Tag Archives: relapse

Toxic grey dope and spraying morphine up the butts of loved ones

I’m not even getting high. Either my tolerance is too high or the dope in this town is too shitty. For a while there, I was getting shit ten times better than anything else I’ve found in Jacksonville but that shit hit me less and less as my tolerance went up and, once the package ran out, the dealers behind it re-upped with this dark grey garbage. Not only do I have to do a shit ton to feel anything but it doesn’t even feel like a heroin high. It’s closer to a Dilaudid high but not as pleasant. There’s absolutely no euphoria, just a strange tight sensation in my skull and my jaw, coupled with light-headedness and – yeah – its one positive attribute is that I can fall asleep after I shoot enough of it. But that’s leaving out the worst part. Anytime I’ve done a shot that was strong enough to feel – before those slightly positive effects kick in – there’s another set of sensations that storms across my body. As the blood flows up my arm back to my heart and is pumped out to the rest of my body, I start to itch. Not an acceptable heroin itch but what morphs into an intense burning sensation. It hurts. Badly. It starts in my head and my chest and spreads to my hands and sometimes my feet. It is, to say the least, unpleasant. The only thing I can compare it to is liquid non-injectable morphine, intended for oral consumption. Like many drugs that are NOT formulated for injection, it fucking hurts if you inject it. (And – to those of you that found this page because you’re Googling, “Can I inject liquid morphine?” The answer is “Yes, but it will hurt and there’s no fucking way you’re going to find a syringe big enough to inject enough in a single hit to stand any chance of actually getting high. So don’t do it. Drink it or have a loved one fill their mouth and spray it up your butthole with a straw; it’s not strong stuff and the bioavailability is highest when absorbed – um – you know… through the butt).

And here I was thinking that I’m of no use to anyone ever since I fell off, started using again, stopped producing anything of any value, and went from aspirational figure to cautionary tale. But here I am, educating the masses on anal morphine.

So where was I? The grey dope. It was awful. It hurt to inject it. And no one seemed to be able to find anything that was any better.

Fuck this. I can’t fucking take it anymore. I quit. I’m not playing this game. I’m not going to struggle to scrape up hundreds of dollars everyday just to feel sort of okay and keep myself from going into withdrawal.

Hey, withdrawal! Come on, let’s go. Bring it on. I’m ready for you.

I didn’t shoot any more dope that day. I felt fine. The dope was still in my system. It’s not unusual for me to be able to go 24 hours before the withdrawal symptoms start.

I didn’t shoot any more dope the next day. I still felt… mostly fine. It was strange that I hadn’t started withdrawal but…

I didn’t shoot any dope the next day. And still I was fine! If you’ve got a dope habit, you’re going to start experiencing withdrawal within 48 hours of quitting. It’s the same with virtually ever opiate and opioid. Three days off dope without consequences didn’t make any sense.

Day Four: STILL NO WITHDRAWAL. Alright, so it’s clear what’s happening, I said to myself. I thought I wasn’t getting high because my tolerance was through the roof. In reality, I must have been getting dope of gradually decreasing strength/quality. Wow. I had weened myself off of heroin already without even realizing it. I had been shooting fucking dust for who knows how long. After all, if there was any dope in the shit I had been shooting up, I’d have quite a tolerance and dependence and be SICK AS FUCK right now.

On the fifth day, I finally got out of bed, fully confident that I could face the day without getting sick. I showered, dressed, and walked outside. It was hot and it was miserable but I was really doing it. I was facing the world again. It had been quite a fucking while. I felt good about myself. As I walked to nowhere in particular, I thought about the things I needed to do to get my life straight. I’d need to hire a lawyer to get my current legal situation sorted out (did you guys know I’m currently wanted by the police? Hooray!), I’d need to start making art again or else find a real fucking job…. two prospects that were equally disheartening given my fears about my sparkling internet reputation these days. No one is ever gonna hire me, I thought. No one is ever gonna wanna host an exhibition of my art at their gallery. I’m fucked no matter what I do. I’m fucking hopeless. I suddenly remembered why I’ve spent the last year and a half in a dark room with a needle, and I was defeated. I broke down into tears. Getting clean was the easy part (especially this time). But what the fuck am I gonna do even if I am clean? What’s the point of getting clean? I have nothing to live for. Half of the world wants me dead because they think I’m a fucking rapist and while they’re wrong about why I should kill myself, I still agree that their final conclusion is ultimately correct.

I went back home to Wallis who suggested that I take a Suboxone. It’s primarily used to treat the physical symptoms of opioid withdrawal but it certainly helps with the mental/emotional symptoms as well.

Now, here’s the thing: When taken orally as intended, the only active ingredient in Suboxone is buprenorphine – a “partial opioid agonist.” The “agonist” part means is that it interacts with the same receptors in your brain as heroin and other opiates. “Partial” means that it’s not going to interact to the same extent as heroin (a “full agonist”) so it’ll keep you from going into withdrawal if you’re heroin-dependent, but it won’t get you high. Here’s the problem with Suboxone: the buprenorphine doesn’t just crowd around the receptors of your brain alongside the other opiates that are already hanging out there; it kicks the rest of them out of the fucking party. For this reason, an addict needs to wait 24-48 hours after their last hit of heroin, when the withdrawal is already starting, before Suboxone can be safely taken. If taken before the heroin has begun to abandon your body’s opiate receptors, rather than gently transitioning your body off of heroin and onto buprenorphine (and thus relieving most symptoms of opiate withdrawal) the Suboxone kicks the other opiates to the curb and – by itself, at this early stage in the game – is insufficient to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Worse still, it doesn’t just fail to alleviate withdrawal, it actually kicks your body into a state known as “precipitated withdrawal,” which for all intents and purposes, could more accurately be described as “SUPER KICK YOUR ASS MAKE YOU WANT TO FUCKING DIE THIS IS THE WORST PAIN I’VE EVER FELT WITHDRAWAL.”

But this wasn’t an issue for me, you see. I was already five days clean off dope. 24-48 hours? I scoff at your 48 hours, I’ve got over a HUNDRED. At this point, not only is it safe to take Suboxone but I might even be able to catch just the slightest buzz off of it. If nothing else, it’s going to trigger the same chemicals in my brain (most notably dopamine) as the heroin was and it’s going to help me to stop fucking crying. It’s gonna make me feel better.

I put the strip of Suboxone under my tongue and crawled back into bed to let it dissolve and comfort me. Only… I wasn’t starting to feel any better. Shit, I actually feel a little worse. And wait… what’s that familiar creeping sensation… that mentholated feeling coming over my body that I’ve only felt twice before in my life….

Oh fuck… my body is falling into precipitated withdrawal. FUCK.

Buckets of sweat began flowing from my body. I was freezing cold and simultaneously burning up. My stomach is in knots. I can’t fucking move. Everything hurts.

Now, I’m not gonna play this shit up worse than it was. Of my three episodes of precipitated withdrawal, this one was the least severe. The worst of the symptoms – when your body evacuates every last particle of waste from your dilated asshole – only to then continue with buckets of water until you’re absolutely emergency-room-level dehydrated – and for the coup de grace, some kind of bilious liquid that burns as it squirts and drops incessantly from your asshole over the course of the next two hours – I didn’t experience that this time. I felt like it was coming all along but I clenched as tight as I could and was able to keep it at bay. The same went for vomiting. I had an almost uncontrollable urge to throw up but I kept my throat clenched, knowing that if I started throwing up, I’d likely be unable to stop for some time. Even still, I was not well and it wasn’t long before I had Wallis dial up a familiar number for me so that I could politely request that someone bring me some of that awful dark grey garbage that I had so recently decided was as benign and impotent as sand.

After enough time had passed and I had injected enough of that dark grey poison, I started to feel better and began considering just exactly what the fuck had just happened to me.

And here’s the conclusion I’ve reached, boys and girls: There are all kinds of opiates, both natural and synthetic (opioids), under the sun. Virtually all of them share one thing in common though: the speed at which they depart they body. It’s true that some may take a little longer than heroin (and some take a little less time) but they’re all pretty close, with one exception: methadone. Methadone doesn’t begin to take off until 5 to 7 days after an addict’s last dose. However, in this glorious digital age, we’re no longer limited to the opioids of our parents’ generation. On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, kids are playing with chemicals and – essentially – inventing new opioids, to sell on the streets as a cheaper alternative to heroin. Some of these could theoretically be more analogous to methadone than they are to heroin. So, it seems that my dark grey garbage powder either contains methadone or else some other new toxic fucking opioid. I’ve taken methadone plenty of times but never had it in a concentrated powder formulation so I’m not sure if that’s absolutely what it is that I’ve been using. If anyone out there can tell me, does methadone BURN LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER when injected in high doses? If so, then it seems I’ve been injecting methadone. If it doesn’t, then I’m shooting up something else with a super long half-life. Something with some toxic non-injectable ingredient or cutting agent that makes my fucking blood hurt.

You know, from a capitalist point-of-view, this really is quite brilliant. A withdrawal that takes longer to start is also going to take longer to end. If you were a drug dealer, would you rather sell someone something that – if they stop taking it – it’s going to cause them pain for a week before they feel relatively okay? Or something that ensures it’ll be closer to two weeks (or possibly longer) before they’re in the clear? After all, the fact that one can go longer between shots on this stuff is of little consequence. Anyone that’s actively addicted and shooting up is always going to struggle to shoot up any less than “as often as possible.” It’s only when an addict tries to quit that the long half-life is of any benefit or consequence – but even then, it’s just delaying the inevitable and then stretching it out over a longer period of time.

So that’s where I’m at now. I’m back on my shitty dark grey dope, working up the courage to quit again, knowing that it’s going to be the most protracted detox of my life. I’ve got my reasons for holding off for now and not getting started just yet (and they’re nothing fucking positive) but I’m also starting to get ideas for how I might actually be able to have a life that I can stand one day (soon, I hope). I’ve got just a little bit of hope for the first time in a long time. And I’m writing honestly on my blog again, which is never a bad thing. It’s a good sign that I’m at least starting to feel a little bit like me again.

Anybody that’s got anything shitty to say about any of that can fuck right off. I know who I am, I know what I’m not, and if I’m gonna hate myself, it’s gonna be for the right fucking reasons. But I feel okay today. (Right now anyway). Oh – and for what it’s worth, I do have a pocket full of dope and I’ve been awake since 7AM, but I haven’t shot up since last night. Whether you think so or not, that’s pretty fucking good. I had things I wanted to do before I shot up and I’ve been doing them all day. I don’t care how petty or little it is, I’m proud knowing that it’s 3PM and I haven’t put a needle in my arm.

(Yet).

I Could Never Love Anyone More Than I Hate Myself

"I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself ." 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36x36".
“I Could Never Love Anyone More Than i Hate Myself .” 4/30/15. Acrylic paint. 36×36″.

For as much as I talk and write about Wallis, I’ve never really shared the full story of how we first came together. I’ll save the cute elements of the story for later and just give you the important part that hasn’t seemed relevant until now.

When I met Wallis, she was actively addicted to heroin. She was trying to not be on heroin but (like most addicts) she was finding that to be a little tougher than she could handle. We hit it off really quickly but I told her on our very first night together that I couldn’t be around that sort of thing. I told her that if she wanted to continue spending time with me, she couldn’t be using drugs. (I’m way too fucking fragile to not relapse if a pretty girl has a needle and a bag of dope to share with me). She told me she didn’t wanna use. I invited her to go with me on a road trip for a week – up to Illinois and back. In the course of that trip, we fell in love. Which was a problem because it meant we needed to figure out what we were gonna do to keep her from going back to heroin once we got back to Jacksonville. We decided that she’d need to quit the strip club and get another job (nobody can stay off drugs in that environment – no addict anyway). I told her I’d cover her ’til she got a new job and then – when it was time for me to leave Jacksonville – she’d quit her new job and come with me. Sound familiar? I did for Wallis the same thing I had done for my best friend, Chris, a year prior. I brought her out on the road with me to keep her off drugs. To show her another kind of life. Like Chris had done, in exchange for “all expenses paid” she’d just help me with my set-up, selling art, whatever. (And like Chris, it pretty much worked. She never used once; not while traveling with me anyway).

When we left Jacksonville, it was for Minneapolis, where I was to be featured in a gallery exhibit. Halfway through the exhibition’s run, we returned to Jacksonville for a week, so I could bank at One Spark. On the drive down, Wallis started talking about going to see old friends – friends that she had, historically, used drugs with. I told her that this was a terrible idea. She argued that I needed to have faith in her. I responded that I’d heard that same exact sentence and had this same exact conversation many, many times in the past (with another girl) and that I knew perfectly well how this was gonna end. I told her that if she wasn’t willing to forego the reunion (and the inevitable relapse that’d come with it) that I couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore. One Spark was going to be an incredibly important week for me financially and I didn’t wanna fuck it up by spending the whole time worried about whether Wallis was safe. She said okay (as in okay, then you don’t need to be my boyfriend anymore). There was no hostility or drama beyond that but when we got to Jacksonville, we went our separate ways. Wallis relapsed that very first night (thought she wouldn’t tell me until later), but called me the next morning and spent the rest of the week by my side like a lost puppy. On the night before I was to return to Minneapolis, she broke down crying, told me she had fucked up, and that she still wanted to be with me.

And I took her back.

I first had the thought years and years ago, upon hearing Rivethead’s “In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You.” The last lyric in the song is “I love you just as much as I hate the man.” I’m not exactly the biggest fan of cops or authority figures of any kind but when I’m really fired up and full of hate, there’s only one target it’s ever directed at: me. I still listen to that record (The Cheap Wine of Youth) all the time so the idea of captioning a painting with “I love you just as much as I hate myself” had occurred to me on a couple occasions but I didn’t wanna be derivative. Then, when I bought Pretty Boy Thorson’s An Uneasy Peace (the final song of which is called “I Love You Even More Than I Hate Myself”) I had a bit of a god dammit moment. That should’ve been mine! The song’s awesome and it doesn’t matter that the lyric is similar to another. I started thinking about it though – that line – and whether or not it was actually true (for me). I was dating Wallis and I absolutely loved her but did I love her more than I hated myself? I wasn’t really sure. I decided that sometimes I’m afraid that I could never love anyone more than I hate myself. After all, we had weathered the storm of her relapse but I was sabotaging our relationship bit by bit with my low self-esteem. I wrote about some of that anxiety in the bottom-right corner of the painting:

It’s so much harder to travel with a second person. Staying with friends feels like a much bigger imposition and I can’t stay with girls I meet. That’s probably the hardest part. But I love Wallis. (And I really like fucking her). And I think she needs me. I tried to leave her in Jacksonville but it didn’t work out. I hope she’s with me because she really loves me and not just ‘cause she’s scared to go back to “real life.” It if doesn’t work out, it’s probably gonna be because I can’t stop thinking about fucking other girls, which I know hurts her (and is really so selfish and dumb - and even mean - on my part) but really has nothing to do with her. (She’s so fucking hot and sexy and cute and beautiful). It’s just my insecurity and my compulsion to fuck every pretty girl, to prove to the world (and myself) just how fucking wonderful and desirable I am. It’s not helping that girls are throwing themselves at me these days. But I know (or think) that shit won’t make me happy. And in the end, I’m just gonna want someone to love me and I love Wallis.

There’s another, shorter string of text higher up in the painting, similarly inspired by punk rock: “I was listening to that Gateway District song where they sing, ‘I’m always falling way behind and you go on and on and on.’ If only I knew someone like that. Maybe I’d have someone to look to. Everybody I know is struggling. Everyone I know is as hopeless as I am. (Or worse).”

There’s a brighter, happier pair of sentences in the top-left corner – the product of a moment when everything was right in the world. Amazing sex with Wallis and I’m driving to the gallery showcasing my art while listening to “Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers. The thought occurred to me that “nothing in this world makes me happier than an energetic, upbeat song about suicide.” I gave it a second thought. Is that true?  I concluded, “Except (maybe) hitting girls in the face during sex.” I smiled. That’s pretty funny. I’m pretty fucked up. The things that I enjoy are – well – a little odd. This was all well and good at the time. I posted a close-up of that part of the painting online and it was met with positive feedback and just a little bit of “Oh, Sam…” But before I even got the chance to write the statement for this painting (as I am now), that photograph – that caption – would make the rounds on the internet elsewhere and garner a very different kind of response. You see, when I wrote that, it was about sex with Wallis. Sex which includes light consensual fake-violence (or whatever the fuck you wanna call it). Wallis likes getting slapped in the face during sex. And I like doing it. Win-win, right? Well, yeah – until you get accused of a violent rape and the media picks up on the story and uses your art to support the idea that you’re the kind of person capable of violently raping a nineteen year-old girl you just met. Sitting in jail, I wondered how I was going to break the news to my friends and fans that I had been accused of this horrible fucking crime. I bailed out, Chris Spillane picked me up, and after ten minutes of discussion he tells me, “There’s one more thing we’ve gotta talk about, Sam. The publicity on this story is not good right now.” Publicity? This story? “What the fuck are you talking about?” I googled my name and discovered that I didn’t need to worry about breaking this news to anyone. Some reporter knew or figured out who I was, wrote an article about me complete with images of my art (like the “hitting girls in the face” one) and everyone else picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly, strangers on the internet were talking about how I was the kind of person who PUNCHES girls in the face. I was a scumbag and I was definitely guilty. What the fuck? I’ve never punched a girl in the face! I slap! Playfully! And only with girls that WANT me to! But none of that mattered. What mattered was that it was incredibly easy to paint me as some kind of violent sexual deviant who had finally gone off the rails and just started violently raping people. Freedom of expression has its fucking consequences apparently. The charges against me have since been dismissed by a judge who (after hearing all of the prosecution’s evidence and the girl’s testimony) ruled that there was no probable cause to believe that any crime had been committed but the evidence in the case isn’t all public yet and I’m still having to deal with (well-meaning) assholes who think I deserve to be castrated for something I never did. At the time of this writing, this is all still incredibly recent so I’m still working out exactly how a person does deal with something like that. (I’ll let you know when I figure it out).

Flashback to five months before that nightmare though – back to when I was still working on this painting (that’d later incriminate me in the court of public opinion). I wrote that I was feeling “stuck in a rut. This spot [on the street] isn’t super profitable [for selling prints]. I don’t even wanna write about what else is going on. I don’t want to muddle up this painting that I’m not even happy with. My little sister is killing herself and today I blocked her phone number because I’m tired of her asking for help, not taking my advice, and then texting me updates on her self-destruction that she knows will just upset me. I really need the validation of some sales to cheer me up today. If I make less than $100 today, I’m gonna feel super depressed.” And then – to remind myself what a dipshit I am for worrying about how much I make in one particular day, I added: “I’ve made $7,000 this month.” True as it was, it didn’t really help me feel any better in that moment. I continued writing – about an interaction I had with a guy who stopped to watch me paint: “Someone asked me yesterday if I really hate myself and why. I had a hard time articulating it [the way that I feel sometimes]. He said he thinks I’m not as unhappy as I let on. I’d do a much better job explaining it to him today: I’M UGLY, PALE, OUTTA SHAPE, MEAN, SHITTY, POOR, FEARFUL, AND IN A CONSTANT STATE OF STARVATION FOR VALIDATION.”

Reading that now, remembering that day – it’s kinda scary. Everything in my life was going so well and I still had this monster inside me, gnawing at my insides, telling me that everything was awful. That I was awful. I’m really grateful that I don’t feel that way about myself all the time. Arguably, my life is way more fucked up now (on account of the VIOLENT RAPE ACCUSATION) but – I don’t know – I feel better today. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to fight this awful thing. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to become stronger. Maybe it’s because enough other people hate me now that I can take a break on the self-loathing. I don’t know. I’m not sure. But after separating in late-June and spending two months mostly apart, Wallis and I are back together full-time. We’re living together in an apartment in Chicago and it’s been really great. And you know what? I love her WAY more than I hate myself. Not just ‘cause I’m not hating myself so much right now but… This girl… After all we’ve been through. After all I’ve done for her and all she’s done for me… Words are insufficient to express my gratitude, affection, and love for her. I’m probably gonna marry her.

And you know what? When it comes to “falling way behind” versus “going on and on and on,” maybe I do a little more of the latter than I allow myself to recognize sometimes. Maybe I do a lot more of it.

HAPPY ENDING.



“I Love You Even More” by Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels


“Another Way Out of Here” by The Murderburgers


“Waves and Cars” by The Gateway District

“In My Heart a Warehouse Burns For You” by Rivethead

The residue

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.

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.

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…

I Am Impossible

"First Day of My Life (Story)." 11/28/12. Colored pencil. 6x8½".
“I Am Impossible.” 11/28/12. Colored pencil. 6×8½”.

Jesse coined out and went on vacation with friends of her parents. She’ll be back, in two weeks, as an outpatient, and she’ll be living on property again. That makes me really, really happy. I don’t know what I would do if she left for good. She’s the source of all that’s good in my life. She’s what makes my life worth living. You know… since I had met her a couple weeks ago anyway.

We talk every day while she’s gone. I tell her about the note I got from Hal. She has something to tell me but won’t say what. I’ll get it out of her when I have her in person. I don’t think for a second that she’s relapsed. But she has. And that’s not fair.

Jesse got back two days ago and, yesterday, started to really push. She wants to get high. “That’s a terrible idea,” I tell her. But then something MONUMENTAL happens. This morning, she went off-property to go do something other than hang out with me. Naturally, I’m feeling rejected and depressed and  am in a really dark place again [unreasonable as that may be]. As she always does when I get this way, she’s distanced herself, which is – of course – making me feel even more rejected. But I know how I can feel better and win her back.

I call Stacy. She’s at the hospital because her sister is giving birth but – if I can meet her there – she’s got some thirtys on her that she’ll sell me. [Florida. It’s always pills with these kids.] Close enough. I set it up and look for Jesse. When I see her, I creep up with a grin that tells her everything she needs to know: “Go sign out and park your car at the strip mall. Soon as the coast is clear, I’ll sneak off property and meet you. We’ve got an errand to run.”

—–

That was part two of the story I started to tell yesterday.

I’m pretty sure anyone reading this already knows but just in case… A “thirty” is a 30mg oxycodone pill. More commonly known as “blues,” but I’ve always hated that name. It’s too cute. If you had asked me about it back in the day, I’d probably have said something like… “I shoot heroin and – absent that – synthetic heroin. But never blues. There’s nothing colorful or fun about this.”

Really, I think I was just upset that my SUPER COOL DRUG HABIT had been co-opted by half the dorks in Florida and I didn’t wanna use the same terminology as them. I was dangerous; they were cuttin’ loose! … Fuck that.

[Check it out, guys! You can be a douchey elitist when it comes to just about anything!]

The drawing I chose for this entry was drawn on the day that I shared the first half of my life story in group at Tranquil Shores. It was also a day on which I was similarly upset because I felt similarly rejected by a girl that I was similarly in treatment with.

The tombstone behind me reads: “Sickle Cell: November 4, 1985 to Any Day Now.” The original drawing was damaged before I ever got a good picture or scan of it, so this image is the best I can do.