256 Shades of Gray

I have never been a black and white person. I have never been able to compartmentalize my life, feelings or anything else that is remotely organized. I gravitate towards things that force me to organize my thoughts such as planners, note taking apps and Pinterest boards showing me how to organize my clothing chaos into a neat closet. Do I do it? No. I can’t. Most of the time I give it an honest effort but then my attention is sucked into a different direction and I leave piles of grass on the lawn when I was supposed to have finished my grand landscaping idea. Seeing things in either black or white has always eluded me and that’s ok. Nothing in my world is ever what it seems. I have tried to keep up appearances throughout my entire life but putting on an act of “Everything’s Ok” doesn’t work well when you wear your heart on your sleeve and face.

I know people don’t understand my life. They see a black and white situation that is either this or that. They don’t see the complexity of the various shades of gray in between the extremes on the spectrum. I learned about the various shades of gray when I began my work in graphic design. I had no idea there were so many different variances of the black and white mixture. It became a metaphor for how I saw my world unfold when I got sober. Before I cleaned up everything was black. I didn’t have any white. Just lots of darkness. Then as I started taking suggestions and changing my life, the shades of gray began to appear and I realized that people don’t always appear as they really are. Before I put down alcohol and drugs, I was a crazy unpredictable time bomb who could go from laughing with you to punching you in the face without warning. My picture at my college formal with my boyfriend at the time shows me smiling and him dressed up with a black eye that I had given him during one of my episodes. Am I like that now? No. I haven’t hurt anyone like that since April 1993. But if that is what you saw on paper, you would have thought I was completely insane.

If things were black and white or absolute, other heart mamas wouldn’t lose their children. They would have had their children through their diligent efforts of keeping them alive. They would be healthy because they appeared to be healthy. Unfortunately many of us know this is not always true and it is devastating when you see a mother do everything to save her child only to have them pass. If all of her efforts were defined on paper, then the outcome should have been different.

I have to begin a project that will help me sort through the chaos in my life right now. I am not looking forward to it but I have great hope in the perspective it will give me. With her surgery looming over my head I need to make sense of things. There are times when things need to be put away where they belong. Clutter doesn’t suit me both internally and externally.

I do understand why people find comfort in linear thinking. It’s easier if things are simple. Complexity requires a person to adapt and if you don’t like change then it’s not easy. But it’s not easy trying to make sense of things when they don’t make sense. Many things in life have 256 shades of gray instead of two colors. It’s important for me to remember that other people don’t see life that way. At the same time, if my past defines me as a human being, I wouldn’t have a life that comes close to what I have today.


Second Chance

Fourteen years ago today I was blessed with a second chance. After having seven years of not-so-great sobriety I picked up a drink after my dearest friend committed suicide. The foundation that I thought was strong enough to hold me crumbled beneath my feet and suddenly my options were to drink or to drink. Prior to her death I was slowly cutting back on meetings and moving away from the friends I had met in sobriety.

The night before I made the decision to come back was not very exciting. It was the Saturday night earlier that had been disastrous and since then I was on the fence as to whether I could manage my drinking or not. That decision was made when I began to panic that there wasn’t any more vodka left. I had enough for one screwdriver and I knew by how my body felt that it wasn’t going to be nearly enough. My daughter who was three at the time, was sleeping in her room and I couldn’t go to the store to get more. Never mind the fact that I had a case of beer in the fridge, a full bottle of rum and a full bottle of tequila. What was I going to do without vodka?
I had been sober long enough to see what was happening and I knew that my little ‘vacation’ from sobriety was over. The next day I was let go from my job and I went home in tears not having a clue as to what I was going to do next. I went through the group phone list I had at the time and after calling at least 25 people (no exaggeration, big group) I reached an old timer named Smitty. I had known Smitty ever since I first joined the Airport group in 1993, and he knew I hadn’t been around for a while. After making a few jokes he walked me through dumping everything I had. His wife Sally picked me up that night and took me to the Jordan group. Our group had a commitment there and for the first time I had to decline speaking because I didn’t even have 24 hours.
That Friday I walked in front of people who helped me 7 years earlier to pick up my white 24 hour chip. I remember the look on the guy’s face who was handing out chips that night of complete surprise. Once again I had to start from the beginning. The cravings almost drove me insane, my sponsor at the time fired me because she felt that she didn’t do a good enough job with me and I had to find ways to get back to meetings with a small child. Night after night I sat in my chair holding on with both hands to keep myself from running out. It was humiliating. Everything I swore would never happen to me happened. My career in graphics was over. I was unemployable. My mother was contemplating taking my daughter for a while so I could get my head together. I had cravings that humbled me and had me scared to drive around alone. Alcohol kicked the shit out of me and the arrogance I had months earlier vanished.

Today here I am with twice the amount of years that I had lost and once again I am starting over. My emotional state has been all over the place just like it was when I first got sober again. People are angry with me just like before only this time i don’t have alcohol to blame for my actions. It was suggested to me to do a mini inventory to clean out some of the junk that is festering inside and after reviewing a few of the questions I knew this was going to be my hardest one yet. I will be holding myself accountable for the decisions I made and it is going to be almost impossible. But I need to do it. I need to clean house from the inside out so I can be happy. After all, a wise man once told me that happiness is the by product of right living. I want to live the way God intended me to.
My girls have been away with their dad on vacation this week. It has been the most excruciatingly painful week I have had yet. And I know that this is something people are hoping for- me not having them and it crushes me. I have cried every day, I have been looking at my phone constantly to see if any new pictures from the beach were sent. My ears miss the sound of their voices and giggles. My arms miss hugging them. Even now as I write this I am tearing up. It hurts to not have them with me and so this week has been challenging to say the least.
But here I am, sober another 24 hours and for another year. Thinking back to the moments I had clinging to my chair with my head down in humiliation, I can say that in spite of the pain I have right now, it beats looking at the floor in shame. I am not withdrawing today. I woke up knowing what I did the night before, which was making lemon squares for my meeting. I am going to walk in front of people who i have grown to love and accept my 14 year medallion with no shame. Huge difference I would say. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me this year and years past, especially my first sponsor Becky who taught me how to walk away from the drink not towards it.