Depicting A Struggle With Addiction

May 19, 2007 at 11:31 pm (computer art, Depicting Addiction, Digital Art) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I made a poster for a class project, entitled “Overcoming Addiction“, a topic that I’ve become all too familiar with over the past year. The person depicted is my dear friend, Jordan. A year ago, while still working as hotel manager at the YMCA Hotel, I came across Jordan on a downtown street. He was busking with his green violin. In the evening when I left work, he was still sitting in the same place, playing with the same intensity. His music was astonishingly beautiful and hypnotic. I sat mesmerized and became lost in the sorrowful strains.

A few days later, I struck up a conversation and learned that he was living on the streets for the past 10 years and had a serious heroin addiction. I asked him if he wanted to quit. He said yes. This began a labyrinthine journey for both of us, Jordan towards a better life, and me towards a deeper understanding of the affliction of heroin addiction.

I took him in to our Hotel, along with his pitbull, Zero. I charged only the nominal amount that social services allocates, although the room cost was much higher. Despite his addiction, Jordan often surprised me with his depth and insight. One day while helping him pack, I came across an unfinished verse. It sent shivers up my spine and completely moved me. Here’s Jordan’s verse:

I lost desire so long ago
The boy I once was, turned half a man I don’t know
What dreams I had fell silently like snow
Who am I? Where did I go?

All feelings are dismissed
Warmth of a lover’s tender kiss
Friends and family I may never miss
How did I become this?

There must be some way out but oh I’ve tried
I’ve fought, I’ve stole, I’ve cheated and lied
The needle holds a place to hide
I wish to bring myself back to the day …
the day when Jordan died

After the YMCA closed in December, 2006 (to rebuild a new facility), I found him a room in a Gastown hotel where the manager was willing to take a gamble on a young person who had not yet overcome his addiction. In addition, the hotel allowed his pitbull, so we were happy to overlook the minor inconvenience of hordes of mice and cockroaches.

Days passed with bitter struggles, Jordan crying in pain and in need of a ‘hit’. I witnessed the wretchedness and hopelessness of addiction, the vomitting, intense fevers, wasted time spent in alleys waiting for dealers to show up. I saw his frustration when the needle would no longer penetrate hardened veins, I saw the open sores. My eyes were opened. Such a vicious and desolate cycle. My heart ached to see such futility, especially in someone who had become as dear to me as a brother.

Finally some light began to appear at the end of a long, blackened tunnel, at first a mere shard, then gradually expanding into a glowing beacon. Jordan started a methadone program, stopped using heroin, then finally over a period of two months, weaned himself off the methadone. Today he is completely free of heroin. Looking back at the long road travelled, it feels as though we’ve been comrades through an exhausting battle, a horrific bloody war …

I’ve kept a photo journal throughout his year’s struggle. Many of the images are heart wrenching and extremely graphic. (they are not among the links below). For now, they remain tucked away. One day Jordan may want to tell his story. If he does, I’ve told him the photos are there. (I offered to do the layout and provide the photos and digital art). πŸ™‚

This poster is far more raw than my other fantasy art, yet it holds an equal place. I oscillate freely between both worlds, never averting my eyes from reality, but afterwards retreating to a more gentle realm to recharge my energy.

More images of Jordan:

New Direction

The Green Violin

Amazing Street Musician

While You Lay Sleeping

Deadly Flirtation

You may notice I have placed a goulish face in the window. I tried out some variations:

Visit my website: The Graphic Groove
Or my gallery on Flickr

Return To Gale’s Home Page


  1. The Junky's Wife said,

    Wow…beautiful, poignant work.

  2. Valerie Gregory said,

    Your post reminded me of my brother and his struggle with mental illness. I was very moved by it, and by your story of Waldo on your website. You clearly have a positive impact on the people you encounter.

  3. galefraney said,

    The Junky’s Wife, Thank you for your beautiful comment.

    Hi Val, Thanks for your kind comment !


  4. Martin LaBar said,

    Wonderful story!

  5. galefraney said,

    Thank you !!

  6. Joni Solis said,

    Thank you for helping this man face and overcome his horrible addiction. So many people live lives of endless pain and sorrow. I have just left my husband of 21 years because of his gambling addiction. Maybe one day he will find a way to break free of his addiction. It is good to hear of someone that found a new and better way to live.

  7. galefraney said,

    Hello Joni,
    Thanks for such an insightful comment !

  8. Amanda said,

    Your art is beautiful!
    Most of the comments here are from a year ago so, I hope that Jordan is still doing well.
    Jordan by the way, is absolutely beautiful. Stunning. He belongs in GQ magazine.

  9. galefraney said,

    Hi Amanda,

    Thank you for your kind comments regarding Jordan.

    I’ve not heard from him for awhile, but I am hoping this is because he’s living a full and fulfilling life. He moved back to the city where his family lives so that he could reconnect wtih them. I also hope that he is continuing to do well.

  10. Sharon Tate said,

    God Bless You ….You are a very intresting artist, and what you have done for this young man, is immesureable, and I admire you so much….You are so talented and have a great heart. You will be rewarded for the good you have done, and continue to do, with art and humanity……ST

  11. galefraney said,

    Thank you so much Sharon, for such a sweet and encouraging comment ! πŸ™‚

  12. creatrixsblood said,

    very lovely piece, and a very keen looking site. Kudos. I’ve stumbled upon your page trying to work out how to best visually represent addiction, as I am working on a series of paintings about healing the wound of addiction with spirituality- its a tricky animal.
    I’ll be keeping my eye on you. πŸ™‚

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