Tag Archives: addiction and recovery

Artwork archives: early portraits of the bad boys I loved.

This is the sequel post to the one about my earliest portrait drawings.

You can see that one, with many of the boys and girls I loved as a teen, here. They are drawings full of hope and joy, of people I adored. The drawings below are more painful ones, of boys who were far deeper into addiction.

Sheepdog from memory summer or fall 1983 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI met Sheepdog in the summer of 1983.

Sheepdog from memory summer 1983 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesHis physical beauty mesmerized me like no other boy before or since.

We were in the 80s good friends, once lovers, and also people who harmed each other grievously and witnessed each other’s most horrific addiction lows.

I made both of these drawings from memory, the summer I met him, and they are surprisingly true to his absolutely stunning Pre-Raphaelite beauty.

The X-Men movie actor Caleb Landry Jones reminds me of Sheep, with the kind of male beauty that twists like a hook in my heart. Male beauty was my downfall for so much of my life, and I’m only goddam lucky that hooking up with my husband initially for his beauty worked out so well.

Richie drawing end June 1987 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Sometimes, I made really bad choices, in the ’80s.

In the spring of 1987 I was twenty, and spiraling. A terrible compress of grief, bitterness and nostalgia drew me together with Richie, aka HASTE, a boy who had been a close friend of my late great love Robert Johnston Sawyer. Richie was an Irish drunk.

Drawing of Richie on manila envelope prob mid 1987 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesRichie and I drank together in a way people who are trying to die drink together.

There was rage and pain and violence. We drank his and hers flat half-pint bottles of warm vodka in the New York summer morning, while he did the New York Times crossword in ink. His father was a sportswriter there. We read Nexus together. It was horrible.

Richie at 20th st by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes approx summer 1987I drew him in ballpoint, drunk, with so much anguish in my heart I could hardly see.

I drew him sleeping, which was the only time we weren’t hurting each other. It was like a ghastly funhouse mirror of the summer before, when Rob and I had been so intensely loving to each other.

When I was blackout drunk in the summer of ’86, Rob used to say I was reminding him of Richie: “Lights out, nobody home.” A year later, there I was, Richie and I, too drunk to walk. He was the only boyfriend I’ve ever had who my mother actually hated.

Sketchbook 1987 Richie sleeping by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesSketchbook 1987 Richie sleeping by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Richie was there when I had my first alcoholic seizure, and got me through it.

He was familiar with them, and had Dilantin for them, so he gave me some. He held me tightly while I shook and jerked.

Richie drawing July 29 1987 Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesRichie was the one who wrote “Richard is God” on this drawing, obviously.

The drawings are really damn good, because I was so drunk I pushed through a lot of fear that held me back. But that is not worth very much, compared to the pain I see when I read my journal from that year.

Richie sleeping 1987 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne Forbes

Richie saved my life when I overdosed on methadone that August.

He could not wake me on a summer afternoon, and he got my mother and she called the paramedics. I was revived, I lived, and we went to Victoria‘s birthday party that night, where my condition caused her terrible distress. Richie was also the only boyfriend I ever had that Victoria hated! The eventual breakup was a disastrous mess, but at least I did leave him.

graffnycsub16 haste tag I spoke to him once more, the first summer I was sober, in 1989.

I called him from St. Paul. His father had died, and Richie had gotten sober. I wish him that still, and that is all. So many of those Acid Writer boys from that summer of ’87 are dead, so many of them died so young, and Richie did save my life.

And I have been clean and sober 33 years as of last Thursday.

Some of these drawings had never been scanned or uploaded; until now, no online record of them existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever.

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.



Drawings from the Halfway House: Portraits from the earliest days of my sobriety.

Sue at Fellowship Mar 9 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThe first thing I started drawing, when I arrived at Fellowship House in St. Paul, was the people around me.

This portrait of a woman named Sue in the living room of “The House” was drawn on March 9, 1989, so I had only been sober 41 days, and only at Fellowship a few days. Newly sober, I was still completely determined to be a comic artist, and wanted to get back to practicing. Sue reminded a lot of my teenage bestie GIlly.

Michael at Fellowship April 11 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesMy beloved friend Michael. Michael and I shared a connecting bathroom in the last month we were in the house, as “Senior Peers”.

He was a marvelous professional Broadway singer and dancer; we went to Alvin Ailey together. I loved to hear him bustling in the bathroom, making fabulous. He was so handsome, and posed so well! I think I drew those kinda ’80s design elements of the circles to reference the stage. His T-cell count was ok when I was last in touch with him, so I very much hope he made it to the next generation of treatments.

Scott at Fellowship June 27 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is Scott.

I don’t think I slept with him, but it looks like I would have liked to?

A lot of the guys at the house wore those preppy Hamptons shoes. Dockers maybe?

George at Fellowship May 14 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesGeorge was such a preppy. May 14, 1989.

Most of these are photocopies; we had a copy machine in the office at the halfway house, so I could make copies and the subjects kept the originals.

Fell on the Beach at Fellowship May 7 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesFell was also a preppy, but like a Bad Preppy?

He was the renegade scion of some rich Florida family. I was like, if they didn’t want you to be fucked up, they should not have named you “Fell”. May 7, 1989.


A ferocious, feisty girl from Queens, drawn April 7, 1989. She was so young, not even twenty.

Tom at Fellowship May 28 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesTom, a New Yorker who I got along well with. May 28, 1989.

My heart aches, to think that most of these people are probably dead. The relapse rate was incredibly high.

Robert at Fellowship June 3 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesRobert, who was a lovely kind man. June 3, 1989.

Julia at Fellowship May 7 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesJulia, my friend and roommate, who I called “Jewel”.

She was lying on the hill behind the house (which was the old Schmidt brewery owners’ mansion) in the early Spring sun. People used to come lounge on the “Beach” as we called it and wait for me to draw them.

Me and Julia at Fellowship April 7 1989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesI also did a drawing of Julia and I in the room we shared.

Being a single mom and a working-class lady, she was orderly and had her shit together, despite the whole alcoholic thing. So she found my sloppiness and chaos astounding. However, this was a day when we’d both gotten packages from home (thank you Mom!!!) and so the mess was truly a remarkable thing to witness.

Ray at Fellowship March 191989 by Rachel Ketchum aka Suzanne ForbesThis is Ray.

He was a kind, haunted, deeply depressed man; he killed himself not too long after I made this drawing. This is a photocopy; I gave the original of the drawing to his family, who were glad to have a picture from the last year of his life.

A lot of people I knew in treatment killed themselves even in the first year.

A lot of them relapsed. A lot of them had HIV or AIDS. And hepatitis. The odds for recovery from chemical dependency are very, very poor. I know I’ve been incredibly lucky, and I’ve been living on borrowed time since I was 22. But I’d like to keep living, and working, anyway!

So I am on total self-isolation, with my husband, and expect to remain so indefinitely. For months, possibly. If I have to stay inside for a year to survive this, I will totally fucking do it.

I’ve been doing fine without alcohol and heroin since 1989, surely I can manage a year without outside!

Only one of these portraits had ever been photographed; no modern media record of the rest existed – if we had a fire or flood they would just be gone forever. And of course, I am the only person who knows when they were made and why, the story of the people in the pictures.

As a highly-vulnerable person with asthma and auto immune illness, it seems more important than ever to document my life’s work. Not morbid, just pragmatic!

I am so grateful to my Patrons on Patreon, whose monthly financial support makes it possible for me to take time to document my art archives.