It’s official! I’m bipolar!

I’ll tell you what, sentience is a bitch. There’s days I’d rather have no knowledge of self and just be a slave to instinct, like an animal. Then I watch a video of a wild dog eating a gazelle alive and change my mind.

It’s funny how such brutal and aggressive behavior is just natural, and not considered cruel, yet if a human did it, it would be barbaric and evil. It’s funny the standard we hold ourselves to. I’m not sure at what point the conscience evolved, but the shifting moral standards we’ve applied are sort of self righteous.

That isn’t to say that’s bad, I just think it’s interesting. I mean, it’s obviously GOOD that we don’t eat the babies of other males to stop their bloodline from being dominant to ours. It’s good that we kill our food before we eat it.

What does this have to do with my bipolar diagnosis? Probably less than I’m going to say it does. In my mind, there’s a lot of observation of mankind as animals. There’s very often a disconnect from whatever people say it is to be “human.” At times, I go through the motions, but feel very little solidarity with the human race.

I remember the first time I felt that way and could actually form a cohesive thought around the feeling. I was 17, and my friends and I were on a pretty heavy acid trip. It was late, maybe midnight/1am, and I was walking down Broadway in Pennsville, my hometown. My jeans were wet almost up to my knees, as they always seemed to be when we took acid. My teeth would grind. My throat clinched and tingled when I swallowed.

As I walked, arms folded across my chest, I could feel every bend of the hinge joints of my knees. Every bend forcefully back, then kicking forward, almost as if there were spring tension backing it up. Then I started to think about how bizarre it is, to fold the arms over the chest and walk. Their natural position was just too uncomfortable to maintain. But even if it were comfortable, it’s still awkward, as limbs flail back and forth with the momentum of locomotion. And as they flailed, five tiny fingers at the end of each awkward limb.

I thought about how strange we would look to an alien species. Why don’t our knees bend backwards? Why don’t we have two knee joints? None of it really makes sense, other than natural selection millions of years ago that dictated those decisions. And I’m sure plenty of it was the LSD talking, but I felt a disconnect from humanity. I could see that we were awkward animals scurrying about the earth, applying meaning to everything for fear of meaninglessness.

That stuck with me. I always assumed it was the acid, but it stuck. It took more than a decade for that thought to develop into what I feel today. Or at least what I feel when I’m in a down cycle. It also showed me that not matter what I’m feeling, it doesn’t matter and really doesn’t make much sense.

That’s simultaneously terrifying and comforting. This idea that our natural thoughts often don’t make logical sense, and then the follow up idea that it doesn’t matter anyway. None of it really does, and oddly enough, that’s what gives me comfort. The idea that all of this is inconsequential, and over time it is all lost. Even the greatest of mankind becomes bones and dust, and all they did will be undone. It relieves the weight of all the trivial things we claim as important. And you should be terrified of that, and then you should feel freedom to do as you please.

I’m not sure where I’m taking this. I’m fucking ranting, as I always do. There’s too much to express and not enough words. Not enough time. If I wrote all day every day, I still couldn’t express these things the way I want. This obviously isn’t a discussion on bipolar from a manic stance. Look, I’m just working through things as they pop up.

So it’s official! I’m bipolar. And nothing is different.

Uncertainty and Doubt During Periods of Growth

I’m pretty sure I don’t give enough to others. The greatest value I can be is through sharing my experiences. Not as an entrepreneur, or a recovering alcoholic, or artist, but as a human.

When I struggle with my mental health, I draw parallels between myself and others. When I’m face to face with my drinking and I’m trying to silence my ego, I see that the emotions and stages of working it out are the same as any other person’s problems, and that it’s only the circumstances that are different. It’s in that recognition that I can understand we all are dealing with the same exact bullshit.

That’s the reason I feel I don’t do enough. If I’m dealing with the same bullshit you are, and I’m finding my way through, why aren’t I sharing it? I’m not some Buddha or enlightened master, I’m just another guy on his path. But I’m older now, and I’ve faced a lot of challenges, and I’ve had a lot of wise guidance. That puts me in a position to assist you. It’s time I start taking that responsibility seriously.

So many things circle around to uncertainty and doubt. You’d think I’d move past it by now, after all the obstacles I’ve had to overcome. But no, it’s still there, and it still jumps up like a rabid squirrel to startle and scare me away from my goals.

What kind of shit brain would create an entire system meant to hold you down and keep you from accomplishing the things that matter to you? My shit brain. Your shit brain, too, for that matter. Everyone’s shit brain is out to get them.

We can’t get mad at self doubt. We CAN, but there’s no reason to. That’ll just stress you out more. Self doubt is just a safety precaution. It’s when your brain is playing out scenarios and sees something in the possible future that could cause you pain and discomfort. When it sees that, it wants to dissuade you from trying, as a means of protecting you.

Don’t be mad at your brain. Instead, just stop doing what the brain says, and start listening to the mind. Oh, is that confusing? It’s simple, really. The brain is a thing, a physical object with a series of complex chemical processes, guiding you through existence. But it’s autopilot. When you only listen to feelings, instinct, gut reaction, knee jerk impulse, you’re acting out the suggestions your brain is making through those complex chemical processes. You can’t control what the brain is doing.

Mind, on the other hand, is less tangible. It’s decision making. It’s reason /6 weed auu7 Zaw and logic. It’s calculating and measuring. It’s deeper awareness of self, and an understanding of how we have a relationship with the brain, even though the mind is housed within it.

I know, it’s fucking weird. The idea of two people, two entities existing within you. That’s really what it’s like, though, once you learn that emotional response doesn’t need to dictate actions. Our emotions have little to do with reason. In fact, they process in completely different areas of the brain and barely communicate.

Sometimes emotions disguise themselves as reason and logic. It can make it really hard to distinguish if you’re making the right decisions, or if you’re just reacting out of fear. It’s an ongoing struggle that we have to learn to recognize when we decide our course of action.

I know I’ve been dealing with it a lot lately. Check out the video below where I talk about it a little more in depth.

If you want to add to the conversation, follow me on Twitter or join my Facebook group, Unstoppable.


It doesn’t matter how hard I work, I always think I should work harder. I know I shouldn’t have to prove anything to anyone, but I still try my damnedest, all the time.

Or am I just writing that to sound cool? Like some sort of badass terminator motherfucker that never sleeps and stays on the hunt. I fuck off on my phone all the time. I take naps. I spend an inordinate amount of time looking up 80’s bands that come on the radio to see where they are now. Did you know the singer from Midnight Oil became a politician who fought for the environment and aboriginal rights in Australia?

ADD as a motherfuck.

You measure and weigh. You review and calculate. Am I being productive or wasting time? Can wasting time become productive? I constantly try to turn hobbies into money. Is that entrepreneurial? Is that greed?

What are those little monsters in Dungeons & Dragons that are just big brains with legs? Intellect devourers? I think that’s me. I’m feeding on what I do and converting it to knowledge, and disseminating it into my life; creating a system where each skill set I hone improves the others.

Intellect devourer

Is that just what people are supposed to do? Am I obsessed with being the best? At what point is complacency an acceptable thing? I feel like that answer is never. Never settle for less than my ability. And if my ability isn’t capable of achieving my goal, then get better.

Take tattooing as an example. I’m in the process of ripping myself apart because I am not at the top. I am not the best in my region or even my style, and I can’t accept that. If you tattoo and you’re not at least subconsciously trying to slaughter your competition, you’re not going to win. That’s me competing with myself.

A few 2020 tattoos

Since I can’t accept not being the best at tattooing (whatever the fuck that means) I’m always trying to do my best, and constantly making other art to help improve my skills. Last year, I counted over 200 pieces of art. That might be fuckin crazy, but I look at it as not enough. Again, I’m in competition with myself.

Did you know Pablo Picasso made nearly 150,000 pieces of art? That’s an insane number, even for a master like Picasso. I want to be that prolific. Maybe it goes back to my own issues with perfectionism, and my underlying desire to be loved and accepted for who I am. I try to stay conscious of that shit.

Just a little art from 2019

I try to view things from every angle I can. everything is a learning opportunity, and a chance to make some money. My life is situated around a keystone goal; the one goal that holds the others together. Everything I do needs to point toward the keystone. For me, that’s safety and comfort for myself and my family. Everything I do has to point in that direction, and reflect those values.

When I started buying and selling things, it was fun, and sort of a side hobby kind of thing. Since then, it’s taken on its own life, guiding my actions and how they can create growth and success in this endeavor. I haven’t stepped back or calmed down with it because it has the ability to push me toward my keystone. I’m gaining knowledge, I’m gaining income, and I’m gaining diverse avenues to care for my family.

I work hard because it’s what I have to do. It steadies me. It makes me feel like I’m serving a purpose. It helps keep me sober. Hard work saves me from my worst instincts, which underlie my positive actions. I do these things because if I don’t, I will do other things that are much more dangerous and damaging to myself and those around me.

It’s good to stay aware.

Derailing my train of thought

I really feel like I should be able to better express more of my thoughts. Maybe it’s delusional to think that I have something important to say, or maybe it’s actually true, but I don’t think I can be the one to judge that. All I can really do is spill it out and let what happens happen.

There’s something intangible that bounces around inside my head every day. Something that feels like if I could actually grasp it completely, express it properly, transmit it, that it would change things. I don’t know what it would change, but it would be better. Better than the monotony of floating in place, unable to move forward or progress, but just strafe side to side, dodging bullets and dodging tragedies; taking shrapnel when I misstep. Strafe was a good strategy in Medal of Honor Frontline, but in life it really doesn’t help.

The only thing I can think to do is to just dump my thoughts like a landfill and sift through it later. Like any dump, there’ll be lots of dirty diapers and old Chinese food, but there’ll be the occasional end table you can clean up and put in the basement next to that beat up leather sofa. Will today be an end table day? Will today be more shitty diapers? I have no idea. I don’t expect to ever know.

All I expect is that my mind continues to evacuate in the hopes that there’s something to set me apart from the other trash. Could it be wishful thinking that I’m not like every other piece of refuse in the landfill? Could I really be the prince of the trash pile? I think that’s the best most of us will do. Not because we aren’t capable of anything, but because at best this life is full of waste and garbage, and no matter how much we work, we die and rot like the old Chinese food at the base of the pile.

I don’t mean it in a bad way, I just mean it in a “nobody is above the rules” kind of way. Like, none of us will ever escape the grip of aging and dying, of sickness and disease. We will all do things we are ashamed and embarrassed of, things we regret, things that will hound us with guilt as long as we live. So even if you do your damnedest, you’re still in that trash heap with the rest of us.

So maybe prince of the pile isn’t so bad. It’s like yelling “look at me! I’m fucked up too!” while you perch on a discarded mannequin leg, wearing your crown of old, blackened coffee filters. Tissue box shoes. Christmas ribbon bow tie.

But fuck, can you see far from the top of the heap.

Did you know the story of lemmings jumping from cliffs in mass suicide is bullshit? It had been a myth for a long time, but you know what solidified it in the hearts of man? A 1958 Disney movie where they forced a fake lemming death plunge, killing hundreds of lemmings in the process to get a shot for the nature film.

Trash is trash. People are trash. We shit and piss and expel nasty fluids and die and rot. You can’t be more than human, because that’s all you really are in the end. So at best, you build your throne from the battered igloo cooler with no lid, and some beat up fabric you found (not the fabric with the oil on it, the fabric with the tomato stains. Red is regal) and you promenade on high, where your excrement rolls downhill and doesn’t interfere with your pomp and circumstance.

Endless hills of refuse. Endless princes and princesses, kings and queens, dukes and duchesses.

This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It’s only bad if you can’t accept that your an animal like all the other mongooses and muskrats. But just like those mongooses and muskrats, you can allow yourself to frolic and play. They don’t care that they piss and shit and expel nasty fluids, because they’re animals. Just like you.

Maybe not just like you, because you seem to have a problem accepting it. But once you stop bullshitting yourself and just own up to the ridiculousness of trying to rise above the laws of nature, and stop hiding your shame, then maybe you can frolic with the bunnies and baby kittens. Well, before the kittens become cats and eat the bunnies.

The world isn’t nice and friendly, it just is. The world is. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s not out to get you or reward you, it’s just carrying on as if you don’t exist.

With no one watching you or caring about your actions, you are free to do whatever makes you happy. So climb atop your personal trash heap and claim your throne! Proclaim law over the land! Just don’t try to convince yourself that your crown is made of gold and not cherry picked bits of refuse.

Now booking 2020 clients

I’m opening my books for 2020, and I want to tattoo YOU! I’ll be focusing on abstract, neotraditional, and traditional work, with a healthy heap of new school and illustrative cover up work. The more freedom I’m given, the happier I’ll be, and everyone wants a happy artist, right?

Email, text, DM, however you want to get in touch. Let me know what you want, where you want it, and how big. Let’s make 2020 fucking awesome.

So Tired: the endless social media game

I’m not gonna lie. I’m fuckin tired. I don’t mean physically tired, although I’m absolutely that as well; no, I mean I’m mentally exhausted.

I despise social media. I always have, even back when I was really good at using it for customer acquisition. Fuck, I built my entire career on social media. That doesn’t mean I hold any love for it.

You don’t have to love a system to be reliant on it. Basically every government in history is proof of that. The same thing goes for the seedy worlds of Instagram and Facebook. When I first downloaded Instagram in 2011, I thought it was the answer for every tattooer out there. Instant access to countless portfolios AND clients.

Over time it got watered down, and then the algorithm, and then fanboys for garbage tattooers, and then complex ad campaigns. Now your options have become severely limited for exposure, and you either need to learn the system and dish out the cash, or you need to understand how to create viral content, which is a complex art in itself. Real, hard working artists get buried by over edited portraits and trash “blackwork” bullshit outline tattoos with shitty one liners in basic sans serif print.

The third option is to carefully ingrain yourself within communities online, and through repetition of appearance and thoughtful insight, you gain trust. This is actually the best way to do things, even though it’s by far the most time consuming. This is how I built an audience back on MySpace and InkedNation.

But god damn it’s tiring. I don’t want to spend my time doing that bullshit, because I’m an artist, and I want to create. The problem is, why create for no one to see?

It’s a dilemma that’s simultaneously fueling my hatred for social media and my desire to master it. It’s both feeding my creativity and sapping it. I lose fucking sleep over this.

I mean, why would I lose sleep? Why should it bother me? I maintain a strong client base. The relationships I’ve built are strong enough to completely bypass social media and still keep me working. So why does it bother me?

Because I’m insecure and want validation. Because I want some visual sign showing me that what I’m doing is reaching someone. Because I work my ass off, and I’m not going to be overtaken by dumb fucks who can’t hold a tattoo machine just because I’m an old man and can’t keep up with the pace of technology. Because I’m real fucking stubborn.

I’ll continue to grow myself and my businesses in the most grassroots, organic way possible. Sure, I will spend ad dollars and try my damnedest to create shareable content, but my strength lies in actually talking to people one on one. So Instagram can go ahead and change the algorithm again, and further restrict my already restricted reach. It’s totally their right, and after all, it IS free, and I’m not required to use it. It really does suck when people who actually want to see my posts don’t see them for days, but I can’t argue the reach of a free post.

Look, I’ve talked in length about me being on the outside of every group of cool kids for my entire life. It continued into tattooing, and I’ve never been able to sync with any clique. I came to terms with that shit a long time ago. That black sheep syndrome created the man I am. A man who will claw his way over everything thrown at him in a bitter refusal to take second place, even if he’s never actually been in first.

Fuck Instagram. Fuck Facebook, fuck Twitter, fuck TikTok, fuck whatever pops up after that as the app du jour. I’ll be there because in todays business landscape, you don’t have much of a choice. That doesn’t mean I have any love for it.

This post is my attempt at bitching about social media in a graceful way. The truth is, I’m bummed my engagement tanked and I’m not looking forward to basically starting from square one again.

If you want to follow real deal Instagram accounts, follow me, Art Machine Productions, Justin Rakowski, Kevin Jacob Roy, Steve Martin, Kylie Beyer, Raylo, and Bobby Trefz.

Now Hiring

I’ve been sitting with an open booth for months, but I’m ready to take the plunge and hire somebody. But this is what I’m going to need from you.

Art Machine Productions is hiring a new artist for our growing family! Applicants must have a diverse portfolio, some established local clientele, and an active social media presence. We’re looking for a goal setter and high achiever.

The premise behind Art Machine is to harbor an environment that promotes artistic freedom and client service, while allowing artists to create a thorough body of work. We encourage each other to push our boundaries, whether it’s in tattooing, drawing, or any other medium.

A desire for growth and a monster work ethic are ABSOLUTE requirements. It’s not called Art Machine for no reason.


Email the following to

•work history
•links to all relevant social media
•4 tattoos that best represent your work
•4 pieces of art in other mediums
•your favorite animal and why (seriously).

Let’s do some tattoos, make some art, and generally be awesome.

Shiny Things

Our tendency toward envy, and why you should knock that shit off

Jesus, I want a Bentley. Look at Chad in his radium Continental G8. Fucking Chad. I want that. I DESERVE that.

This is the state of mind most people live in. A constant envy of others for what they have, and what they feel THEY deserve. It’s the vey foundation of our consumer culture. You have to have “things” in order to define yourself and have value. When you don’t have those things, and other people do, you don’t feel happy for them, you feel sad for yourself. Eventually, you just get angry.

Just look up #hustle on Instagram and look at all the stacks of money, luxury cars, and exotic locations with big breasted women and men with 8 packs and bulging veins. Makes you feel kind of small, right? But it’s all masturbation. The life you see on the internet is only a glimpse of what people want us to see. They work very hard to show you how amazing life is, but will never show their crippling debt. Will never show their abusive relationship. Their deep insecurities. When you see people all flashy on IG, what you’re really seeing is a carefully constructed persona that they present to us. It’s an illusion.

Yet for some reason, we begin to look at that and we somehow make it the standard for what success is. There are so many things wrong with that. You don’t know who these people are, or where they are in life. You don’t know what advantages they had growing up, or what misery may be hiding behind those Chanel sunglasses. All you see is shiny things, and you get mesmerized. The truth is that these people have lives not much different than anyone else. Sure, the physical trappings are extravagant, but they deal with the same emotional challenges we all do.

Take a minute to evaluate why you want what they have. Is there any practical reason? Is this even a goal? Or are you just trying to live up to some false narrative that you believe will make you worthwhile as a person? If you are only chasing status, then it’s a hollow pursuit. You need to know what actually matters in your life. You need to figure that shit out and correct course.

This isn’t a shot at people with perfect abs, or breast implants, or Lamborghinis. If those things bring you true happiness, then more power to you. I mean that in the most sincere fashion. We are all entitled to happiness. I want to encourage self awareness, and taking time to understand what really matters to you. While perfect bodies and stacks of money and Bugattis can give pleasure, they do not create happiness. Real happiness comes from within, and a sincere understanding of yourself.

Define your purpose. Focus on your goals. Make a difference in someone’s life. These are the things that matter.

By Tim Pangburn on March 27, 2017.

Canonical link

Exported from Medium on October 24, 2018.

Why I considered retirement

I’ve talked for some time now about how I’ve had personal struggles with tattooing. I’ve lost passion, found it hard to commit myself, and I get angry. I’m generally unhappy.

The truth though, is that I’m not unhappy with tattooing. I’m unhappy with things IN tattooing. I’m not going to praise the old days, because they were just as shitty for different reasons. I’m not going to take it the other direction and talk about lofty high scale experiences where you’re served kombucha from an ethically sourced woman’s shoe, because, well, that sounds like a patchouli scented nightmare.

I’m going to stay grounded in the oncoming opinion/rant, and be totally fucking real about how I feel. Those feelings are most certainly mixed, and at times full on contradictory, but that’s what existence is. Everything is duality and a shitload of grey areas, so I’m not going to downplay OR dramatize anything here.

These are the issues that have caused me so much internal struggle, so let’s dig in.

The good old days

“Everybody’s taking about the ‘good old days,’ right? Everybody! The good old days. Well, let’s talk about the good old days!”

I started tattooing June, 1998. That’s 21 years. More than half of my life. There’s plenty of people with more skin in the game (pun intended) but 21 years is a long fucking time. The changes that have happened since then are insane.

We didn’t use computers, didn’t use the internet, what the fuck is an iPad even, and people pull their kids away and managers follow you in the store to make sure you don’t steal, because you were heavily tattooed. You want to look at other people’s work? Buy a magazine. Want to talk to other artists? Walk into a shop you don’t work in. You made your own needles, what the fuck is a cartridge, and get ready for big laughs if you happen to find a rotary to use. You tattooed flash, and sometimes you were lucky enough to do something custom.

I started at the end of the first wave of new school, so things were already changing. People with art degrees were getting into tattooing. Even then, tattoo shops could be rough places. Anyone who’s been tattooing a long time undoubtedly has violent tales. You had to do things a certain way or it could be bad for your health.

Do I want to go back to that? Fuck no. I respect what it took to bring tattooing to where it is, but that shit sucked. I like Instagram, having reference on my phone, and a global network of artists to talk with and learn from. I like multiple styles of work, and doing custom tattoos. I like not asking the godfather tatter permission before I do shit.

Even as tattooing has grown, there’s still a lot of people trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of the cronyism and tough guy shit of the golden days, and frankly, that shit is tired. I’m a 40 year old man with a mortgage. I ain’t got time for that shit.

The wave of the future

On the other side of the spectrum, we have shops or artists who create a fully immersive experience, with fucking ferns and sparkling water and aromatherapy blasting in your face while their shop masseuse rubs your feet and your chakras are aligned using the appropriate crystals before they bless you with the tattoo design they’ve chosen for you.

I don’t think that’s actually a thing, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

We owe clients two things: convenience and comfort. While a lot of older style shops can be intimidating, the same can be said for the opposite. If you set your shit up like a fuckin upscale day spa, clients could feel just as intimidated. It’s like removing the humanity from a human craft.

With the proliferation of high end, private studios, convenience and comfort are being taken away. People put barriers between themselves and clients in the name of progress and professionalism. In reality, it’s mainly fueled by narcissism and ego.

The fucked up thing is, I was guilty of this 9 years ago, and even after Art Machine opened. But opinions evolve, unless you’re a caveman. Now I’ll call MYSELF out on some of this shit. I put barriers between me and clients. I don’t talk on the phone, and I don’t want drop in visitors. But hey, I said there would be contradictions and duality in this.

Party like a rockstar

How many rockstar tattooers do you know? The fuckin egos abound, dude. It’s obnoxious. We’re not special or cool because we draw pictures. Is it one of the coolest jobs? For sure. But ground yourself. Get humble or get humbled.

People like validation, I LOVE validation, but a pat on the back and some kudos for a sweet tatty banger don’t make you cool. It means you did your job. Every time I see these attitudes, I want to bash myself in the face. The self indulgent circle jerk of coolness is too much to handle.

I get embarrassed by it. I look and think “is that what we look like? Is that what people think of tattooers?” It makes me want to distance myself from the entire thing.


The over edit squad is like poison. Adjusting and blurring and over-saturating shit into oblivion. The completely unrealistic vision of the work they present to the public is distorting and warping perception of what’s possible with tattooing.

I’m not knocking editing as a tool. If you have issues with lighting, it can be necessary to alter a photo to give an accurate representation of a tattoo. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I encourage it and do it myself. I use a CPL lens to reduce glare because I’m an awful photographer and my lighting sucks.

However, too many people use those tools to misrepresent their work. They over saturate, darken blacks to an unholy void, and strengthen whites until they’re fucking blinding. They’ll smooth out pores and mag lines, and create what looks more like a painting and less like a tattoo.

It’s fucked up because people believe the tattoos look like that. A lot of these artists are already amazing, but it’s cool to over edit, so they do it. The altered pics get tens of thousands of likes on social media. It leaves other artists busting their asses to gain traction against what is essentially a fucking lie.

I’ll be honest and say I’m a baby about this one. I readily say it’s not fair, which is the warcry of the loser. It gets disheartening to see others amass followings on dishonesty, while others struggle.

The great trash heap

There’s way too many people who flaunt and revel in being shitty, trashy humans. Tattoos have always been associated with the lower rungs of society, and I don’t doubt for a second that customers are still primarily working class men and women. Most of us came from very little, but that doesn’t mean we should act like pieces of shit.

You shouldn’t take insults like white trash and then make it your platform. When grown ass men and women brag about getting in fights, how much they can drink, drugs they do, how many women they screw…my snob kicks in. Shit isn’t impressive, it’s trashy.

I don’t like being associated with that shit. Tattooing aside, I just don’t get down with it. But in tattooing, it’s a faction of people that are practically encouraged to act up and let the trash flag fly.

Instead of miring yourself deeper into the shit you came from, be the lotus. Be from the mud, but not of the mud.

“Can’t turn my back on the hood, too much love for them.”

There’s so much more to it than just this. This is a good start, though. These are some of the biggest issues that have been gnawing at me for years now. I was letting these things bother me on a deep level, and it was destroying my faith in and love for tattooing.

Something clicked recently, and I was finally able to understand. It’s like a light bulb went off. I realized that the values I’ve stood for and the values I desire at Art Machine Productions shouldn’t be affected by what’s happening in the rest of tattooing. My sole mission has always been to give a nurturing, growth oriented environment to artists, and to give a comfortable, easy experience for clients.

There’s no reason my frustrations with the state of the industry should affect how I operate, or how the shop operates. Neither are defined by the trends, but by our customers and how they feel. So I shouldn’t consider quitting, I should be doubling down on the strengths that we as a studio have.

That means better customer service. Better communication with artists. This place is my second home, and I’m not going to change that. I’m in for the long haul, and so is Art Machine Productions.

I won’t let myself get caught up in all of this shit again. If something is bothering me, I’ll let it be known so I can work it out and get back to normal. Frustrations don’t always subside on their own, and being up front and open is the best way to move past it. Apparently if I keep shit to myself too long, it’ll make me want to quit altogether.

I might not love the tattoo industry, but I love to tattoo, and I love my clients and coworkers.

It’s okay to talk about it

The dirty word people ignore

Addiction is the fucking devil. There’s really no other way to put it. I’m not going to cite academic papers or statistics, I’m just going to speak from the heart and my own experience. Addiction ruins lives.

When people think of addiction, they think of frail, crooked toothed ruffians grifting in the streets to score a fix. The real face is more familiar than that. It’s your coworkers. It’s your buddy you watch the game with. It’s your child. I can’t count the number of people I’ve known who struggled with an addiction, and I can’t count the number of people I’ve known who have died because of it. It’s that prevalent.

I just want to smash the argument I often see that addicts get what they deserve because they made those decisions. That if they make better choices, things would be fine. It’s the biggest load of horse shit of an argument I’ve ever seen. It points to an extreme lack of understanding of the nature of addiction. Let me set some shit straight so maybe you can have a better handle on it.

Brain stuff

What goes on in the brain of an addict is incredibly simple to understand, but most people don’t take the time to learn about it. You see, the reward system in the brain is set to release dopamine, that feel good chemical, when you complete tasks and challenges. It usually takes a certain amount of effort to make that happen. Drugs and alcohol, along with a slew of behaviors, bypass that effort and cause the brain to release that dopamine with basically no action. It’s reward with no challenge. Eventually the reward system identifies the drug of choice as being the only source of pleasure. It’s been hijacked.

This is where things get really interesting. The frontal cortex is responsible for logic and reasoning, as well as decision making. This area of the brain DOES NOT have control over the reward system. In fact, part of its job is to fight the impulses that are happening.

We all know that when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your judgment is impaired. That impairment can last beyond the time you are actually under the influence. For an addict, this impairment is constant due to continued abuse, and still manifests for a long period of time even when they’re not high. It can take weeks, months, even years before the reasoning function of the frontal cortex returns to normal.

Okay, what does that mean?

This means that for an addict, the reward system has been overridden by substances so that it believes the only source of any joy comes from that substance. At the same time, their reasoning and logic skills are basically fucked from constant abuse. This is how addicts seem to be able to justify the deplorable. Their judgement is broken, and that’s an issue of chemistry, not simply will.

Now I’m not implying that a certain level of will isn’t required to quit. It takes immense strength and willpower to enter recovery. The difference is that the willpower used to quit is attempting to fight against complex, ingrained neural pathways formed through long term repetitive action.

You literally have to restructure the neural pathways of your brain. Take a minute to process that.

Changing your brain chemistry is more difficult than it sounds. And it sounds hard as hell. It takes years of hard work. Recovery requires community, study, practice, service to others, and often people need outside resources like rehab and therapy. But there is hope. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. You need diligence, commitment, and patience, but lasting sobriety is real.

If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction, there is help. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You deserve to live a happy and fulfilled life, and admitting there is a problem and you need help is the first step to get there.

By Tim Pangburn on April 7, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on October 24, 2018.