On the left half of this piece, I can still see a few of the words I wrote but not enough to make any sense of it. Two weeks from today, this piece will be a year old; it’s one of the last I made before I got the courage to stop completely obscuring the more serious/honest/vulnerable text in my art. All I really remember is that it was related to the girl at the center of all my 12/13/14 pieces and that the original sentiment was that – of all the things in the world to be scared of – the one I feared most was the prospect of really caring about another human being. I wrote a little bit about that back when I drew this…
That feeling when you wake up from a really good dream where everything worked out and you still have everything that you’ve lost – only to realize moments later, “Oh yeah… that’s not my life anymore. I’m in rehab for the third or fourth time this year.”
But there’s comfort in having lost everything – in having nothing. What else can you lose at that point? What’s there to be afraid of?
Yet, as I get better, I’m starting to get some of those things back. I’m starting to develop meaningful relationships again. And it’s pretty fucking terrifying. Giving a shit about other people (about anything really) opens the door to serious heartache and frustration.
But it’s worth it.
Status Update (12/1/13):
Yesterday was the last day of my exhibit at Sun-Ray but, when I went down there to check in, Tim and Shanna told me that I could keep half of the wall space I had been using. So – when I went down there today – I took everything apart and then put it back together within the confines of the space I’ve got now. In all, I have thirteen pieces up: five that were featured in the exhibit, plus eight new ones. I’m still a little shocked when I’m even tolerated somewhere so to actually have my welcome extended … it’s a pretty great feeling.
The last couple days have been a little hectic. I’ve been getting more emails than usual (from people reaching out) and I’m having a little trouble keeping up. It’s kinda strange ’cause (obviously) I’m not really qualified to help anyone but I think it’s a good thing that something about what I’m doing is hitting people in such a way that they’re comfortable sharing things with me that they don’t feel comfortable speaking about with anyone else. I think sometimes just the act of acknowledging something to another human being can have a powerful, healing effect. Still, it’s tough sometimes to figure out exactly how I should respond (especially via email which doesn’t really feel like the most compassionate means of communication).
On a sorta-related note, something kinda cool that’s been happening: the last three times I’ve left the house, I’ve been asked by a stranger if I’m … me … and then they’ve shared with me something about having seen my art and told me what they liked or how they related to it. That’s not totally new but it doesn’t usually happen this frequently and (again) it’s a pretty good feeling knowing that some of what I’m doing is getting through to people, even beyond my little punk rock bubble.
That’s all for tonight. I’m feeling grateful. For all this (and more).
Almost forgot: if you didn’t see it already, check out this little write-up about me! There are a couple small errors (like “bipolar” instead of borderline) but it’s really cool all the same. I met this girl on the street in Riverside about a month ago when she asked me, “What’s there to do in this city?” I took her to my art show and we spent about an hour together. I’m really honored to see all the nice things she had to say about me/my art ’cause my admiration for her bravery and what she’s doing with her life right now is about on the same level.
Signed/numbered 12×8⅙-inch “Of Monsters and Giving a Shit” prints are still available. The original piece sold in May.
“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.
Last week I got a package from Taylor, which included a book called “Selling What You Make.” It wasn’t really the information in the book as much as its tone… I read about forty pages before I decided that I needed to get up and make something happen. Why wasn’t I trying to get stores to sell my prints or hang my paintings? I went to a few places downtown and a bunch more in Riverside trying to talk somebody into letting me do something. I was feeling pretty okay about the general responses I got early in but – when I decided to take a chance on the movie theater – I was kind of stunned. I only told a few people over the weekend ’cause I had a hard time accepting that it wasn’t going to fall through for some reason; It just seemed too cool to be real. The theater’s owner, Tim, took a look at some prints that I had brought with me and told me that I could come back on Monday to hang up (pretty much) as much of my artwork as I wanted (and after looking at all of them today, whichever pieces I wanted as well). It’s gonna be on display for the next month and I couldn’t be more excited (or grateful – for the opportunity from Tim, as well as the inspiration from Taylor).
Between the photos and the flier, you can gleam a lot of this info but… Sun-Ray Cinema is at Five Points in Riverside (at 1028 Park Street). And not only do they play movies, they’ve got an awesome kitchen and the seats in the theater have tables. It’s a really cool place and it’s been around since the 1920s. And it’s only a mile or so from my house. I guess it’d be cool to have a show at an art gallery, but an independent movie theater gets way more traffic and (probably) gets a crowd that’s a little more likely to “get” what I do. So – yeah – really, really excited. Tomorrow, I’m gonna flier the fuck out of this city and contact all the arts/weekend papers. Tonight, I’m gonna go to bed!
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).