Posted in Recovery, Today's File

Stand down the SWAT Team

A kindergartner might take a glacier’s age to put on a single tennis shoe while mom impatiently rattles the car keys in the morning, but put the same kindergartner in a circle with 24 other 5-year-olds and a single tub of crayons, and they move too fast to clock.  Like iron filings to a magnet, they seem to leap instantaneously to the target, 25 hands converging on the coveted colors.  Or perhaps just 24–usually a calm child or two waits at the others’ shoulders rather than competing in the first-wave frenzy.  Stevie was one of those, waited the extra moment for Crayola-filled-fists to withdraw before reaching in himself.

Stevie seemed serene, unperturbed by the regular Friday feeding-frenzy at the crayon-trough, not challenging his classmates for better position, not showing any sign of sulkiness at the inevitable delay in reaching the crayons himself.  In fact, he didn’t say much at all, simply went about his business, seemingly avoiding the normal classmate collision-courses inevitable among most kindergartners.

"experts" sometimes AREN'T...

Intending to fill a classroom corkboard with student work, Stevie’s teacher started sorting through several weeks’ worth of collected drawings–stick-figure families, houses under bright yellow suns and strips of blue sky, pets, cars, flowers…  And a drawing by Stevie of a black dog next to a black swingset.  Another Stevie-piece of a black sailboat on black water with black fish.  A family portrait–by blonde Stevie–of four black figures in front of a black house.

With a troubling new perspective on Stevie’s quiet demeanor, his teacher convened a school team of specialists.  Social Services descended on Stevie’s home, and the investigation took off.  Seven weeks into the psychological inquiry, with half a dozen professionals on the case, a “non-expert” grownup thought to ask Stevie why he always drew in black.  His unconcerned answer? “It’s the crayon that’s always left.

digging deep

All that fuss, and such a simple answer, really.

Left to its own devices, my mind will overcomplicate anything.  Almost a year ago I approached my A.A. Fourth Step (a “fearless and thorough moral inventory” of myself) in a state of mind I’ll describe as anything but fearless.  I have been guilty of engaging in the “A.A. Waltz” (three Steps and OutTheDoor!) but this time I hit Bottom…  or rather, my bottom hit me and handed me my ass–and I knew I couldn’t avoid that Fourth Step.  Two options only: I could uncover and address my own past–flaws, faults, and follies–or I could go back to the insanity of the drink.

I was ready to call in a whole SWAT team to deal with the black-crayon drawing that is the wreckage of my past; surely nothing less than a 20-member Hazmat team could manage the task!

But here’s the amazing alchemy of the Fourth Step: it converts my own past and fears from a threatening unquantified tangle into a known–and therefore, manageable–quantity. I have been disastrously human, but it turns out I don’t need a SWAT team or HazMat Response to deal with the situation that is ME–I simply need God, a Sponsor, and a writing utensil. Black will do.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

24 thoughts on “Stand down the SWAT Team

  1. Understanding ourselves is to unravel the turmoil. Once the turmoil stops being like a tangled mass of string then as you say it’s manageable

    Love this post.

    BTW nothing wrong with black if it’s all that’s around at the time!


  2. Black has always been my favorite color. I love that Stevie could draw the things he loved, and the color and didn’t matter. I loved this post.


  3. Another wonderful read. Thank you. A friend in the program for more than 35 years told me that more than any other indicator, a willingness to do a thorough fourth step was the one thing most necessary to maintain sobriety.
    And up here we call the AA three step waltz
    “One two three…
    One two three…
    I love you…
    You love me…”


  4. I was listening to a radio show some time ago when a woman called in asking the host why there is such a sharp rise in the number of stupid people in our country.
    The host’s answer: “When you apply higher education to people with a lack of belief in God, the combination produces stupid people.”
    So true.


  5. Kana…thank you!
    Loved the story of Stevie and the black crayon…I trust when I was a kindergarten teacher, I was more sensitive to the children who took a step back from the fray…I think I was…I remember a drawing I did in junior high of a girl dressed totally in black (me) standing at the edge of the picture, observing the crowd of others…and I did have access to the other colors in the crayon box….so I’ve always tried to notice the quiet ones.

    And I love your positive attitude as you rediscover yourself and your strengths. Your writing is compelling and wonderful!


  6. Such a wonderful black crayon story! Stevie is SO right–keep it simple and use what is available! Sounds like you are following this good example with your “fourth step”, Kana!


  7. Amazing how when you get the amorphous tangle outside yourself by writing about it, talking about it, singing about it, whatever, quite suddenly it’s not so amorphous anymore, it loses its emotional charge, and hey, guess what, you can move on with your life. Way to go Kana!


  8. Oh, my dear, I LOVE this post! As another who has been “disasterously human” (and will undoubtedly continue to do so, as long as I am alive), I salute you. We are definitely sisters under the skin. Peace.


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