Tag Archives: addiction

I’d Kill Your Family If I Thought You’d Notice, But You Wouldn’t, So Fuck It, I’ll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire

"I'd Kill Your Family If I Thought You'd Notice, But You Wouldn't, So Fuck It, I'll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire." 2/1/13. Tempera. 2/1/13.
2/1/13. Tempera. 12×18″.

It’s such an unbelievable coincidence that – if I were someone else, reading this – I’d probably call me a liar but… this is a painting inspired by Donnie (my roommate for five of my months at Tranquil Shores) and I was all set to feature it in my blog entry for last night when – at the last minute – I decided the image was too blurry and that I should write-up a different piece instead. As I found out within seconds of opening my eyes this morning, Donnie is dead.

It’s against the rules but I (very sneakily) recorded my coin-out [the ceremony to honor completion of a treatment plan]. And I’m really glad I did it because it’s nice to listen to every once in a while. I just listened to Donnie’s segment and it made me smile pretty big. The first words out of his mouth were “You know how to push my buttons better than anyone I’ve ever known in my life.” And the reverse was true too. I don’t know that I’ve ever been angrier with anyone than I was with him just one week prior (the day that I painted this). But as he went on to say, “We have some things in common. We’re both drug addicts, we both hate each other, and we both love each other.” Which kind of hits the nail right on the head. Back when he said it, I was a little disappointed ’cause – as much as I had an equal part in our conflicts – I always just wanted us to be friends. I was a little sad that he chose to acknowledge the darker part of our relationship in that moment. But – looking back – he was doing exactly what I always say is so important: he painted the full, honest picture. And I’m really grateful for that.

The title of this painting is mean as fuck. Donnie had a family up north that, in his addiction, he had almost completely lost touch with. It hurt him so much that – before I had met him – he did a six month stint of inpatient treatment in which he kept his kids a secret. The day that I made this, I said a lot of fucked up shit to him but I didn’t ever say anything about that. As mad as I was, I didn’t want to take it that far so I used the painting to get my meanest thoughts out of my head. The first sentence of the caption, “the world’s not black and white,” is an allusion to a conversation I had earlier in the day, when I asked Tracy under what circumstances it would be okay to burn a person alive. When she told me it’s not ever okay to set another human being on fire, I said “that sounds like the kind of black-and-white-thinking characteristic of mental illness, Tracy. In this world, there exist shades of grey.”

donnie's shirtThe night before, I had taken a shirt that Donnie had given me and went out to a parking lot at the end of the block. [I was allowed by this point to go on short walks if I signed in and out]. I set it on fire, let it burn for a minute, stomped it out, and then took it back to my room to paint some text on the back: “WHAT I LACK IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND LIFE SKILLS, I MAKE UP FOR IN PUSH-UPS!!!” That, I figured I could get away with – especially since I had been working out a lot too around that time so (while it was definitely my “Donnie shirt”) the statement could have easily been applied to me as well. After things cooled off and we weren’t mad at each other anymore, I showed it to him and he agreed that it was pretty funny.

Someone once told me that real friends fight. That if you’ve never gotten into an argument with a friend, you must be bullshitting each other an awful lot. And that’s what it was always like with Donnie. We didn’t argue about nonsense. It was always about real, serious shit. We’d call each other out when one of us was fucking up. And (naturally) – since we were both smarter than everyone – I’d constantly have to tell him when he was wrong about me and he’d constantly have to tell me when I was wrong about him. But we always seemed to work it out and get back to a good spot. Probably because each of us was always right about the other (and wrong about ourselves), even if it took us a minute or two to realize it. We were pretty good at keeping each other in line.

Which isn’t to say that we were constantly at each other’s throats. After we both moved into the real world and weren’t roommates anymore, we didn’t get into it like we used to. I even stayed with him in his new apartment when I came down to visit once. But even before that, as roommates, we got along more often than we actually fought. I can’t even count how many nights we sat up in our apartment talking out everything going on in our lives. There were days when I felt like I’d accomplished nothing or had no meaningful interpersonal connection with anyone – until just before bed when Donnie and I would have one of those conversations. And I know I helped him too ’cause he’d tell me so. Shit – for his first two months, I talked him down from his constant “I’m leaving THIS Friday” every week! We got our sponsors together. Did our fourth steps together. We were never “best friends,” hanging out all day; we didn’t like any of the same shit. I liked drawing and punk rock; he liked football and Hoobastank. But we were close. There was one week when I was overwhelmed with thoughts of self-harm. “Is there someone you can reach out to before you do anything to hurt yourself?” Tracy asked me. “Yeah,” I told her. “Donnie.”

Last year, when I wrote all those Christmas cards, I had the foresight to snap photos of some of them before I handed or mailed them off (for posterity or [whatever]). I just checked and – sure enough – I have a picture of Donnie’s. I’m struggling to admit it, but the tears are welling up. I wrote something in his card about faith, which reminds me of something I used to say back then: that I had more faith in Donnie than anyone. I really thought he was gonna “make it.” The last words in the card reflect that too…

I’d say “do good” but I know you will anyway.
Love you, buddy.
– Sam

It feels like a goofy thing to say but … all things considered, he did do good. He did a lot of good. And I’ll miss him. I already do.

Bright Side Nihilism: (Syria +/= Video Music Awards) < The Dog Peed on the Futon

I don’t have the slightest idea what’s happening in Syria. Something about weapons or genocide or… [who the fuck knows?] (Not me!). I am intentionally ignorant of it. I don’t give a shit. Not because I have some sort of bigoted animosity toward people in that part of the world, but because it’s not good for my mental health to be concerned with it. I don’t stress about it for the same reason I don’t stress about whether my friends in other parts of the country are consumed by drugs and at risk of dying. Because I can’t control it, I can’t change it, and worrying about it isn’t going to bring about anything positive for anyone.

I have a memory from when I was twenty years old. I was reading constantly and the things I was reading were consuming my thoughts. I remember walking through a grocery store and I started to cry (just a little bit) because I was thinking about water privatization in South America. I’m not interested in living that way anymore.

I saw some stuff on Facebook this week, criticizing our culture at large for being so consumed by the spectacle of MTV’s video music awards. I don’t give a shit about that either, but I actually saw some of it. (I went over to Angie and Alex’s house last night with Heather because Andrew and Claire came into town. They wanted to see some parts of the VMAs so Alex pulled it up on their magical internet television). I didn’t think it was awesome and I didn’t think it was the worst thing to ever happen. But it was really fucking boring. But [whatever]. It’s not important because – like Syria – things like that don’t need to be a part of my life at all.

Is it sad that bad things happen every day, whether or not we know about them? Absolutely. Is it frustrating that people obsess over (what I think is) vapid garbage “entertainment?” Sometimes, I guess. But none of it matters. Nothing matters. Not inherently. Things only have the significance that I assign to them. I don’t know if you’d call it a sort of nihilism or a “personal relativism” or what, but I get to choose my own truths and I get to create my own world.

As the only text on this painting (that isn’t in the title) says, “I like colors and contrast, bad teeth, crooked smiles, and nonsense. Things are better than they’ve ever been.”

"Bright Side Nihilism: (Syria +/= Video Music Awards) < The Dog Peed on the Futon." 9/1/13. Mixed media. 30x40".
“Bright Side Nihilism: (Syria +/= Video Music Awards) < The Dog Peed on the Futon.” 9/1/13. Mixed media. 30×40″.

This was the biggest fresh canvas I’ve ever worked with. I started on Thursday (8/29) and finished last night. It is acrylic, watercolor, pen, marker, carbon, and oil pastel.

Aside from “colors and contrast,” here’s something else that matters to me. Last night, when I was trying to figure out how to get a high-resolution photograph of something this big (and getting a little bit annoyed with how poorly my efforts were going) I realized that I was sitting alone in my kitchen, bouncing around in my seat, and singing along to this song. It made it a little tougher to feel at all annoyed or frustrated.

Edit(!): I can’t get the song to embed! Just go here and absorb everything: thebrokedowns.com

Little Vomit-Colored Hearts

"Little Vomit-Colored Hearts." 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12" (diameter) round.
“Little Vomit-Colored Hearts.” 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12″ (diameter) round.

The text in the center says: “It’s my hope that someday I’ll be able to draw a cartoon Heather that’s maybe 5% as adorable as the real thing.” The large (vomit-colored) text says, “Lovesick.” The rest:

If I had to guess, I’d say you might not be the biggest Valentine’s day celebrant to walk the earth. Which is cool. But any excuse I can grab hold of to tell you I think you’re great with some extra-effort-little gesture… I’m into. Can I be unabashedly romantic/sappy for a minute? You make me wanna puke up little vomit-colored hearts. (What’d I tell you? Romantic). I’m a heroin addict – you see past it. I’m weird as shit – you’re into it. You think you’re (relatively) boring – you’re not. You’re just (relatively) sane (maybe).  Which is awesome. You make me wanna be as good as I can be. You make me wanna live the best life possible. (I already wanted those things, but you make me want ‘em even more). And still have plenty of ridiculous adventures. But with you by my side. I wanna get in all kindsa trouble (and fuck up all kindsa shit) with you. (I mean that in the best way possible). I wanna get in good kindsa trouble. I don’t know about all these words. When I think about you and when I’m with you, sometimes I feel insecure. Until you speak. And then I feel the opposite. I feel safe and okay. (Still pretty new for me). You’re the warmest, most supportive, encouraging, loving, inspiring, high-school-mean-girl-Christian-bully that I’ve ever met. You’re so fucking sharp and beautiful and honest and [fuck!] You’re stylish and funny and perfectly imperfect and strong and independent. and everything good on this wacky fucking planet. You’re a dream I don’t want to wake up from. Happy (two day’s early) Valentine’s day, Heather.

So reads the text at the top of this piece. Following that are some “nervous afterthoughts,
which I wrote over the course of the next hour or so, and then bracketed and labeled as such.

Wanna be my girlfriend? Like – for realsies?
Actually, scratch that.
You already are.
Like it or not!
{You make me feel like a kid again. Not much of a stretch, but – you know…).
Thanks for taking a chance on a kid in rehab.
I adore you.

New relationships in early recovery are not recommended. And if you’re inpatient in rehab (I think it goes without saying that) they’re not allowed at all. For me especially – they’re a bad idea. Keeping the proper distance between girls and me had been a task my various rehab counselors and I had been dealing with for more than a year. This last January, I was still living at Tranquil Shores, but I was no longer technically an inpatient. I operated according to a different set of rules. I could leave property for up to two hours at a time, provided I got approval from my counselor first and got all the paperwork signed and into the hands of the residential property staff.

There was this girl (Heather!) that I had added on Facebook at some point, thinking that she was someone else. Sometime later, after her name popped up a few times, I actually checked her page and realized she wasn’t who I thought. She was pretty and we had mutual friends in Sarasota; I thought it was strange that I didn’t know her (or at least have some idea of who she was), but [whatever]. Now – in January – I saw a post of hers: “When I do good at work, I like to reward myself by breaking out with ‘THIS GIRL IS ONE FIREEE.’ Customers love me.” I had no idea what that lyric was from, but I thought that was pretty fucking cute. I responded with “In theory, if I had an internet crush on you – how would you feel about that?” The next day, she commented on something I posted, I responded, and we started emailing back and forth. Within a couple days, we were spending hours exchanging messages. I liked her a lot and I realized really quickly that there was something different this time. The last few girls that I had dated, I was constantly asking myself whether or  not I really liked them… I was always having to convince myself that it was genuine for [this reason] or [that reason]. I didn’t have to convince myself of anything this time. I was unqualifiedly into this girl. I somehow coaxed her into agreeing to come up to visit me (in rehab). And I got her phone number and started calling her instead of writing her because that seemed like the healthy, brave thing to do.

Funny aside: The three Rational Anthem kids were amongst our mutual friends. After Heather and I had been writing each other for all of a day or so, I called each of them and said something like: “I’m going to ask you about someone but – before I give you the name – I need to warn you to speak carefully because this is the girl I’m going to marry. What can you tell me about Heather Pierce?” Admittedly, those calls were partially motivated by something authentic and partially by my own enjoyment of how perpetually lovesick I seemed to make myself. As miserable as it made me at times, I thought there was something cute or funny about it.

So she was interested in coming to see me but that didn’t mean that my counselor was actually going to approve it. And I was fairly certain that even if she allowed this girl to come see me, there was no way she’d actually let me leave the courtyard/property with her. But she did. She and the rest of the treatment staff decided that in light of everything, the best approach was to allow it and monitor it through my sessions. Talk to me about it, counsel me, and just make sure that I didn’t somehow lose my shit as a consequence. It was one thing to keep me off heroin, but to keep me off girls was pretty much impossible. Better to let me get involved now, while they could help me along the way, then wait until I was out on my own and not under their care and guidance twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day.

There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ve got another piece that I can use to tell more of this story. Her first visit was January 29th. I made and gave this to her on February 12th, the night of our fourth “date.”

Girls Are Not Pokemon

"Girls Are Not Pokemon." 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 8x10".
“Girls Are Not Pokemon.” 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 6×8″.

I’ve been to three different rehabs and – at each – I got involved with a girl. Though it only (directly) got me kicked out of treatment once, it was never not a serious problem. If I include life outside of rehab, in times when I was trying to stay clean, I’ve relapsed with six different girls (and, each time, while upset about something that happened with me and the girl). That number doesn’t include times I’ve relapsed without [the] girl but while upset about something with her. Heroin is dangerous for me, but girls are probably more dangerous. I first started trying to get clean in November 2010 and – in all the time since – there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve been in dangerous situations where drugs were available through someone I was with (and/or someone was actually using around me). When that person’s been male, I’ve never once caved and gotten high, but when it’s been a girl that I’m even slightly interested in (i.e. most girls), I’ve found myself with a needle in my arm just about every time.

At Tranquil Shores, this was one of the issues that we spent the most time on. In my fifth month as an inpatient, Alexis, the girl with whom I was the most mixed up, moved out. She was signed up to come in three times a week for outpatient treatment but, two weeks later, stopped showing up. We were talking regularly by phone even after she left, but it wasn’t long before I lost touch with her too. She fell off – back into drugs – and lives behind bars now. I could have easily been right there with her when it all went down.

So now there were exactly zero girls in my age range at Tranquil Shores but I had others in the area that I had met at AA or NA meetings that I was constantly texting and meeting up with. (And I was doing that long before I lost touch with Alexis). Nothing serious happened between (any of) us, but I came pretty close to making some bad decisions on more than a few occasions. And that I even came close is insane. How many times did I need to put my life at risk just ‘cause I liked the way some girl smiled at me? But I couldn’t help it. It was the definition of compulsive behavior. I felt like I needed it.

A year prior, at the Wellness Resource Center, after getting caught with a girl (somewhere that we shouldn’t have been, doing something we shouldn’t have been doing), I was sitting in my room, contemplating the trouble I was about to be in. I didn’t want to get kicked out because I knew that I wasn’t “better” yet. I knew I’d get fucked up again and fuck everything up. I remember sitting there and thinking, “I don’t care if they never let me anywhere near her again. I don’t care if they basically lock me in my room. So long as I know that she’s also locked up in her room, sitting there pining for me, still in love with me, that’s all I need. I don’t ever need to see her again.

I think that’s all it’s really about for me. I just want someone to love me or – more specifically – to be in love with me. I needed for someone to think that I was the most important person in their world. The best person. Their favorite. Once I’d get that, it never really changed anything. I never actually felt any better or less insecure. It seemed so at times, in short little moments, but if that had really been the case, then I wouldn’t have been constantly pursuing multiple girls, even when I already had one “on the hook.” [That term sounds shitty but it conveys the idea I’m trying to get across. Also, it is shitty].

Sitting in group in December 2012, I did some math. I had six girls that I was trying to juggle to varying degrees. While I’d like to write it all of as inauthentic codependent bullshit – to be honest – with half of them I wasn’t even sure [and I’m still not]. I thought there might be (at least some spark of) authentic love. Yet I was still leading on the three girls with whom I knew it was just bullshit.

What was I really after? What was the point? A thought occurred to me; it was really silly but it was also totally dead on, which just made it that much funnier…

Girls are not pokemon – I do not “gotta catch ’em all…”


If you know me personally you might be looking at the date on this cartoon and thinking, “What the fuck? You were already dating Heather by then – that’s fucked up.” [I decided to turn the idea into a cartoon back when I thought of it, but it wasn’t ’til two or three months later that I actually drew it].

Originally, I set out to write this entry about a different piece but I kind of had to throw all of this stuff about my codependent traits and behaviors out there as background info first. I’ll get to the other one tomorrow. [Update: That one’s online now too].

Anyway, I really love this cartoon. I love how superficially cute / innocuous it is but how the truth to it is kind of dark, sad, and pathetic. So often, I’ve let myself to sink to the greatest depths of hell because of something a girl said (or didn’t say) to me. I’ve dwelled in shit and misery for days, on account of facial expressions that I’d later discover I had completely misread. I’ve let my emotions, as triggered by girls, run and ruin my life.

But I’m getting better, you guys! For serious this time!


  • The original drawing already sold but hit me up to buy a 6×8″ print.
  • For more on my relationships at this point in my life, check out “Autobiography.”

Chrissy Fit

"Chrissy Fit." 12/11/12. Pen on scrap. 8½x4”.
“Chrissy Fit.” 12/11/12. Pen on scrap. 8½x4”.

I’ve struggled with whether or not I should post this image. I drew this the day after “Clarity” and the day before “No Accident.” If you haven’t read the entries that I wrote to go along with those pieces, you should. This week in December may have been the most significant of my life. I’m very glad that it played out as it did.


“Success rates” for slit wrists and knives to the heart are surprisingly low. I didn’t want to go to a hospital…

Forty-eight hours before “No Accident” and the moment when I started to finally “get better,” I was in my room – researching suicide methods that didn’t require anything that couldn’t be found in my apartment at Tranquil Shores. I was going to kill myself because a girl was mad at me. A girl that I wasn’t even sure that I liked.

Earlier that afternoon, we did an exercise in group. We had to pull a couple items out of a basket and relate to them. I declined to say anything aloud, but when it was time for art therapy group, I started writing.

The fortune was absurd, the paper it was printed on was dirty and crumpled. Together, they were useless. This pencil is not useless. It has incredible potential. It is an instrument of a higher purpose. In the right hands. It is comforting. I like holding it in my hand. With paper, it can save me from almost anything. And it is forgiving. It has an eraser. If I make a mistake, it allows for correction. Or at least undoing. The mistakes I make with it are rarely entirely forgotten. I don’t know how to apply this to my life. Is it by chance that the trauma I addressed [in group] this morning, that I was supposed to see is not happening anymore (but which I claimed could and would (and sort of was) still taking place) – is it by chance that just hours later it pretty much is [happening again]? Or did I choose that memory because it had already begun? Yes, that’s it. It’s just more clear now. Because I realize I’m no longer willing to be honest which means I can’t get better. I can’t be helped. So there’s no reason for me to be here. Except that to hope that things will change once more. I no longer believe that I’m a drug addict. Sort of. I know I can’t use drugs (or that it’s not worth the risk in any case). But I’m not going to pick up. Fuck that. I’m over it. It’s not appealing anymore. But I’m miserable. Like I realized on my first weekend here, people are unhappy for countless reasons other than drugs. Me? I have no legitimate reason to be unhappy. It’s all in my head and it’s illogical. Is that recognition enough to get help in getting well without disclosing my irrational stressors? Celexa is an SSRI. Cymbalta is an SNRI. Which means that it does the same thing as Celexa, plus more. Adding Celexa to my prescription [regimen] adds little to nothing. And it will be another 3½ to 5½ weeks before we even know if it’s having any effect. I need something different and I need something faster. I am chemically imbalanced. I need chemical balance. Abilify might work. It’s too expensive. It’s less expensive than inpatient treatment. Maybe I’d be better off with Abilify and outpatient treatment. Here or elsewhere. At this point I’m not afraid to leave.

I don’t like art anymore. I don’t like treatment anymore. I don’t think I’m ready to get better anymore.

"Clarity." 12/10/12. Pencil. 12x18".
“Clarity.” 12/10/12. Pencil. 12×18″.

This piece is called “Clarity” because that’s how I actually felt in this moment. I thought I had nailed it. I was deluded enough to think that my primary issue was chemical, thoroughly confused as to whether or not I needed any kind of mental health therapy or substance abuse treatment, yet I was somehow lucid enough to know that those feelings (and my written rant) were totally insane. The title is “Clarity” because I thought it was hilarious. I wasn’t laughing, but I knew it was funny. Even then.

Sometimes, emotions are more powerful than facts.

Later that night, I made a half-hearted attempt to kill myself by asphyxiation. (Success rates are in the seventy to eighty percent range).


When I handed over the Traffic Street inventory to Kiss of Death, Glenn gave me a few new KoD releases. One was The Slow Death’s first LP. I listened to that record a lot while I was at Tranquil Shores. My name is on the thanks list even though I didn’t have any hand in its release. (Though I had been a big fan and supporter of The Slow Death and helped them out in other ways, so it wasn’t totally shocking). Still, I wasn’t expecting it and it was a really nice surprise. I had become so far removed from the world that I had lived and breathed for so long… Little things like that helped me feel connected in those days. It meant a lot to me. It seems appropriate that my first experience back in that world was the little tour with Rational Anthem this month, up to the fest that Jesse (of The Slow Death) organized. Here’s a song from that first LP that came to mind while I was writing this entry. And here’s a second song from their brand new record.

We’re Not Hiring

"Five Star Enterprise." 8/28/13. White-out, marker, and pen on cardboard.  11x14".
“We’re Not Hiring (or: A Like Bats Fan Walks Into an Office).” 8/28/13. White-out, marker, and pen on cardboard. 11×14″.

“You’ve got a five star enterprise here, and it sounds like a great opportunity, but – what, with huffing gasoline in mom’s basement and wearing out my Like Bats cassette, my schedule just can’t accommodate anything new right now. Thanks for letting me use your bathroom though.”

I thought of this cartoon back in March when I was planning on reissuing Like Bats demo as a cassette. Anyway, the Like Bats cassette hasn’t happened yet for a couple of reasons, but I requested a new quote on it today and decided that it was TIME TO DRAW THIS CARTOON! (The plan was to get it printed up on a poster that’d come free with the cassette). Maybe we’ll still do that. I don’t know! (I haven’t talked to the kids yet). In fact, they’re hearing about/seeing this cartoon for the first time just like everybody else.

I put off smoking cigarettes (and eating/drinking) all afternoon just so I could get it done. I think it came out well. I like it!

Here’s a new song by one of my favorite bands.