“And did you find the relief you were seeking?” Andrew asks.
As promised, I called Andrew after losing myself in the gym for a good four hours. Samuel even volunteered to do a little sparring. I’d like to say it was light taps, but I’m pretty sure he left a couple of sizable bruises on my ribcage. Not really sure how I’m going to explain those to Ryann.
“No, I didn’t find any relief from finding the bottle. If anything, I felt awful because I made Ryann feel guilty.” I tell him.
“You know the guilt Ryann is feeling is because she feels like she let you down. That maybe she is the reason for causing you to stray.” Andrew explains. And I already know this.
“But it’s not her fault,” I say defensively.
“I know that, and you know that. But Ryann has taken responsibility for your sobriety that I honestly don’t fully understand. And I feel like she holds your sobriety above hers. If you fail, she fails in a way.” Gee thanks, lets pile on the guilt trip even more. “She’s very entuned to what you’re feeling.”
“And you don’t think I am?” I snap. Because even sitting in this damn office, I can feel the tether between Ryann and me. I can feel her discomfort. Her fears. Especially her fears. At times it feels like there is a cloud, a dark presence just hovering over Ryann. And when everything becomes too much, she breaks down and shuts down.
“No, I know you are too,” Andrew answers. “You two are two souls connected. I’ve never seen two people so connected before. The bond you two have is unique, to say the least.” I can’t help but smile. “And it’s why I think Ryann feels guilty. How would you feel if she relapsed?”
My heart immediately sinks as my blood pressure rises. Does he know something I don’t? Is this why Ryann won’t take her pain meds? Does she have a secret stash that I don’t know about? No, no, I know Ryann. She wouldn’t do that to herself. “Wha-do you know something I don’t?”
“And by your reaction, it’s the same as Ryann’s. What you’re feeling is exactly how she was feeling.” Andrew tells me. Taking a pen from the pen holder, I randomly toss it into the trashcan across the room. Highly annoyed at the hypothetical, I quickly reacted to it. If he wanted to make a point, he could’ve thought of another way of doing it.
“Fine, you made your point,” I say, sighing a breath of relief. But I need to hear what I already know. “So, Ryann has not relapsed?”
I practically hear Andrew shake his head, “No, she hasn’t. And I think if she had, you would have known.”
I’d hope that I would. I believe with my heart and soul that she’s not anywhere near the road of relapse. Not like me. I believe she does have a handle on her sobriety, unlike me. But the thought is a fear lingering in the back of my mind. One that screams, if Ryann can’t make it, neither can you.
The voice isn’t wrong.
If the strongest woman I know can’t stay sober, is there really any hope for the rest of us. For me? I want to be strong for Ryann. I want her to be able to lean on me and not bear the brunt of any hardships life has left to throw at her. I want her...no, I need her to be able to share those burdens with me.
Because I’m determined to succeed. Not only for Ryann but for me too. What happened today could have been a massive setback. If I had down that bottle, I would have....it would have been detrimental.
“I would have,” I admit. “I’m not sure what happened today, Andrew. I’ve never lost control like this. Normally, I can resist. But today, today, it felt like someone else was controlling my body.”
“Thomas, have you thought any more about attending meetings?” Urgh, again with the meetings. “Before you chew my head off. Just think about it. Or at least, let me set you up with a guy I know. Someone you’ll be able to talk to face to face because sometimes a simple phone call isn’t always good enough. Sometimes we need that support in person too. And I know you’re surrounded by nothing but support. You’ve really done one hell of a job weeding out the assholes in your life. But as a recovering addict, we sometimes need that support from the sobriety community.”
Doesn’t Ryann count as the sobriety community? Her support should be enough to bring me out of any close call. But if that were the case, then what the hell happened today? My need drowned out her voice. Until I physically saw her standing in front of me. It was like she snapped me out of a horrible nightmare. “Isn’t Ryann part of that community?”
“She is,” Andrew states. “But....” why is there a but? “She contributes the success of her sobriety to the meetings she attends.”
Staring at the doorway of the office, I see the soft glow of the lights from the living room and kitchen slowly illuminating a pathway down the hallway, reminding me of a scene from a dream. One where I’m disorientated, lost, and I can’t find my way. It’s like being in a distorted and demented funhouse filled with all my horrid memories and the awful things I’ve done.
I’m forced to relive everything I’ve tucked away from myself. The memories of the car crash flood me as I’m trapped looking in. Almost like a fucking movie that is meant to torment my life. One I don’t want to watch. I can see my mom, I can see my dad through the windshield, and I can see myself passed out in the backseat. Then my nightmare turns into a horror because one minute it’s my mom in the front seat, and the next it’s Ryann. She’s not breathing. I can’t find a pulse. I can feel my world collapsing around me. Even when I wake in a cold sweat, it takes me a minute to realize where I am. It’s not until I find Ryann laying next to me and I’m able to see the rise and fall of her chest that I’m able to relax fully.
“Thomas, let me ask you something?” Andrew asks, forcing me out of the wayward thought. I also realize that I completely zoned out of the conversation, too, and have no idea what he’s just said.
“Depends on the question.”
I hear Andrew sigh into the phone, “What scares you about attending a meeting? Do you think it’s a form of weakness?”
No, I don’t think it’s a form of weakness. I believe addicts who do attend meetings are strong. Stronger than I could ever be. I don’t want to start going to meetings and to gain success in my sobriety, only to let more people than I need to down.
I nearly relapsed today. I already let Ryann down in more than one way. I don’t think I can let a room full of people down too.
“No, I don’t think it’s a form of weakness. Do you seriously think I think Ryann is weak in any way?”
“Well, no. I know you don’t. But I’m curious Thomas, why?” He pushes.
I’m starting to become frustrated instead of feeling any type of tranquil I should be. “Because,” I nearly shout, “I don’t want to let more people than I need to down. I let Ryann down today and....”
“Whoa, Thomas, slow down. Ryann is not disappointed in you.”
I can’t help but scoff, “And how do you know this?”
“Because she called me.” She what? “Ryann told me that you were to be calling and told me what happened. She needed someone to talk to.”
I wonder why she didn’t call Teresa or Carl. Or maybe she did, and she still reached out to Andrew.
“Thomas, you have to know that Ryann would be the last person to judge you if you were to slip up. Something that I’m sorry to say can still easily happen. You know the statistics for addicts. Relapsing is high.” He informs me even though I don’t need the educational lesson. “But I don’t need to tell you that,” he continues. “I also don’t need to tell you that more addicts have success with continual meetings.”
Rolling my eyes, “Do you still attend.” I know the answer. It’s no.
Wait, what? All the time spent together on and offset; he’s never once mentioned that he continued with his meetings. “You’ve never mentioned this to me.”
“And why would I? It’s my business, not anyone else’s. I’ve done the whole trying to stay sober without help, and I tanked. Fucking hard and ended up going to rehab. I had my first meeting while I was in rehab and realized the benefits.” He pauses a moment, “Listen, I have no issue helping you conquer and succeed with your sobriety. But Thomas, you’re balancing on a very thinned line that I’m not sure I can help you stay balanced on. Today is a setback...”
Cutting him off, “But I didn’t....”
But I’m immediately interrupted, “I know you didn’t. But would you have if Ryann didn’t catch you?”
Running a hand through my hair, I know the answer. I would have. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself if Ryann hadn’t found me. I would have drunk that entire bottle and left to get more. I would have left Ryann and her family at the condo and blew every fucking thing that I had worked my ass for behind.
“And by your silence, that answer is yes. Think about it, Thomas. Meetings may help you more than you think.”
Grinding my teeth, “I’ll think about it.”
“In the meant time, I’m going to forward you a contact. He was someone I went to when I needed someone to talk to when I was in New York for work.” He tells me.
Rolling my eyes, “I’m not talking to.....”
“Thomas, listen,” Andrew nearly bellows into the phone. “You need more than just the phone call counseling. You need face-to-face and more guidance than what I can give you thousands of miles away. I’m giving you Cam’s information. He helped me; he will help you. Plus, he’s an MMA fighter now. So you’ll have someone who can kick your ass into shape.”
I seriously doubt that. “I’ll think about it. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Ya, you too. And Thomas, take care of yourself. Do not think you have to take everything on yourself. Lean on Ryann like she leans on you.”
Ha, easier said than done. Because who else is supposed to take all of this drama shit show on? I can’t put any more weight on Ryann’s shoulders. Hanging up the phone, an ear-shattering scream rings out across the condo.
Flying out of the office chair, it knocks to the floor as I bolt out of the office and down the hall to our bedroom. I bypass Travis, Jonathan, and Heather and nearly run Val over as she swings her bedroom door open to find out what’s going on.
Opening our bedroom door, I find Ryann thrashing in bed. Screaming. Begging for whatever horror to end with the repeated stop, no, that’s not mine, and I don’t feel good. Jumping on the bed, I scoop Ryann into my arms just as everyone else breaks into the room.
Forcing her head into my chest, I attempt to hold her still. To keep her from harming herself and to keep her from breaking open her incision site. “Shh, babydoll, wake up. You’re safe. Wake up. Come back to me.”
Ryann slowly stops thrashing in my hold and begins to relax. Her breathing is heavy as I watch the rise and fall of her chest. Pulling her out of my grasp slightly, I push away the strands of hair from her face as her eyes begin to dart around the room frantically. This time, it doesn’t take her long to realize where she is as she claws her way back into my arms.
Holding her tightly, “It’s okay, you’re safe. I promise.” I say softly, with Ryann sobbing into my chest. “I’m here. You’re safe, babydoll.” Looking to the doorway, I find Travis ushering everyone out of the bedroom and attempting to usher a very concerned Val too. She goes to step into the bedroom but is intercepted by Jonathan and urged out of the room. And by the death glare he’s receiving, he’s about to get an earful.
As soon as I hear the bedroom door shut, “Babydoll, what were you dreaming about?” She shakes her head. “Does it have anything to do with finding me with a bottle of liquor?” Again she shakes her head. “Then talk to me, please.” I practically beg.
Ryann huffs out a ragged breath before pulling out of my arms and sits across from me. Her hands fly into her hair as she rakes her fingers through the tangled strands. “I uh, erm. There is a reason why I don’t want to take my pain meds.”
Okay, not where I thought this conversation would start. “Oh, okay.”
“The dream is nothing new,” she admits. “It’s the same one over and over again. Like my mind is trying to make sense out of an aspect of my hazy life. But this time, instead of being in the basement, when I tried to wake, I woke in a hospital.”
And I know she’s not talking about the hospital she was just released from.
“One night, after a party, I was taken to the hospital. Max found me passed out in his parents’ yard, and I had bruises and lacerations on my arms and wrists.” That motherfucker. I’m going to fucking kill him. Ryann honestly doesn’t remember that night that it was Benji who saved her and her best friend who sold her out. “My stomach was also pumped that night, and I was kept for two nights on fluids. I don’t remember much the first night I was there. But when I was discharged, I was prescribed meds, like the ones I’m taking now. Only.....” She trails off as she begins to twist her necklace.
“Ryann, sweetie, what is it?”
I watch her bite her lower lip, “I don’t even know-how. I mean, Jamie never went into my bedroom. At least, I don’t think he did. I mean.....it’s possible, but he would talk to my dad none stop about football. I....and I didn’t do it. I just don’t know how.”
“Babydoll, how what?” I urge. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
Ryann releases her lip, her hazel eyes wide and perplexed. “My pills were switched out. And I don’t know with what.” Ryann looks over her shoulder towards the closet, “And I’m afraid that those pills will be too. That after I take them, I’ll start to feel woozy and lose control of my body.”
Reaching for her hands, I force my fingers between hers. “Ryann, babydoll, I swear on my life that the pain medication in the bathroom is just that. They have not been switched out. I promise you.”
“I know they haven’t. But it’s a fear, Thomas. I’m so afraid that I’m going to slip and relapse. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about asking for something stronger. It’s something that is easily done. That all I need to do is ask. To say my current medication isn’t working, and I’ll get the opioids that will take all of this away.”
My heart heaves against my chest. Nearly jumping out to the sheets below and ready to hightail it the fuck out of here. Ryann has preached this to me before, and so has Andrew. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sober. The temptation to slip back into old habits is always lurking around the shadowed corner. “Ryann, have you called Teresa?”
I watch a small smile loom in the corner of her lips, “Yes, I called her while you were at the gym and after mom and Jen left. I didn’t want them to know.”
And I know Ryann. She didn’t want her mom and sister to view her as weak. To continue to worry about her when they’re still fusing over Ryann because of the car accident. “Did you feel better talking with her?”
Ryann shakes her head slightly, “Thomas, I know you find them unnecessary, but I need a meeting.”
Pulling on Ryann’s arms, she collides into my chest, my arms wrapping around her, “If they help you, they are not unnecessary. Do you have a place in mind you want to go?”
I feel Ryann nod her head against my chest, “There is a meeting tomorrow morning. You are more than welcome to come if you want.” I want to say this could be a trap, but I don’t think it is. I genuinely believe that this is something Ryann needs. To keep her sobriety in tack, she needs this. “If you don’t, that’s fine too. Travis can come with me.”
Taking a deep breath in, I’m going to bite the giant fucking bullet. “I’ll go with you.”
Ryann pulls out of my hold, surprised as a crook smile falls to her face, “Really?”
“Really. Ryann, I love you so much. I’ll do whatever you ask.” Cupping my hand to her cheek, my thumb grazes across her ample soft skin, and I can’t help but think of trailing kisses along her jawline and down her neck. To hear her soft moans, begging me for more. Leaning, I feel the softness of her lips against mine. Ryann’s hands fist in my hair and pulls against the strands as she deepens the kiss.
The primal growl that I’m attempting to suppress escapes as the taste of her takes control of my body. My mind and restraint flying out the window.
With the shove of my shoulders, my back meets the bed as Ryann straddles over me. I know that having sex is a terrible idea, but I can’t stop. Not when Ryann is calling all the shots. “I love you,” she says with a determined smile against my lips before pulling away and sliding down my front, her hands fidgeting with the button of my jeans.
Dear Lord, have mercy; I’ve missed her mouth.