6 AM. Walking home.
It’s 40 degrees outside and I still haven’t gone to bed.
Pineapple soda, a cigarette,
BRAND NEW RATIONAL ANTHEM playing in my headphones.
What more could an idiot ask for?
I stayed up all night, clearing out my house,
Getting rid of the things in my life that I don’t need.
Some of it is really hard to get rid of.
I still don’t know if I’ll actually be able to part with my zine collection.
And (honestly) I haven’t even considered the records.
But I’m young, itinerant,
I’d rather not be weighed down by possessions.
Do you ever fantasize about your house burning down
And starting over with nothing?
I’m working to be okay with the idea that if something is important
It’ll come back to me.
I don’t need to cling to anything.
Or only to so much, in any case.
Here’s a cartoon I drew in an Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was the second of three that night.
The third being My Favorite Cartoon.
This one’s not important.
It’s just about me,
Being a resentful little jerk-off.
There’s no way for me to explain what I was thinking when I drew this without sounding like an asshole. Which is okay – after all – sometimes I’m an asshole!
This kid was rambling on and every word out of his mouth reeked of “here’s some shit I heard some other clueless bastard say at a meeting, so now I’m gonna repeat it at all of you so that I can walk back to my halfway house confident that you guys will think I’ve really got a handle on this recovery thing.”
Which – who knows – maybe that’s me projecting. Or maybe it’s just me being bitter about some girl not paying enough attention to me. And – honestly – what the fuck should I even care? I guess it’s easy to fall into this kind of judgmental/negative thought when you’re compelled to go to more meetings than you’d otherwise elect to on your own. I might have needed that many at one point early on (or I might not have) but by this time last year, I was definitely ready to move on to the next phase. And within a month I had done just that.
I’m still riding the high of that sale from last night. On top of that, I was carrying a couple of paintings into Sun-Ray when someone asked if they could take a look. It’s not in stone or anything but it looks like, from the brief exchange that ensued, I might have another opportunity to show some pieces in a pretty great location in January. And I still have two other offers on the table (to display some work) that I haven’t taken advantage of yet just ’cause I was busy, outta town, sick, and then busy again. So things are going really well and I’m pretty excited. And really grateful.
Oh – and how could I forget… My mood wasn’t in the slightest bit hindered by the arrival of a veritable shit ton of records and zines today!
I’m really excited about all of them but especially the Teenage Softies 7-inch. Like the Brokedowns / Vacation Bible School split 7-inch and the Humanoids LP that I’ve mentioned here before, this was one of the records that was slated to be released on Traffic Street (my record label) before I crumbled and gave it all up.
The whole EP is great, but I think the opening track might be my favorite: “If your life is easy, you got caught in their trap. Distracted like monkeys, living life flat on your back. But if you’re working for some asshole then you’ll understand that life’s not that easy – so what about getting ahead? If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to fuck it all up. If you’re looking for a solution, it’s not to give up. So just do what you can to get by. You’re the one that can change it this time. Stay with it.”
The two drawings in this entry were products of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, early on a Saturday morning last January. Give Us Your Blood was inspired by some asshole giving my friend a hard time; it says: “we are insane (and mean) and we’re here to help – give us your blood.” Happy, Joyous, and Free was my second attempt (following Pulp) to draw a more realistic kind of portrait. I only had one sheet of paper folded up in my coat pocket, so one is on the back of the other.
I don’t remember the exact details of what was said to my friend that morning, but I do remember something else that the same guy had said to me after I shared/spoke at that meeting for my first time (after having gone every Saturday for several months). “I hope you make it. I doubt that you will, but I hope you do.” Some of my friends thought that was pretty fucked up but I didn’t think much of it at the time. I kind of liked it actually. (Although – in hindsight – what purpose is a statement like that supposed to serve?) But like I was saying, I liked it just ’cause it was brash, insulting, and honest. After all, most of us don’t / aren’t going to make it, so it made sense for him to doubt me. Shit – especially me. Very, very few people ever thought I’d do anything besides die with a needle in my arm. (And – in their defense – there’s still plenty of time for me to prove them right). I remember in March of last year (in between inpatient stints) I picked my girlfriend up from her first outpatient session with a therapist she had started seeing while we were still in treatment. The therapist knew me so I asked my girlfriend if she had given her any advice or had any thoughts concerning our relationship. “She says there’s a 99.999% chance that you’re never going to get it and that you’ll die an addict, more likely sooner than later.” I cracked up laughing. She didn’t know me that well! I was a little shocked she’d make any kind of a statement so bold. I asked her (the therapist) about it at some point shortly thereafter (we’d talk a little after some of my girlfriend’s sessions). I told her what I had heard and she just kind of smiled and shrugged at me. “Prove me wrong,” she said.
No sweat! (So far, so good).
Go check out my store!!! It’s got cool stuff in it!
If you’re interested in these drawings, I’m interested in selling them to you. Hit me up.
“Snowflakes Anonymous.” 11/22/13. Acrylic, watercolor, and spray paints, food coloring, markers, pen, resin sand, cardboard and EBT card – on 24×30″ stretched canvas.
This piece took me over a week to finish. That left a lot of time for different issues to pop up, play off each other, and rearrange my ideas. I started it one nigh while I was thinking about missing Tranquil Shores. Then I thought about how I might like to work at a place like that except… For starters, I don’t have enough clean time. I’d have to pretend like
I didn’t fuck up at any point. That made me sad. You know what I eventually realized though? Fuck that. Someone recently complimented my honesty / willingness to be vulnerable through my artwork – “especially for someone with so little clean time.” That threw me for a loop! There was nothing mean-spirited about the comment (it came from someone that’s been really positive and supportive) but still – the implication is that I’ve only recently started getting well. In reality, most of the pieces she had seen and read about were created before that – sometime after my previous clean date (the day I got to Tranquil Shores: August 17th, 2012). And I didn’t really start getting better ’til December 12th. The vast majority of honest text in my pieces was always scribbled out up until that point.
So – yeah – I may have fucked up over the summer, but that didn’t hit the reset button on my recovery; I didn’t fall down into a gutter with a needle in my arm, desperate and miserable as ever. I made a mistake, called myself on it, told the people I needed to tell, and carried the fuck on and moved forward with the things I know to be good for me and good for my mental health and emotional well-being. And you know what else? The dangerous position I allowed myself to be in (that led to my relapse): it was worth it. That month I spent working on that project – it had incredible highs, some (very obvious) lows, I learned a lot about myself, a lot about the world around me, and – overall – was a better stronger person when all was said and done.
And it still affects me today (both positively and negatively). I wouldn’t say I regret any of it. Life is for living and anyone that’s really living is gonna fuck up every now and then. That’s not a preemptive copout for future relapse, it’s just reality. You can count on my not repeating that mistake but I’m sure as shit gonna fuck up at one thing or another!
Back on point: on Tuesday, I was reading the NA literature and I realized that so much of it really has nothing to do with me. It’s totally undescriptive of my thinking and my behavior. Not all of it, but enough of it. Does that mean I’m gonna quit going to meetings? No. But it explains why I stopped going more than once a week back in February – and why my
counselors at Tranquil Shores didn’t throw a monumental fit about it the way they’d always done with everyone else. I may not be some beautiful fucking snowflake, thoroughly unlike all to come before me, but – you know what? I am different than a lotta people and meetings, meetings, meetings isn’t the fucking cure-all for everyone.
And if you wanna get technical – it’s got nothing to do with the twelve steps as they were originally written (and are still written in the AA text). Same with sponsorship – there’s nothing in the original text about going to meetings or finding a sponsor. It’s just about working with / helping other alcoholics [or addicts]. And I do that shit constantly. I hate a lot of the attitudes that dominate the rooms of AA and NA: “Do this or die” (especially when “this” isn’t even part of the program). You know why they think that the only people who succeed in recovery are the ones that continue going to meetings for the rest of their lives? Because the people that come back are the one that fucked up and needed to come back; they never hear the stories of the people that leave their group and succeed because they don’t have any reason to come back around and tell their tale. It’s right for some people – not everyone. And fuck the notion that “clean time” is the only measure of success. I do pretty okay. I like myself. I like my life. And it’s been that way for a while now. It didn’t start ’til I got clean (and then some) but it didn’t go away just ’cause I had a lapse in judgment. I still have that time. There are documents of it – all over my walls and all over this website.
SECOND (reason I can’t get a job at a treatment facility), I don’t think I’m cut out to work anywhere. I’m not some wild, outta control basket case but that’s ’cause I know what I need to do to keep my grip. When things get rough, I’ve got tools I can use to get ’em back on the right track. But mental health is a chore and I can’t schedule my emotions. Being on the clock, being on someone else’s time… it doesn’t work for me. I have too much to do – sick or well, fucked or not. So while I might like to do some volunteer kinda stuff now and then, I don’t think that “getting a job” is anything that’s ever gonna work out for me.
From there I was thinking about something that’s occurred to me before: that I could almost certainly qualify to receive disability payments. Up ’til my “recovery” began, I’d have taken those without a second thought; I had (and still have) no moral objections to something like that (even if I were/am fully capable of working). But getting disability doesn’t really seem in line with what I’m about these days. My brain might be a little off but I’ve been creatively building a life out of that, through my artwork. I’m not sure I want a label like “disabled” on me.
But – also on Tuesday – I realized that I use food stamps and… is that really any different? It’s basically partial-disability with no questions asked. “Oh? You don’t make enough money? Okay, here you go. No – we don’t care why, just take it.” Strangely enough, the very next day, I met a girl who does receive disability payments (and for borderline personality disorder!) That had me actually considering it for the first time but it wasn’t ’til later that night I realized that – immediately after meeting her – I volunteered to pick up a shift at Sun-Ray over the weekend if they needed any extra help. AND THEN(!) I had to modify my offer to exclude Saturday because I’m going to some kind of seven hour “personal growth” / mental health thing tomorrow.
Just like that – I went from ruling out work because of my obligations to myself and my mental health but rejecting the prospect of disability payments on principle, meeting a girl on disability with the same issues I have and starting to reconsider, to unthinkingly offering to work, and then realizing I couldn’t because of a (very concrete, specific) mental health obligation.
For now, I’m gonna keep on as I have been. I already have everything I need. Well, maybe not a sense of security but what fun would that be?
Hey – speaking of “clean time,” “clean dates,” and what a beautiful fucking snowflake I am… When someone completes their treatment plan at Tranquil Shores, they have their coin-out ceremony and they get a little keychain with their clean date on it. Here’s the one they gave me back in February.
Yes, that is an “X” in place of a clean date. No, I had no idea that mine was going to be different and – no – of all the people that have been through the program, no one else has ever gotten anything other than their actual clean date.
Something I wrote in this entry reminded me of a lyric from a song I haven’t heard in a few years. “She asked me if I want to die / I said of course I do sometimes / Anyone who never wants to die / must not really be alive.” And now that I’m listening to it, I’m realizing that it’s right for this entry in more ways than one.
I got the Like Bats cassettes in the mail today. They’ll be the first new Traffic Street release in more than two years and will go on sale tomorrow! (This is a one-off sorta thing though; I’m not picking back up with Traffic Street for real – not anytime soon anyway).
Fun fact: Did you notice my (expired) EBT/foodstamp card glued to the top-right corner of the canvas? Did you notice that it says “ASK FOR VD” on the signature line? Just below that, it says “ARTS SUBSIDY” which I added after the card was on the canvas). I wrote “ASK FOR VD” on it back when it was still valid though – back when I first got it in March. I am a ridiculous human being.
This piece is available for purchase as a 12×15″ print. The original sold in December 2013.
After missing five in a row, I’m getting back into the swing of my Tuesday morning NA meeting. Save for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that I went to once (somewhat unintentionally), it’s the only one I’ve ever been to in Jacksonville. I go because I figure it’s good for me or – at the very least – it’s not bad for me. When the time rolls around each week, I don’t usually want to go but that’s sort of why I do. It’s so rare these days that I have to do anything that I don’t want to; I feel like an NA meeting each week is a good way to stay in practice for the times when something I’m even more averse to comes up. It’s self-discipline of sorts.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t draw while I’m sitting there, but I do it pretty discreetly (on the pages of my text) and I don’t draw anything that requires the kind of concentration that’d prevent me from paying attention to everything being said. Yesterday, I drew this on page 390 of my Narcotics Anonymous book and then added the color later on at home. The title/sentiment is part repetition of “Selfish Program” and part preemptive “fuck off”/”take your own inventory” to anyone who might get it in their head that they’re my unsolicited new sponsor.
The meeting was on the eleventh tradition, which “deals with our relationship to those outside the Fellowship [of Narcotics Anonymous].” Specifically, “we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film” and “advertisements, circulars, and any literature that may reach the public’s hand.” That was written decades ago and some people think it should be updated to explicitly include the internet; I don’t see how anyone could interpret it as not already including the internet but – either way – I don’t maintain personal anonymity. The first sentence of my Bio has my real name because I think the power of a lot of my disclosure / honesty would be lost if I were using a pseudonym as a mask (and not just ’cause I’m a ridiculous human being). In any case, no one’s supposed to present themselves publicly as a member of Narcotics Anonymous and no one should ever purport to represent Narcotics Anonymous. [By the way, these guidelines are virtually identical in every twelve-step program (those I’m familiar with anyway)].
So I was thinking about that: Do I violate the Eleventh Tradition with (just about) every thing I do?
My answer: Nah. If I were to ask anyone at my regular meeting if I’m a member of NA, they’d say,”Of course!,” and pat me on the back to assuage my doubt. But do I consider myself a member of NA? Not really.
Yeah, I’ve worked the steps, I go to meetings (sometimes), and the way I live is pretty thoroughly in line with the principles and recommendations of the program – but that’s not because they’re the principles and recommendations of the program; we just happen to line up more often than not. And I certainly don’t purport to be a representative of any group/program. Shit – I’m not sure I’ve ever brought up AA or NA [in my writing] without making some kind of distinction between their program and mine.
While I’d recommend a twelve-step program to anyone struggling with anything, none of those programs were the magic bullet for me. The words in their books don’t resonate with me the way they do with others “in the rooms.” A lot of people say, “AA/NA saved my life.” I am not one of those people.
My counselor, Tracy, saved my life. Julie and expressive art therapy saved my life. It was everyone at Tranquil Shores (and everyone that supported me from outside) that saved my life.
And punk rock? Well, if I’m being honest, it didn’t really do SHIT in the life saving department but – without it – who would even wanna live?
I drew this cartoon of an astronaut boxing a pirate, while sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It was the same meeting the 12/13/14 thing started. It was also the day I finished reading my life story to my peers and counselor. It has no real significance, I was just trying to draw something a little bit unlike everything else that I draw.
The last time I was struck by that urge, I drew this.
The day that I started reading my life story, I drew this.
I chose the word “promise” for the same reason that, a week or so later, I drew this.
This is a really shitty, lazy update. I’ll make up for it later!
I drew this eleven months ago. It’s only the fifth thing that I ever made by choice (and not as part of a treatment assignment). People say that Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (or, more generally, recovery) is a “selfish program.” It’s not about self-interest or self-serving as much as it is… well… let me put it this way. The girl I dated for most of 2012 – we went to go “visit” her family in St. Louis when Miami got to be more than we could handle. (I say “visit” because her parents agreed to a week but – desperately wanting to not go back to our lives in Florida – we stayed for more than a month). Anyway, something her dad always said that stuck with me is this oxygen/airplane metaphor: “Put on your own mask before assisting other passengers.” Meaning – if you don’t take care of yourself first, there’s a good chance you’re not gonna be much good to anyone else either.
At Tranquil Shores, the first major assignment everyone has to complete is the “First Step” (not to be confused with the first of the twelve steps; this is something different). Anyway, it’s the assignment where group feedback is the most important (and the only one where everyone’s really supposed to be as honest and blunt as possible and call the person out if they’re full of shit). The morning that I drew this, I was losing my mind (a pretty regular occurrence back then). On the one hand, a friend was presenting her First Step and I felt like I’d be letting her down if I didn’t give her my full attention. On the other hand, I had my own mess to sort out and I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to get out of my head, get away from damage, destruction, hell, and shit. Iwanted to color.
So I did.
Mental health doesn’t happen on a schedule. As much as I’d love to always be there for everyone, I can’t. If my own life/head is a mess, I’ve gotta deal with that first. And it’s worked out; if you were to ask my friends, I’m certain they’d say I’m a better friend today than ever before. So – as the block letters behind the fence in this drawing say…
This piece is currently on display, as part of my first art show, now running at Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville.
Narcotics Anonymous has a statement of clarity, which says that they don’t distinguish between drugs and alcohol. Makes sense, right? After all, heroin (for example) has got way more in common with alcohol than it does most illicit drugs (crack and cocaine, meth, acid, and weed, to name a few). For the purposes of recovery, what’s important isn’t a substance’s legality – it’s the effect that it’s had on your life. NA doesn’t care if your problem’s with heroin, alcohol, or Benadryl; if it’s a chemical, if it’s fucking up your shit, and if you wanna try their way of life – their doors are open to you.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, on the other hand, there’s a principle oft cited (in some groups) known as the singleness of purpose: “Each [AA] group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.”
No one forced me into recovery. Anytime I showed up to any kind of twelve-step meeting, it’s ’cause I was ten kinds of fucked up, miserable, and desperate. And I didn’t need someone to give me shit about “not belonging” for me to feel that way – I already did.
I’m not gonna use this as an opportunity to tear into the Fifth Tradition (from which singleness of purpose is derived) and the subsequent literature like I’m interpreting constitutional law for the Supreme Court. One thing I’m fucking certain of though is that it was never meant as an excuse for people to be assholes. I’ve seen kids come into meetings, fresh off the streets, grasping at straws, just desperate for anything to help save their lives. And I’ve seen shitbag AA “old timers” start coughing and muttering “singleness of purpose” under their breath when some poor kid that isn’t fully acquainted with the rules of AA mentions a drug other than alcohol. I’ve even seen a kid interrupted and told that he needs to go to an NA meeting (and not in a well-meaning, helpful kind of way).
There’s a reason that the twelve steps are identical in AA, NA, CA, OA, CodA, SLA, EA, and all the others. Compulsive behavior is compulsive behavior. The (specific) problems may vary (a little) but the fix is always the same.
In an effort to placate singleness hardliners, some alcoholic-addicts use codewords like “dry goods” and “other forms of alcohol.” Personally, I don’t bother with that. I know “the rules” so, if I’m at an AA meeting, I’m perfectly okay with total substitution. I say “alcohol” instead of “heroin,” “bottle” instead of “needle,” and “drink” instead of “shoot up.” While I might think that all of that’s kind of dumb, I do respect that the purpose of a meeting is to carry the message to those that still suffer – not to offer me a soapbox from which I can share my brilliant opinions (that’s what this website’s for!) So here we go…
So-called “old timers” that take a hardline stance on this shit are dinosaurs, and they’re on their way out. The time when alcoholics outnumbered drug addicts is history. For every kid that realizes he has an alcohol (and only an alcohol) problem, there’s gotta be a dozen more that are fucked up on alcohol and/or some other drug (or combination of other drugs). And I use the word “other” in that last sentence very purposefully: because alcohol is a drug. You’re not better than or different from some junkie just ’cause your chemical is legal. Get the fuck over it, get better, and help somebody else do the same.
The framed original cartoon is now for sale as well. (As you can see, like many of my pencil/pen cartoons, it differs from the version sold as a print).
Though I shared “witness accounts” in this entry, I do have my own story about being turned away by singleness of purpose hardliners. (It’s pretty fucked up). I’m going to leave it for some other time though.
has borderline personality disorder and a heroin problem. In 2012, he got clean, discovered art, and traveled the country, painting and writing. Three years later, he went back to heroin and quit painting. He's currently hard at work trying to get clean or kill himself (depending on the day).