I’ve been such a reckless fuck-up that the state might put me in jail.
That’s pretty fucking crazy when I pause to really think about it.
My heart’s stopped a few times. I’ve been arrested, committed, and hospitalized more times than I can even remember now.
Why am I still alive?
I’ve taken everything for granted. I’ve wasted everything. And yet here I am.
I don’t know how my story ends but I have a really hard time envisioning any kind of future. I’m staying clean but I’m not sure what for.
I’m still working on my “Suicide Stitches” series. Tonight I’ve been sewing up “Shitty Children.” If you look close at my blurry iPhone photo, you can see that the biggest tear goes across the entire painting. It’s definitely coming together though. And this one was especially bad. In addition to the rips, the frame that the canvas is stretched over was snapped in three places. Earlier today this painting was nothing more than a crumpled pile. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made on it so far.
Did you see I’ve got a webstore up on my agency’s website now? I don’t even know if it’s live and processing payments yet but check it out.
If it’s been a while since you’ve checked in with me, I have some bad news. You know how I used to be that heroin addict who got (and stayed) clean by making art? Well, sometime last year that all fell apart. (And this year, I’ve really gone downhill).
Twice this year, I’ve made serious plans to detox from heroin, get my life back on track, and start painting and writing again. Both times, ended disastrously but – in this entry – I’ll be focusing on the first. (Details of the more recent incident are in two blog entries: the first was written more manically upon my release from jail; the second with greater reflection the following evening).
It’s not generally a great idea for two people in the depths of addiction to be in a relationship together. If one is feeling weak and wants to use, it’s easy for the other to be dragged down right along with them. Regarding, my girlfriend and I, our relationship worked for quite some time because I already had a couple years of clean time racked up when we met. I was able to help her get and stay clean for about a year. When we relapsed together though, things went downhill. Nevertheless, having been together and having been able to successfully stay clean for so long, we didn’t think that we needed to separate. We had used together but there was no reason we couldn’t once again be clean together. Detox is painful, however. Especially in those first few days. I might be able to handle my own symptoms but seeing Wallis in that much pain really hurts me. During previous attempts to detox, as soon as I’d get the slightest inkling that it might be more than she could stand, I couldn’t help myself from going out and getting more heroin to make her feel better. After all, it’s not as if one dose in the middle of a detox is a nail in the coffin. That’s what titration is all about. You can always reason with yourself that one last hit, halfway into a detox period, will cure the worst of your symptoms and help you coast the rest of the way to the finish line.
But that “one last hit” all too often does not, in fact, retain its status as the last hit. You convince yourself that “just one more” will be okay. And then another. And another. And then you’re back to where you started.
We decided that we should detox separately to make it easier on each other. Wallis made plans to detox in Gainesville. I was to stay home in Jacksonville.
As anyone who’s ever detoxed from opiates will tell you, the best medicines to help ease you through the process are benzodiazepines. Xanax. Klonopin. Ativan. Those ones. While these drugs have an immense potential for recreational abuse, they’re not something that we’d ever otherwise take. We did, however, procure some for our detox.
Unfortunately, I have a track record of strange behavior while under the influence of these drugs. Well, I do now. Up until this point, there had only been one previous incident. When I took too many and became erratic and suicidal. And that’s exactly what happened this time around.
We began our detox the night of August 16th together. Wallis was to leave sometime the following afternoon but when I woke up, she was gone and I was confused. Already under the influence of the drug from the night before, I couldn’t understand what was happening. She had invited one of our friends to come over to be there for me when I woke up, but it didn’t make any difference.
I’m not the sort of person that breaks things when I lose my temper. I’ve never thrown a phone at a wall or anything like that. But under the influence of too many benzodiazepines, this did not hold true. I broke virtually every one of my possessions. Both of my televisions. My MacBook Air. My iPhone. And then I went around the house, from painting to painting, slashing at my canvases and smashing or shattering all of my frames.
Then I left the house, procured a large amount of heroin, went somewhere that I presumed I wouldn’t be found for at least several hours, and – after swallowing the rest of my benzos – injected what I presumed would be enough heroin to kill me.
When I woke up in a haze in the hospital three or four days later, I discovered that I had not been discovered hours after my intendedly-lethal injection. I was discovered almost immediately and thus my life was able to be saved.
Upon release from the hospital approximately one week after the overdose, I was no longer under the agitating effects of any drugs but I was in no better shape mentally. I began racing around town, trying to procure the money I’d need to buy enough heroin to once again attempt to kill myself. It wasn’t long before a suspicious and concerned Wallis (who I had spoken to on the phone at some point) alerted the police. They found me and took me into custody before I could try anything. I’ve been hospitalized often enough for suicidal behavior that I know what to say to doctors to procure my own early release though. I was back out on the street again the very next day but, fortunately, had calmed my mind and was no longer suicidal. I recommitted to getting clean, picking back up with my art and writing, and getting my life back on track.
As time has shown, it turns out that I wasn’t quite ready. I was not able to stay clean successfully for much more than a week or so. Even still, I was able to get my head clear for long enough to do something. I began sewing and repairing my damaged paintings. These would become what I’m now referring to as my “Suicide Stitches” series.
When I make art, I don’t plan very much ahead. I kind of just let the images take shape on their own. If I make a mistake – some mark that’s somehow other than I intended it to appear – I don’t correct it. I embrace it. “That’s how it’s supposed to be,” I tell myself. I find a way to rearrange my ideas about how the painting should look. The same is the case with my Suicide Stitches paintings. These pieces are not “damaged”; they don’t have rips or holes in them. This is how these paintings were always meant to be. Each one of my paintings and drawings tells a story and those stories are usually all about my emotional and mental state at the time I’m working on each one. My Suicide Stitches paintings tell those stories, plus one more: the story of August 17, 2016. The story of the day I lost my mind and almost ended my life.
The first of these paintings that I stitched up has already sold. In fact, it was stitched up because it was sold. It was the first good news I had gotten in quite a while. Through Instagram, I got a message from reality TV star, Scott Disick. He wanted one of my pieces and, more than that, he wanted to help promote my art. That opportunity was the first spark I’d had in a great while to actually do something productive. And the publicity and consequent sales I’m expecting are what’s motivating me to get back to work right now. (Although I do have other similarly exciting opportunities also in the works at this point). That first painting has been shipped to Scott but the other Suicide Stitches paintings are still available for purchase. For pricing (on both the originals as well as limited edition hand-numbered/signed prints), contact my new agent, Jennifer Levin of newly formed agency, Blow the Dust. (Jen’s last enterprise is currently on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies, so I’m pretty amped on this new partnership). Blow the Dust’s website is still very much a work in progress but it’s already been launched with a webstore featuring some of my prints and one of my original paintings. It should actually be operational by sometime this week. Check it out.
While the pieces have not yet been rephotographed since their Suicide Stitches updates, you can get the general idea from a couple photos I snapped quickly with my iPhone in my blog entry from October 8th. Six of the seven paintings in the series are as follows:
The final (seventh) painting in the series (and only one not pictured here) also happens to be the largest, newest, (most expensive) and my favorite of the whole lot. It’s called “The World Revolves Around Me.” For more information on (and images of) that piece, like the others, just get in touch.
For what it’s worth, I’d like to note that (at the time of this posting) I currently have 13 days clean (a record for me so far in 2016) and I plan on that number continuing to climb through the year’s end. I’d also like to note that money from the sales of my work no longer goes directly to me – a safety measure taken in case of a potential relapse.
I can’t remember the last time I wrote a statement for one of my pieces but this painting never got one. A year later, here I go…
Things were going well. I was making thousands of dollars every month, I was getting booked at galleries, I was traveling the country with a girl with whom I was deeply in love, and I still wasn’t happy. (Or happy enough).
In March, I had an exhibition at Instinct in Minneapolis. Everyday – to help promote the exhibit and to make extra money selling prints – I’d set up on the sidewalk in front of the gallery with an easel, working on this, my next painting.
Some days, I didn’t wanna go set up though and spend twelve hours on the street, painting. Other days, I was frustrated having to park and carry my supplies too far away (or parking closer – illegally – and having to keep an eye over my shoulder for tow trucks all day). I was making money just for making art but I was actually having to work for it.
I wanted to paint in some studio or at home. I wanted to finish a painting and know that there were already galleries lined up to take them or collectors ready to buy them the moment each was finished. “I’m fucking brilliant!” (Right?) “My genius should be enough to generate an income all on its own! This should be easier.”
Alright, so maybe my thinking wasn’t quite that arrogant but … you know … pretty much.
Look – I don’t like myself a whole lotta the time and I could expand on that for days but – when it comes to my art – I know that it’s great. As a human being, I’m seriously flawed, but those same flaws (and my willingness to bare them so candidly and honestly) is what overwhelmingly/primarily accounts for the power and singularity of my art and is the reason I’ve sold as much of it as I have. I’ve hated so many things about me for long enough that I’m okay with being unapologetically proud of the art I’ve created.
I figured that once I got wide enough exposure and enough people knew about my art (once I was famous) my life would be a whole lot easier. No more worrying about bills. Lots of attention (to fill the empty void where my soul should live). You know: FAME. Money. Whatever.
Admittedly, that might be a little naive but – fuck it – I was getting really sick of having to work and I was getting really sick of not being famous.
Beyond all that, there’s a passage of smaller text hidden in the canvas that sort of jumps all over the place. I wrote about feeling fat and self-conscious and tugging at my clothes, pulling them straight a million times a day (even though I was well underweight at that point (and probably still am)). I wrote about other frustrations and how they made me want to use heroin, even though I’d been clean forever at that point and had gained so much to lose. And I wrote about how I didn’t know what I was doing wrong but that I was going to keep trying anyway, finding new approaches if necessary.
Like most of my work, this painting is meant to be funny and it’s supposed to seem dense and trivial but its humor is born of sincere frustration, genuine sadness, hopelessness, and a sense of uncertainty. And like a lot of the optimism I inject into my work, what little is here is mostly for my own benefit and not the painting’s. It’s forced with the hope that it will take hold.
And I think it did take hold for a while but ultimately, about a year after finishing this piece, I did cave and give in to heroin, letting it replace art as my full-time occupation. And seven months into that, in a state of drug-induced psychosis, I slashed away at this painting (and several others) shortly before eating an absurd quantity of Xanax and Klonopin and injecting an intentionally strong shot of heroin with the intention of killing myself. I’m not sure why I didn’t want the art to outlive me but the damage didn’t turn out to be all that bad anyway and I, myself, woke up in the hospital a few days later.
That was six weeks ago and I’m now in the process of stitching up all of the slashes I put into my paintings. This is the first I’ve finished sewing up which makes it the first in what I’m calling my “Suicide Stitches” series of paintings. More on that in another blog entry/post soon to follow.