Reacting with grace


Yesterday two of my coworkers were let go due to the fact that enrollments are down and the school where I work is trying to save money.  They are both women that I like personally and enjoyed working with.  I am closer to one than the other, we do things together outside of work like walking on Saturday mornings, dinners together and Bible study.  I know that we will stay in touch and continue our friendship.  But it was still really hard to see her go, and the afternoon was filled with whispers about “what happened?” and shocked looks from those that were just finding out.  It was sad.  Both women showed an amazing amount of acceptance and peace about the situation, even though I know that they both need an income.  There were no tears, they didn’t run off as quickly as they could.  They finished up what they were working on, packed up their stuff, and hugged everyone good-bye.  I was amazed at their composure.

As I watched my friend pack up her stuff, I was reminded of my behavior when I have been laid off from jobs.  The first time, I had worked for a bank for about 8 years, and I didn’t see the lay-off coming.  It was early in the day and the district manager came in and asked me to meet with him in the conference room.  He and I had a good rapport, so even then, I didn’t think anything was wrong.  As soon as we sat down, he began reading from the papers in front of him.  He didn’t make eye contact.  I was astonished at what he was saying and the tears started to flow.  I had recently gotten divorced and I didn’t know what I was going to do to put food on the table.  I had to leave the room a couple of times to collect myself so that my manager could continue reading his script.  When he was done, I was told I had to go pack up my personal belongings and leave immediately.  There was already a box waiting at my desk.  I threw my things in it and left.  I called friends and I called my mom, but what I really wanted to do was get drunk.  I went over to my mom’s for a little while, hoping for comfort, instead getting a “I guess you better look for a job.”  I stayed there long enough for my mom to think I was alright (I suspect that she already knew at that time that I was drinking too much), and headed home.  There, I accomplished my plan of getting drunk.

At that time, I was clearly drinking more than I should have, but I wasn’t yet getting into any trouble with it.  I drank, I cried, I went to bed.  There were no calls made to the police, I wasn’t waking up next to strange men, I was still a pass-out drinker and not a blackout one, and I was still taking care of my daughter.

The next time I was laid off from a job was a few years later.  I had been to treatment and was doing pretty well at staying sober.  In other words, I wasn’t drinking, but I wasn’t practicing real emotional and spiritual sobriety.  I was remarried and happy with the relationship.  Up until that point, everything had been going pretty well.  I was called into a meeting with the director and my immediate supervisor.  They were very compassionate and sincere when they said that they were sorry that the decision to eliminate my position had come down from corporate, and that they hated to lose me.  I stayed calm.  I thanked them for all that they had done for me and asked them to please keep me in mind if another position opened up.  I packed my things, hugged everyone and left.  I didn’t cry in the office, but the tears started falling as I walked out into the parking lot.

As soon as I got in the car, I called my husband to tell him the news.  I lied and told him I was okay and that he shouldn’t leave work.  I found myself in the middle of a panic attack.  Hell, we weren’t doing all that great financially, and now I was out of work with no severance.  It had taken me a long time to even find this job I had just lost.  On the way home I pulled into the parking lot at CVS before I even realized what I had planned.  As I walked into the store, I could hear the voice of reason somewhere in the back of my mind telling me not to buy booze.  I ignored it.  I bought a fifth of vodka and headed home.  I took the first swig before I started the car.

I did something that alcoholics do…I drank in the midst of a crisis.  I didn’t think about consequences, my husband’s feelings, or what would happen afterwards.  I catastrophized a situation that obviously wasn’t the end of the world, lots of people get laid off.  I just needed to stop feeling the anxiety, uncertainty and fear.  My emotions felt too overwhelming to handle, so I guzzled the vodka while I cried.  I don’t remember my husband getting home from work that day, I was already in a blackout.  I remember bits and pieces of the evening, and it wasn’t pretty.  It was probably one of my worst drunks ever, but that’s a post for another time.

What I am able to see now, is that getting drunk didn’t make anything better.  In fact, it made things worse.  I’m not talking about the massive hangover, which seemed to go on for days, I’m talking about the guilt and shame that I felt after.  I had let my husband down, scared him I’m sure, and I had let myself down.  Then, I wasn’t just unemployed, I was severely depressed and remorseful too.  It was pretty awful.

The reason I am writing all of this is because yesterday as I watched my friend pack up her things, I wondered if she would be alright.  She’s a normie so I didn’t really think that she would go out and tie one on.  The last thing that we talked about before she left work is that God will always provide for us.  That is something that I never would have even considered, let alone believed, when the same thing happened to me.  For her to have faith, in that difficult moment, was so beautiful.

I texted my friend last night and she really was okay.  I know that she will be fine, and more importantly, she knows that she will be fine.

I wish that I had known that about myself in the past.  And when my next crisis comes at me, I hope I remember it.

7 thoughts on “Reacting with grace

      • Once again you are right on target. Grace. Hurtful situations are never the end of the story. Taking a deep breath and remembering whose story we are in and whose hands enfold us, allows us to react with grace. Consider the lilies of the field. Thanks, Jami!

  1. You already remember it – and knowing that is more than half the battle.

    10 years ago the company I worked for cut my department from 150 to about 30 pretty much overnight. Being a USA company they didn’t quiet understand UK rules but did finally get it sorted correctly. I had to make a bunch of people redundant – I was the man reading the script. I stopped drinking to do that, how could I do that drunk for those people, some I’d worked with for 10 years or more. Once through that I was told I was going as well. My first thought was “Oh God I’ll drink myself to death”. That is what I thought. Another guy left and I stayed. I started drinking again – that was the last year of my drinking and totally awful. 7 years later I left there again being made redundant, by then it was clear they were going to close our site and move it all back to the USA and stop being an “international” company. I was glad to go, I’d had enough and it was ok. I wept like crazy at home that last day when I read the messages from lots of really good colleagues but I never once thought about a drink during that time at all.

    Take strength that others like you have done these things and not had to drink and you know that too now… to the future!

  2. I used many minor catastrophes as a way to express years of pent up feelings, not just as an excuse to drink (although that happened as well). Great post Jami, and as always, so beautifully authentic. 🙂

  3. Good Morning Traci, I was so happy to find your blog! Love your writing style and honesty! I have only just started blogging a few days ago, it has already taken me to some wonderful sites and learning so much. Thanks for sharing……A Serene Soul….Lisa

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