Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Inside Page

I got the cleaning bug early this morning.    I had a million other things I was supposed to be doing, and that is generally when I decide to delve into non-essential projects.  

I started mucking out drawers I hadn't opened in a few years, sorting through the old clothes and filling bags to give to charity.

My thoughts ran wild as I worked.   My head was full of all the things I have going on right now:  my growing business, the kids' activities, holiday madness and social engagements.

I wasn't really paying attention to what I was doing.    When my fingers brushed the edge of something at the bottom of a drawer, at first I had no idea what it was.

The posterboard is yellowing, and the cut-outs are curling up with the passage of time, but after a moment I realized what I had in my hand.

When I was at my thirty day rehab stay, we had "art time".    The counselors would give us a project designed to tap into our creative side and hopefully give us some access to our own truths at the same time.

I hated art time.   It felt like so much macaroni-art-at-camp to me.   Drunks Who Draw, I called it under my breath.    I threw out everything I made there; it was too sad, too painful, too pitiful.    For some reason, though, I kept one project.   I must have stuffed it into this drawer, fresh home from rehab, and forgotten about it.

Until today.

The project was simple, and its motives were obvious.  We were instructed to take a piece of poster board and fold it in half, like a book.    On the front page, we were told to cut out pictures and phrases from magazines that we felt expressed who we were on the outside.   On the inside page, we were to do the same, only this time using pictures and phrases that expressed our insides; the parts of us we didn't let the world see.

I remember scoffing openly as I clipped pieces from magazines, making sardonic comments about how Sandra-Bullock-In-The-Movie-28-Days this felt.  "Shouldn't we be singing Kumbaya while we do this?" I remember saying, my humor a weak deflection at the pain I was feeling.

When I found it, my mouth dropped open in surprise.   My hands shaking, I plunked down on the floor to read.

Here are some of the things I pasted to the outside page, how I thought the world saw me:

living in the spirit of the moment
the go-getter
the difference between being listed to and being understood
fine home
the lady is on a roll
I will be there for you
keep on moving
spreads sunshine

The inside page, the way I really felt, revealed this:

the end of invincibility
playing with fire
more, more, more
phoning it in
out of whack
missing the completeness
you couldn't spot me in a crowd
supporting role

And, on the other side of the inside cover, five small words, outlined in pen:

Sometimes, the person I used to be feels very far away.   The scared, broken hopeless woman who ran to the solace of a bottle every night doesn't feel real to me.  

My life today is in balance, full of light and life, and it is hard for me to touch that despair.  I don't remember how alcohol consumed me; how it robbed me of humor, compassion and spirit.

I'm thankful I didn't throw this one away.  As I sat there on the floor, shaken, my gratitude came roaring back. 

Because today?   Today the outside page is me.   And it matches the inside page, too.


  1. I love that your outsides now match your insides. It's a good life.

  2. the hand holding on the inside gave me chills.

  3. I needed to read this today. Thank you for posting!!

  4. Having the inside match the inside is, really, the ultimate goal, I think. And to always work to have that be so.

    I've been thinking quite a bit about how easy it is to forget how bad it was, to forget who the alcoholic you (me) really was. I've had to rehash it a bit for myself, painfully, to come to terms with how deep and dark things really got. I guess it's important to always remember. What a reminder you got though... and thanks for sharing, Ellie. :)

  5. Oops! That would be inside to match the outside. Obviously.

  6. Wow - this post gave my goosebumps. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Great post! Thank you for sharing. Peace.

  8. Becky (Princess Mikkimoto)December 6, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Its wonderful to be able to look at how far you have come. Congrats!! It's really wonderful.