend itself to wanting to in any way hurt some random police officer that I know nothing about. I’ve been charged with assault against a police officer and while that could have meant as little as touching his arm, I haven’t seen the report yet and thus don’t know what I did in my blackout state. Do I think there are cops out there who deserve to have terrible things happen to them? (It’s hard for me to say no). But if I rephrase that and consider whether or not I think there are people out there who deserve to have terrible things happen to them, my answer is almost definitely no. Even when it comes to the most bigoted hateful people in the world, I’m not a huge advocate of punishment. I have a hard time believing that someone with those kinds of ideas kicking around in their head (and manifesting themselves in their daily actions no doubt) isn’t already living in the consequently hellish world they’ve created for themselves. And even if some people do deserve “bad things,” I’m not the arbiter of justice and have no interest in being one. Plus, shit – can we drop our punk rock attitudes for just one second long enough to acknowledge that it’s thoroughly possible that some cops aren’t evil? In my mind (even though I don’t know that I actually did anything remotely serious to this guy) when I think about it, I’m just picturing me doing something unpleasant to a person – not a cop – but a person. Some guy who has a job to do and shouldn’t have to deal with my bullshit but did anyway. And – again – I don’t feel so great about that. I don’t wanna be a pain in anyone’s ass. I just wanna feel okay and I want the same for everyone else in the world.
And then there are all of the people I love and who love me. That’s what (admittedly) hurts the most. Friends and regular readers/followers have probably picked up on the fact that I’m an emotional basketcase with an absurd capacity for empathy. I know what I’ve been doing to the people in my life this last year. In fact, that knowledge and the pain of that knowledge probably accounts for a lot of what kept (very selfishly) pushing me further and further into Addiction Round Two. The need to numb those feelings and that pain. The people I’ve hurt are too numerous to name and the emotional turmoil I’ve caused them is too significant to reduce to some petty cluster of words in my blog. It’s really hard not to hate myself for it. The only reason I don’t is that (thanks to that “baptism by fire” / week in jail) I’ve finally regained the strength and clarity to realize and accept that feeling awful doesn’t do anyone any good. It just leads to self-pity, depression, and more self-abuse that winds up spilling over into the lives of my loved ones, anyone at all who cares about me, and innocent bystanders like the drivers and passengers of those cars I crashed into and the cop (and probably any hospital workers and jail officials) who had to deal with my incoherent obnoxious bullshit last Wednesday night.
And it’s that same clarity and strength that caused me to let Wallis go today. I couldn’t love that girl any more than I do. Words are insufficient to express my adoration, love, and respect for her. She means the world to me. And that’s why I told her today that I will not be pursuing her or trying to “win her back.” When Wallis and I met, she was in a bad spot and I was really, really good for her. I got her off of heroin. I got her out of the strip club. I showed her things in life that she had never experienced before and I don’t think it’s unreasonable or boastful to say that I made her happy.
All of that means close to nothing at this point. Because a year later, I let it all go to shit. I let problems in my own life that had nothing to do with her corrupt my sobriety, pull me back into active addiction, and pull her right back in with me. Any good that I did her in the first part of our relationship has been completely nullified. If she’s any better for having known me, her “position” in life at the moment certainly isn’t. And like much of my family and plenty of my friends, I’ve caused her such pain. Untold levels of anxiety and concern for my well-being. The kind of shit that makes you feel physically sick. Whole-truth: I still want a future with Wallis (and I told her as much) but it can’t be because we feel like we need each other. It has to be because we simply want each other for the simple reason that each of us makes the other’s life better. If we’re going to be together, it can’t be now. I’ve been bad for her and I owe it to her to “set her free” (of any feeling of obligation for me or my well-being]. I won’t be calling her. I won’t be messaging or texting or emailing her. I’m sure we’ll still see each other sometimes but it’s not going to be at my request and it’s definitely not going to be because I “need” her to fix my emotional boo-boos. And I don’t want it to be because she needs me to fix hers either. If we do wind up together someday, it needs to be as strong, independent people. And if we don’t end up together – well – that’s just that and I’m sure we’ll both be just fine. I love her to the fucking moon and back [did I use that expression in last night’s blog? I think I did] but I’m committing to focusing on my own recovery and to leaving her the fuck alone. She deserves the best in the world and though I feel confident already that I’ve turned the corner, I’ve abused my right to ask for her faith/trust. If we’re going to be together one day, it’ll have to be the result of something more natural / organic than my “pushing” for it.
There’s more still bouncing around in my head but – for now – I just want to thank my dad and my ex-girlfriend Emily for talking with me today and helping to refine my goals and my understanding even further. And – by the way – speaking of Emily: god damn. She was my girlfriend during my first round of addiction and, tragically, stayed fucked up for way longer than I did. In fact, it was her ongoing addiction and my concern for her that’s chiefly responsible for how well I’m able to understand the damage I’ve done to others with my own addiction. But today she’s a new person. She’s six months clean and she’s a million times smarter than I am. My conversation with her today made me cry a lot (particularly the parts about needing to “release” Wallis [from any sense of obligation to me] by “leaving her be”) but it also made me really happy. That she can be that kind of voice of reason for the people in her life now… it’s just incredible and heart-warming and I love her so much and am so grateful that she’s doing well, she’s alive, she’s still in my life, and… (you get the idea). It also makes me wanna be able to be that again – for the people in my life that are struggling with [whatever]. I know I can be. I think I’m gonna be.
I’ve still got a swirl of bad feelings flying around inside me but there’s no self-pity here. There’s determination, there’s sincerity – and there’s remorse but not shame. Okay – admittedly – there’s some shame. It’s pretty tough to not feel ashamed of myself for some of the stuff I’m responsible for. But I’m not letting myself soak in it, I’m trying to use it as fuel to get to a better place, to be a better person. Stay tuned.
I am alive. I am here. I am now. I acknowledge the fact of my life. I am alive, breathing, walking, and smiling. There’s a world, there’s a world, there’s a big DUMB world and some time that I stepped in ’cause I’m getting tired of pretending that I don’t really give a shit. There was guilt and shame, there was fear and hate, but now it’s finally time to appreciate the perfection of all life. All the times and places and time I’d waste. I learned the hard way and ever since – when I look forward or back – I just gotta laugh ’cause it hit like a ton of bricks. I laid down on the ground and I looked around and I saw a miracle. I appreciate the simple beauty of the world. It came to me like a bullet to the heart but it was there in front of me all along so obvious; the only meaning of life is life itself i’m not controlled by anybody else. I must get out of my way, get out of my own way.
Holy fucking shit! This year is fucking over so far as I’m concerned. I started fucking up around the three-quarter mark of 2015 and it all really went to shit in February. Fuck all of that. I couldn’t care less. I’m not going into extreme details of my legal situation just now but know that I’m up against plenty. I spent the last week in jail and it wasn’t that I was in jail as much as that I was in jail with the idea in my head that things could very easily play out in such a way as to keep me in there for the next two years or more. No one wanted to bail me out because everyone thought I might just go and kill myself and – can you fucking blame them? I almost killed myself intentionally in August. And then on Tuesday, I went and blacked out and caused a four car collision on I-10 and then tried to fight a police officer. (And I don’t remember a fucking instant of it!) I only know because I’ve been told that it happened.
I love this stupid fucking planet. I love my little brother and my dad and my family and my friends. I love my beautiful fucking girlfriend (who isn’t currently talking to me and – you know what – may never talk to me again, and – as devastating as that would be – do you know what it wouldn’t be an excuse to do? SHOOT HEROIN. Because nothing is an excuse to shoot heroin. Fuck. Yes). I love you. I love me. I’m gonna pay off this fucking bail bondsman, I’m gonna get my ass into some over-the-top, stupid fucking treatment that I don’t really need (probably), I’m gonna get a fucking Vivitrol shot because I am a fucking junkie and my promises don’t mean shit and I can mean the world and know from experience that I’ll still fuck it up. But ooooooohhhhhhhhhh – not this time. Not this time, motherfuckers. I am alive. I acknowledge the fact that my dumb ass turns 31 tomorrow. I don’t like the person I’ve been this last year. That shit’s done. I feel fucking awesome. Let’s start today.
[unacknowledged/ripped off opening and closing lines courtesy of GB and KLU].
I can’t remember the last time I wrote a statement for one of my pieces but this painting never got one. A year later, here I go…
Things were going well. I was making thousands of dollars every month, I was getting booked at galleries, I was traveling the country with a girl with whom I was deeply in love, and I still wasn’t happy. (Or happy enough).
In March, I had an exhibition at Instinct in Minneapolis. Everyday – to help promote the exhibit and to make extra money selling prints – I’d set up on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with an easel, working on this, my next painting.
Some days, I didn’t wanna go set up though and spend twelve hours on the street, painting. Other days, I was frustrated having to park and carry my supplies too far away (or parking closer – illegally – and having to keep an eye over my shoulder for tow trucks all day). I was making money just for making art but I was actually having to work for it.
I wanted to paint in some studio or at home. I wanted to finish a painting and know that there were already galleries lined up to take them or collectors ready to buy them the moment each was finished. “I’m fucking brilliant!” (Right?) “My genius should be enough to generate an income all on its own! This should be easier.”
Alright, so maybe my thinking wasn’t quite that arrogant but … you know … pretty much.
Look – I don’t like myself a whole lotta the time and I could expand on that for days but – when it comes to my art – I know that it’s great. As a human being, I’m seriously flawed, but those same flaws (and my willingness to bare them so candidly and honestly) is what overwhelmingly/primarily accounts for the power and singularity of my art and is the reason I’ve sold as much of it as I have. I’ve hated so many things about me for long enough that I’m okay with being unapologetically proud of the art I’ve created.
I figured that once I got wide enough exposure and enough people knew about my art (once I was famous) my life would be a whole lot easier. No more worrying about bills. Lots of attention (to fill the empty void where my soul should live). You know: FAME. Money. Whatever.
Admittedly, that might be a little naive but – fuck it – I was getting really sick of having to work and I was getting really sick of not being famous.
Beyond all that, there’s a passage of smaller text hidden in the canvas that sort of jumps all over the place. I wrote about feeling fat and self-conscious and tugging at my clothes, pulling them straight a million times a day (even though I was well underweight at that point (and probably still am)). I wrote about other frustrations and how they made me want to use heroin, even though I’d been clean forever at that point and had gained so much to lose. And I wrote about how I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but that I was going to keep trying anyway, finding new approaches if necessary.
Like most of my work, this painting is meant to be funny and it’s supposed to seem dense and trivial but its humor is born of sincere frustration, genuine sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of uncertainty. And like a lot of the optimism I inject into my work, what little is here is mostly for my own benefit and not the painting’s. It’s forced with the hope that it will take hold.
And I think it did take hold for a while but ultimately, about a year after finishing this piece, I did cave and give in to heroin, letting it replace art as my full-time occupation. And seven months into that, in a state of drug-induced psychosis, I slashed away at this painting (and several others) shortly before eating an absurd quantity of Xanax and Klonopin and injecting an intentionally strong shot of heroin with the intention of killing myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t want the art to outlive me but the damage didn’t turn out to be all that bad anyway and I, myself, woke up in the hospital a few days later.
That was six weeks ago and I’m now in the process of stitching up all of the slashes I put into my paintings. This is the first I’ve finished sewing up which makes it the first in what I’m calling my “Suicide Stitches” series of paintings. More on that in another blog entry/post soon to follow.
Nine months ago, I was accused of rape. I don’t mention it often because the last thing I want to do is publicize it. For too long now though, that’s prevented me from expressing myself. It’s prevented me from doing just about anything. The accusation crippled me. Before I even had a chance to enter a plea and state my innocence, the charge was dismissed on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to even warrant a trial. That didn’t matter though – the story was already out there. In the Chicago Tribune, in the Chicago Sun Times, and all over the internet. (Mostly harsher) variations on the headline “Traveling artist accused of raping woman.” That’s the kind of thing that started to come up whenever my name was Googled. (Both my names: Sammy thrashLife and Samuel North). Scheduled exhibitions were cancelled or postponed indefinitely. In the coming months, four-figure sales would be negotiated and scheduled for the next day and, overnight, the buyer would disappear. I’d get some opportunity only to have it fall through shortly thereafter. There are plenty of possible explanations for each of these situations but I settled on one: Once a person got a chance to do a little research on me, they’d see those stories and decide that I wasn’t worth the risk. When thousands of artists are all competing for the same opportunity, why invite controversy upon yourself by giving it to one that’s been accused of something as awful as rape? For gallery owners, innocent or not, it’s safer to just steer clear of me and that whole situation and just book an exhibit with a different artist. For buyers, if you’re going to support an artist and buy something that’ll be displayed in your home for the rest of your life, do you really want a painting by someone that might have raped someone? There’s so much art out there – better to just go with a different artist, right?
I don’t know for certain that this kind of logic accounted for all of my opportunities drying up but it seemed like a pretty reasonable explanation. Feeling that rejection was now a guarantee, I stopped looking for opportunities. I stopped painting. I stopped writing. And I started shooting heroin again.
At different points along the way, I had thought about changing my name but that felt dishonest. That would be me trying to hide something. Besides, my art has always been about my story and – like it or not – this accusation was now part of it. A big part of it. The emotionally unbalanced law graduate who overcame heroin addiction and became an artist – I liked that story. The artist who was falsely accused of rape…? Even the word makes me sick to my stomach. I hate it. I don’t want that to be my story. I already had a story. Not to mention, even though the charges were dismissed, there’s no way that I can definitively, absolutely, unquestionably prove my innocence. So that’s who I was now: the artist who might have raped someone. I didn’t wanna be that person. I don’t wanna be that person. But I can’t help it. I can’t get my old identity back. My only other option is to find a new one.
Ever since those newspaper/online stories were published, my life’s been in decline. At no point since then has my life been as good as or better than it was before the accusation. Lately, in my head, I’ve been seeing a chart. It’s a chart of my life. There’s a plotted point on it for the day before my arrest. It’s not at the top of the chart, it’s somewhere in the middle. Then there’s the day that I got out of jail, when I found out about all the publicity surrounding my arrest. The line’s dropped all the way to the bottom of the chart; it’s broken through the bottom of the chart to new, previously unknown levels of terrible feelings. Since that day, the line’s gone up and the line’s gone down – but it’s never gotten any higher than the plotted point for the day before I was arrested. That’s the new ceiling. The stigma of that accusation has become a hurdle that I can’t get past and I’m really scared that, when I die, it’ll be the point on the chart of my life from which I never again made any progress. From which I never again got any better. I’m scared that this is it for me – that I already got my “comeback” – that this is what ends me.
Obviously, relapsing with heroin hasn’t made things any easier. I’m not in as bad of shape as I was a few months back and I’m clean right now but I still struggle. I think my biggest problem is that I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. For a time after the accusation, I’d still go out on the street, set up a canvas and paint while selling prints. And just as before, I did fine. I earned “a living.” That was before I relapsed though. When I could forget about the accusation and stick to my regular narrative: the junkie saved by art. But now that’s not true. Now I’m the junkie saved by art, accused of rape, and returned to heroin. That’s not an uplifting story. That’s not something people want to buy into. And it’s not really something that I want to sell. I don’t go out on the street to try to sell prints anymore and I don’t try to get into galleries anymore. Consequently, I don’t have all that much of an income anymore. I’ve been really broke. (Again, using heroin hasn’t really helped this situation much but I’d be having money trouble regardless).
There was this day when Wallis and I were walking out of the grocery store and she stopped to look at a potted plant. I knew that she wanted it but, on that day, I barely had a dollar to my name. I couldn’t afford to buy my girlfriend a ten dollar flower pot. That killed me. I love her so much and I want to give her the whole world – absolutely anything that she might ever desire. And that day I couldn’t even buy her some flowers to plant in our front yard. I felt so pathetic and useless. Though there have been brighter incidents (like the day somebody bought an expensive painting and I surprised Wallis by letting her pick out as many flowers, plants, and seeds as she wanted) there have also been a lot more where I haven’t been able to afford some little item and felt really terrible and guilty about it. (Just for the record, this is all my own doing; Wallis isn’t the kind of girl that ever makes me feel bad about not having enough money; she’s loved me unconditionally and been the one constant ray of light in my life ever since this nightmare started).
The stigma of the rape accusation might be significant enough that it’s no longer possible for me to make a living as an artist. Or it might not. It might just be in my head. Either way, my fear that it’s enough, and my fear of rejection, have absolutely made it impossible for me to make a living as an artist. So what do I do? I tried to get a few different writing jobs with companies where I knew there were people that were already fans of my writing. None of those panned out. (And, personally, I suspect it’s got something to do with my Google search results and the stigma of the accusation). Either way, my suspicion and consequent fear of rejection have prevented me from applying for any more of those types of jobs – jobs where I’d be a public name or face or personality of some kind.
Art and writing are the only two things I know that I’m any good at. If I can’t do either of those, I have my law degree to fall back on but I’ve never taken the bar. As a felon (I was convicted for possession of Adderall, even though I’ve had a prescription for more than ten years, because I didn’t have it stored in the proper bottle and I hadn’t had my prescription filled that month) it’s impossible (or close to it) to be admitted to the bar in Florida. Because I’m currently on probation (for the Adderall charge) I can’t move out of Florida. Besides, I’m pretty sure that it’s tough to get admitted to the bar as a felon in any state. So now I’m applying for paralegal and legal assistant jobs. I have a degree from Georgetown Law, one of the most prestigious law schools in the world, and I’m applying for jobs in the legal field for which I was already qualified when I was a teenager. And I might not even be able to get one. After all, if some law firm has a whole pool of applicants to choose from, it’s the same as gallery owners choosing artists for exhibitions. Safer to go with someone who hasn’t been accused of rape. Or that’s my fear anyway. And when the odds of rejection (or the perceived odds in any case) are that high, why even bother to try? That’s the kind of thinking that’s made me give up on being an artist and what’s kept me stuck in this rut, spinning my wheels for so long. That’s what keeps me frustrated. And what keeps nudging me back toward heroin. Heroin, after all, makes it all go away. It makes the pain and the fear and the anxiety disappear. At least for a little while. (And then it makes everything a whole lot worse, which is – obviously – why I’m trying to get away from it for good).
Even if I do find a regular job, I’ve got a whole separate set of fears about why it might not work out (which is a big reason I opted to become an artist instead of a lawyer in the first place) but – for now – those are still totally irrelevant. I have to actually get a job before I can reasonably be afraid of why I might lose it. Even still, I’d be lying if I said that those other fears don’t also scare me away from trying harder to seek out new opportunities, new options, and new paths I might go down.
I don’t know. I sent out a bunch of résumés yesterday. Hopefully, I’ll hear back on one of ’em on Monday or Tuesday. I just need something. I gotta find something to give me some direction, some purpose, some money, and some idea of a future that I’d actually want to get to.
God – I’ve wanted to write this for so long but I’ve been afraid that publishing something like this would hurt my chances of getting whatever job I was applying for at whatever moment. Or of causing a problem with my psychiatric treatment. Or of getting me in trouble for violating my probation. It’s been so hard, not being able to express myself freely. I’m still not legally supposed to talk about what I know about what did or didn’t happen that resulted in that accusation that’s fucked up my life so badly. I’m not used to keeping anything a secret and I feel like there have been so many lately. Having to hide this from these people or that from everyone. It feels so good to finally get all of this out. Sure, there are other secrets from the last year that have eaten at me and that I’ve continued to keep to myself but what I’ve written here today is what’s emotionally relevant right now – and my intention when I sat down wasn’t to “fill in the blanks” for any audience; it was just to write. Up until this last paragraph, I had it in my head that I wasn’t even going to share this with anyone – at least not anytime soon. I liked myself better back when I was an open book though so… whatever (forever) and so on. Writing (and sharing) this feels like a step forward.
Check me out. It only took ’til May 17th for me to write my first blog entry in 2016. But… um… whatever, okay? Moving on…
When I stopped painting in January, I was working on a twelve by eight foot canvas that I had shared some photos of (mostly on Facebook and Instagram) as it progressed. It’s currently stuffed into a trash bag and I’m not sure what’ll ultimately become of it but here’s a picture and a little bit more info in the caption below.
It’s been four months since I’ve had my artwork and (five months since I’ve had my) blog as creative and emotional outlets. That’s been really difficult but I’m not ready to fill in all the blank pages that have accumulated since I abandoned this website in December. As much as I’d like to just spill my guts about everything – for now – I’ve got to leave the story of the last few months (and – really – the story since September) to be told sometime in the future.
That being said, I don’t want to feel like this website is just sitting online, rotting, so I’m going to try to start updating it with what I can more often.
I’ve been looking into new opportunities and hopefully I’ll have some good news soon. There were also some paintings from last year that never got added to the Gallery, so I’ll see if I can’t correct that soon too.
I hope everyone’s well and I’d like to thank all my friends, fans, and supporters for helping me along this far.