Updated: Apr 20, 2020
I’m recently sober, and I think that I’ve had a lot of trouble saying that because I get this look, especially from my good friends, that says either, “oh, wow. You really got out of hand,” or, “oh wow, you’re so soft. You’re fine, have a beer.” I get it, I’m a young guy and I wasn’t doing the worst, I was pretty decent at covering up my problems but I was in a bad way. I’ve had my battles with anxiety and depression, I still do, but I was self-medicating in a way that I was just pushing problems back until they all culminated into massive mental trauma and then, in turn, my self-medication was hurting my body. So, I just needed to stop, I tried to moderate, or regiment myself because I still like the social scene of bars and what not but I always ended up in the same spot. It was just time to stop. That was the easy part, and I’ve been fortunate enough to not be so tempted in scenarios, so I can still go to bars and be social, I just don’t drink and they’re not nearly as fun (haha). But the harder part has been just admitting the issues, it’s almost easier to say, “oh, I’m so hungover,” to your buddies when you’re feeling like shit than it is to be like, “Oh, I’m depressed.” I think that’s why I get so anxious when I’m at a bar or in a scenario where I would drink and people hand me something, I say no, and then I get this look of confusion. Sometimes it’s hard to just admit that you’re fucked up and sometimes when you do people don’t believe you, which is even worse. But if you think you’re fucked up, you might be and you should face that head on, don’t let someone else convince you you’re fine when you don’t think you are. Address your problems.
That brings me to the title, I’ve done a lot of self-reflection over the past year and in a lot of ways it was like circling the dings or dents on the little diagram when you rent a uhaul. I had to do an inventory of my mistakes, my scars, all the damage I’d done to myself and the best way to do that, for me, was by turning to art. When I really sat back and reflected on the damage alcohol was doing to me for the first time I remember thinking about all the painting I’d been doing up to that point, I’d never drink when I’d do it and the times where I’d try to just have a beer while I painted, the work always became shit, I’d get frustrated and then one beer would turn to 9 and nothing would get done that night and that was a big factor in stopping myself. You take art away from me and we have a problem, so when I realized that I was taking it away from myself, I knew I had to stop it.
So here I am, all sobered up and painting to show what I’m feeling. I’m not saying I’m all better, that’s the thing with self-medicating, when you stop doing the thing you were using to cover up your issues, you now have to find a healthy way to address your issues. I’m still fucking sad a lot, aren’t a lot of us? But I think that now I’m not afraid to let it out, I can put it into a painting or here in words. I recently started looking at myself a lot, not in a reflective sense but literally looking at myself, and I started drawing my hands cut off of my body and doing the things I gave up. I’ve never been a big self-portrait guy, in the literal sense at least, so doing my hands was a great representation of myself that was still vague enough that people could relate to it. This gave me solace in that I was casting these images of severed hands, holding on to what I thought was helping me, off into the world. I was expelling my burdens and looking back on why I was so over dealing with them. I’m freeing myself through my work and it is awesome.
I think one of the most often neglected concepts for us as artists, is that our art is a part of us. Sometimes we get far away from that concept and our work either becomes meaningless or a mindless pandering to who we think the audience is going to be. Think about why you made art way back before anyone saw it, you made it for you right? It’s a part of you, it’s a reflection of yourself and if it’s good and true the audience will get that. Don’t try to force something out that isn’t your own, make something that feels real to you. It took me a little while to realize that and I think my art suffered in the times that I didn’t understand it. But now, that I’m working on me and making my art a part of me, it’s better than it’s ever been.
Now you might be wondering why I’m telling you all of this, I kind of am to. In a way it’s a public address to be like, hey, I’m getting better and you can to. It’s also to help people look at themselves, why do you create art? Have hardships in your life influenced your work? Or are you holding onto something and art could be the place that you let it out? Look, I’m extremely lucky to have this platform to occasionally dump my emotions onto you all with but, like I said earlier, sometimes it’s hard to admit that you’re fucked up. Well maybe art can be your escape or your safety in expelling those issues.
Thank you so much for reading this, it was pretty challenging for me to write. I encourage you all to reflect upon yourselves more often, especially because as artists we have a way to freely dump ourselves out into the world. Don’t let your demons get the best of you, don’t let people tell you you’re ok if you’re not, face your shit head on. God damn, sorry if this article was a bummer, but emotion is a pivotal part of art so don’t hide it. Don’t hide from yourself. I want to hear what all you have to say, or what you’re feeling, what is your art? Why is your art?