Paint Your Depression – Reed Smith.

Paint Your Depression
Oil on Found Canvas — 30×36″ — 2022

The title & subject of this article derive from the painting above.

All other paintings featured are from Reed Smith’s Landscapes of The Void series [2018 – Present]


I’m the black sheep in my family, for sure. When I turned 12, depression took me over. And when I finally found drugs and alcohol, it was the first time I’d ever experienced any kind of relief. Even though I hate being drunk – wild, I know. But if I drink half a beer, I’m buying coke. Then heroin, then this or that. It took me ten years to figure out that pattern after doing it over and over and over again. But fuck dude, I’ve been trying to get sober pretty much since I started. I knew off the rip I was an addict, hands down, immediately.

Drugs were my solution to life. It was the first time I hadn’t felt suicidal, it was the cure. I was convinced throughout my teenage years I was going to kill myself before I turned 20, and I’m sitting with you right now at 31 years old. Clearly that didn’t happen, but what’s fucked up is I owe that to gnarly drug use. I hear people in AA meetings speak about how the drugs, the alcohol, stopped working. That’s their experience, but I’ve walked up to the podium after to say that for me, that shit never stopped working. Every time I do a drug, I get exactly where I want to be. The chemical reaction in my brain brings me exactly where it’s supposed to. But that doesn’t mean it’s fun – I get to that place, the drug works, but I’m miserable.

I went to an alternative rehab in 2018 which was just so much writing. I filled up two or three journals completely. And that was the first time I got any lasting relief from my depression because I learned what the root cause was – my oldest memories are being told I’m not good enough without something else. I also realized I hurt myself through drugs and alcohol because I didn’t think I deserved happiness – because I’ve hurt other people, I deserve to be in pain. But abusing drugs and alcohol hurts other people, and when I realize I’m hurting them, I do more. It’s a vicious cycle and I’ve always felt like a fucking tornado to everyone I love.

Lonely Grey Tree With Persian Rose
​Oil on Wood – 24×36″ – 2019

But I honestly couldn’t sit here and tell you that’s a lie; it’s a hundred percent true that I would not be here if I hadn’t found drugs. Still, I’ve had some phenomenal experiences – I remember my first acid trip vividly. It was in New York City at night; everything was so simple and beautiful… After that, I guess I started drawing lines in the sand. I’ve been hearing that a lot in AA recently, about how you would set a boundary only to cross it later. Something like ‘I’m never gonna smoke meth, I’m never gonna smoke crack…’ I’ve done both of them, I crossed those lines in the sand.

Yet I’ve made it through everything I never thought I would make it through. And I’ve been happy lately. That’s the hardest thing to say in the world. I lost a 15-month streak about a year ago and since then I’ve been trying to get back to full sobriety. I only have 26 days today, but for the last year, I couldn’t get 26 hours.

Vermilion Skies
Oil on Wood – 24×36″ – 2019

Damn punk chicks, man… They get me every time <haha>. 15 months sober and I’m working a program, like, ‘No, I can hang out with this cokehead chick, she’s awesome!’ We’re seeing each other and things are cool, but she buys shitty coke so I’ll just hit up my plug, you know? And then, ‘Why are you so bad at breaking this up? Just let me break this up for you.’ I relapsed as soon as she said we should go back to being friends. I was on board and completely agreed with her, but it was a knee-jerk reaction.

I spent 12 years of my life trying to get sober and I’ve tried every way I could think of. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve relapsed. And I’m sitting here with 26 days, which is a miracle. 26 days ago I was in AA sharing how I feel absolutely, utterly hopeless. I couldn’t stop getting high for the life of me. I didn’t want to with my entire core. Then all of a sudden, the thought pops into my head, and it happens. I didn’t even realize what I was doing until I had already picked up heroin off Craigslist and took the first hit off foil. That was when I thought ‘Oh shit, I work at a sober living. I’ve been 15 months sober. This could negatively affect my life.’ That idea didn’t enter my head until I was high.

Forsaken Tree at Midnight
Oil on Wood – 16×20″ – 2018

For so long I thought I needed to do drugs to make art. But it’s the opposite; every time I make art I’m sober. It’s the only way I can ever do it. Otherwise I can’t focus, drugs become all I can think about. I heard Heroin by The Velvet Underground at 17 and thought, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do in my life.’ Never done a drug, haven’t even had a beer yet, with this weird fantasy that I’m gonna become a heroin addict, burn everything to the ground, and come back from it to make some dope-ass art. It hardly ever works that way, but I guess it’s been kind of working in my favor, actually <haha>.

I’ve been collecting all these canvases off of Facebook groups where people would just give shit away so I can paint expressionistically over them. Not to cover them up, but trying to work with whatever’s on there more abstractly. Right before I painted this piece, my homegirl told me: paint your depression and I’ll buy it. I was in that depression, dude. ‘Cause look at what I just did to my life – imploded it almost completely in a matter of minutes. It took almost a year to get back, and I have a lot of friends that have never come back. The list gets long, bro. Especially in the punk scene and all this? The list gets long, real fast. I got kicked out of my apartment by my roommate, had to move into a sober living my friend owns… But, I mean, I landed on my feet. My shrinkapist tells me I have the blindest luck of anyone they’ve ever met <haha> Thanks? But also, that’s scary.

Cobalt Sea
Oil on Wood – 18×24″ – 2018

I don’t have reasons why I relapse. I ran out of excuses probably five years ago. But I’m literally happy right now. I’m feeling connected with people and hobbies and life again. I didn’t really have much of that growing up. I wanted for so long, even though I went to my first 12-step meeting willingly at 19 years old, to not have to drink the Kool-Aid, but I’ve been all out of options. It’s really hard because I don’t want to act like I’m powerless and humble and all that. This time around I’m already on my eighth step, where I have to make a list of all the people I’ve harmed to make amends with everyone. I’m not looking forward to making amends with my mom again <haha>. But it might turn out better this time.

-Reed Smith.

Cover: Parker Ricardez.
Feature: Reed Smith.
Feature: INFIDEL.
Spread by @visual.decline
Feature: The Sleeperz.
Feature: SPUNK.
Casket Mush by @pix2night
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By Hector Zaldivar

Professional magician. @hexzald