Okay, here’s the difference between now and the other two times I’ve used since getting clean: this didn’t happen in the course of some short out-of-town project. Those times, I finished what i was doing and then had to leave town to get back to my regular life. This time, it happened in the course of my regular life. I don’t have anywhere to run to, I still have things to do here in NY, there’s nothing pulling me “back” to anywhere else. The fact that it’s really easy to cop dope here doesn’t help. I thought I’d be able to bounce out of the hospital with a smile on my face and a “well that’s over – what’s next?!” attitude. And I did feel that way for a minute. But the residue of this shit is sticking with me and won’t leave me alone. And I feel alone. And I wanna use. I kinda really wanna use. And I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way.
And it’s not like I think it’s gonna be fun or that it’ll even be okay. I know it’s all bad, I know it’s all downhill but I still can’t shake the feeling. I’ve already had the thought of “well, if I’m gonna use, I might as well OD intentionally this time (and without anybody else around to call 911). ‘Cause I don’t like feeling like I wanna use. And even though I know this shit’s temporary – that I’ve lived without this feeling for the better part of three years now – the present bias is strong in me. And for all the positivity and optimism that comes with my current brand of nihilism, my personal philosophy doesn’t include any great reasons to continue living unless I’m enjoying it. And I am (I guess) – for the most part – up until moments like this.
I don’t fucking know. I’m not saying I wanna kill myself. I’m definitely not saying I need to go back into treatment. I’m sure this shit will pass in another day or two. I just… my head’s just all fucked up right now and I’m not enjoying it. I’m probably making it out to sound worse than it is.
I painted this in April. I like ants. It’s expressive art and the story behind it is enough likeamillionothers that it’s not worth telling. Instead, here’s the story of my life in April 2011.
When Taylor finally called me back, she sounded weird. “What’s going on?” She wouldn’t say. She was being evasive. I just came out and asked – “are you done with me?” She didn’t answer right away but – when she did – yeah, that was pretty much the gist of it.
Six years… I was in total shock. I had just gotten into my first “treatment” program eight days prior. (Methadone maintenance). I was cured! How could she break up with me now?!? Life was about to become a dream! This is preposterous!
Not to mention, I was in the middle of my final exams. My final final exams. She couldn’t wait two fucking weeks to do this? I was gonna be so busy for the next few weeks that, at most she might have seen me once. By breaking up with me now, it was guaranteeing that I’d fail my exams, not graduate from law school, lose at life, and DIE. What a selfish, miserable human being. (Her, I mean). (I’m really cool and great).
Granted, her timing was a little poor but I’m obviously still alive, and my interpretation of things has changed with time. Taylor didn’t leave me that day – because I had already left her – when I let heroin overtake her on my list of priorities. For the last eight months, I had barely existed in her life. I spent all my time hiding from her, out all day, out all night, shooting up at school or the basement of our building, ignoring her phone calls. Now that I had a couple pleasant days I thought everything was gonna be okay again?
But I couldn’t see that; I couldn’t see anything. I just hurt. More than hurt. I was fucking leveled. I didn’t want to use but… I had to. If I didn’t relapse, that’d mean I wasn’t really hurt. And I was really hurt so… I had to shoot some heroin to prove it. To myself. To Taylor. To the world. (I’m not really sure). And I had to buy a lot (two hundred bucks’ worth) ‘cause that was the best deal. (Money management’s an important skill!) My little bundle lasted me through the day with a few caps left over for the next. And then I put it out of my head and got back to the task at hand.
I hadn’t been to any of my courses all semester (I never even bothered to get textbooks). I logged in to the school’s website, found out which classes I was enrolled in, and settled into a couch in a (usually) empty room at school, where I’d spend the next few weeks, trying to learn as much as I could and just maybe graduate. When I couldn’t stay up any longer, I’d put my computer in my backpack and sleep on that same couch where I was studying. I didn’t get up for anything. Almost. Every six or seven days, I’d walk to the closest store to stock up on bagel bites and apples, which I kept in the fridge of a student organization to which I (of course) didn’t belong. There were three other reasons I’d occasionally leave the couch: to smoke a cigarette, use the bathroom, and (most importantly) – once a day, between the hours of 6AM and noon – go get my daily dose of methadone.
At one point, I saw myself in the bathroom mirror and was pretty impressed with how strung out I looked. (I guess the methadone / Adderall / sleep deprivation combo will do that you). I took a picture for posterity.
“Barkmarket Fuckacy” by House Boat is my favorite song on the last record [The Thorns of Life CD/LP] to bear the Traffic Street Records logo.
In the liner notes for the record, there’s a special “thanks to Sam North for basically ruining his life to help get this record made.”
(On our way to the studio for the recording of the album, I caught two felony possession of heroin charges and more misdemeanor charges for needles and other paraphernalia than I can count/remember). And if that wasn’t bad enough, the cops didn’t even give me back my drugs when they let me go! So on top of everything else, I had to spend the next day scrambling around Indiana looking for heroin.
All day, I’ve been working on that ridiculously oversized drawing (the one I mentioned starting yesterday). I think I’ve put at least twelve hours into it so far. I might have problems.
Here’s the third of my nine learning-to-draw-with-charcoal “sketches” – the first four of which were done while sitting in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The drawing’s from January, but this statement is from May.
I saw someone selling paintings with flat-color backgrounds behind characters like Merle from “The Walking Dead.” “Are you fucking kidding me?” I thought. “What’s the value in (or purpose of) a fucking portrait of a television show character, with nothing added at all to even personalize it?” I was pretty contemptuous for someone that’s trying to be – you know – well. But I realized: I don’t know why that guy paints, I don’t know what he gets out of it, and it really doesn’t matter. Maybe he’s the artistic equivalent of a rock’n’roll cover band playing in some bar every night – and maybeI’m a judgmental little shithead who just started painting a few months ago and should shut the fuck up.
The only thing that’s certain in all of this is that none of it matters. None of it is important. I’m sure there are people that think a portrait of Merle is great and that everything I’ve ever made belongs in a landfill. They’re not wrong.
I don’t wanna be judgmental and there’s no logical criteria from which I can really judge anyway. So… “I shot heroin. You paint TV characters. Life is meaningless!”
Admittedly, the statement, “Life is meaningless!,” was on my mind because I had been revisiting my Nate Gangelhoff zines and he used the phrase (hysterically) in an imagined scene wherein executives greenlight the publication of a Mr. T comic book. That’s in the third issue of “You Idiot” but both of his books and all of his zines are really spectacular.
I don’t have the slightest idea what’s happening in Syria. Something about weapons or genocide or… [who the fuck knows?] (Not me!). I am intentionally ignorant of it. I don’t give a shit. Not because I have some sort of bigoted animosity toward people in that part of the world, but because it’s not good for my mental health to be concerned with it. I don’t stress about it for the same reason I don’t stress about whether my friends in other parts of the country are consumed by drugs and at risk of dying. Because I can’t control it, I can’t change it, and worrying about it isn’t going to bring about anything positive for anyone.
I have a memory from when I was twenty years old. I was reading constantly and the things I was reading were consuming my thoughts. I remember walking through a grocery store and I started to cry (just a little bit) because I was thinking about water privatization in South America. I’m not interested in living that way anymore.
I saw some stuff on Facebook this week, criticizing our culture at large for being so consumed by the spectacle of MTV’s video music awards. I don’t give a shit about that either, but I actually saw some of it. (I went over to Angie and Alex’s house last night with Heather because Andrew and Claire came into town. They wanted to see some parts of the VMAs so Alex pulled it up on their magical internet television). I didn’t think it was awesome and I didn’t think it was the worst thing to ever happen. But it was really fucking boring. But [whatever]. It’s not important because – like Syria – things like that don’t need to be a part of my life at all.
Is it sad that bad things happen every day, whether or not we know about them? Absolutely. Is it frustrating that people obsess over (what I think is) vapid garbage “entertainment?” Sometimes, I guess. But none of it matters. Nothing matters. Not inherently. Things only have the significance that I assign to them. I don’t know if you’d call it a sort of nihilism or a “personal relativism” or what, but I get to choose my own truths and I get to create my own world.
As the only text on this painting (that isn’t in the title) says, “I like colors and contrast, bad teeth, crooked smiles, and nonsense. Things are better than they’ve ever been.”
This was the biggest fresh canvas I’ve ever worked with. I started on Thursday (8/29) and finished last night. It is acrylic, watercolor, pen, marker, carbon, and oil pastel.
Aside from “colors and contrast,” here’s something else that matters to me. Last night, when I was trying to figure out how to get a high-resolution photograph of something this big (and getting a little bit annoyed with how poorly my efforts were going) I realized that I was sitting alone in my kitchen, bouncing around in my seat, and singing along to this song. It made it a little tougher to feel at all annoyed or frustrated.
Edit(!): I can’t get the song to embed! Just go here and absorb everything: thebrokedowns.com
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).