Tag Archives: rehab

Status Update: Halloween 2013

The pumpkin I carved in rehab last Halloween.
The pumpkin I carved in rehab last Halloween.

Aside from a couple hours of fliering, I spent all day painting. It’s still not done but I did put a small part of it online.

When I coined out at Tranquil Shores, a friend told the story of his first day. He got out of the van, stepped into the courtyard, and the first thing he saw was me: shirtless with a giant butcher knife, carving a pumpkin, smoking cigarettes, and listening to punk records on a portable turntable. I tried to hit him up today but got no response. I heard a few weeks ago that he wasn’t doing well and was probably shooting up again.

Earlier this morning, I got a call from another kid I was in treatment with (in January and February of 2012). We hadn’t talked in 18 months. He’s still shooting up but he’s still young… My heroin use didn’t become a heroin problem ’til I turned twenty-five so… The important thing was that he said he was doing well overall (and I believe him). When I get a phone call like that, it’s almost always from someone that wants to know if I’m still in [whichever city] and if I’m still clean – ’cause if I’m not could I maybe help them find some dope? He’s up in New York though and was just calling to catch up. It was really cool to hear from him.

I think I broke up with my girlfriend this morning. I’ve journaled about it a lot over the last few days but – whatever I choose to share of those – I’ll hold off on until my painting is done.

Face Thing

"Face Thing." 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12x34".
“Face Thing.” 12/12/12. Oil pastel and watercolor. 12×34″.

For a long time, I thought this was the most embarrassing thing I’d ever made. I was hesitant to even call it “art.”

—–

Immediately after figuring out how I felt about myself, I decided to see if I could use the same approach to figure out how I felt about the girl. With my non-dominant hand, I wrote until I had completely filled the two sheets in front of me (taped together earlier for some other purpose). My only pauses were to change colors and even that was done without real consideration – a quick swap when I felt the urge.  I tried my best to be totally blunt, perfectly honest, and entirely concentrated on my feelings. I didn’t want to rationalize, bullshit, or otherwise fuck myself up. I wanted what came out of me to be real. I’m not sure whether or not it was…

Some parts were written in such a way that they wouldn’t make sense to anyone else – and there was no punctuation in any of it – so I’ve made a few minor edits.

—–

Your first group, the buddhist monk we had coming was running late. I was manic but I caught myself and asked the group to keep me in check. I didn’t want to be a spazz on your first day even though I preemptively disliked you. (You seemed too level-headed and assembled to like me).

I didn’t like the way the other guys talked about (and sometimes to) you. We didn’t talk much but you were nicer than I’d assumed and smarter too. When I ran into you after getting kicked out, you were so sweet to me. I thought, “I’d like to have sex with her.”

I didn’t really understand friendship but ,when I came back, we became friends. It was outstanding. We were exceptional. I liked it when we’d touch but knew that was the limit. We had both made that mistake in treatment before. Our counselors said they were worried about us getting too close. We talked about it and you said, “If this were last year, we’d be in trouble.”

We respected the physical boundaries we were given (for the most part) but got carried away otherwise – we loved each other too much. I didn’t know what was real. A pretty girl, an interesting boy, codependency issues, rehab and limited options… Was it love or something like it, or just compulsion and fear?

You didn’t seem too interested when I presented my life story. (Punishment for how I acted at your first step?) It hurt. That and more. It got worse. I needed to talk. I still don’t understand that night. I  got mean enough to get rid of you when all I really wanted was for your door to open.

I couldn’t handle it. I told the truth and you denied everything but, in between, I realized that I really did care about you, contrary to what I thought and said when I first spilled our guts to everyone, while you were away. It gets worse: I think i love you. I admit, I’m still not 100% but I’m going with it – even if you hate me. And not ’cause I wanna be tragic.

I still want to have sex with you but, mostly, I want to be friends.

For real.

—–

Two months later, when I had my coin out, the staff decided that we should have an “art show” – everything I had made since arriving (more than one hundred pieces) was hung up on display in the group room. Each had a title card with a short statement. The one next to this piece said, “If this thing actually ends up on the wall at my coin-out then I am way fucking braver than I have ever suspected. And way more honest. Well, honest about disclosing my art and my thoughts from the past (as evidenced in my art). There’s very little that’s honest about this thing in and of itself.” I’m not totally sure how I feel about that. The things I said with this piece were definitely honest when I wrote them… By February though, I had convinced myself that I had been seriously deluding myself – to such an extent that “the truth” was something completely beyond my reach. Today, I think that was probably an example of my “putting walls back up” to protect myself. My feelings were real and I shouldn’t have tried to discount them just because things played out a certain way and I now (then) felt silly about them.

—–

tipjarThis piece was later cut up and merged with its title card and a related piece I’ve also thought of as “embarrassing.” It’s listed for sale in my webstore but – if anyone wants it – you can name your price. Seven dollars should cover postage and (beyond that) I don’t care about the money.

Update (a couple hours later): Wow – kinda funny. I just looked at the Storenvy listing for this piece and it has a different statement that I wrote back when I first listed it for sale (sometime in August, I think). It’s interesting how much my attitudes and perceptions shift over time.

Roller Skating Sideways Through Blood

"Roller Skating Sideways Through Blood." 4/6/13. Acrylics and pen on stretched canvas. 12x16".
“Roller Skating Sideways Through Blood.” 4/6/13. Acrylics and pen on stretched canvas. 12×16″.

In 2011, when I was inpatient at Hazelden, I noticed something about myself: whenever we got a new patient, I’d behave just a little more “outrageously.” Like – the things that came out of my mouth were a little more shocking, absurd, or over the top. I very much had a need to let new people know that I was a character. And I realized that it wasn’t a new behavior; the settings varied, but I had been acting this way all my life.

That realization really upset me and I resolved to change immediately. I didn’t need anything else on my (already) long list of shit don’t like about myself. Some people responded well to those antics, but I’m sure there were plenty more that were thoroughly annoyed. Granted, treatment is the kind of intimate environment where – so long as you’re not totally shut down – people will learn to spot your bullshit and see through to “the real you” pretty quickly (whether they want to or not) and that meant the only real consequence of my acting out was to be initially disliked. [I remember deciding at one point that four to five days (for someone to come around and not hate me) was the standard rule]. Still, I didn’t wanna stomach that feeling for any days if I didn’t have to.

Once I’m comfortable somewhere, I can conduct myself more consciously; I can elect to play the clown or choose to be more authentic. But when I’m the new kid, I’m really shy, quiet, and usually lie silently as I absorb the dynamic. But I move fast. That “new-kid phase” is usually only twelve to twenty-four hours. After all, I’m pretty desperate for attention, pretty much all the time [as sad (and uncomfortable to admit) as that is].

About twenty-one hours after my arrival at Tranquil Shores, we’re taken to an arcade for our “community event.” In the van afterward, riding back, I asked about some of the past community events.

“We went to the roller rink, but probably for the last time. Debbie fell and cracked her head. There was blood everywhere, and kids, and…”

Holy shit! What a fantastic image! I pictured little kids slipping around a roller rink as a pool of blood spread across the floor. I couldn’t contain myself and shared my delight with my new peers. Everyone laughed and someone joked, “Nobody let this kid near any scissors.” I responded with mock indignation, “HEYjust ‘cause I like to roller skate sideways through blood – doesn’t make me a cutter.” That really cracked everyone up. I was pretty pleased with myself. (More so than was warranted but…)

Either way, I quickly discovered that it wasn’t going to take four or five days for these people to not hate me. I felt accepted, by both the clients and staff, almost immediately. And while there were certainly moments when I tested that acceptance (and consequently felt like a misfit or an outcast again) really, it only increased as my stay went on [the exact reverse of every past experience]. To this day, I’ve never felt more accepted or appreciated anywhere than I have at Tranquil Shores. And though that had very little to do with my dumb jokes, that moment in the van was when I first started to feel it.

Fast-forward eight months or so: I’m at Indie Market, feeling very not pleased with myself. The “skating sideways through blood” thing came to mind and I wanted to recapture the feeling of that day. I picked up my brush and started to paint, but it wasn’t going well. Nothing was looking as it had in my head and I was beginning to feel frustrated (to an absolutely irrational degree). But I was trying so hard to not be that way. I wanted so badly to be better and stronger than that. Instead of giving up entirely, I moved colors, distorted shapes, and started writing about art and my frustration with the commercial end. I had become incredibly prolific but nobody was buying my work; I felt like a factory, spewing shit no one cared about. And I had spent a bunch of money on frames, thinking they’d help “legitimize” my work in the eyes of strangers at Indie Market (and increase sales) but no one was buying anything. I was burnt out and annoyed with myself for posting every new piece of art on Facebook. It’d be one thing to shamelessly promote a product no one was interested in – it was worse that the product was (essentially) me.

needed to sell my art it because someone told me I had “what it takes” to be an artist and I had allowed myself to believe them. I was afraid of letting them down and even more terrified that I was letting myself down – terrified of being wrong, of not having what it takes. In hindsight, it was all insane. I had only moved out of Tranquil Shores five or six weeks prior – and I had only started painting and drawing a few months before that. To have sold anything in that timeframe was fucking remarkable.

The last sentence (“It’s better than Cymbalta”): I don’t know if I really believed it as the letters formed on the canvas but – as soon as they had – I know that I did. That’s when I started to feel better. And – as if the universe was offering a direct rebuttal to all my negative thinking – within a few weeks I had sold eight paintings – including this one.

I’d say that, every so often, someone really ought to kick the shit out of me but I already do such a great job of it myself. But in my better moments, I do have gratitude. I do see how lucky I’ve been. How blessed I am. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I feel it and it’s real.

—–

Related entries:

My Treatment Plan

"My Treatment Plan." 3/28/13. Pencil, pen, and watercolor on treatment plan. 8½x11”.
“My Treatment Plan.” 3/28/13. Pencil, pen, and watercolor on treatment plan. 8½x11”.

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 cartoon about 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.

 

Merry Christmas 2K12 (and 2K13)

I forget how it came up, but I found myself in rehab, defending some view as not being illegitimate or immoral. Something to do with property and how this world has enough for everyone to have everything that they need. But how people get scared, their fear morphs into greed, and they feel like they need to hoard wealth or resources to the detriment of others. One way or another, we got to that thing from the Beatitudes where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven. And from there, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son to burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich” popped into my head – which I, of course, thought was hilarious. And I immediately started jokingly trying to recruit my fellow inpatients for a crusade to burn down the banks and – you know – drink the blood of the rich.

The next day, in expressive art therapy group, we were told that the theme was Christmas (it was December 22nd). “Not really Christmas though – just in terms of birth or re-birth – just as a metaphor.” Everyone else in the group kind of ignored that. We produced a lot of paintings of Christmas trees and Santa Claus that day. I – predictably – went really literal with it though. I started painting myself being born (fully grown and clothed). And not so much being born, as much as pulling myself out of a woman’s birth canal. (The distinction is that birth wasn’t “happening” to me, I was taking the action). I thought that was pretty great given my circumstances. Recovery or rehabilitation weren’t happening to me – I was making them happen. I was bringing them about. Doing the work to get better.

And then it occurred to me that the “For God so loved the world…” thing that I had come up with the day before would be PERFECT for this painting. It was supposed to be about Christmas, right? The celebration of the birth of Christ. And while I had intended for the character in the painting to be me (and – no – I don’t think I’m the messiah) adding the caption would make this a depiction of what must be the second coming of Christ. When he comes back as a lion instead of a lamb. Lion Christ just might be the kind of guy that WOULD burn the banks to the fucking ground and drink the blood of the rich, the greedy, and the selfish. After all, Jesus never spoke ill of homosexuals or [whoever evangelists are bummed out about these days] but he sure as fuck had a distaste for the rich.

So this may sound absurd, but this painting, the little things leading up to it, and the process itself.. this was a spiritual experience for me. No offense to any of my peers, but they all painted Christmas trees and (by their own admission in group that day) didn’t get much out of it, so this assignment/prompt MUST have been for my benefit. And the way that it all panned out – what I chose to paint without even thinking of the previous day – and then remembering it at just the right time – this was all predestined. Similarly, back when I was told that I needed to have some kind of faith – that I’d need to believe in some kind of higher power if I ever wanted to get better and stop shooting heroin – the first belief I adopted (albeit sarcastically) was that “my higher power thinks I’m fucking hilarious“; if this whole episode isn’t proof of that, then I don’t know what is. The universe really brought it all together for me this time around.

"Merry Christmas 2K12." 12/22/13. Acrylics and pen. 9x12".
“Merry Christmas 2K12.” 12/22/13. Acrylics and pen. 9×12″.

HISTORICAL note!: Our art therapy counselor brought us acrylic paint and canvas boards as a Christmas present, so this was my first time using “real” art supplies. (Normally we used cheap paper and tempera/poster-paint). And I kinda can’t mention that counselor without saying something else…

Even when everyone else thought that “something might need to be done” about the kind of stuff I was turning out in art group, Julie stuck up for me and insisted that I be allowed (and encouraged) to create whatever I was feeling. It’s so much more than entirely possible that – were it not for Julie – what little enjoyment I got out of those early art groups might have been snuffed out. Had that been the case, there’s no way in hell that you’d be reading this right now because this website (and all of these pieces) wouldn’t even exist. And It’s not quite as certain, but it’s extremely likely that I’d either still be shooting heroin or dead. A lot of people and factors played into my recovery but the one piece that I’m almost positive is totally crucial is art. And Julie gets total credit for that. (With an assist from my friend (and fellow inpatient) Mary Beth, who was also a huge source of encouragement in the early stages of the game.

And so long as I’m going on tangents: After I finished this painting, as I was carrying it from group to my room, one of the property techs stopped and asked me if he could see what I had made. Staff aren’t really supposed to be “friends” with patients/clients, but I definitely considered Kenny a friend and (as a Christian) I was afraid this would bum him out. But I showed it to him and he surprised me. He knew exactly what I was going for, got the joke, told me it was actually a really Christian sentiment, and even gave me the [call number or whatever it’s called] for a verse of scripture. That sort of reaffirmed my faith in humanity that day. It was really awesome.

By the way, that movie I was cast in over the summer… the production designer saw this painting and asked if I could redraw it so that it could be screened onto a t-shirt for my character to wear. So I did!

"Merry Christmas 2K13." 7/2/13. Digital. 12x18".
“Merry Christmas 2K13.” 7/2/13. Digital. 12×18″.

A lot of what you’ve just read was written a few months back. Some of it is even older than that. The word “predestined” jumps off the page at me. Do I really believe in such a concept? I don’t know. I’m tempted to say “not really.” I’ll say this though… on December 22nd, back when all of this was happening… when I say, “this was a spiritual experience for me”, I mean it. Did I believe anything was predetermined earlier that day? No. Did I believe it in that moment? Again – I don’t really know. But I know that I was having fun acting as if I did… This really struck me as too perfect to be random (it just felt too excellent) but … eh… Well, like I sort of said: this was the best evidence I had ever seen that [to borrow from Andrew Jackson Jihad] “my god thinks my jokes are funny.” And it was all great fodder as I explained the cartoon/painting/sentiment to the patients and staff that were giving me funny looks. So I was having a lot of fun with it. So far as my real (confident) beliefs go… – only what I laid out in my entry for “Everything Works Out Exactly As It Should.”

Anyway, here’s a song that I was listening to a lot around the time this was painted.

Here’s a song that strikes me as otherwise relevant.

This painting is still available for purchase. As are an incredibly limited number of t-shirts. And – as with all of my art – either version of the image can be purchased as a signed, numbered, and framed print/poster.

Little Vomit-Colored Hearts

"Little Vomit-Colored Hearts." 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12" (diameter) round.
“Little Vomit-Colored Hearts.” 2/12/13. Acrylics, pen, and collage (cardboard, resin sand, and crushed up Peptol-Bismol) on a strange wooden frame. 12″ (diameter) round.

The text in the center says: “It’s my hope that someday I’ll be able to draw a cartoon Heather that’s maybe 5% as adorable as the real thing.” The large (vomit-colored) text says, “Lovesick.” The rest:

If I had to guess, I’d say you might not be the biggest Valentine’s day celebrant to walk the earth. Which is cool. But any excuse I can grab hold of to tell you I think you’re great with some extra-effort-little gesture… I’m into. Can I be unabashedly romantic/sappy for a minute? You make me wanna puke up little vomit-colored hearts. (What’d I tell you? Romantic). I’m a heroin addict – you see past it. I’m weird as shit – you’re into it. You think you’re (relatively) boring – you’re not. You’re just (relatively) sane (maybe).  Which is awesome. You make me wanna be as good as I can be. You make me wanna live the best life possible. (I already wanted those things, but you make me want ‘em even more). And still have plenty of ridiculous adventures. But with you by my side. I wanna get in all kindsa trouble (and fuck up all kindsa shit) with you. (I mean that in the best way possible). I wanna get in good kindsa trouble. I don’t know about all these words. When I think about you and when I’m with you, sometimes I feel insecure. Until you speak. And then I feel the opposite. I feel safe and okay. (Still pretty new for me). You’re the warmest, most supportive, encouraging, loving, inspiring, high-school-mean-girl-Christian-bully that I’ve ever met. You’re so fucking sharp and beautiful and honest and [fuck!] You’re stylish and funny and perfectly imperfect and strong and independent. and everything good on this wacky fucking planet. You’re a dream I don’t want to wake up from. Happy (two day’s early) Valentine’s day, Heather.

So reads the text at the top of this piece. Following that are some “nervous afterthoughts,
which I wrote over the course of the next hour or so, and then bracketed and labeled as such.

Wanna be my girlfriend? Like – for realsies?
Actually, scratch that.
You already are.
Like it or not!
{You make me feel like a kid again. Not much of a stretch, but – you know…).
Thanks for taking a chance on a kid in rehab.
I adore you.

New relationships in early recovery are not recommended. And if you’re inpatient in rehab (I think it goes without saying that) they’re not allowed at all. For me especially – they’re a bad idea. Keeping the proper distance between girls and me had been a task my various rehab counselors and I had been dealing with for more than a year. This last January, I was still living at Tranquil Shores, but I was no longer technically an inpatient. I operated according to a different set of rules. I could leave property for up to two hours at a time, provided I got approval from my counselor first and got all the paperwork signed and into the hands of the residential property staff.

There was this girl (Heather!) that I had added on Facebook at some point, thinking that she was someone else. Sometime later, after her name popped up a few times, I actually checked her page and realized she wasn’t who I thought. She was pretty and we had mutual friends in Sarasota; I thought it was strange that I didn’t know her (or at least have some idea of who she was), but [whatever]. Now – in January – I saw a post of hers: “When I do good at work, I like to reward myself by breaking out with ‘THIS GIRL IS ONE FIREEE.’ Customers love me.” I had no idea what that lyric was from, but I thought that was pretty fucking cute. I responded with “In theory, if I had an internet crush on you – how would you feel about that?” The next day, she commented on something I posted, I responded, and we started emailing back and forth. Within a couple days, we were spending hours exchanging messages. I liked her a lot and I realized really quickly that there was something different this time. The last few girls that I had dated, I was constantly asking myself whether or  not I really liked them… I was always having to convince myself that it was genuine for [this reason] or [that reason]. I didn’t have to convince myself of anything this time. I was unqualifiedly into this girl. I somehow coaxed her into agreeing to come up to visit me (in rehab). And I got her phone number and started calling her instead of writing her because that seemed like the healthy, brave thing to do.

Funny aside: The three Rational Anthem kids were amongst our mutual friends. After Heather and I had been writing each other for all of a day or so, I called each of them and said something like: “I’m going to ask you about someone but – before I give you the name – I need to warn you to speak carefully because this is the girl I’m going to marry. What can you tell me about Heather Pierce?” Admittedly, those calls were partially motivated by something authentic and partially by my own enjoyment of how perpetually lovesick I seemed to make myself. As miserable as it made me at times, I thought there was something cute or funny about it.

So she was interested in coming to see me but that didn’t mean that my counselor was actually going to approve it. And I was fairly certain that even if she allowed this girl to come see me, there was no way she’d actually let me leave the courtyard/property with her. But she did. She and the rest of the treatment staff decided that in light of everything, the best approach was to allow it and monitor it through my sessions. Talk to me about it, counsel me, and just make sure that I didn’t somehow lose my shit as a consequence. It was one thing to keep me off heroin, but to keep me off girls was pretty much impossible. Better to let me get involved now, while they could help me along the way, then wait until I was out on my own and not under their care and guidance twenty-two to twenty-four hours a day.

There’s so much more that I could say, but I’ve got another piece that I can use to tell more of this story. Her first visit was January 29th. I made and gave this to her on February 12th, the night of our fourth “date.”

Girls Are Not Pokemon

"Girls Are Not Pokemon." 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 8x10".
“Girls Are Not Pokemon.” 3/26/13. Colored pencil and pen. 6×8″.

I’ve been to three different rehabs and – at each – I got involved with a girl. Though it only (directly) got me kicked out of treatment once, it was never not a serious problem. If I include life outside of rehab, in times when I was trying to stay clean, I’ve relapsed with six different girls (and, each time, while upset about something that happened with me and the girl). That number doesn’t include times I’ve relapsed without [the] girl but while upset about something with her. Heroin is dangerous for me, but girls are probably more dangerous. I first started trying to get clean in November 2010 and – in all the time since – there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve been in dangerous situations where drugs were available through someone I was with (and/or someone was actually using around me). When that person’s been male, I’ve never once caved and gotten high, but when it’s been a girl that I’m even slightly interested in (i.e. most girls), I’ve found myself with a needle in my arm just about every time.

At Tranquil Shores, this was one of the issues that we spent the most time on. In my fifth month as an inpatient, Alexis, the girl with whom I was the most mixed up, moved out. She was signed up to come in three times a week for outpatient treatment but, two weeks later, stopped showing up. We were talking regularly by phone even after she left, but it wasn’t long before I lost touch with her too. She fell off – back into drugs – and lives behind bars now. I could have easily been right there with her when it all went down.

So now there were exactly zero girls in my age range at Tranquil Shores but I had others in the area that I had met at AA or NA meetings that I was constantly texting and meeting up with. (And I was doing that long before I lost touch with Alexis). Nothing serious happened between (any of) us, but I came pretty close to making some bad decisions on more than a few occasions. And that I even came close is insane. How many times did I need to put my life at risk just ‘cause I liked the way some girl smiled at me? But I couldn’t help it. It was the definition of compulsive behavior. I felt like I needed it.

A year prior, at the Wellness Resource Center, after getting caught with a girl (somewhere that we shouldn’t have been, doing something we shouldn’t have been doing), I was sitting in my room, contemplating the trouble I was about to be in. I didn’t want to get kicked out because I knew that I wasn’t “better” yet. I knew I’d get fucked up again and fuck everything up. I remember sitting there and thinking, “I don’t care if they never let me anywhere near her again. I don’t care if they basically lock me in my room. So long as I know that she’s also locked up in her room, sitting there pining for me, still in love with me, that’s all I need. I don’t ever need to see her again.

I think that’s all it’s really about for me. I just want someone to love me or – more specifically – to be in love with me. I needed for someone to think that I was the most important person in their world. The best person. Their favorite. Once I’d get that, it never really changed anything. I never actually felt any better or less insecure. It seemed so at times, in short little moments, but if that had really been the case, then I wouldn’t have been constantly pursuing multiple girls, even when I already had one “on the hook.” [That term sounds shitty but it conveys the idea I’m trying to get across. Also, it is shitty].

Sitting in group in December 2012, I did some math. I had six girls that I was trying to juggle to varying degrees. While I’d like to write it all of as inauthentic codependent bullshit – to be honest – with half of them I wasn’t even sure [and I’m still not]. I thought there might be (at least some spark of) authentic love. Yet I was still leading on the three girls with whom I knew it was just bullshit.

What was I really after? What was the point? A thought occurred to me; it was really silly but it was also totally dead on, which just made it that much funnier…

Girls are not pokemon – I do not “gotta catch ’em all…”

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If you know me personally you might be looking at the date on this cartoon and thinking, “What the fuck? You were already dating Heather by then – that’s fucked up.” [I decided to turn the idea into a cartoon back when I thought of it, but it wasn’t ’til two or three months later that I actually drew it].

Originally, I set out to write this entry about a different piece but I kind of had to throw all of this stuff about my codependent traits and behaviors out there as background info first. I’ll get to the other one tomorrow. [Update: That one’s online now too].

Anyway, I really love this cartoon. I love how superficially cute / innocuous it is but how the truth to it is kind of dark, sad, and pathetic. So often, I’ve let myself to sink to the greatest depths of hell because of something a girl said (or didn’t say) to me. I’ve dwelled in shit and misery for days, on account of facial expressions that I’d later discover I had completely misread. I’ve let my emotions, as triggered by girls, run and ruin my life.

But I’m getting better, you guys! For serious this time!

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  • The original drawing already sold but hit me up to buy a 6×8″ print.
  • For more on my relationships at this point in my life, check out “Autobiography.”