Tag Archives: heroin

Suicide Stitches

If it’s been a while since you’ve checked in with me, I have some bad news. You know how I used to be that heroin addict who got (and stayed) clean by making art? Well, sometime last year that all fell apart. (And this year, I’ve really gone downhill).

Twice this year, I’ve made serious plans to detox from heroin, get my life back on track, and start painting and writing again. Both times, ended disastrously but – in this entry – I’ll be focusing on the first. (Details of the more recent incident are in two blog entries: the first was written more manically upon my release from jail; the second with greater reflection the following evening).

It’s not generally a great idea for two people in the depths of addiction to be in a relationship together. If one is feeling weak and wants to use, it’s easy for the other to be dragged down right along with them. Regarding, my girlfriend and I, our relationship worked for quite some time because I already had a couple years of clean time racked up when we met. I was able to help her get and stay clean for about a year. When we relapsed together though, things went downhill. Nevertheless, having been together and having been able to successfully stay clean for so long, we didn’t think that we needed to separate. We had used together but there was no reason we couldn’t once again be clean together. Detox is painful, however. Especially in those first few days. I might be able to handle my own symptoms but seeing Wallis in that much pain really hurts me. During previous attempts to detox, as soon as I’d get the slightest inkling that it might be more than she could stand, I couldn’t help myself from going out and getting more heroin to make her feel better. After all, it’s not as if one dose in the middle of a detox is a nail in the coffin. That’s what titration is all about. You can always reason with yourself that one last hit, halfway into a detox period, will cure the worst of your symptoms and help you coast the rest of the way to the finish line.

But that “one last hit” all too often does not, in fact, retain its status as the last hit. You convince yourself that “just one more” will be okay. And then another. And another. And then you’re back to where you started.

We decided that we should detox separately to make it easier on each other. Wallis made plans to detox in Gainesville. I was to stay home in Jacksonville.

As anyone who’s ever detoxed from opiates will tell you, the best medicines to help ease you through the process are benzodiazepines. Xanax. Klonopin. Ativan. Those ones. While these drugs have an immense potential for recreational abuse, they’re not something that we’d ever otherwise take. We did, however, procure some for our detox.

Unfortunately, I have a track record of strange behavior while under the influence of these drugs. Well, I do now. Up until this point, there had only been one previous incident. When I took too many and became erratic and suicidal.  And that’s exactly what happened this time around.

We began our detox the night of August 16th together. Wallis was to leave sometime the following afternoon but when I woke up, she was gone and I was confused. Already under the influence of the drug from the night before, I couldn’t understand what was happening. She had invited one of our friends to come over to be there for me when I woke up, but it didn’t make any difference.

I’m not the sort of person that breaks things when I lose my temper. I’ve never thrown a phone at a wall or anything like that. But under the influence of too many benzodiazepines, this did not hold true. I broke virtually every one of my possessions. Both of my televisions. My MacBook Air. My iPhone. And then I went around the house, from painting to painting, slashing at my canvases and smashing or shattering all of my frames.

Then I left the house, procured a large amount of heroin, went somewhere that I presumed I wouldn’t be found for at least several hours, and – after swallowing the rest of my benzos – injected what I presumed would be enough heroin to kill me.

When I woke up in a haze in the hospital three or four days later, I discovered that I had not been discovered hours after my intendedly-lethal injection. I was discovered almost immediately and thus my life was able to be saved.

Upon release from the hospital approximately one week after the overdose, I was no longer under the agitating effects of any drugs but I was in no better shape mentally. I began racing around town, trying to procure the money I’d need to buy enough heroin to once again attempt to kill myself. It wasn’t long before a suspicious and concerned Wallis (who I had spoken to on the phone at some point) alerted the police. They found me and took me into custody before I could try anything. I’ve been hospitalized often enough for suicidal behavior that I know what to say to doctors to procure my own early release though. I was back out on the street again the very next day but, fortunately, had calmed my mind and was no longer suicidal. I recommitted to getting clean, picking back up with my art and writing, and getting my life back on track.

As time has shown, it turns out that I wasn’t quite ready. I was not able to stay clean successfully for much more than a week or so. Even still, I was able to get my head clear for long enough to do something. I began sewing and repairing my damaged paintings. These would become what I’m now referring to as my “Suicide Stitches” series.

When I make art, I don’t plan very much ahead. I kind of just let the images take shape on their own. If I make a mistake – some mark that’s somehow other than I intended it to appear – I don’t correct it. I embrace it. “That’s how it’s supposed to be,” I tell myself. I find a way to rearrange my ideas about how the painting should look. The same is the case with my Suicide Stitches paintings. These pieces are not “damaged”; they don’t have rips or holes in them. This is how these paintings were always meant to be. Each one of my paintings and drawings tells a story and those stories are usually all about my emotional and mental state at the time I’m working on each one. My Suicide Stitches paintings tell those stories, plus one more: the story of August 17, 2016. The story of the day I lost my mind and almost ended my life.

The first of these paintings that I stitched up has already sold. In fact, it was stitched up because it was sold. It was the first good news I had gotten in quite a while. Through Instagram, I got a message from reality TV star, Scott Disick. He wanted one of my pieces and, more than that, he wanted to help promote my art. That opportunity was the first spark I’d had in a great while to actually do something productive. And the publicity and consequent sales I’m expecting are what’s motivating me to get back to work right now. (Although I do have other similarly exciting opportunities also in the works at this point). That first painting has been shipped to Scott but the other Suicide Stitches paintings are still available for purchase. For pricing (on both the originals as well as limited edition hand-numbered/signed prints), contact my new agent, Jennifer Levin of newly formed agency, Blow the Dust. (Jen’s last enterprise is currently on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies, so I’m pretty amped on this new partnership). Blow the Dust’s website is still very much a work in progress but it’s already been launched with a webstore featuring some of my prints and one of my original paintings. It should actually be operational by sometime this week. Check it out.

While the pieces have not yet been rephotographed since their Suicide Stitches updates, you can get the general idea from a couple photos I snapped quickly with my iPhone in my blog entry from October 8th. Six of the seven paintings in the series are as follows:

The final (seventh) painting in the series (and only one not pictured here) also happens to be the largest, newest, (most expensive) and my favorite of the whole lot. It’s called “The World Revolves Around Me.” For more information on (and images of) that piece, like the others, just get in touch.

For what it’s worth, I’d like to note that (at the time of this posting) I currently have 13 days clean (a record for me so far in 2016) and I plan on that number continuing to climb through the year’s end. I’d also like to note that money from the sales of my work no longer goes directly to me – a safety measure taken in case of a potential relapse.

I’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous

"I'm Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous." 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48x24".
“I’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous.” 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48×24″.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a statement for one of my pieces but this painting never got one. A year later, here I go…

Things were going well. I was making thousands of dollars every month, I was getting booked at galleries, I was traveling the country with a girl with whom I was deeply in love, and I still wasn’t happy. (Or happy enough).

In March, I had an exhibition at Instinct in Minneapolis. Everyday – to help promote the exhibit and to make extra money selling prints – I’d set up on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with an easel, working on this, my next painting.

Some days, I didn’t wanna go set up though and spend twelve hours on the street, painting. Other days, I was frustrated having to park and carry my supplies too far away (or parking closer – illegally – and having to keep an eye over my shoulder for tow trucks all day). I was making money just for making art but I was actually having to work for it.

Fuck that.

I wanted to paint in some studio or at home. I wanted to finish a painting and know that there were already galleries lined up to take them or collectors ready to buy them the moment each was finished. “I’m fucking brilliant!” (Right?) “My genius should be enough to generate an income all on its own! This should be easier.”

Alright, so maybe my thinking wasn’t quite that arrogant but … you know … pretty much.

Look – I don’t like myself a whole lotta the time and I could expand on that for days but – when it comes to my art – I know that it’s great. As a human being, I’m seriously flawed, but those same flaws (and my willingness to bare them so candidly and honestly) is what overwhelmingly/primarily accounts for the power and singularity of my art and is the reason I’ve sold as much of it as I have. I’ve hated so many things about me for long enough that I’m okay with being unapologetically proud of the art I’ve created.

I figured that once I got wide enough exposure and enough people knew about my art (once I was famous) my life would be a whole lot easier. No more worrying about bills. Lots of attention (to fill the empty void where my soul should live). You know: FAME. Money. Whatever.

Admittedly, that might be a little naive but – fuck it – I was getting really sick of having to work and I was getting really sick of not being famous.

Beyond all that, there’s a passage of smaller text hidden in the canvas that sort of jumps all over the place. I wrote about feeling fat and self-conscious and tugging at my clothes, pulling them straight a million times a day (even though I was well underweight at that point (and probably still am)). I wrote about other frustrations and how they made me want to use heroin, even though I’d been clean forever at that point and had gained so much to lose. And I wrote about how I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but that I was going to keep trying anyway, finding new approaches if necessary.

Some of the "suicide stitches" on this painting.
Some of the “suicide stitches” in this painting.

Like most of my work, this painting is meant to be funny and it’s supposed to seem dense and trivial but its humor is born of sincere frustration, genuine sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of uncertainty. And like a lot of the optimism I inject into my work, what little is here is mostly for my own benefit and not the painting’s. It’s forced with the hope that it will take hold.

And I think it did take hold for a while but ultimately, about a year after finishing this piece, I did cave and give in to heroin, letting it replace art as my full-time occupation. And seven months into that, in a state of drug-induced psychosis, I slashed away at this painting (and several others) shortly before eating an absurd quantity of Xanax and Klonopin and injecting an intentionally strong shot of heroin with the intention of killing myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t want the art to outlive me but the damage didn’t turn out to be all that bad anyway and I, myself, woke up in the hospital a few days later.

More "suicide stitches" (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).
More “suicide stitches” (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).

That was six weeks ago and I’m now in the process of stitching up all of the slashes I put into my paintings. This is the first I’ve finished sewing up which makes it the first in what I’m calling my “Suicide Stitches” series of paintings. More on that in another blog entry/post soon to follow.

Relapse 2014 story

Before we start, here’s a vocabulary lesson for normal people: Vivitrol is an injection you can get to block the euphoric effects of heroin for a month. Without the incentive of a high, there’s no reason to shoot up. So long as you get it every 30 days, you’ll stay clean. Dilaudid is a prescription opiate. Like Oxycodone, you shoot it up and it feels just like heroin.

A couple other points: I didn’t proofread this shit. I didn’t edit it, I didn’t “punch it up.” I just typed it. “Natalie” and “Joseph” are fake names because what-the-fuck-ever. People don’t always like it when they make it into my stories.

And with no further ado…


 

I didn’t wanna take Natalie to get her Vivitrol shot. It’d be an eight-hour roundtrip and if she couldn’t be trusted to go get it herself, then what’s the point anyway? What would I really be accomplishing, keeping a girl clean who didn’t wanna be clean? I felt like I owed it to her mom though and I like to help. Being useful to someone else makes me feel a little better about myself and I could use that lately.

I never got the chance. Natalie called me on Wednesday night. She couldn’t get the Vivitrol shot on Thursday as planned because (surprise!) she had been on drugs the whole time. You need a few days clean before you get the shot and she didn’t have ‘em. What she did have was a meeting with her probation officer in the morning. If she pissed dirty, she’d be going to jail. She wanted me to drive down to Boynton to help. “What can I even do for you at this point?” I asked. “I just need you,” she begged. I called her mom; she said she’d feel a lot better if I were down there. I agreed to go. My plan was to take her to the PO in the morning – to help her turn herself in. She wouldn’t do it alone but maybe I could be the support she needed to brave up and face the music. I didn’t tell Natalie that that was my plan; I just started driving and told her I was on the way.

I got to town shortly after midnight and Natalie was nowhere to be found and not answering her phone. I was really pissed off. What the fuck did I drive down here for? I pulled into a fast food parking lot, took a Seroquel, and went to sleep. Art, ambition, girls, relationships, love, sex, money, priorities, the ability to wake up in the morning and live a day worth living… Everything in my life is so screwed up lately. I’m sleeping alone in the parking lot of a Boynton Beach Checkers. Fuck my life.

I found out on the drive down that Natalie had, in fact, been staying at a halfway house but what she had left out is that it was one of those shithouse operations that lets you share a room with your junkie boyfriend/girlfriend. Drug-addled couples never get clean together. Never. She wouldn’t give me the address for the house because her boyfriend is the jealous type (Natalie’s “not allowed” to be my friend on Facebook, for example). She didn’t want any kind of confrontation should he be home when I came to pick her up. So she kept me on the hook. “I’m on my way,” “Where are you? I’ll meet you there,” “Just another thirty minutes” – this went on all day from 8AM ‘til 2PM when she finally showed up at my friend Joseph’s house, where I had been hanging out, waiting on her.

There was no way she was going to turn herself in, she said. She wanted to go to treatment. Joseph told her about the facility he works at. “They can handle your PO,” he told her. I didn’t really like that idea. Natalie’s been through treatment before. At least ten times. If she went in again, we’d just be dealing with this same shit down the line when she got released. Inpatient rehab cannot save Natalie. She needs real consequences. She still doesn’t want to get clean – not really.

But Joseph and Natalie got it all worked out. The counselors at his facility were handling her PO. She’d go in there for two months and the PO would come in with papers that’d terminate Natalie’s probation. For the ten millionth time, Natalie was gonna get off the hook, beat the charges, be free to fuck up her life. What the fuck was I gonna do? What the fuck could I do? Nothing except safely transport her to detox.

The detox Natalie wanted to go to wouldn’t take her until the next morning. Her facility found another place she could go but she didn’t wanna. She wanted to spend the day/night with me first. Fine. Fair enough. I like Natalie and I’ve done this before. It’s not generally advisable to try to babysit a junkie but – like Chris Spillane – I know Natalie well enough to know that I can hold on to her. Like Chris Spillane, I know she’s not gonna straight up bolt on me and I know she’s not gonna pull anything too crazy. She had already gotten high (hence her failure to meet up with me until fourteen hours after my arrival) so she wasn’t gonna get sick before I dropped her off at detox. We left her car in Joseph’s driveway and had a mostly pleasant day together.

We went back to Joseph’s house in the morning to get her car. We couldn’t go straight to detox because Natalie had a paycheck waiting for her at work that she needed to cash so she could get cigarettes and whatever else while she was in rehab for the next two months. It was 8AM but the check wouldn’t be ready for pick up until noon. And then she started in with the bullshit. She needed to go to a friend’s house to get stuff she had left behind, she needed to go to another house to shower and get dressed, she needed to do a lot of things and it was okay with her if I just let her drive to do these things on her own. Not fucking happening. I knew what was really going on – she wanted to go get high one last time. Was I afraid, like her mom was, that she might overdose? No. Was I afraid that she might get arrested? No – because that’d be the best thing that could happen to her, in my view. But I was fucking here and it was my job to hold on to her and make sure that she got to wherever the fuck it was that she was supposed to be going. I was emotionally fucking exhausted. “I’m not letting you go off on your own to run around town doing whatever the fuck it is you’re trying to do. Back me up on this, Joseph.” “Honestly,” he said, “She’s going into treatment anyway. It doesn’t really matter if she gets high one last time. Just let her do what she’s gonna do and then you won’t have to deal with all the lies and bullshit. At least she’ll be straight with you.”

Fuck. Now I’ve got the guy who works at the treatment center telling me I should just let her get high one last time. He’s wrong but maybe he’s right. What the fuck does it matter? Why do I care if she uses again before she goes in? Maybe I’m just trying to be controlling. Maybe this would all be a lot easier if, for once, I just give in and say, “Fine.” And so we’re off to the dealer’s house.

“I’ll pay you back as soon as we get my check,” she said. Fuck. So now I’m paying for the drugs too? Great. What the fuck ever. Here. I give her the money, she hands it to the dealer, he hands her the pill (Dilaudid), and we pull away. All of this is in Natalie’s car because I’ll be damned if I’m gonna have this shit going on in my car. I’m not going to jail for this shit. This is already stupid and fucking risky enough as is. I shouldn’t be here. What the fuck is wrong with me?

We pull into the parking lot of the AA clubhouse and Natalie prepares her shot. She can’t find a vein, she can’t do her shot. “We’ve gotta go to my friend Evan’s house so he can hit me,” she says. “No, we’re not fucking doing that.” “Then you have to do it,” she says. Great. Perfect. This makes sense. So now I’m shooting this girl up in a parking lot? Of course I am. This is my stupid fucking life.

I take the needle from her and slide it into her arm, immediately finding a vein. “First time, every time,” I think to myself. What a stupid point of pride.

I pretend to throw all of her paraphernalia out the window but secretly slip it into my pocket with the exception of her rig. That, I do throw away. But I take a clean one from her glovebox and put that in my pocket. We go back to Walgreens, where we left my van, and I go in to use the bathroom. Into the bottle cap Natalie used to prep her shot, I rinse the residual powder from the cellophane she used to crush the Dilaudid. I put my needle in to her cotton and draw back. There’s no way there’s enough left in this cap (even with the added cellophane powder) for me to feel anything but I’m going to do it anyway. I shoot up and feel nothing. I go outside and find Natalie in the parking lot, arguing on her phone. I don’t tell her what I’ve done but I’m angry about it. She says her boss called and that she can’t get her check today. I’m angry about that too because now I’m not going to be reimbursed for the drugs, for the gas I put in her car, or for the food and cigarettes I bought her (something she offered as consolation when she hit me up for the drug money). And my money is tight right now. That reimbursement would’ve helped. I tell Natalie it’s time to go to detox – and not the one she wants to go to in Miami – the one in West Palm that her soon-to-be treatment facility/home wanted her to go to. She flips out threatens to call her mom, tell her I shot her up, and get my phone turned off (because I’m on their plan). That doesn’t phase me. I know I’m going to tell her mom about all of this anyway. I start to call myself and Natalie stops me. I know she doesn’t want her mom to know about any of this. She gives in and agrees to let me drive her to the detox in West Palm. At some point, I sneakily get her dealer’s number out of her cell phone. If I’m still feeling like this after I drop her off, I’ve got plans of my own. I’ve been clean for sixteen months and I don’t give a fuck. After today, I’ll leave Delray and I’ll be safe again. This will be my last rescue mission. I relapsed two summers ago when I had eleven months clean. Once I removed myself from the dangerous situation in which I relapsed, I was fine. This will be the same. I’m going to be fine.

I smoke a cigarette in front of the detox center with Natalie before we go in. At one point, some guy comes out. He’s kind of an asshole. Natalie asks if I’ll get her a few packs of cigarettes to get her through detox. I say okay because I’m a sucker like that. We check her in and I drive to the store. Before I’m back, she’s calling. “I’m outside with all my stuff. Fuck this place. Will you take me somewhere else? I don’t want to stay here. And my boss called. I can go get my check after all.” She has a lot of reasons for why she doesn’t like it and I’ve got plenty of rationalizations for why I agreed to pick her back up but the truth of the matter is that I want her to cash the check so I can get paid back.

I pick Natalie up and we start driving to her work to get the check. On the way, (surprise!) Natalie tells me she needs to use again. Of course she doesn’t. She’ll be in detox soon enough (and the detox she wanted to go to all along – the one where they’ll dose her up with so much crap that she’ll be more high than she was on the outside) but none of that matters.

In fact, nothing that happened the rest of the day matters. Sure, there are all sorts of interesting, pathetic, sordid, exciting little developments in the next few hours but it’s all bullshit and I’m tired of this story now. I’m not having fun writing this. Here are the pertinent details: Natalie and I meet up with the dealer again; I buy drugs for myself this time; Natalie goes in to detox and I stay high until my drugs are all used up two and a half days later. And now I’m four and a half days clean again. And I’m the same person I was before any of it happened. I didn’t “lose” my eighteen months of cleantime, just as I didn’t lose the eleven months of cleantime I had racked up the last time I relapsed (summer 2013).

I finished my latest painting a couple nights ago – the one I’ve been working on for just over two months. I can see now that leaving Florida to travel this year was, more often than not, not especially productive. I am not pleased with my progress in these last few months. I have not been writing as much as I should be. I am not painting as often as I should be. I am not engaging with galleries or otherwise promoting myself or advancing my career as often as I should be. September, October, and November were almost total wastes of my time. I am confused and scared. I have lost my sense of direction and my motivation. I’ve been caught up in relationships that were mostly chaotic and destructive. I’ve become preoccupied with sex, moreso than ever before. These things are not a consequence of my relapse, they were the cause of it. This has been the build-up to it. And that’s okay. I’m not upset that it happened. I don’t really even care enough to think of it as “a wake up call.” Because I still feel lost and I still don’t know what to do and that’s the same as it was before I put a needle in my arm.

It’s just a thing that happened.

Have Sex With and/or Buy Art From Me

"Have Sex With and/or Buy Art From Me." 7/1/14. Acrylic paint and duct tape on canvas. 22x28".
“Have Sex With and/or Buy Art From Me.” 7/1/14. Acrylic paint and duct tape on canvas. 22×28″.

I painted this immediately after “Something to Cry About” so a lot of the sentiment is pretty similar. Unlike that painting, the journals on this canvas are clearly visible. Three in particular.

From June 21st, in Minneapolis for the CBDS show:
Some days (today, for example) I feel like I’m slipping. Regressing. Losing it. Getting less brave. More anxious. If I’ve already peaked, then you can bet I’m gonna bottom out like never before. I won’t live in the middle. My inadequacy and self-pity are really showing here. I know it. It doesn’t elude me.

June 22nd, still in Minneapolis:
I was driving so I had time to steep in my anxiety. And to find the perfect phrasing to express it with maximum, wit, precision, and insight toward achievement of my twin goals, as ever, of course: HAVE SEX WITH AND/OR BUY ART FROM ME. ‘Cause that’s gonna fix me. That’s the validation I need to know that I’m okay. Why have I been getting so down on myself lately? I’m scared that I’m in a rut – not creatively – but these last two months there’ve been no developments, big breaks, or major sales / floods of income. And it hasn’t lit a fire under me. I’ve grown weaker, timid. I hit galleries but I don’t storm them with a painting and my confidence. I meekly hand over a card – and only if they engage with me. I set up to sell prints but I don’t draw people to me. I wait for them. It’s the same lately with girls. I do the bare minimum to spark interest and then nothing. I let it go nowhere. Because I know that’s where it’ll end anyway. Because I have no interest in anyone but myself. I just want to be loved. I want someone to make me feel okay. (Until I get that and dismiss it). And the girls I talk to might love my art but that doesn’t necessarily translate to any interest in or affinity for me personally. I CAN RELATE.

Finally, July 1st, in Cincinnati:
I withdrew a thousand dollars from my bank account this morning to buy heroin and a gun. So you’ll have to forgive me for not giving a shit about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

Between their content and my statement for “Something to Cry About,” there’s not much to add regarding the first two journals . The details of the third probably warrant some explanation, even though I feel it’s so trivial and boring that I’d really rather not (but, consequently, feel like I should).

I was all set to join up with Rational Anthem as they toured out to California. I’d set up at their shows each night to sell prints, as a means to finance my own trip out west. It made more sense than just driving straight out and I’d get to spend some time with my friends. I met up with them in Lexington on the 30th though and – before the night was over – Hembrough told me we’d need to sit down and talk at some point about the logistics of our tour together out west. What was there to discuss, I thought. Rational would drive in their van, Spillane and I would drive in mine, and that was that. If they had room for us to stay the night wherever they were staying, we’d take them up on it. If not, we’d find our own place to sleep. I know I overreacted but the way Hembrough had put it (“we need to talk”) made me feel like maybe I wasn’t welcome after all – like I was some kind of a burden. It hurt my feelings at a time when my feelings weren’t doing too great anyway. He and Spillane are my two best friends in the world but it sounded like he was less excited to have me along than he was concerned. I suddenly felt like there was no place for me in the world. I went to bed, hoping to feel better in the morning. I didn’t. I asked Spillane what city he wanted me to drop him off in, told him I’d give him some money to get set up, and that I needed to “do my own thing” for a while. And that’s when I went to the bank for step one of my plan. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to snap out of it. As soon as it was time to actually make a serious move toward execution, I started to come to my senses. “Never mind,” I told Chris. “We’re not gonna go with Rational Anthem anymore but if you still want to travel with me for this art thing, you’re welcome to stay.” He said he did and asked where we were gonna go. “I don’t know. Let’s go buy some fucking cigarettes, get some coffee, and just see what happens.”

Nine hours later, we were getting ready to go into the Masked Intruder / Dopamines / Direct Hit! show in Cincinnati, to sell prints. I scrolled through Facebook and read my friends’ outrage over that morning’s Hobby Lobby ruling. It struck me as so tremendously trivial and absurd, especially against what felt like the now darkly comic backdrop of my morning. I told Spillane for the first time what my real plan for the day had been and then confessed to the rest of the world by means of a marker taken to my t-shirt and an Instagram shot. I started to feel a little better with my secret off my chest when who should walk up but Hembrough and Rational Anthem. (They had a show in Cincinnati that night too). We talked it all out, he assured me that I was welcome and wanted, and I went into the Masked Intruder show feeling pretty at peace with it all. The show was fun, I sold a few prints, and – after both shows were over – Spillane and I met up with the Rational and Dead North crews at some diner. As soon as we walked in, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me. It wasn’t my birthday; I guess they just suspected that I needed it. And I guess I did. It was silly but it made me feel really loved.


Rational Anthem are trying to raise money to buy a new tour van and are offering some really great rewards in exchange for your financial contributions. And if you donate $50 and choose “no reward,” I’ll send you a signed and numbered print of the Sammy thrashLife piece of your choice. At the very least check out the video they made, which I “storyboarded” / sort-of-directed via text message.


Check out their campaign and see if you can spot my voice anywhere else.

What I Do When I’m Not on Tinder

"What I Do When I'm Not on Tinder." 6/21/14. Ink. 11x14".
“What I Do When I’m Not on Tinder.” 6/21/14. Ink. 11×14″.

Check me out! I’m being an angry crybaby ’cause I heard second-hand that someone (that I don’t even know!) implied that I can’t really be trusted because I’m a drug addict.

You know how long it’s been since I injected drugs? You know how long it’s been since my compulsion to inject drugs inspired me to do something dishonest? Not to mention: I’m itinerant as fuck! Nobody knows me. I’m in a new city every day. I can be whoever I want each time I roll into a new city. The only reason anyone I encounter these days knows that I am/was a drug addict is ’cause I fuckin’ tell them. I wear everything on my sleeve ’cause I’m okay with who I am. I’m fuckin’ proud of who I am. Good and bad.

So fuck off with that shit.

What’s this have to do with my new piece, “What I Do When I’m Not on Tinder?” Very little! I’m just trying to kill two birds with one stone by venting and simultaneously writing a statement for a new piece. But if I wanted to contrive a connection, here it is: Even my Tinder profile introduces me to “potential matches” with an opening salvo of, “I don’t shoot heroin anymore but I still have a personality disorder. It’s nothing you’d notice most of the time.”

“What’s Tinder?” you ask. Well, you poor unfortunate soul, it’s a dating app for smartphones that matches people based on geographic proximity (“[this user] is two miles away”) and whether or not you swiped left (“nope”) or right (“like”) on their profile – which is comprised of no more than six photos and 500 characters of text. It’s superficial, shallow, and lots of fun! Once two people have swiped right on each others’ profiles, the lines of communication are open for messaging and (potentially) making plans to meet in real life. And now that Tinder’s introduced their newest feature (the hilariously-named “Tinder Moments,” a Snapchat-like feature which allows you to upload an additional photo, revealed only to your “matches” for 24 hours (who are then prompted to “like” or dismiss it by way of swipe)) it’s also become one more social-networking-avenue for a sad little boy like me to collect the validation-via-clicks for which I’m so desperate.

My mood right now is definitely corrupting my usually joyful description of Tinder. It’s shallow, superficial, and a lot of fun. It’s super speed dating. Say the wrong thing to some girl? Who cares! Just scroll down to your next match and start again! It’s totally meaningless (just like everything else in the known universe)!

I finished this drawing three weeks ago but have held off on sharing it on my website, Instagram, and Facebook until now because I only just got a proper high-res photograph of it. There was one venue through which I shared it immediately upon completion though – and it proved to be my most popular TINDER MOMENT to date!

I’m ridiculous. (And pretty okay with it).

Full disclosure: As revealed in the statement accompanying my commissioned “Bleed Blue Tatoo” piece, I’ve “started getting laid again,” am getting all the female attention I need, and have consequently been inactive on Tinder for a week or so. I’m also taking bets on how long ‘til I fall apart again and rediscover its utility. Hit me up for the current odds! Who knows? Maybe this very entry will be the spark that burns it all to the ground!

Adventures Per Minute

"Adventures Per Minute." 5/5/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 36x48".
“Adventures Per Minute.” 5/5/14. Acrylic paint, spray paint, and ink. 36×48″.

“Adventures Per Minute” is how I felt in early April. From the moment I woke up until I crawled into bed each night, I was busy. Traveling back and forth between Jacksonville, Delray, and Sarasota; giving interviews and being photographed; attending the premiere of the movie I starred in; directing a music video; setting up exhibits; making and distributing fliers and meeting people; selling prints at One Spark and Spring Fest; fucking; designing album covers and merchandise for some of my favorite bands; making more money than I’ve ever made in my life; and (of course) painting – at parks, at friends’ houses, on the streets, at punk shows, on rooftops, and at galleries.

It was just outside one of those galleries that I started this painting. Passers-by would stop, compliment my work, and ask how I was doing. That sparked the first small caption: “HOW AM I? I’m standing on a stool, paintin’ funny faces outside the gallery that sells my paintings for all the moneys. So – yeah I’m okay.”

At the other end of the canvas, I elaborated: “I have everything.” And I really do. I’m not super rich just yet but all of my needs are met and then some.

I went back to Sarasota with the intention of trading in my van for a bigger one; it was my last stop before I finally took my show on the road outside of Florida. I changed my mind about the van but had quite a time back in that city where I (sort of) grew up. Things were messy – not only with friends in Sarasota but in my “adoptive” family’s house up the road in Bradenton. Drugs, lying, screaming, stealing… it was all around me and it was starting to fuck with my head. I don’t often feel “triggered” and – for the most part – think it’s sort of a bullshit concept. One afternoon in particular became an exception. I was on the back porch painting when the weather started acting up but there was no way I was walking back into the house. I took to the top corner of my canvas and started journaling:

It's been ten days [since I last wrote on this painting]. I'm on the porch in Bradenton. There's a tornado warning. I don't care. That'd be cooler if I actually thought it might hit. I would totally shoot up right now if I had drugs in front of me. BUT I HAVE THE MONEY THESE DAYS.

My best friend (the one that used to shoot heroin) - he started shooting heroin again. And smoking [and shooting] crack. I had him Marchman Acted soon as I got back to Sarasota. Everyone's pretty happy about that - and I've been buying into it too. But let's get real. Nothing has changed. This is just getting started. And it's gonna get a lot worse. I kind of think he's gonna die soon. What should I do? Drag him around the country with me? That's a lot of responsibility. And what would he do all day everyday?

And I love Abby too but her situation is even tougher, more hopeless.

I was talking to Heather about some of this and she asked me if I'll "ever get to live for myself." But I'm more independent, disconnected, and uninvolved than anyone. I do "me" constantly. But I grew up a fuck-up with other fuck-ups and what little I'm able to do these days when this shit goes on - I need to. Sometimes I'm the only one that can. I can't live without people anyway. It's all part of the package.

It's all worth it, I think. Even when it hurts a lot. And makes me wanna put a needle back in my arm. I don't think I will but, for the second time since I stopped, I really want to. This shit is dangerous.

And I haven't even gotten into the other shit that's eating me right now… My phone is ringing. What kinds of decisions am I gonna make today?

I feel safer in this house with drugs, screaming, CPS, threats, lies, theft, etc. than at Morgan's ('cause she's got roommates) and this [house] is the only place I don't feel like an intruder.

I paused and thought about all the good things that had happened lately – and the specifics of some of the bad… I brought the pen back to the canvas.

Life is sad and tragic and funny and beautiful. I'm usually having a pretty good time. I laugh and smile a lot. I don't want the people I care about to die. Or to live without knowing happiness.

Up to this point, I hadn’t given any thought to what I was writing or how it might be received. I just let it come out, even when it occurred to me that I might need or want to remove Abby’s name at some point. But after I finished that long journal down the left side of the canvas, I remembered that I was creating art and that I had intended for this to be a joyful painting – a celebration of the wonderful, exciting things happening in my life. “I need to balance out all this dark with some the light I experienced leading up to this.” But (in my soul, not my brain) I really only felt compelled to write the darker (more recent) stories. I decided to phrase everything in the present tense.

I am standing in an alley while my friend smokes the last of her crack before I take her to the police station, from which she'll be transported to detox, under court order. I picked her up in an empty parking lot.

I am dropping my "sister" off (with everything she owns) at a drug dealer's house. An hour ago, she attempted to transfer custody of her daughter to me. I still live in / operate primarily out of A VAN. We hugged and I told her to not be a fuck-up.

I am back on Adderall [after a month without] and I think the dose is too high now and I'm too in my head and having thoughts like these: [An arrow points at the long, sad, I-wanna-shoot-heroin, my-friends-are-dying journal].

I needed my positive adventures to balance the painting and convey what “adventures per minute” had meant to me initially. But I had already told those nice stories on my blog. Repeating them here felt contrived. I did it anyway but in just four short sentences – covering One Spark, the music video, the film festival, and painting on rooftops. A few days later though, I had another adventure. But one that I didn’t want to be the first thing to pop out at someone. I hid it against a dark blue backdrop. It says: “I just PRETEND (consensually) ‘raped’ a girl that identifies as ‘gay.’ It was pretty awesome. I like her.”

So THAT sort of raises some questions and probably warrants a whole exposition of its own but this statement’s already long enough, I’m writing this in Atlanta, and – you know – I got some more adventures I really ought to be getting up to right about now so…

Raygun Youth

"Raygun Youth." 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24x6".
“Raygun Youth.” 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24×6″.

I painted this for the cover of Billy Raygun’s posthumous discographic cassette. Each of the three bits of text is a lyric from a song of theirs that means something to me.

I thought I heard you calling; it was just the emptiness ringing in my head. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot.

In April 2011, my six-year relationship with Taylor came to a close. She broke up with me. I didn’t take it well. I had been pretty strung out on heroin, in a pretty bad way, for a little while but had just gotten into my first “treatment program” a few days prior (it was just methadone maintenance – not exactly the best path to wellness but what did I know?) On top of that, final exams for my final semester at Georgetown Law were about to begin and I hadn’t been to any of my classes all year. I didn’t even own the textbooks. I had a lot of studying to do if I was gonna graduate on time and I knew god damn well that if I didn’t graduate now that it was never gonna happen. I needed to keep it together (get it together) real, real fast if I was gonna keep everything in my life from crumbling into absolute shit, misery, and failure. Between the methadone, the heroin, the Adderall, and the sleep deprivation that goes along with studying in 24-hour shifts, I was … not entirely well. For a while there, I started to experience regular auditory hallucinations. Mostly, it was people (strangers) screaming at each other. It was like channel surfing on a TV where every single show featured nothing but loud, angry people. Occasionally though, I’d get a break in that and hear something softer and sweeter: “Sam…” It was a voice I knew; it was Taylor’s voice. Every single time, I’d turn around without fail, hoping (and actually believing) that this time she’d actually be standing there. She never was (of course) but it still broke my heart a little bit every time. It was a miserable cycle of studying, drugs, and crying.

All of this care / not caring is killing me.

This lyric isn’t tied into any one specific memory as much as it serves as an all-encompassing description of my relationships (romantic and otherwise) throughout my life. Oscillating frantically back and forth between giving a shit and shutting down. Between feeling loved and feeling abandoned and rejected. Sometimes it seems like my emotions are wired to a light switch. It doesn’t take a lot to flip from “perfect” love to total apathy (or even hatred). And since “we’re attracted to those at our same level of sickness/health,” I’ve gotten mixed up with plenty of girls who are equally skilled at unintentional (often drug-fueled) emotional back-and-forth. There was one night in early 2012 when my then-girlfriend professed her deep, unending, profound love for me in one moment, and was swearing that I was a disgusting, ugly, unlovable piece of shit in the next. And before the hour was up, she was right back to telling me how wonderful I was. Experiences like that can fuck with a person…

I’ll just admit that it’s a different girl, the same old story.

When I half-heartedly tried to kill myself in December 2012, I didn’t write a suicide note, but I did scribble something down on the back of one of many scraps of paper that were laying around my room. All that it said: “different girl / same old story.

—–

Ideally, I’d have held on to sharing this until this release was announced but – shit – it’s been more than six months since I painted it so… sorry, kids!

Here’s a stream of their self-titled full-length. The first song is the first song I quoted lyrics from.