Tag Archives: February 2013

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’d Kill Your Family If I Thought You’d Notice, But You Wouldn’t, So Fuck It, I’ll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire

"I'd Kill Your Family If I Thought You'd Notice, But You Wouldn't, So Fuck It, I'll Just Smoke Cigarettes and Light My T-Shirts On Fire." 2/1/13. Tempera. 2/1/13.
2/1/13. Tempera. 12×18″.

It’s such an unbelievable coincidence that – if I were someone else, reading this – I’d probably call me a liar but… this is a painting inspired by Donnie (my roommate for five of my months at Tranquil Shores) and I was all set to feature it in my blog entry for last night when – at the last minute – I decided the image was too blurry and that I should write-up a different piece instead. As I found out within seconds of opening my eyes this morning, Donnie is dead.

It’s against the rules but I (very sneakily) recorded my coin-out [the ceremony to honor completion of a treatment plan]. And I’m really glad I did it because it’s nice to listen to every once in a while. I just listened to Donnie’s segment and it made me smile pretty big. The first words out of his mouth were “You know how to push my buttons better than anyone I’ve ever known in my life.” And the reverse was true too. I don’t know that I’ve ever been angrier with anyone than I was with him just one week prior (the day that I painted this). But as he went on to say, “We have some things in common. We’re both drug addicts, we both hate each other, and we both love each other.” Which kind of hits the nail right on the head. Back when he said it, I was a little disappointed ’cause – as much as I had an equal part in our conflicts – I always just wanted us to be friends. I was a little sad that he chose to acknowledge the darker part of our relationship in that moment. But – looking back – he was doing exactly what I always say is so important: he painted the full, honest picture. And I’m really grateful for that.

The title of this painting is mean as fuck. Donnie had a family up north that, in his addiction, he had almost completely lost touch with. It hurt him so much that – before I had met him – he did a six month stint of inpatient treatment in which he kept his kids a secret. The day that I made this, I said a lot of fucked up shit to him but I didn’t ever say anything about that. As mad as I was, I didn’t want to take it that far so I used the painting to get my meanest thoughts out of my head. The first sentence of the caption, “the world’s not black and white,” is an allusion to a conversation I had earlier in the day, when I asked Tracy under what circumstances it would be okay to burn a person alive. When she told me it’s not ever okay to set another human being on fire, I said “that sounds like the kind of black-and-white-thinking characteristic of mental illness, Tracy. In this world, there exist shades of grey.”

donnie's shirtThe night before, I had taken a shirt that Donnie had given me and went out to a parking lot at the end of the block. [I was allowed by this point to go on short walks if I signed in and out]. I set it on fire, let it burn for a minute, stomped it out, and then took it back to my room to paint some text on the back: “WHAT I LACK IN EMOTIONAL MATURITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND LIFE SKILLS, I MAKE UP FOR IN PUSH-UPS!!!” That, I figured I could get away with – especially since I had been working out a lot too around that time so (while it was definitely my “Donnie shirt”) the statement could have easily been applied to me as well. After things cooled off and we weren’t mad at each other anymore, I showed it to him and he agreed that it was pretty funny.

Someone once told me that real friends fight. That if you’ve never gotten into an argument with a friend, you must be bullshitting each other an awful lot. And that’s what it was always like with Donnie. We didn’t argue about nonsense. It was always about real, serious shit. We’d call each other out when one of us was fucking up. And (naturally) – since we were both smarter than everyone – I’d constantly have to tell him when he was wrong about me and he’d constantly have to tell me when I was wrong about him. But we always seemed to work it out and get back to a good spot. Probably because each of us was always right about the other (and wrong about ourselves), even if it took us a minute or two to realize it. We were pretty good at keeping each other in line.

Which isn’t to say that we were constantly at each other’s throats. After we both moved into the real world and weren’t roommates anymore, we didn’t get into it like we used to. I even stayed with him in his new apartment when I came down to visit once. But even before that, as roommates, we got along more often than we actually fought. I can’t even count how many nights we sat up in our apartment talking out everything going on in our lives. There were days when I felt like I’d accomplished nothing or had no meaningful interpersonal connection with anyone – until just before bed when Donnie and I would have one of those conversations. And I know I helped him too ’cause he’d tell me so. Shit – for his first two months, I talked him down from his constant “I’m leaving THIS Friday” every week! We got our sponsors together. Did our fourth steps together. We were never “best friends,” hanging out all day; we didn’t like any of the same shit. I liked drawing and punk rock; he liked football and Hoobastank. But we were close. There was one week when I was overwhelmed with thoughts of self-harm. “Is there someone you can reach out to before you do anything to hurt yourself?” Tracy asked me. “Yeah,” I told her. “Donnie.”

Last year, when I wrote all those Christmas cards, I had the foresight to snap photos of some of them before I handed or mailed them off (for posterity or [whatever]). I just checked and – sure enough – I have a picture of Donnie’s. I’m struggling to admit it, but the tears are welling up. I wrote something in his card about faith, which reminds me of something I used to say back then: that I had more faith in Donnie than anyone. I really thought he was gonna “make it.” The last words in the card reflect that too…

I’d say “do good” but I know you will anyway.
Love you, buddy.
– Sam

It feels like a goofy thing to say but … all things considered, he did do good. He did a lot of good. And I’ll miss him. I already do.

Sharps Attack

"Sharps Attack." 2/13/13. Watercolor. 9x12½".
“Sharps Attack.” 2/13/13. Watercolor. 9×12½”.

The plans were made and my flight was booked just a few hours before I made my way to the airport; I left Florida this morning to visit a friend for the week. She picked me up at the airport and we went back to her place, where I found this watercolor painting that I had given her after painting it back in February. It was my first time using non-Crayola watercolor paints, which were a gift from a friend. The special (watercolor specific) paper I used was also a gift from a(nother) friend. I’m very lucky in that sense. The words are still a little uncomfortable but… I’m very blessed.

I’ll be fairly preoccupied until I get back to Jacksonville on Friday night, so don’t take it personally if I don’t respond right away to comments, texts, emails, etc.

And if you ordered the Like Bats cassette and/or any art/prints last night or today, my apologies for the delay. I had no idea (or even any reason to suspect) that I’d be taking this trip until earlier this morning. I’ll ship everything out just as soon as I get home.


"Matt." 2/1/13. Colored pencil. 8x10".
“Matt.” 2/1/13. Colored pencil. 8×10″.

Rather than pay attention in group one morning, I decided to try and sketch my friend sitting across from me.

I’m pretty sure that this was my first (and only) attempt at an honest portrait. My technical ability as an artist is so limited that I rarely ever risk even trying to draw caricatures. I can think of seven exceptions but the only ones online so far are Rational AnthemHeather, and Servo & Megan.

Matt and I were sitting outside smoking cigarettes one day and he had some paperwork to fill out. We both thought it was pretty silly that the form asked for his race and ethnicity and, while he was initially hesitant, I was eventually able to convince him to have a little fun with it.

Matt's Paperwork

Pregnant Baby Kimono Dragon

"Pregnant Baby Kimono Dragon." 3/2/13. Acrylic paint. 12x16".
“Pregnant Baby Kimono Dragon.” 3/2/13. Acrylic paint. 12×16″.

In February, I successfully completed a program of inpatient treatment for the first time. It was a ninety day program that took me seven months to finish, but – hey – some are sicker than others. For the first time ever, I was able to make the transition to outpatient treatment. It was also around that time that – faced with the real world again – I knew I’d have to start earning some money to support myself. One of my counselors and one of my peers had been really encouraging when it came to my art. They said it was good. Good enough that people would want to buy it and I could maybe make a living doing what I loved. I decided to try and believe them. I chose optimism and faith (another first for me).

Living in the outside world, I was suddenly free to paint as much as I wanted, which meant I didn’t have time to store up ideas for paintings. I decided to experiment and create images for their own sake, without worrying about what was happening in my head or what I was feeling. In a sense, I still do that to a degree but… not like this.


I didn’t wanna not say anything about this piece but – seeing as that shit’s super boring – here’s the story of some wacky shit I did back in January 2012 (about one month into my first stint of inpatient care at my very first facility).

Sometime right around New Year’s Eve, Hal was kicked out for using. Before he left, he gave me five letters, each addressed to a different person in our treatment center. No one was in the courtyard. I sat down and opened the one with my name on it. “There are eighteen unused syringes stashed in the bathroom trashcan across from John’s office.” Interesting… There was also a phone number. “I met Stacy at an NA meeting. That’s how I got the dope.” Fuck. I didn’t know what to do with this information. I wanted to get better but… Fuck. I decided not to call, but I didn’t throw the number away. And I retrieved and re-hid the needles inside the couch in my unit. That night, I was alone in my unit. I took a syringe out, held it in my hand, and just stared. I took the cap off and stared some more. I grabbed a cup of water from the kitchen, went into the bathroom, and shut the door. My chest felt tight, my heart raced. What was I even doing? I put the needle in the water and pulled the plunger up, letting the barrel fill about halfway. I took my belt off, wrapped it around my arm, and stuck the needle in a vein at the crook of my elbow. I drew back and watched my blood swirl into the chamber. Fuck, I’ve missed this. I let out a little breath, almost a gasp, and I pushed the plunger forward, my body frozen, until the barrel was empty and I felt a quick swell then release. I shut my eyes and felt bliss. I know it was entirely in my head but – for about two seconds – I actually felt high. Two seconds. And then I felt crazy. And confused. I smirked at myself in the mirror. So… My smirk faded and my gaze fell. What the fuck was that for? I was disappointed that my “high” was already gone, sort of glad that I hadn’t actually used, wishing I had used, and wondering if this was what my future looked like… injecting water for… – I didn’t know what for. Really, I wasn’t sure what I felt. I filled the syringe again to see if I could get another two seconds of high. It didn’t work. God dammit. I cleaned up, put my belt back on, and put the needle back in the couch with the others. Okay, I thought, What now?



  • This story is actually an excerpt from the 134th page of a much longer story. If you like it, let me know and I’ll continue tomorrow where this left off.
  • My painting, “Pregnant Baby Kimono Dragon,” is for sale.

Coining Out

"Coining Out." 2/8/13. Marker. 7x9½".
“Coining Out.” 2/8/13. Marker. 7×9½”.

It was an assignment in the group session on the morning of my coin out [the ceremony to recognize successful completion of an inpatient treatment plan]. (It’s worth noting though that completion of my treatment plan didn’t mean the end of my inpatient stay; it had already been decided that I’d stay on, with a new treatment plan). “Using your non-dominant hand, draw a picture of the body part with the most sensation right now,” we were told. “Then ask it about the feeling and let it answer.”

My face was tense. My whole head was. I asked why.

‘Cause I’m scared of everything. I don’t wanna coin out and I upset Heather last night and assumed the worst so I could cancel everything but it didn’t work ’cause she’s not mentally ill, she’s smart and sweet, supportive, thoughtful, and wonderful. But I need to ask her to be more direct ’cause that “goodnight” could have really fucked with me. You did good not just letting it go, Sam.

Presented without further comment ’cause I’m a mess right now.

Diminishing Returns

"Diminishing Returns." 2/16/13. Acrylic paint, peptol-bismol, glue, on cardboard. 6x13".
“Diminishing Returns.” 2/16/13. Acrylic paint, peptol-bismol, glue, on cardboard. 6×13″.

Of the ten paintings in my series, “The Weak End,” this was the seventh. I had spent the last forty (of my waking) hours painting and it had begun to feel mechanical. I didn’t feel productive, creative, or fulfilled; I felt dull. “This is a television in the same sense that I’m an artist” means two things. First, that the thing in front of me, occupying all of my time, might as well have been a TV insofar as I had lost myself in it and was now just wasting time. Second, that while I might be performing the same functions as an artist, no one should ever mistake me for one; I was just some asshole, playing with paint, for nothing.

Initially, I titled this piece “Stop Now” because I felt like that’s what I ought to have done at the time. Instead, I told my inner-critic to shut the fuck up, set this piece aside, continued on to the last three pieces in the series, and – today – couldn’t be any happier that I did. While my self-deprecating title for this series of paintings is a reflection of my hurt feelings and self-loathing upon discovering (Monday morning) that I’d be moving out of Tranquil Shores, all of my experiences between Friday and Sunday (primarily comprised of this paint marathon), I think, were exactly what I needed to propel me forward and back out into the real world.


This piece is available for purchase in my webstore


The Weak End is a series of  ten paintings.