Buy This Painting or They’ll Put Me in Jail Where I Belong

“Buy This Painting or They’ll Put Me in Jail Where I Belong.” 2/7/18. Acrylic paint. 24×30″.

I’ve got a new organizational system in my head…

The period of time when I was at Tranquil Shores (beginning in 2012), all the way through to my relapse at the very end of 2015: that’s what I’m calling “ROUND ONE.”

In the fall of 2017, I left Jacksonville and got clean. I think it lasted about eight months before I relapsed. That period is ROUND TWO.

In October of 2018, Wallis and I broke up for good and I got clean again. This stretch also lasted about eight months and is ROUND THREE.

In March of 2024, Juliana and I broke up, I started sublocade for the first time, and I began making art in earnest again for the first time in five years. This is Round 4. We’re IN IT NOW.

I imagine this’ll come up fairly often in my writing from here on, so I want readers to have some idea what I’m talking about.

“Buy This Painting or They’ll Put Me in Jail WHERE I BELONG” is a Round 2 painting. It’s been on the website for a while but I’d never published the statement until now. I thought about giving some extra background but I’ll just let it speak for itself. The statement is exactly what appears in the big white “STORY TIME” block on the painting.

Okay –  STORY TIME: about three years after I started making art and quit shooting heroin, 2015 was turning into 2016 and I stopped fucking with paintbrushes and went back to needles. It wasn’t long before I regretted the trade-off but that didn’t help me undo it any. By October 16th though, I was trying pretty desperately to get clean. I made a plan with my friend, Jen, who lived outside Jacksonville in Nocatee. I would go to her house to detox so that – in a weaker moment – I couldn’t just call one of my dealers to get more dope to ease the pain of withdrawal. Since I could always just get in my car and drive [to Jacksonville] though, we’d also block my car into her driveway with one of hers. (She had THREE).

I think it was my second day of detox. I was NOT FEELING WELL. Jen gave me some xanax to help sleep it off. I took one (2mg) but didn’t really feel any better. Some time later,  I took another and fell asleep. When I woke up though, I still felt pretty terrible. I decided to take two more [for a total now of 8 mg]. I got in bed and fell asleep again.

When I woke up, I was NAKED IN A JAIL CELL. So… what happened? Apparently my car wasn’t blocked in when I woke up blacked-out and (presumably) got in my car and drove off.

After I got into some clothes and in front of a judge, they said I was charged with three DUIs (for allegedly hitting three cars) AND assault on a law enforcement officer. 

But… but… but… I was trying to do good!! I was trying to get OFF drugs! I didn’t have any intention of driving anywhere! I even took steps to ensure that I couldn’t drive even if I wanted to! (Not because of anything like this; I never even imagined such a possibility. I’m a JUNKIE! Not a xanax addict. I don’t know how this shit works!) However, yeah – I get it. Knowingly or not, whatever the circumstances, I was guilty of driving under the influence and people could have been hurt as a consequence of my actions. (Unless – y’know – I was abducted from the bed and framed (WHICH IS ALSO SUPER POSSIBLE). 

I pled the charges down to one count of DUI and got six months of probation. In the first two months, I took one of the two classes they said I had to take and paid all $2,000+ of my court costs and fines or whatever. And then – with three months left on my sentence – my probation officer told me a new rule had been implemented requiring all terms of probation to be completed 45 days before the termination date. And that the other class [that I still needed to take] had no open seats until after that 45 day date. Which meant that violating my probation was now an inevitability over which I had no control. So she filed my violation right then and there and told me to watch the mailbox for “what’s next.”

A letter came. It said to come to the courthouse within 48 hours so the judge could decide what to do with me. I called a lawyer to make sure they weren’t going to arrest me on the spot. (I didn’t wanna detox in jail again). (Because – OBVIOUSLY – I’d gone back to heroin right after the initial arrest and ultra fun jail cell withdrawal). “Seems they issued the warrant yesterday,” he said. “But I just got this today!” “Sorry.”

I DON’T LIKE JAIL; I DON’T WANT TO GO TO JAIL. So for the last nine months, I’ve been “on the run.” When the cops started coming to my house looking for me too often, I left Jacksonville. Which I needed to do anyway if I was ever gonna kick heroin again. It worked. I’m four months clean now. I’ve started making art again. This will be my fifth post-relapse painting. I don’t want to turn myself in. I don’t want to go back to Jacksonville. I know myself: if I go back to Jacksonville, where all my dealers are just a phone call/stone’s throw away, I will wind up back on heroin. Could I get drugs in the city where I’ve been hiding out? Yes – OF COURSE. (I’m a PROFESSIONAL). But I have just enough willpower/self-discipline and enough good things going here that – in my weaker moments – I can be strong (enough to hold fast so long as scoring dope will require more than a single phone call). But if I get dragged back to Jacksonville, I’ll be homeless – crashing on couches of people who really don’t want me there. I’ll feel WORTHLESS and UNWANTED and HELPLESS and USELESS and HOPELESS and I WILL START SHOOTING HEROIN AGAIN.

Here’s what I would much rather do: complete the outstanding terms of my original probation and then contact the judge and make my appeal directly. I sat in her courtroom a lot. She seemed pretty reasonable; she did not want to lock people up for the fuck of it. When people were fucking up the terms of their probations – not doing shit – she would try to drag any reason out of them to justify giving them another chance. If I can satisfy my terms (taking that second class and completing fifty hours of community service – that’s all I had left) I think she’ll close my case. After all, before it was terminated, I was A MODEL PROBATIONER.

I’m scared to go somewhere to do my community service though. They’ll probably run a background check, possibly discover my active warrant, maybe have me come in only to have the cops come get me [in hindsight, this was pretty unlikely/paranoid] and – before I know it – I’m in jail awaiting extradition to Jacksonville, where – AS NOTED – I do not want to be for (what I feel are) pretty legitimate reasons.

But I know Carmen… We’ve gotten to be friends… Because (BEFORE I RELAPSED) she liked my art and (presumably) the fact that it’s all about my mental illness/borderline personality disorder and my histories with heroin and codependency and girls and BAD BEHAVIOR. And my constant fucking struggle to do right. And feel okay. And she has a fucking non-profit that’s all about art programs and mental health. That’s MY FUCKING JAM. (I only started making art because I was forced at knifepoint while in inpatient rehab for sixteen years). (Okay – it was only two years but whatever).

So, non-profits can dole out community service hours… Abridged conversation: “Yo, Carmen – what could I do for ‘I Still Matter’ to get community service hours?” “Paint something we can auction off at our next event and write a statement about why you support I Still Matter.”

In rehab, when they first told me I had to participate in “expressive art therapy,” I thought it was a contemptible joke. “I can’t keep a needle out of my arm and you want me to fucking COLOR? Go fuck yourselves.” But as I was worn down by failure and frustration and misery and just wanting a life other than the one I had, I stopped fighting and I started just trying to do whatever I was told. I started to make art. I was really bad at it. But something interesting happened. At the end of each art therapy sessions, we’d go around the room and talk about what we’d made – and when it’d be my turn to share, I’d talk about my piece and how I was feeling, and how those feelings were reflected and represented in whatever I’d drawn/painted/written. And people laughed. Or they cried. Or they smiled and wanted to hug me. Or they just told me how much they related to and/or how much they appreciated what I was saying. They liked the things I was making. And then something really interesting happened: I started to feel good about what I was doing. I started to develop SELF-ESTEEM. And for the first time in longer than I could remember, I didn’t wanna die anymore. And I was actually excited about living. I was finally able to envision a life for myself that I could enjoy (and that wouldn’t require heroin just to get me through each day). 

When I finally got out of rehab, they told me I needed to get a job. I had a law degree from Georgetown but I didn’t want any of that. I just wanted to PAINT FUNNY FACES AND SCRIBBLE ABOUT MY FEELINGS. So that’s what I did. And, before long, I was making enough [money] from art alone to support myself and build a new life. Now, OBVIOUSLY, SOMETHING WENT WRONG ALONG THE WAY (three years later). But that’s another (really fucked up) story; I don’t think anyone could’ve gone through what I did before I relapsed and NOT kill themselves or otherwise self-destruct. It’s okay that I relapsed. And now I’m rebuilding. I’m getting back to what made my life the kind of life I want to live. I’m getting back to art. Art is what saved me the first time and it’s what’s saving me this second time. ‘I Still Matter’ is important because it can do for people what Tranquil Shores [my third treatment center] and expressive art therapy did for me. It can turn broken people into something better. It can turn cautionary tales into inspirational stories. It can uncover talents and aptitudes that people never knew they had. It can radically change lives. Or – at the very least – it gives people like me something nice to do for a little while. A safe, welcoming place to go and something to do (not drugs) that can silence the anxiety, even if only for a short while. It offers a respite from the monsters that live in our heads. AND – in this particular instance – it can get me some community service hours to help sway the court’s opinion in my favor.

So, please, if it’s not asking too much…: BUY THIS PAINTING OR THEY’LL PUT ME IN JAIL WHERE I BELONG.

I haven’t spoken to Carmen in some time but – while I did eventually/successfully use this painting to satisfy the terms of my probation – I don’t think it was ever actually auctioned off. If you’d like to purchase it (and support a non-profit art/mental health organization in doing so) I’d imagine that can be arranged. I also have 12×16″ signed, hand-numbered prints for sale. Get in touch if you’re interested in either.

Say somethin'.