Why You Make Art When You’re on Ambien

Latest for VICE.

Sometimes I can’t sleep for an entire week. I’ll feel like an alien; anything will make me cry, I’m paranoid, I hallucinate. It is insanity at its finest (and a choice torture method).

Earlier this spring, I had one of these weeks. I tried all the natural methods you can think of: yoga, meditation, Valerian root tea. On the sixth day of no sleep, when I found myself scraping for Benadryl crumbs in my purse and chugging half a hard cider in the hopes it might give me an hour of shut eye, I knew it was time to see a doctor. He prescribed me Ambien.

And it worked, if I took my prescribed 10 mg and tucked myself in bed straight away. But if I got distracted and stayed up for whatever reason, the Ambien made me energized and creative. I’d stay up writing emotional love poems. As VICE has reported, Ambien (zolpidem tartrate) is a weird drug. An extreme example of its “paradoxal reaction” is the drug’s ability to wake up coma patients.

During one of my Ambien-riddled nights of Tumblr poetry, I started to search for fellow so-called “Ambien artists.” I met Ryan, a 30-year-old photographer turned iPad Ambien artist from Minnesota who takes 10 mg for chronic insomnia. “If I’m working on art, normally there’s a purpose to it. But when I’m on Ambien, the whole purpose is to pass time [until I fall asleep]. When I look at the art the next day, there’s a lot of emotion put into it. You’re seeing into that dreamlike state,” says Ryan. “What you’re seeing [on Ambien] and what you’re going to see the next morning are two completely different things, but I think that’s what makes it interesting. When I’m working on it, it’s like the greatest piece of artwork!”

To learn more about the unintended creative consequences of Ambien, I spoke with addiction psychiatrist Dr. Alkesh Patel of

 about the mechanisms responsible for my shitty love poems and how Ambien artists may have other underlying diagnoses responsible for our bad art.

Read the Q&A HERE.



“Some find recovery in a church basement. Others need something with a little more Satan.” In a recent post for VICE I profiled Lilith Starr, head of the Satanic Temple Seattle Chapter on how she beat a nasty nitrous addiction with the power of Satan. Read HERE.

Into Other People’s Weird

An update on my VICE column: Since writing only about yourself is a bit masturbatory, I expanded my Into the Weird column to change format to include interviews about other people’s strange experience. The latest was with a very special person to me, comedian and crystal healer Katie Manzella. Read the full interview here via VICE.

Shortly after you left rehab, you got a DUI. How did you end up back in trouble?
My friend from a town called Ojai, where I lived for a few years, came to visit for the weekend. At this time in life, my conscious wasn’t equipped with the knowledge that drunk driving was an issue—I also resembled Paris Hilton. Since everyone told me I looked like Paris and I was only 18 years old, I said I was her cousin to get into a bar. Naturally, I was hungry after all the alcohol I consumed, so I drove to a diner. Luckily for me, a nice cop who looked like Pee-wee Herman pulled me over. When he asked me if I had been drinking, I denied that I had been, although there was no mistaking my intoxication. Once they got me into my holding cell, I realized that I was bleeding.

Had you hurt yourself?
No. It was period blood. I asked for Pee-wee to please get me a tampon—anything, even a paper towel. My request was denied time and time again. Even when I said I would stop calling him Pee-wee, I was denied. As Pee-wee walked away and I realized he wasn’t going to come back with my simple request, I took it upon myself to take care of the issue at hand. I wrote, “FUCK THE POLICE” with my period blood on the wall of my holding cell. That’s how you get a paper towel at the West Hollywood Sheriff Department.

Prior to Katie, I interviewed the captivating tattoo artist and guru of sorts Joseph Aloi aka JK5 about meeting his bio mom, and Minneapolis-based DJ and Prince of Darkness The Nightstalker about serial killers and filthy hot sex.


This is an important one so I’m going to post it all here. VIA VICE BITCHES.


With that cocky paragraph title, will I be called the next Samantha Brick? I hope not, that shit was annoying.

I’m unsure if it’s due to innate aspects of personality or related to my carefree upbringing, but I am very open about sex, and often wish the rest of the world would be too. I write about sex, I talk about sex, I have sex. However, my sexual candor has gotten me into some precarious situations. People mistake my sexual nature for a desire to have sex with them, or more accurately, somehow mistake my sexual openness with anexpectation that I’ll have sex with them. Not everyone of course, most people are far more awesome than we give them credit, and honest misunderstandings happen. Yet the other day, someone was trying to fuck me whom I did not want to sleep with, and he quoted things to me I had written in this column, as some sort of argument, a harsh rebuttal of my spurning. “Well, you wrote that you’re into…..” Awesome, thanks for the pageviews. Now I’m writing that you can go to hell.

I want a samurai sword to chop away penises. I’ve invented a version in my brain of that  game Fruit Ninja except it’s me, a red-headed Beatrix Kiddo slicing peens flying at me. A reader requested an extra dirty column this week. Sorry, this is not that column. This is a reminder that “no” means “fuck off, bro.” And while I’m at it, I’m tired of hearing this “her words said no, but her body said yes” shit. Sometimes people flirt, sometimes people will even give you a kiss or drunkenly dance with you. I don’t care if a girl has given you permission to fingerblast her or her pussy is in your face, if she says “this is as far as I want to go,” or “stop,” those words MUST be respected. If a girl is telling you “let’s have sex,” or is physically sliding your penis inside her she probably wants to fuck you. If she is pushing you away from her and saying “No, I don’t want this to happen,” she DOES NOT want to have sex with you. I realize it’s hard to think with those things all armed and ready for battle, but please just fucking evolve.

It’s quite simple. NO means NO, for everyone. And if I have to say it more than once, “NO” means “Fuck off, seriously or I am going to chop off your penis with my samurai sword.” You think I’m kidding about this samurai sword thing, but I have a tab open where I’m searching for one on Etsy right now.



Photo of my new tattoo of the quote below, “A prayer for the wild of heart that are kept in cages.” Tattoo and photo by the very talented Joseph Aloi 

“A prayer for the wild of heart that are kept in cages,” the subtitle of Tennessee William’s Stairs to the Roof, are words that have always been dear to my heart, along with a special fondness for Tennessee himself. Beyond appreciation of his work, I feel some deep affection for the man I can’t fully explain. Although it is believed that Tennessee choked to death, barbiturates were also found in the room, a drug he abused throughout his life along with alcohol and amphetamines.

Today barbiturates are rarely prescribed, replaced by their B brother benzodiazepines, which have a lower risk for overdose. Like benzos, they were prescribed largely as anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Common early brand names included Veronal and Luminal, or perhaps you have heard of Seconal. Particularly fascinating to me is the super short-acting Pentothal, known as “truth serum.” I’m often an open book, those close to me might prefer I was prescribed whatever the opposite of Pentothal is, but I am quite curious if it does, in fact, work. Bill, is that what you shot Beatrix Kiddo full of before she stopped your heart? Spoiler alert! But fuck you if you haven’t seen Kill Bill yet, and for fuck’s sake it’s in the title.

By the 1960s scientists figured out barbiturates were pretty fucking dangerous. In 1965 the Drug Abuse Control Amendments were stamped into law, and then came the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. All those fun drugs got a stamp of their own, the one that read, “warning,” but many of us see and read “fun.” Doctors tapered off prescribing them, although the drugs were still available on the streets through the 1980s.

Many, like my dear friend Tennessee have experienced the haunted merry-go-round of prescription drugs. The user, like Tennessee, truly does experience anxiety, depression, or other demons that lead to their prescription as an illness. However, the longer you’re on the ride the faster you go until around and around and around and eventually the drug itself creates the same symptoms you started taking it for, and you need more, more, more, and the withdrawal process is more painful and difficult than what forced you on the ride on the first place.



Jay Arner’s album cover. Thanks to Jay and Riot Act Media. 

The segmentation of this column is so random, I’m always curious of the artist’s reaction. I’m sorry Jay that you got chopped off penises and dead writers, I oh-so-much dig your songs!

Vancouver’s Jay Arner has played the field musically. He fronted an indie rock band, bopped around in a pop duo, even made up one tentacle of an eight-member collective. If I had a turd of musical talent, I’ve always said I’d be a solo artist, since humans can be annoying and attention is fun, so maybe after dabbling in such numerous groups Jay was finally like, fuck it, I’m flying solo.

Jay bird shows off his wing span on his self-titled debut, from 70s punk to 80s synthy shit to my favorite pop track of the album, “Don’t Remind Me,” which starts out with words we’re all familiar with, “About last night…”sung with a wink and a hint of embarrassment.It feels like waking up on a Sunday morning with flashbacks of stupid yet awesome shit you did the night before and simultaneously laughing yet cringing at yourself. I don’t think I would be in need of breaking out my samurai sword around Jay. We’d make out publicly and act like total fools but he would be respectful and put me in a cab home when I was like “Dude, you’re awesome, but I’ve got to call it a night.”

The self-titled debut is out June 25th on Mint Records. Stream “Don’t Remind Me” below.


Below are tidbits from my latest VICE column. Read it in its entirety here.


 I know it’s harsh, but from being both the victim and perpetrator of hitting and splitting, the truth is if someone peaces out minutes after orgasm, they’re just not that into you. You like someone, you stay. You stay for the morning sex and go to work in the same clothes as the day before or a borrowed T-shirt.


Vodka is for anorexic WASPs. Gin tastes like Christmas trees and not in a good way. Tequila makes you fuck your best friend’s brother in the back of a car. Whiskey… OK, whiskey, you’re cool. All I am saying is give rum a chance.


One of my favorite modern-day reggae songs is “I Wanna Be Loved” by Buju Banton. I put it on and do my hippie dance. Now, I have adamantly defended the reggae genre from haters the same way I did above with rum. However, as I also touch upon in the drugs section of this column, I do have one major problem with the genre: it can be extremely homophobic.


My latest Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘N’ Roll column is now up on VICE, in which I take an in-home HIV test while at home for the holidays, rant about oxycodone, and love on the Last Bison.  Click the link and read the whole damn thing! Here are some highlights:


At home HIV tests already existed, but you had to take a blood sample and mail it off then wait a few days and call some hotline to get your results. With OraQuick, it’s the same oral swab test they use at Planned Parenthood. You know, they take you into a room and swab your mouth, then you spend the next 20 minutes in the waiting room making a mental flow chart of all the people your partner’s fucked trying not to have a panic attack.


The last time I was given oxycodone was when I went to an emergency clinic for horrible cramps, I was convinced I had a ruptured ovarian cyst or something and they gave me 5/325 Percocet. I didn’t end up taking them, but rather saved them in my bedroom drawer – you know the one, where the dildos and nipple clamps live. They’re for “emergencies” but sometimes I’ll nibble off a little crumb of one before a tattoo or Brazilian bikini wax appointment. Judge away, but Brazilian waxes are paid-for torture.


For the day after Christmas, when the cats wrestle in the wrapping-paper jungle left under the tree, and the Brits and anyone else smart enough to take advantage of Boxing Day are drunk once again, and for all the cold wintry days to follow — it’s nice to take a break from your usual hip-hop or punk and play something a little merrier. I’m convinced the Last Bison are lovely any season, in fact their upcoming full-length album doesn’t even come out until March, but I found them so delightfully perfect for the holidays I had to write about them now.


The latest. Read the entire thing at VICE.com.


You understand what Lady Gaga meant in “Poker Face” – Unless you’re a Mennonite, you’ve heard by now that “Poker Face” is about Gaga trying to keep a straight face while fantasizing about a woman to get off during sex with a man. Ever find yourself being pounded by a penis and imagining he’s a hot tattooed domme wearing a strap-on instead? Perhaps you should stop imagining and change your OkCupid sexual preference.


A few weeks ago I flew back from Australia and the jet-lag brought my insomnia back in a major Tyler Durden way. After about a week of no sleep I found myself spending most of my time either crying or laughing hysterically for no reason, unable to write, and wandering the city with random pieces of bacon in my purse. After trying every other method I could think of with no success, I finally talked to my doctor about Ambien.


My Renny sexual fantasy involves a thrift store disco ball turning very slowly, bouncing light off of two frosty mugs of beer. He’ll then strut across the room, locking eye contact, and hand me my glass. He’ll put the vinyl copy of Sugarglider on, and whisper in my ear that I’m the first girl to hear it. Despite his somewhat dorky looks, I have a feeling Renny could get a girl wetter than Prince can.