In early January, I went to a reception/get-to-know-each-other kinda thing for the artists participating in Wunderground’s quarterly “Look! Listen! Buy!” event. At one point, I was telling another artist about my tendency to isolate – staying home and spending all of my time painting and writing. “Do you get social anxiety?” she asked. For whatever reason, I wasn’t totally honest. I told her that I didn’t. Which – OBVIOUSLY – is slightly less than the truth. I think it’s because I didn’t feel anxious in that moment. Either way, before long, I was proving the falsity of my claim. I tried to keep myself moderately engaged in and attentive to the conversations around me but I was primarily focused on scratching out some artwork in the tiny notepad I kept in my backpack. Eventually, I put it away and got involved in the slightly more socially appropriate activity of doing the exact same thing, only with the pretext of “entertaining a child.”
Seven days later, I was at “Look! Listen! Buy!,” sitting at my table, not enjoying myself. The music was too loud to really talk to anyone and – having just faced the consequences of some bad weather and an outdoor set-up – I wasn’t in the best mood. Things didn’t seem to be going especially well and I found myself back at work on the drawing I had started the night of the reception. I didn’t like the band that was playing. I had my headphones in. This was antisocial as fuck and I didn’t care. “I don’t want to be here anymore,” I thought. “All I want is to go back home and eat my leftover pizza. More than anything. SO BADLY.” (Not super-poetic but – when I’m falling apart emotionally – it’s not unusual for me to look to pizza to make everything okay again).
Which isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for the opportunity or that I don’t love the fuck out of Wunderground (because I really fucking do). I’m so happy to be a part of that group (though that doesn’t really have anything to do with Wunderground as much as it does the people behind it). Which kinda goes to show that (1) I don’t know shit about shit, (2) I’m a crybaby, and (3) everything works out exactly as it should / everything’s got a silver lining. I don’t make “friends” outside of punk rock (or treatment) – or so I thought. And I definitely didn’t think I’d make friends in Jacksonville. I’m not sure why that is… I get along with just about everyone I meet. I like just about everyone that I meet. But I just don’t usually feel connected to anyone. I was thinking about it recently though and (especially) last night. I’m kinda, sorta actually a part of a little crew of friends / artists here now. They like me and I like them. They invite me to do stuff with them. That feels nice. It makes me feel good. I’m grateful for it (and for them).
“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.
I started offering t-shirts with my artwork on them recently. Originally, the plan was just to offer shirts featuring my simpler cartoons, but I decided that there was no reason not to open it up to include my paintings as well. Since some of my more expressive paintings though can’t exactly be transferred to a shirt, the plan was that if someone wanted to buy a shirt like that, I would “adapt” the piece for the shirt (just as I had with “Merry Christmas 2K12”).
My friend, Ren, had said she wanted a shirt and when I posted my newest painting the other night: “That’s what I want!”
I wasn’t 100% certain she was even talking about the shirt, but I was immediately excited. I love that painting and the story behind it but – as soon as I saw her comment – I realized that its caption could also be the basis for a really cool cartoon.
At that point though, I was suddenly not so excited. The problem was that I had wanted it to be as big as possible (for the sake of the t-shirt) but now – looking at it – it felt like two separate imaged stacked on top of one another. But – after scanning it into the computer and playing with the layout – I’m really happy with the finished product. Thanks, Ren!
Aside: I feel a little funny about there being so many “products” related to this piece but it’s not like I’m not making the stuff that I want to make. My life costs between six and eight thousand dollars per year. I’m pretty excited that I haven’t had to get a regular job in order to pay for it yet.
Update (same day): “Welcome to Delray Beach” is now “Greetings from Delray Beach.” Makes more sense to change it for this piece.
I wrote a statement about this piece after I finished it:
Awoken by pain at 5 AM this morning, I was given a heating pad and a Flexeril (a drug which I have not been prescribed). Lying in bed, I started this drawing and continued until the pain subsided enough that I was able to get back to sleep. I finished later that afternoon on the ride back home from my outpatient group at Tranquil Shores.
In case you’re wondering, neither my integrity nor my recovery were at all compromised by my decision to ingest a Flexeril. If you think that’s at all questionable though, let me assure you that I am totally happy for you!
I only bring it up to clarify that this title is tongue-in-cheek.
The original has already sold, but 10×13″ prints are available in my webstore.
I’ve been insanely busy the last few days, getting all of my stuff ready for Artwalk in Jacksonville next week. I’m happy about it insofar as it’s put a fire under me and gotten me to work on editing my statements (since I’m putting printed copies in the sealed sleeves along with each print). I’m aiming to have around 50 different prints ready for sale so that means 50 statements. The less fun part is all of the tedious presentation stuff. Putting the prints in the sleeves, cutting thick backing board into the right size for each print, formatting the statements in Word to be the right size for each piece — stuff like that. It’s cool though; I’m going to feel really good about it when it’s all done. (Only four days left to go).
Heroin is my drug of choice. While I’ve got a couple secondary DOCs, I’ve definitely never considered myself a “garbage can” addict (someone who will take anything at all to get any kind of fucked up). While I have a weird sort of pride about being a heroin addict, it’s only with some hesitancy that I’ll admit to ever having had any kinds of issues with alcohol or cocaine. I used to tease my friend Robin that – “while I’m glad to see you’re doing well, you probably need to go back out, hit bottom, and then come back if you actually wanna get better.” Because Robin’s DOC was crack – “not a real drug” (according to half-joking Sam).
So it’s really sort of embarrassing that I was as excited as I was yesterday when I bought OTC medicine for my cold symptoms. If there’s ever been any doubt in my mind about whether or not I’m really a drug addict, my excitement as I bought generic Nyquil yesterday ought to be all the indication I need to know that I am not like most people.
In so many ways, I feel like I’m just starting out – just starting to figure everything out. Myself, my life, what I want to do, how I want to do it. I feel like I’ve just recently started being me. This is my first large drawing (it’s two feet by three feet). Creating it was an interesting process and at so many different points, I felt myself being pulled in two different directions as to how I should proceed. Sometimes I want to push myself to try something new, sometimes I think I ought to stick with what makes my art look like my art.
The last thing I did was write in a sentence from the NA text that’s been in my head recently. “Although all addicts are basically the same in kind, we do, as individuals, differ in degree of sickness and rate of recovery.” I crossed it out. I wrote the word, “sick.” I crossed that out. I thought about what I wanted to do with the black bars where the words had been. I decided not to do anything with them.
Writing a statement about a piece, right when it’s done, is tricky sometimes. There are some other little things going on here, but I don’t know quite what to make of them yet. Thoughts about friendships, school, identity, and where I fit in.
“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!
Zack and his mom were in the front yard when we pulled up to get him. From inside the van, I heard him say my name and when we spilled out, he pointed me out and said something about “Mowgli.” I thought that was pretty funny seeing as we have pretty similar taste in attire and I’m constantly scratching at real or imagined bugs in my hair. It’s an apt comparison.
Today is Tuesday – that’s my one day of the week when I have a routine in the outside world. I meet with my counselor at 10 AM and then go to an NA meeting at noon. It’s a reason to put clothes on. The rest of the time, I tend to not be very dressed. I ride around town without shirt or shoes because my only destinations are Alex and Angie’s (to do yardwork) or the convenience store up the street from my house. Sometimes I keep a shirt or shoes in my backpack though just in case. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m pretty free. I do whatever I want to do. Not only do I not have to put on a uniform or a collared shirt every day, I don’t really have to put on much of anything. That’s only significant insofar as what it says about the world and life I’ve built for myself.
I made plenty of friends in the years when I was a college student, but I only made one friend in college. He’s pretty much my only non-punk rock friend. By which I just mean that he’s my only friend that didn’t at least grow up in the punk scene – he’s my only friend that’s not connected to that world at all. He’s married, he has a mortgage, an advanced degree, and he just got a promotion at work. He’s well-adjusted (relatively speaking). When we were in school together, I was always cynical and angry and just chock full o’ nihilism, gloom, and doom. As much as he enjoyed that comedy (because it was so over-the-top as to be parodical) he’d try to get me to see the bright side and not be such a miserable little shit all the time. Tonight he sent me a text to ask how I was doing. “Great! Working on a huge painting right now. How are you?” His response was a little less enthusiastic so I called him.
He’s bored with work, with life. He doesn’t get to spend his time doing the things that he likes to do. Years ago, on the occasions when he was feeling a little less cheery about the world, I couldn’t offer him anything but commiseration (and maybe some I-told-you-sos). But tonight we talked for a little over an hour and (at the risk of being presumptuous) I’d like to think that I was actually able to help him feel a little better. Together, we came up with an idea. A change he could make to free up more of his time so that he can get a little more enjoyment out of this whole “being alive” thing. I don’t know if it’ll necessarily turn out to be the right thing, but that’s not really the point.
I’ve gone over this before but… fuck what the world wants you to do. I don’t have a job, I don’t own a home, and I run around this city looking like Mowgli from the Disney Jungle Book. He asked me what am I gonna do if something falls into my lap that I can’t handle, that I can’t afford. We went back and forth for a while over different hypotheticals, discussing different outcomes for different problems but the “what if”s kept coming. Finally, I came up with an answer that satisfied him. “I don’t know what I’d do. But none of that stuff has happened. I have everything that I need today. If something changes tomorrow, then I’ll deal with it tomorrow. I don’t live in fear or with anxiety over what might happen. I live for today and – today – I’m happy.” He liked that. Whatever it is that he needs to change, I hope he figures it out and follows through. He deserves to be happy and it’s not outside of his reach. (The same can be said of just about everyone).
Speaking of Zack (um… like, nine paragraphs ago). He told me last week that my worldview is (are you ready?) a little immature! (Unbelievable, right?!?)
If that is at all true though, it’s at least partially his fault.
“Do what you really wanna do. Don’t fucking ‘yes, sir’ through your whole life like a fool, kid. I hope you don’t really need the lies. Don’t fucking waste your time with the world always dragging you down.”