Joseph Green on Addiction, Loss, and Recovery

Portrait Placeholder No Profile Image By Joseph Green
black and white photo of man singing into microphone

Before Joseph Green became a motivational speaker, before he was winning awards for his poetry, before he was a respected member of the recovery community ⎼ he was an alcoholic and avid cocaine user. By the age of 28, he had hit rock bottom and knew that he had to get help. He reached out to his father and with the support of his family and friends, he was able to find recovery. But then, Joseph’s close friend died by suicide from a drug overdose.

Filled with anger and pain, he had two choices ⎼ head to the bar or face his emotions. Determined to be the example he had set out to be, he poured his feelings onto paper and wrote the poem “Talk Ugly”.

Talk Ugly

The last time I saw you alive, I wish I would have talked ugly to you.

Said, put the straw down.

No, I don’t want to take another line,

I should be writing them.

My friend, you are a composer of music and magic.

Instruct your limbs to serve a purpose greater than self-indulgence.

Do not be fooled into thinking your pain has sharper teeth than anyone else’s.


I had a chance, but said nothing because I was high.

This is how I got started.

A bottle of Jack and a mirror.

Memories and scissors,

dreams drenched in ether sliced by razors,

potential rolled like $20 bills numbing the feeling on the tip of my tongue,

that I or this tongue should be serving a greater purpose.


In a last-ditch attempt at self-assessment,

I decided to look at my life through the eyes of loved ones,

for they see everything especially the ugly.

From years of drug use, from lying with to lying to angels,

friends I had forsaken, taking so much more than I had given.

I streamlined self-centeredness into a science

but there was righteousness there,

a willingness to craft these ills

through alchemy and poetry into a seer stone.

But honestly how can I speak ugly to you

when I was yet to speak it to myself.


In these nightmares of hindsight there is no poetry,

No alliterations to soften the blow,

Some realities have no simile; truth is like truth.

How could I form my lips to call your suicide a tragedy,

when I left you alone in that room kept company by narcotics

and the thousand ghosts draped in your disappointments.

I can only imagine all the voices you heard,

all but mine.


Smear makeup onto disgust if you must,

trust, the truth is seldom pretty but she is always beautiful.

It is in times like these, that I need you to please talk ugly to me.

My pain needs it.

Too many times we caress sadness when it needs to be shaken

torn from its place of comfort,

forced to grow wings to survive or die.


Don’t just tell me I can grow up and be whatever I want,

tell me that whatever I want better be something I’m willing to achieve,

that dreams will dissipate under the weight of addiction

and that there is a distinct difference between living like a rockstar

and actually being one.


Sometimes no matter how many poems you’ve written –

you’re just a cokehead and a poser.

Fear not, we are all divinely flawed individuals –

perfectly ugly.

There’s no point hiding behind pretty lies.

We are the sum of the hideous scars

that hold together the remainder of our pretty pieces.


The last time I saw you alive

I wish I would have talked ugly to you.

It would have been the most beautiful thing –

I never said.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.

Portrait Placeholder No Profile Image

Joseph Green

Joseph Green dedicates his life to breaking down the barriers surrounding addiction and recovery, and providing safe spaces for youth to speak their truths. To learn more about him and his work, visit [LMS Voice](