I drew this while sitting in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, one night after “Clarity” and “Chrissy Fit” and one night before “No Accident.” I guess you could say it’s about stress and coping mechanisms. Cigarettes, yoga, whatever. I chose the kangaroo with the overgrown kid ’cause the things that stress us out most tend to be (1) problems we’ve created ourselves and (2) things that – long after we have any reason to – we continue to carry around with us.
I’m still sick and I’ve been feeling especially under the weather today. I’m good emotionally though, so I’m very grateful for that.
The original is still available, but the image pictured here is the 4×4″ print that I have for sale in my webstore.
I painted this cartoon on the front page of one of my treatment plans. It’s got a list of all of the things that I should’ve been doing at that point but wasn’t. The thing my counselor was pushing the most was that I go out and interact with human beings that weren’t (1) my girlfriend or (2) my ex-girlfriend’s family [who I lived with]. Basically – to hang out with my friends—not too unreasonable but… you know… I’m busy… and I kinda like my bubble.
On this particular evening – I was out in the great big world. I rode down to Sarasota for a house show with Rational Anthem, Wet Nurse, and Weak Nights. When the last band finished though, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Without heroin or some other intoxicant, how was I supposed to handle this? I’m good with one-on-one interaction but groups of people are tricky.
I decided to make myself useful; I went around the house collecting all of the beer cans and other garbage, bagged it all up and took it outside. I felt pretty good about that [it was nice to be the one cleaning up, rather than fucking up someone’s house] but … what now? I was sleeping at Pete’s house and he was still having fun; I couldn’t ask him to leave. I looked in my backpack. I had pen, pencil, some watercolors, but no blank paper.
It seemed like a funny idea—to make a cartoonabout finally being in a social situation but engaging in a thoroughly antisocial activity—a cartoon that acknowledged my foolishness but demonstrated a resistance to giving it up.
I wasn’t actually trying to be antisocial, of course. [I’m not an asshole – I’m just awkward]. I’d break from what I was doing whenever someone walked up and expressed an interest in talking to me. Maybe – on some level – I was even doing it with that outcome as my goal. Maybe it was an effort to interact one-on-one without having to feel like I was somehow monopolizing someone; it might have been a subconscious move to interact without having to insert myself into a crowd and feel out of place. (It’s cliché and childish but – just about everywhere I go – I still regularly feel that I don’t quite fit in or belong).
So I worked on this at the house, at the bar we all went to afterward, and then back at Pete’s.
Epilogue: This is one of the few things I’ve sold really cheap. To a kid I met in downtown St. Pete during my one Indie Market experience. He really liked a lot of my stuff and especially this one. He had one of those huge backpacks that transient/traveler kids tend to have, so when he asked of there was anyway i could accept just $12 for it, I figured that was probably a pretty decent chunk of his net worth. Besides, when it comes to pricing my art – it’s got very little to do with money. I mean – don’t get me wrong, it is how I pay my bills so I do need to make a certain amount each month, but (after that) it’s not about money – it’s about personal valuation, self-esteem, and confidence. I’ve been encouraged not to give things away which is something I was initially doing anytime someone expressed an interest or even when they actually made an offer to buy something. (And I still do it occasionally). ‘Cause it’s uncomfortable. It’s foreign. Coming up in punk rock – we’re not supposedto make money off our creativity. I still feel guilty sometimes when somebody asks how much I want for something. I’ll usually tell them a number that’s only two-thirds or so of what I actually had in mind. But then when they buy it without blinking, I feel dumb for not just saying the actual price I had in mind (especially when I’m struggling financially).
Although “struggling” is a little of an overstatement. I might *stress* but – so far – everything has always worked out for the best. In the six months since I moved out of Tranquil Shores, I haven’t failed to pay for essentials yet. Things are good. Things are okay.
On October 2, 2012, I was kicked out of Tranquil Shores. It was my third time being kicked out of rehab that year. This time was different though. I knew what I needed to do and, on October 19th, I was welcomed back.
When I had been kicked out of Hazelden and the Wellness Resource Center, a lot of what was going wrong with me had to do with girls. At both facilities, I got “involved” with another patient. That hadn’t been the case this time but, when I was readmitted, I started doing it again. This time, I was determined enough to succeed that I didn’t let it control me the way it had before. We had more than a few conversations about how we were just friends (even once in the presence of the treatment staff when they began to worry about what might be developing). But I held on, I didn’t give in and do anything that would have been automatic grounds for my being kicked out again. Still, it eventually got to a point where we had resolved to be together after we got out of treatment and that’s the kind of emotional attachment that’s not good for anyone early in recovery, let alone a basket case like myself.
I don’t mean it as an excuse because I don’t see it that way but my thoughts, emotional responses, and consequent behaviors are not like most people’s. I “have” borderline personality disorder.
Something happened. It doesn’t matter what. She and I weren’t getting along and it was fucking ruining me. And because I wasn’t supposed to be involved with anyone (let alone a girl I was in treatment with) I couldn’t be honest with my counselor or anyone else about what was eating at me. It occurred to me that – if I wasn’t willing to talk about my issues – there was no longer any reason to be in treatment. Things got worse until one night, alone in my room, I lost it. [Since that’s a whole story of its own though, I won’t go into the details here].
The next morning I woke up feeling thoroughly empty, thoroughly hopeless. In my head, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t really doing anything wrong because I hadn’t actually slept with the girl. But I was fucking destroying any shot I had at ever getting better. I was already contemplating leaving and I knew, if I went down that path, I’d be shooting heroin again in no time. I was keeping my mouth shut for the sake of my relationship with this girl, but if I didn’t start talking and sort this shit out [if I left Tranquil Shores] the relationship was over anyway; I’d lose everything. I talked to a friend and realized that I had no choice. So I told the truth about everything that had gone on between us.
And she denied everything. She told them that it was all in my head – that I was even sicker and more confused than I seemed. I couldn’t believe it. I thought this was going to be the best thing for us. We weren’t supposed to get mixed up with each other in the first place but… it happened (nothing could change that) and now we’d be able to deal with it. And get better. It was going to be awesome. The greatest relief ever. But she wasn’t interested. She stuck to her story: that I was out of my fucking mind. I had an encyclopedia’s worth of Facebook and text messages to prove otherwise, but when my counselor said I could show them to her if I wanted to it felt petty. I realized that the truth didn’t matter. It was a big epistemological lesson for me. Emotions are stronger than facts. If I held that this relationship had happened, my treatment was going to progress as if that were the truth. If she held that it hadn’t, her treatment would address the issue as if that were the truth. [Weeks later, she did come clean and acknowledge that everything I said was true, but that’s not relevant to this piece].
After the dust settled from the shit storm that had been that afternoon, I went back to my room and wrote.
Pretty bummed out right now. Sad about the person I’ve let myself become. Not feeling totally lost though. I’m grateful for the lesson I was able to learn today and for the opportunity to use that knowledge to make my future better than my past. It hurts now, but this will be a good thing so long as I’m willing to utilize it, grow, and change.
I needed to get out of my self for a little while so I started to draw. Three hours later, I was flooded with feelings that I didn’t know what to do with. I stopped drawing. I scrambled around my room looking for something to write on. I found a piece of paper that I had traced my arms onto three weeks prior [for a project I hadn’t finished; I still needed to draw a knife into my right hand, for starters]. A few days prior I had that intention, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now, I didn’t care about that. I just needed something to write on. What spilled onto the paper was very stream-of-conscious. Just before I touched my pencil to the page, I decided to put it in my left hand since (it’s said that) writing with your non-dominant hand helps with honesty and hinders pretension.
i didn’t know who i was or what i was doing
i’m not whole yet but I’m closer than ever
i realized I could choose to not be an obnoxious, negative problem
november ended, i forgot
today is 12-12-12 and i just remembered
and i learned something new today
i can choose more
i don’t have to be confused
i don’t have to send mixed messages or be inauthentic
i can be whoever i want to be
I KNOW WHO I AM TODAY
i am honest sincere loving compassionate kind intelligent fun dedicated loyal creative talented doing my best sorry for the harm and hurt i’ve caused proud of my achievements and sam NICE TO MEET YOU
I’m embarrassed of this piece sometimes. The old, guarded me would call this the dumbest shit ever. But – as I commented when I first made it – it’s the most positive, productive thing I’ve ever produced. In recovery, there’s lot of talk about a “spiritual awakening.” This is the unintentional document of mine. I’m sograteful that I have it to remind me of exactly how I felt in that moment. I only wish that I could feel that way all the time. My resolve to be the kind of person that I described had (and has) never been stronger.
“I Wish I Could Get Everyone to Stop Waiting.” June 7th, 2013. Tempera and pencil on paper, cut up and rearranged. 12×12”.
This was the last piece I made in my Wednesday night “Art of Recovery” group, before moving to Jacksonville.
The text says, “I wish I could get everyone to stop waiting. They’d rather die than try something new and risk being happy.” It’s about the people in my life caught in patterns of addiction, codependency/enabling, and other kinds of mental illness. Or, rather, it’s about my own frustration in not being able to help/change/save them. It’s about the way we have a tendency to think things like, “Once [this] happens, then I can do [that], and THEN I’ll be happy.”
I know that if I can’t be happy now, regardless of my current situation, there’s nothing that could happen that will make me happy. Happiness comes from within and has nothing to do with external factors outside of my own control. In that sense, this piece is very much an echo of the sentiment (as I’ve interpreted it anyway) in the opening song on one of my favorite records. The chorus is: “What does your dream home look like? It’ll take you years to even tell, and I’ll be sleeping well, here in hell.”
This statement isn’t from June. I just wrote it. So I still know these things, it’s just that I’m having trouble applying them. I’m gonna give it my best shot today.