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.
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.
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.”
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.
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. 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.
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.” 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.