I met Justin in a small, North Carolina, mountain, town. 

Justin: I grew up on the Texas border. It was horrible. You know, drugs, gangs, cops are corrupt. I’ve seen friends disappear. 

I was picked on all the time because I wasn’t Hispanic. I had the birth defect with my hand and I was a tiny kid. I became so prejudice against Hispanics because they were the one’s picking on me, making my life horrible. I just became so hateful.

Everything changed when my father committed suicide. He was abused as a child. My grandparents were really strict. I think that’s what led to his heroin addiction and eventual overdose. He really had that mentality that the whole world hated him and I can understand that now because that’s how I feel, which is exactly the opposite of reality. 

My dad was an artist, a welder, he loved heights. He would hang and create giant paintings. His mother was an artist too. I was a great artist in elementary school but I lost it. I wish I still did it. I know it’s in my genes. 

After my dad passed, my mom met someone and we moved here.

BW: Do you feel like moving here was healing for you?

Justin: Yes, but at the same time it brought a lot of pain. 

I got married and my wife got pregnant. I lost my daughter. She got tangled up in the cords in the stomach. It was a big ordeal. Really bad. So we separated. It was just too hard to get past.

I mean, I was really depressed. I hung myself from a two story ledge and survived it.

BW: Are you still going through depression?

Justin: I believe so. I have anger problems too. I’m still resentful from it.  

Your father is someone you look up to, you know, and having a father that committed suicide kind of tells you that that’s what being a man is. I know it’s the wrong way to think but I feel like it’s always gonna be there in the back of my mind. 

BW: I know what you mean but here’s what I’m wondering. I just spent a couple of hours yesterday with an artist in Asheville named Rob Seven. We talked a lot about how art saved our lives. Maybe your dad’s legacy to you is art, not suicide. That belief that you can’t do it anymore is bullshit. It’s a lie. 

Justin: I think that’s what’s stopping me. I’m stopping myself… But, I know I can do anything. I hit home-runs with one hand dude. I do it all. Nothing has ever stopped me. 

Part of these collections: Opiate Addiction