Tag Archives: suicide

Suicide Stitches

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’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous

"I'm Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous." 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48x24".
“I’m Getting Really Sick of Not Being Famous.” 3/31/15. Acrylic paint. 48×24″.

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.

Fuck that.

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.

Some of the "suicide stitches" on this painting.
Some of the “suicide stitches” in this painting.

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.

More "suicide stitches" (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).
More “suicide stitches” (which are actually mint waxed dental floss).

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.

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.

Raygun Youth

"Raygun Youth." 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24x6".
“Raygun Youth.” 8/3/13. Acrylic paint and ink on wood panel. 24×6″.

I painted this for the cover of Billy Raygun’s posthumous discographic cassette. Each of the three bits of text is a lyric from a song of theirs that means something to me.

I thought I heard you calling; it was just the emptiness ringing in my head. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot. I still think about you a lot.

In April 2011, my six-year relationship with Taylor came to a close. She broke up with me. I didn’t take it well. I had been pretty strung out on heroin, in a pretty bad way, for a little while but had just gotten into my first “treatment program” a few days prior (it was just methadone maintenance – not exactly the best path to wellness but what did I know?) On top of that, final exams for my final semester at Georgetown Law were about to begin and I hadn’t been to any of my classes all year. I didn’t even own the textbooks. I had a lot of studying to do if I was gonna graduate on time and I knew god damn well that if I didn’t graduate now that it was never gonna happen. I needed to keep it together (get it together) real, real fast if I was gonna keep everything in my life from crumbling into absolute shit, misery, and failure. Between the methadone, the heroin, the Adderall, and the sleep deprivation that goes along with studying in 24-hour shifts, I was … not entirely well. For a while there, I started to experience regular auditory hallucinations. Mostly, it was people (strangers) screaming at each other. It was like channel surfing on a TV where every single show featured nothing but loud, angry people. Occasionally though, I’d get a break in that and hear something softer and sweeter: “Sam…” It was a voice I knew; it was Taylor’s voice. Every single time, I’d turn around without fail, hoping (and actually believing) that this time she’d actually be standing there. She never was (of course) but it still broke my heart a little bit every time. It was a miserable cycle of studying, drugs, and crying.

All of this care / not caring is killing me.

This lyric isn’t tied into any one specific memory as much as it serves as an all-encompassing description of my relationships (romantic and otherwise) throughout my life. Oscillating frantically back and forth between giving a shit and shutting down. Between feeling loved and feeling abandoned and rejected. Sometimes it seems like my emotions are wired to a light switch. It doesn’t take a lot to flip from “perfect” love to total apathy (or even hatred). And since “we’re attracted to those at our same level of sickness/health,” I’ve gotten mixed up with plenty of girls who are equally skilled at unintentional (often drug-fueled) emotional back-and-forth. There was one night in early 2012 when my then-girlfriend professed her deep, unending, profound love for me in one moment, and was swearing that I was a disgusting, ugly, unlovable piece of shit in the next. And before the hour was up, she was right back to telling me how wonderful I was. Experiences like that can fuck with a person…

I’ll just admit that it’s a different girl, the same old story.

When I half-heartedly tried to kill myself in December 2012, I didn’t write a suicide note, but I did scribble something down on the back of one of many scraps of paper that were laying around my room. All that it said: “different girl / same old story.


Ideally, I’d have held on to sharing this until this release was announced but – shit – it’s been more than six months since I painted it so… sorry, kids!

Here’s a stream of their self-titled full-length. The first song is the first song I quoted lyrics from.

Status: January 11, 2014

Rain. Tent started leaking. Put things under the table for cover.. Moved some paintings inside. Ground was flooded when I got back. A lot of stuff is very likely damaged. Trying to figure out whether the appropriate respond is to kill myself or to just laugh it off.

Right now, all I can really manage is to smoke cigarettes in the rain, listening to The Credentials with a blank expression.


Suicide Jacket

"Suicide Jacket." 2/18/13. Acrylic paint on my winter coat. 15x24".
2/18/13. Acrylic paint on my winter coat. 15×24″.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t kill yourself. You TOTALLY can.”

This was my last piece before I moved out of Tranquil Shores and back into the real world. Until that morning, I had been operating under the assumption that I’d be staying for at least another two months or so but – as I found out when I went into the clinical office that morning – I only had ten days left. I was really upset – kind of shattered. It caught me completely off guard. I walked back to the residential property, went into my apartment, and painted this. It’s only on my jacket because I didn’t ever have canvases at that point and I was all out of cardboard.

Suicide Jacket photoI’m not sure the sentiment warrants any explanation but it’s a play on the misuse of “can” (in place of “may”) and a response to anyone who says that suicide is wrong or selfish. I think that’s true in some instances: the moment you decide to have kids, for example, I think you forfeit your right to kill yourself. To bring another life into being and then decide, “ehhhh… maybe life’s not worth living after all,” – that’s kinda bullshit. But in my case – back when I was seriously contemplating (and occasionally attempting) suicide, I didn’t have anyone in my life – no one that I felt I owed anything to anyway. I was isolated, hopelessly stuck on heroin, and every  day hurt. Living was really painful. I think it was my older sister (I don’t remember for sure) but shortly after I got out of the hospital for an overdose in September 2011, I got a phone call.

“That’s a really selfish thing to do, Sam,” she said.

Fuck you, I thought. “You wanna know what’s selfish?” I asked. “Expecting me to endure this kind of pain every day – to keep on with this shitty, empty life, devoid of any happiness whatsoever – so that you can call me on the phone two or three times a year.”

Obviously, my life didn’t have to be that awful but – at that point – I didn’t have what I needed to do anything about it. And while I’m glad I didn’t die, I still (basically) feel the same way. Things turned around for me but there are plenty of other people who aren’t so lucky – people who struggle for decades with mental illness and addiction and never find any kind of a light. Carrying on with each new day is a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. And while I’ll always try to encourage someone to try something different / take another shot at life before they throw in the towel, I still wouldn’t tell them that they have to keep going. There are certain people whose deaths would devastate me but I know how bad life can hurt and I’m not gonna deny them relief. If you can’t take it anymore, it’s your right to check out – and the pain others might feel from the loss isn’t on you. After all – if it’s more than they can stand, everyone else always has that same option…

Although – if nothing else – suicide is pretty dumb – and sorta lazy. The thing about it is that it’s usually the result of feeling trapped in some situation. Being afraid of the consequences of breaking out [of whatever position]. But in killing yourself, you’re gonna break out of it anyway so why not first take a shot at another route of escape? Throw some shit in your backpack, get on a bus to some city eight hundred miles away, and just see what happens. Have a fucking adventure. If you can’t handle your problems: DON’T. Quit your job, forget about your lease, disconnect your phone, and just start over. Worse case scenario: you’re still unhappy and you kill yourself a week or two later. But if you’re not determined to be miserable (and you actually make an effort / try something new) chances are you’re gonna figure it out eventually. I did.


I’d like to think I offset the gloom of this entry with a little bit of optimism, but if I fell short, maybe this’ll make up the difference. It’s a song that is totally unlike most of the music I listen to, is (in a lot of ways) every thing that I usually detest in music, but that (for whatever reason) has a really positive, exciting, happy kind of effect on me.


Signed and numbered 7½x12″ prints of “Suicide Jacket” are available in my webstore. If you’re interested in purchasing the original (jacket), get in touch.

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.