Tag Archives: Tranquil Shores

11/8/14 status update

I’ve neglected my blog for so long that it’s hard to know where to start. While anyone who follows me on Facebook is pretty up to date with the gruesome details of what’s going on in my life, here’s the gist of it for anyone who’s not up to speed:

  • I moved in with a girl in Chicago in July. We broke up in August.
  • A day and a half later, I started seeing another girl in Chicago. That lasted three months, until Thursday, when I finally left.
  • I love the girl but the relationship was incredibly dysfunctional and it had me more fucked up, twisted around, confused, depressed, anxious, and suicidal than I’ve been since December 2012.
  • While I’ve neglected writing the statements for my artwork, I’ve still been actively creating new pieces. The lack of updates can be accounted for by (1) not having had the new pieces photographed yet, (2) not having their statements written, and (3) the fact that these new pieces are HUGE and the last two have each taken more than a month to complete.
  • My charges are still pending and still stressing me out but I’m still (sort of) optimistic that some kind of a resolution can be reached – or at least resigned to accept the punishment that’s being offered as part of the plea deal that’s currently on the table.
  • As the weather got colder in Chicago, I saw a dramatic decrease in my print sales when I’d go downtown to set up, paint, and sell. Consequently, my income this last month is lower than it’s been since January, which is stressing me out but not killing me.
  • I desperately needed to get out of Chicago to escape my shitty relationship, so I’m in St. Louis now. On November 22nd, I’ll go to Minneapolis for the Rivethead reunion. On November 24th, I’ll return to Normal/Bloomington, IL for my next court date. From there, I’m not sure what I’ll do but if I have to accept the plea deal, I’ll be put on two years probation and will need to choose a state to serve it out in, since my movement will be restricted and I’ll have to be physically present for monthly check-ups. My art career would warrant that I choose either New York or California but I would probably have to choose Florida for the sake of my mental health, as that’s where I’ve got the most emotional support. In theory, I would be able to apply for travel permits to leave the state for my “job” (for example, to go to Minneapolis for my exhibition in March).
  • When I left Chicago on Thursday, I left without Chris Spillane. It was six months ago that I petitioned the court to have him picked up by police and put into detox and six months since I picked him up from detox and brought him out on the road with me. He now has six months clean, a job, a place to live, and everything else that could be reasonably expected of relatively well-balanced kid of our ilk. When I return to Illinois for my court date at the end of the month, he’ll have the option to rejoin me but I suspect that he’s gonna keep on in Chicago, building up his new life.
  • In September, I started seeing a psychiatrist in Chicago. In October, she put me back on antipsychotic and antidepressant medications (in addition to the Adderall that I’ve been on for ten years). The last time I was on antidepressants was as an inpatient at Tranquil Shores in February 2013. The last time I was on antipsychotics was (I think) as an inpatient at the Wellness Resource Center in February 2012, though I almost went back on them in January 2013.
  • In addition to the psychiatrist in Chicago, I’ve also started meeting once weekly (via Skype or Facetime) with Tracy, my counselor from Tranquil Shores.
  • Anxiety and depression destroyed my appetite the last month or so and I’m skinnier than I’ve been in at least twelve years. That’s good because I have body dysmorphic disorder and being this thin makes me feel good about myself. It’s bad ’cause… I don’t know… ’cause people say it’s bad…?


I have no idea how this all comes across as a whole but here’s what I think should be the important point to take away from it all: October was a bad month but – here, in St. Louis – I am safe, and cared for, and feeling eight million times better. I am no longer suicidally depressed and though I am afraid of what will happen once I leave St. Louis in two weeks, I am okay and I am once again grateful.

I’m going to spend the day with my current work-in-progress, possibly do some layout work for a new flier or work on written statements for finished pieces, and – tonight – I’m going to go downtown to see Rational Anthem play with The Copyrights and The Murderburgers.

If you wanna buy some art right now, that’d be pretty great.

I Work Hard For the Money

"I Work Hard For the Money." 8/11/14. Ink. 8x6".
“I Work Hard For the Money.” 8/11/14. Ink. 8×6″.

A friend made a joke that hurt my feelings. I put my response in a drawing.

If you wanna make me angry, suggest that I’m lazy or somehow less than self-sufficient. My job is emotionally fucking taxing. Every day that I’m not getting more famous feels like some kind of a failure. I’m in the business of trying to convince strangers that I’m extraordinary. It’s a fragile position to be in.

It’d be easy to say that your desk job is an easy, coward’s way out but I’m not gonna ’cause I couldn’t do that shit. But don’t tell me that I have it easier on the streets, selling my story and my essence to people that – 9 times outta 10 – don’t even wanna make eye contact with me.

You don’t got it any harder or any better than me; it’s just different. I don’t shit on your desk; don’t act like you’re better than me. You’re just more stable. If you think my job is easier then – by all means – there’s plenty of room in the marketplace.

This was one in a series of four drawings that I made two months ago. I realized last week that I’m angry. And that I have been for some time now. Back when I was still on heroin (and all throughout my life even before that) I had a really terrible temper. By the time I got out of Tranquil Shores though, I had learned to control it. And – honestly – I don’t even really think I needed to control it at that point. It’d flare up occasionally but, for the most part, I was happy enough that things didn’t get to me the way that they always had in the past. I’m realizing that that’s no longer the case and this drawing is evidence that it’s been that way since (at least) mid-summer. I’m hyper-sensitive and it’s fucking up my life. I think I need regular counseling again and (as much as I hate the idea) I’m even considering new medication.

On another note, my legal situation remains unresolved and I am (consequently) still accepting online orders to help with my legal expenses. Check out my GoFundMe page for more info.

When God Gives You Lemonbrains

"When God Gives You Lemonbrains." 1/15/14. Oil pastel. 9x12"
“When God Gives You Lemonbrains.” 1/15/14. Oil pastel. 9×12″

It was early January. I was sitting on the couch at Sun-Ray Cinema, organizing the prints that I had left there for sale. I looked up and saw Tim walking toward me. He stopped, took a step back and looked at the placard for a piece of mine on the wall. “Yeah, I’m gonna take that one,” he told me.

Tim and Shanna (co-owners of Sun-Ray) had given me the opportunity to have my first art show, there in the lobby of their theater. And Shanna had already bought one of my pieces when my exhibit first opened. They’ve been unspeakably supportive of me.  And now Tim wanted to buy another one. Things had been going very well the last few months and as I made my way home that night, I couldn’t help but reflect on how cool it all was. I was actually making my living with my artwork. I was paying my bills and supporting myself with the little therapeutic exercise/activity that I had discovered in the midst of my third (and seven month) inpatient stay of treatment for heroin addiction and borderline personality disorder. I was spinning my mental illness into a career. It seemed totally insane and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

A few days later, I was in southwest Florida so I went in to visit at Tranquil Shores – the facility where all of this started. And I was lucky enough to be there on a Wednesday, which is the night of their outpatient “Art of Recovery” group. These days, I rarely spend less than fifteen hours on a piece and they’re almost always acrylic paint on canvas. When I get back to “group” though, I like to play along, which means starting and finishing a piece within the session and using the materials provided. Besides, those bright yellow and pink oil pastels looked really appealing. (I love colors way more than makes any kind of logical sense).

I’ve been mobile/itinerant as fuck lately, so I’ve had this piece tucked away (in an envelope, in a steamer trunk, in the back of my minivan) for the last two months. I rediscovered it the other day and finally had prints made. It seems like just the right time. As I wrote last night:

As I go to bed on the last night in March, it is with the satisfaction that comes with having met my income goal for the month. And my income goal for next month. And the NEXT month. Things are going well. Here’s to keeping it moving, carrying it forward in April (which I already have fully blocked out in three cities).

I love making art. I love that I’m able to support myself doing it. I’m really, truly happy. I am fulfilled.

 The problems that come along with having a personality disorder (my brain not being the way it should be) used to fuck me up all kinds of ways. These days, it’s a blessing.

I feel like a broken record saying so but I’m so grateful. And I can’t help but think about how remarkably and wildly different a sentiment that is from the way I used to feel about myself.


Dog’s Blood is an Excellent Laxative

"Dog's Blood is an Excellent Laxative." 3¾x5". Pen. 1/25/13.
“Dog’s Blood is an Excellent Laxative.” 3¾x5″. Pen. 1/25/13.

Let’s play a game! Can you sort out which is the truth and which is fiction?!?

  • The real subject matter of this piece remains far too personal and sensitive to disclose. Centuries from now, it will be the subject of fierce debate by art historians and scholars of all stripes, the world over.
  • I am retarded.

Letter, written 10/4/2012

In my last entry, I mentioned that I was kicked out of Tranquil Shores on October 3, 2012. For tonight’s entry, I was all set to write about my first watercolor painting when I remembered something that will help convey the transformation that took place between Nothing Helps and that painting. It’s the letter I wrote to Tranquil Shores’ clinical director, late at night on October 4 – about forty hours after my discharge.

Seeing as my track record for honesty in those days was a little spotty, I’d like to preface the letter with the statement that it was absolutely free of bullshit. Every word was written with total sincerity.


Dear Sandy,

When I found out I was being discharged, I was genuinely shocked. The comments I made were nonsense to mask my hurt about the fact that I was still struggling to control my emotions and behavior. And you had always seen that. “Why was this incident any different?” I wondered.

On the way back to property, I fell apart. Why was I in this position again? Why did I have to be me? I stayed in that state of self-pity for hours. By sometime that afternoon, I dropped it in favor of anger. I told my friends that called, “They kicked me out for the same reason they had said it was the right place for me.” I was the victim; you had turned on me. But that faded too. My next phase is hard to describe. It was a struggle. But I still felt, as I had initially, that this was all some kind of misunderstanding. It stayed with me through the rest of Wednesday and carried over through this (Thursday) morning. It was during this time that I left Rob the voicemail that I’m guessing you’ve heard about.

Only later did everything finally make sense. Mask or no mask. Defense mechanism or the sincere boasts of an arrogant manipulator. My intentions and my actual feelings were irrelevant. The things I said were dangerous – even if I was just concealing pain, my comments suggested to the other patients that recalcitrance paid. I had to be discharged. Overlooking my behavior on this occasion would only reinforce, in the minds of the other patients, that we could get away with anything – even be rewarded for it. You had given me plenty of chances to change, even as I damaged the community with my negativity.

Forgetting everyone else for a moment – discharge was the right decision for my benefit. While I know I’ve made progress at Tranquil Shores, I realize now that I was still severely lacking. Something wasn’t clicking.

I believe wholeheartedly that that something has clicked now. I needed the discharge as a wake up call. I see my part now. The only way I could learn was the hard way. What matters though is that I learned. I get it. And I’m more determined than ever to really work. Though I know that I can do this work anywhere, I believe that nowhere can I be more successful than at Tranquil Shores. I don’t know that I deserve another chance but I can promise that, should I be given one, it won’t be wasted. I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can promise the most earnest, sincere, dedicated effort I’m capable of (and that my capacity for that effort is exponentially greater today than it was before).

If you give me this opportunity, it will be the greatest thing anyone has ever done for me. And it will not send the message of “he got away with it” to the other clients because it will be immediately apparent to everyone that I am not the same person I was just yesterday or even this morning. Meet with me. If you sense the slightest bit of resentment, defiance, or insincerity, turn me away. If you give me the chance and it surfaces later, discharge me forever.

I know I’ve been difficult but I believe I can redeem myself in a way few people are ever determined. Give me this chance, please, and I will not disappoint. If you decide against my plan, I’ll understand. But I will continue (1) to remain abstinent from drugs (including alcohol), (2) attending meetings, (3) talking with my new sponsor (as well as my new and old supports), (4) working my treatment plan, and (5) occasionally pestering you to reconsider. I can do this and become a whole person and I have faith that Tranquil Shores is the best place for me to succeed.

Thank you for your consideration and for everything you’ve done for me, whether or not I’m ever permitted to return.



Status Update (12/16/13):

I had two good conversations with two good friends today. Made some progress toward the publishing of my first book. And I dyed my hair green.


Nothing Helps

In September 2012, I was working on my first major assignment at Tranquil Shores. About halfway through, one of the questions wasn’t really a question; it just said to draw an image of powerlessness. Fuck that. (This was around the time that I had just started to sort of sometimes enjoy art). I skipped the question for the time being and went to the next. “Powerlessness can creep into how you feel about yourself. If you were painting a portrait of yourself today, how would it look? Do you go to bed or wake up with feelings of shame or grief? What about the things you’ve  wanted to accomplish that remain undone? What feelings do you have when your actions go against what you know is right? Share the way you really feel about yourself today. Paint with words a self-portrait of your inner feelings.”

Here’s how I answered (on 9/11/12):      

If I were painting a self-portrait of my inner feelings today, it wouldn’t look quite like my inner feelings. I feel a little too okay right now and – as we all know – only art born of anger, discontent, self-loathing, misery, pain, poverty, and/or shit is worth anything. So whatever I painted would be too contrived to be any good. Unless I successfully recalled some darker moments and managed to displace my current sort-of-pleasant state of mind.

I don’t usually wake up with shame. Well… sometimes. I always did when I was using (or a lot anyway). The things I want to accomplish will be fairly simple if I stay clean. Well, making another Troublemake record will be. Maybe not becoming at peace with myself and the world. Fuck, but I do sometimes act contrary to my intentions and then I feel really stupid, foolish, and inferior. Like when half of the things I say in a day (okay, less than that) can be heard escaping my mouth. That hurts. But generally, I feel enthused and intelligent. (I hate having to say good things about myself or about how I’m feeling though). It makes me feel self-conscious. And then less of whatever I was feeling before I said it (particularly when it comes to positive attributes). I’m definitely far more concerned with how others will perceive me than I have been at any other point in my life.     I can’t feel good about myself and say it without it disappearing or at least fading.

Sometimes I feel confident, appreciated, (relatively) important, or even powerful (in some sort of sense) but the moment I acknowledge it, I feel insecure, discouraged, hurt, and lonely – which I soak in until those feelings morph into hopelessness, anger, apathy, and recklessness – which I use to ruin everything and ruin myself. Eventually, I feel outright hateful (though I direct most of it inward, at myself).

Maybe I don’t have to fake it after all… Maybe I’m really not in great emotional shape and I can paint a really awful self-portrait. I guess I could say… “I’m a bit miserable – not coming apart at the seams; things aren’t as bad as they seem but they ain’t much better…”

If I’m not always totally aware of these things, I’m at least thoughtful, but I’m also prone to confusion, self-doubt, and depression. It can be a little volatile. I’m a little volatile. My strongest “inner feeling” is instability. I don’t feel stable.


I finished answering all of the written questions within two weeks, but it wasn’t until October 2nd that I finally went back and drew the image of powerlessness that I needed to call the assignment complete.

"Nothing Helps." 10/2/12. Colored pencil and oil pastel. 6x9".
“Nothing Helps.” 10/2/12. Colored pencil and oil pastel. 6×9″.

I drew this on a Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday morning, I was pulled aside and told that I was being discharged. I was getting kicked out of my third treatment facility that year. It was raining. I had no way to get anywhere and nowhere to go anyway. Someone gave me a little bit of money to help get me wherever I might decide to go. I spent the next couple hours arguing with myself: whether or not I should use it to go to a shooting range where, for twenty-five dollars, I could get my hands on a gun, put a bullet in my head, and just be done with it.


In my answer to the “self-portrait” question, I quoted a song. As I drew my image of powerlessness, I had another song on my mind. Here are both.

“Sorry Sam” by The Slow Death
I wake up in the warm sun on a folded out futon. Get some water from the bathroom sink and try to figure out what happened to me. And when I say, “I’m doing okay,” – it’s mostly overstated. I spent my nights forgetting, my afternoons regretting, all the stupid things I said and everything I should have done instead. And when I say, “I’m doing okay,” – it’s mostly overstated. I’m a bit miserable, not coming apart at the seams. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, but they ain’t much better.

“Wrong” by Off With Their Heads
Sit back and let me tell you about the sadness, about the beast that’s been gnashing its teeth trying to destroy me. It rears its head every time I’m alone. In the middle of the night, if you don’t answer your phone, it snarls at me. It hides underneath my bed and it sinks its teeth in every corner of my head. Don’t try to stop it, don’t try to control it, don’t try to defeat it, don’t try to console it – it’s unstoppable and it’s a part of me. Your best bet is not to get too close to me. Stay the fuck away, stay out of its reach or it will poison you like it’s been poisoning me. It tells me what I’m supposed to say and it controls every move that I make. You’ve got me all wrong. It’s not “the real me” screaming you away – it’s that selfish sadness ruining every day. Everything is wrong.


  • “Sorry Sam” comes from The Slow Death’s 2011 album, “Born Ugly, Got Worse,” on Kiss of Death Records.
  • “Wrong” comes from Off With Their Heads’ 2008 album, “From the Bottom,” on No Idea Records. (Though it was originally released as “I Hate My Stupid Ass and I Hope I Get in a Car Accident Tonight” on the band’s 2007 split 7-inch with Dukes of Hillsborough, on ADD Records).
  • 5¾x4″ prints of “Nothing Helps” are available in my webstore.
  • If you’re interested in purchasing the original drawing, send me an email.

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.