difficulty with alpha uv maps

I was just finishing up texturing a component part using texture paint in the 3d viewer, saved my work (as always) began working on a second piece in the same scene and all of my textures I just painted went black. tried ctrl z, still black. tried RELOADING MY SAVE, STILL BLACK. very frustrating. anybody have this happen to them?

Did you save the texture you painted on before saving your blend file ?

uh, no. ofc I forget that blender likes to separate files instead of grouping them like projects in most other applications I work with. -_- still, why would the entire thing just go black for no reason? what could have caused this?

also, I just tried creating a new texture map to restart making it, and set alpha to 0.00 as I did last time. and the new texture is showing up black… not entirely sure what I did…