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.

Kind of Cute

When I first got to Tranquil Shores, I was journaling way more often than they were forcing me to do artwork. What follows is my third piece and my third journal entry. The journal is from my second day at Tranquil Shores, while the collage is from my twelfth day. Bear in mind that ten days (in early recovery) is a fucking lifetime, so these are the products of two different states of mind. They don’t really “go together.”

“Kind of Cute.” August 29th, 2012. Pencil, magazine, glue. 8½x11”.

This is the product of my second art therapy group. The theme was defense mechanisms. I do a lot of shit that’s been described as “shocking” or “offensive” but I do all of it with one of those “ain’t I a stinker?” kinda smiles. I think I’m cute. I think it’s cute to “get away with” the things I do. Like this piece – yeah, there’s a crucifixion so it’s a little blasphemous, but it’s the fucking cat from Shrek. Can anyone really take it seriously enough to be offended? Similarly, there’s a penis, which is pretty crude, but look how fucking small it is. How’s anyone gonna get bent outta shape over that? As for the caption, it might say, “Mom!! You’re not watching!!” but what it’s really saying is, “It’s not my fault I’m this way. I’m a poor neglected orphan! Take me home with you and take care of me! You can make it all better! You can fix me and I’ll be a good boy!” So – yeah – defense mechanisms.


I REALLY don’t want to post this next entry. I’m not sure that this isn’t a huge mistake. This shit is alternately trivial and embarrassing. I am ashamed that these thoughts went through my head. Maybe thoughts like these go through everyone’s head, but I don’t think anyone ever actually shares them. Maybe that’s the way it should be.

In any case, it’s LONG. So: first half today, second tomorrow. Also, in the actual journal, each entry started with a lyric. Initially, I decided not to include those since they’re not my own words, but I think they set the tone for each entry, so I changed my mind and will include them from now on.

Again, I don’t know if my posting this stuff is good or bad, so if you have any feelings about it, let me know. Here’s the first half. This is the part with all the really trivial stuff. The second half is where it gets especially detailed, personal, and embarrassing.

Tranquil Shore Journal – Day #2, Entry #3
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. 9:58 pm.
“The only moment of the day when I find any meaning is the last five minutes when I’m staring at the fucking ceiling.” – The Credentials

 I had my first face-off with the staff today, over my “Go Fuck Yourself” Slow Death shirt. Susan said I couldn’t wear it. I told her I’d change into something else first thing tomorrow. My first confrontation (defused) though was this morning with Fletcher. “You gotta change everything about yourself to make it in recovery – clothes, hair, everything.”  Really, dude? You say that to everyone who checks in here? “Gotta change your hair?”  Or just the kids with pink hair? ‘Cause page one of the Tranquil Shores handbook says that I’m “invited to express all of who I am,” and talks about integrating “all of who I am” into my daily activities, as well as some shit about creativity and “special gifts” and talents. I didn’t argue that with him though, just nodded my head.

But why’d I face-off over the shirt? Control? Identity? Insecurity? Attention? Or am I maybe testing them? (Mitch told me before I checked in that no one would hassle me about my stupid t-shirts).

I wanna make a shirt that says “Mitch’s dad sells boner pills on late night TV.” In good humor, of course. How would that go over? I’m kind of a little fuckshit, huh? Can’t help but smile. Bethany asked me about this notebook this morning when she saw me writing in it. I told her it’s mostly self-absorbed “clever things I said today” lists.

I realized today the full extent of my shitty hair. I have court on Thursday. Four days after I permanently dye my hair to look like an idiot. Like I said to Laurie before I realized my error (on Harrison Street), “Like natural red? Oh. No. I still want to look like an idiot.”

How about that ancient woman at AA this morning, shaking everyone’s hand down the line as I rambled on to Aaron, obliviously swearing “fuck [something or other]” as she approached me. “And you are?” she asked. “Charming. Clearly,” I responded as I shook her hand.

I met Mike today. He asked how I was feeling. “So long as I don’t shit my pants, we’ll log it as a good day.”

Warren has an answer for everything. Like, in an AA way. Sort of off-putting. I can’t talk to people like that. They constantly correct your feelings and ideas.

I’m gonna give Vicky a Traffic Street koozie and a Sundials CD as a thank you for being so cool and encouraging to me. She said she wants to take me to California with her. Sounds good to me, but we can just be friends? (Until you lose the weight anyway?) Fuck, I’m superficial. But I considered “gay for pay”  (for drugs) (though not seriously, I guess) so I could certainly sleep with a girl to whom I wasn’t physically attracted, right? Especially if she’s cool to me like Vicky.

Wow. What happened to Candace? I wonder if she’s over me by now. I think we parted on August 1st, so it’s been almost three weeks. And me? How do I feel about her? Honestly, at this moment, I think I do care for her on a deep level (though that could certainly disappear (I think) if she no longer cared for me). If she lost just a little weight and could stay off drugs, why wouldn’t she be totally perfect for me? And honestly, I do love her just the way she is now, except for the drug-addled part. If she was clean/sober and I could support us, I think we could be happy. As happy as any other couple anyway.

I just went to the bathroom, turned out the common area lights, and I’m back. My body is not enjoying heroin withdrawal. That Imodium forty-five minutes ago is doing nothing for me. So long as I make it ‘til morning: successful evening. Just eight short hours.

Is Candace really gonna stick it out in Christian boot camp? We’ll see. I guess it doesn’t matter if I can’t stick it out here. Actually, the worse case scenario is both of us failing and somehow hooking back up. I can’t fall back into that. Or into any way of life of drug use. I really need to resolve to kill myself if I fail here and have no decent back-up plan for recovery. Like, this time around, I should accept the transfer to another facility if it’s forced on me. Three “less restrictive” rehabs failed = time to try a more traditional approach. STERILE WALLS, dude. But… um… for serious.

Tomorrow’s my first day in group. Scary. Two 1½-hour sessions and one 2-hour sessions. No breaks. I don’t know if I’m built for that. It doesn’t seem right. I’ll bet it makes people cranky. I should petition for three 1-hour sessions and two 1-hour sessions. What’s the rush? Make the breaks ten minutes long instead of fifteen. Stretch the day. We’ve got shit to do at 3PM anyway (by which I mean nothingto do). We need nicotine. We’re in rehab. At all other hours it flows without relent.

Aaron couldn’t tell the difference between Troublemake and The Brokedowns. I told him that was the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. Vicky and Jenna both said it was good. So that’s cool, right? Vicky’s California comment came after I played the record so I think that means I must be the most gifted songwriter alive today.

Back to Candace: if both of us were to succeed and we were to reconnect, could I remain faithful in the interim? Is it important? She’s right about me loving attention, especially from girls. The fucked up part is that it’s not about getting laid for me, but that part is still crucial as the ultimate form of validation. It’s the culmination of the attention. The part that says, “Yeah, Sam’s good enough for someone, at least for something.” And not just something really, but something intimate which still means more to some people (most girls, I think) even if it means little to me, in that way.

You guys catch the Psyched to Die and This is My Fist references? Looking back, it’s funny that (even in withdrawal) my brain is so saturated with pop punk that it leaks out of me in every thought and every word.

The second half of this entry is set to publish automatically tomorrow morning at 6 (along with my first painting). This is thoroughly uncomfortable.

Fifteen Alligators

I might not like my earliest art, but I think I like the chronological approach to this blog/gallery so here’s number two.

"Fifteen Alligators." August 22nd, 2012. Oil pastels on scrap paper. 9x12".

“Fifteen Alligators.” August 22nd, 2012. Oil pastels on scrap paper. 9×12″.

Here’s how my first art group worked: we paired up, each person had a turn to talk, and each person drew something in relation to what they talked about as well as what their partner talked about. I drew “Kicking Dirt” after my partner talked and “Fifteen Alligators” after I talked. Neither has anything to do with the conversation. And all I remember about the conversation was being really weirded out by my partner’s facial expression while he was listening to whatever it was that I had to say that afternoon. He looked super attentive. Like – to such an extent that it seemed exaggerated. Maybe it wasn’t; maybe it was just new to me. I don’t know, but as you’ll see from this next journal excerpt, my perception (and, more generally, thinking) wasn’t exactly top-notch at this point.

The following is part of the same entry (from 8/19/12) that I excerpted for my first post. In fact, it starts exactly where I chose to let the last except end. Keep in mind that I wrote these with the intention of never sharing them with anyone. So a lot of this stuff is… Well, I’m not comfortable with it. Part of me thinks that posting these is a waste of time and that they’re totally uninteresting, but part of me thinks that they might have value insofar as they really are totally raw, very private journals from a very vulnerable/confused time in my life.

A quick note: Since I never intended to share these, I wrote things that I have no right saying to anybody (you know – stuff about other people… people that aren’t me). So before I get to any of that stuff, I decided today that I should start replacing all the names of people that I referred to in these journals, even if I only mentioned them casually / innocuously. That seems like a responsible thing to do, right?

Tranquil Shores journal. First entry (cont’d).
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. Around 5:30 am.

I’ve been staring at the wall, lost in dumb thoughts for fifteen minutes now.

Sophie said she thinks I’ll pick up another rehab girlfriend. Does she not realize she’d be my only prospect? Or does she think I’d go for someone like Elizabeth? I don’t think there’s even a third option. In any case, I told her I’ve got no intention. That’s what fucked me up both at Hazelden and at Wellness. Plus she’s leaving soon. And she’s a twenty-two year-old mess who still texts with two addict ex-boyfriends and who think she can be in recovery and still go back to selling weed… which she says she gets in forty-pound bundles from Hawaii, California, and Colorado… which – as anyone who’s spoken to her for even a moment can tell – is an outright lie. So basically, she’s a mess. Fuck. I kind of like it. It’s so funny when she “worries” about other people. Kid, you’re fucked – worry about yourself. Or wait… am I doing the same thing? I think it’s different insofar as I say, “so-and-so’s fucked,” not “I’m worried about ____.” And I perpetually acknowledge just how fucked I am. Fifteen percent of addicts recover! Or is that five percent? Let’s say “five to fifteen.” That’ll be the new tagline.

I wanna play my bass and rip off that Unfun song. “Society/Friends.”
I also don’t wanna get up.
And I’m still about to shit the bed.
“And that’s not so cool.” (!)

Read philosophy last night. Nietzche and Schopenhauer. Sadly, Shopenhauer had the more lovable, relatable material for me right now. Plus he didn’t lose his fucking mind 44 years in. What stood out to me: lowered expectations. The world does not have a great deal to offer us and happiness is not guaranteed. Basically, FUCK “The Promises.” Drugs make life worse, but abstention doesn’t guarantee that it won’t still be terrible. People have difficult lives for a lot of reasons. Drugs are not the root of all evil. But are drugs the reason my life sucks? Ehhh, that’s the question. If “yes” then I guess I can overcome – and then move on to trying to overcome the next biggest reason my life is shy of ideal. Until I’m all out of reasons or until I get to one I can’t beat. I guess it’d only be rational to kill myself after an honest attempt at that process. “Rational” is the wrong word. The only “rational” thing to do is to kill myself right now. Unless I have some meaning or purpose to my life. Then I can choose to live. How long do I look? How long do I fight to overcome the terrors of my life? The “terrors of my life?” Those words just came out of me. God, I’m an asshole.

I wrote another entry a few hours later. It’s short.

Tranquil Shores journal.
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. 11:15 am.

I’m sitting in an AA meeting at the Indian Rocks town hall.

Happiness is a choice. That’s what Vivian said to me this morning (and what I used to say to other people, a long time ago). The problem (well, a problem) is that the choice seems to require shutting off your brain. Because you have to make the choice despite the lack of reason behind it. Or you need to find a reason. I’m not dead yet, so I guess I must have one. Should I (can I) make the choice?


It’s pretty tough for me to look at these old journal entries, but that probably means it’s good for me to do so anyway. One last thing: I was going to post this update earlier, but I had computer trouble. I went to a friend’s house to borrow a power adapter. On the ride back, almost home, I turned toward my street. The gates were down, the lights were flashing red, and a train was coming. I didn’t stop. I sped around the gates and over the tracks. At that moment, “High Fives” by Dear Landlord started playing in my headphones. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt better in my life.

Kicking Dirt

I want to have a place online to share my art and my writing. A place where it can be sorted, searched, and viewed easily. Ideally, this will function both as a blog and a gallery.

I’ve decided to start at the beginning and work my way to the present. When it comes to pieces about which I have nothing worthwhile to say, I’ve decided to post excerpts from my journals. Below is my first piece and first journal entry after arriving at Tranquil Shores in August 2012.

"Kicking Dirt"     8/22/12 Oil pastels on scrap paper 9x12"

“Kicking Dirt.”  August 22nd, 2012.  Oil pastels on scrap paper.  9×12″.

This was my first piece from expressive art therapy group. I was on Suboxone. My last shot of heroin had been five days prior. I had been forced to participate in art groups at other rehabs and I wasn’t happy that it was happening again.

Tranquil Shores journal. First entry.
August 19th, 2012. Sunday. 4:43 am.
It’s been thirty-seven hours since I checked in at Tranquil Shores. My third treatment facility. After getting kicked out of Wellness – and the five month disaster that followed – I was pretty sure I’d never go to rehab again. But things have been too desperate. The last few days, all I did was shoot up, cry, and think about dying. I wanted to die, but I was scared. In my head, I used Riley’s suicide as an excuse to not kill myself. I told myself that I can’t put Elena through two suicides in two months.

I still thought about killing myself a lot today. In retrospect, that’s what got me Baker Acted when they kicked me out of Hazelden. It didn’t matter how cool I was that day, there had been too many blinking red lights leading up to it. It was a liability thing. I need to word my discontent more carefully this go-around. But I would overdose if given the opportunity. I’m too scared to do anything that isn’t failsafe.

My withdrawal symptoms are next to nothing so far, but I’m pretty sure that if I don’t get up soon, I’m going to shit the bed. The diarrhea’s been a constant.

I’m giving up on getting back down to 135 pounds. I’ll be happy if I can get down to 145.

I got my record player and some records out of storage before I checked in. I have my own room right now and it’s nice, sitting in here, not having to worry about getting heroin, and just spinning records. They even let me put my Traffic Street posters up on the wall. I’m like a dumb animal driven by a compulsion to mark my territory. God forbid someone comes in here and doesn’t immediately know just how punk I am. Speaking of which, I stupidly put a red blotch and pink streaks in my hair last night. No one was talking to me at the smoking table so I went upstairs. Thought of it, did it, and went back down because, apparently, I’m just that starved for attention. What the fuck is wrong with me? It looks really dumb. Just like me!

I’m pretty sure Elena threw out my letters from Candice. (She was pretty mad when that car she loaned me back in Miami was stolen in a bad drug deal). I wonder what she – I mean Candice – thinks of me (of us) right now. I wonder what I think of us. Do I actually care about her or was our dependence on each other pretty much the same as our dependence on heroin? And how about Elena (and Mark)? I stole sixty dollars from the drawer at the dealership on Thursday. Fuck. I’m awful. How do I face that? I don’t want to have to face that.


has borderline personality disorder BUT DOESN'T SHOOT HEROIN ANYMORE. Like, not today anyway (probably). Check the blog to find out if he's currently painting or fucking up.