“Did you do that all the time, hooking up while drinking?” he asked.
I shrugged again as my face continued to burn.
“Andrea, I need your answers. Your real answers. Or this is an absolute waste of time.” His stare met mine. “I need you to be honest. Sometimes painfully and embarrassingly honest. It’s the only way I’m going to help you. In a way, I’m going to break you, because that’s the only way I can really help you.”
Wow. This sounded like fun.
“Do you want to change?” he asked.
I suddenly thought back to those moments before I left the bar, when I realized that the change I needed wasn’t something external but all inside me. I’d recognized that before I’d gotten in the car.
Lifting my gaze, it was hard to hold his. “Yes. I want to change.”
I didn’t feel like smiling. “I’ve hooked up with guys when I’ve been drunk. There are times that I…” My face was seriously on fire. “That I don’t remember the details. I don’t even know what I’ve done or didn’t do.” Once I started speaking, the words kept pouring out. “I don’t even know if I wanted to be with them or if I thought it was expected. Or because I’d been drinking. I’ve done it a lot.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s been two or two thousand, Andrea.” He spread his arms wide. “There’s no judgment here.”
He waited. “What?”
It was hard to get the words out. “No judging? That’s a… unique concept.”
“Get used to it,” he replied, flashing a quick grin. “Is that the only time you’ve had sexual relations?”
Goodness, this conversation got awkward quick. Totally no breaking me in, but I wanted…I wanted to change more than I cared about being embarrassed.
“No. Not every time,” I whispered, staring at the front of his desk. There was a Baltimore Orioles sticker plastered across the center. “There was this one guy. He didn’t like that I drank like…like I did, and I think…he really liked me.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Dave became a magician when it came to getting me to put a voice to all my thoughts and fears and the random crap that sort of just came out of my mouth. There was a lot of talking and a lot of listening.
Sometimes we walked. Sometimes we talked in his office. Other times he made me talk in the art studio while I sat in front of a blank canvas. I had no idea what in the hell that was supposed to symbolize, but Dave…yeah, he was weird in a really effective way.
I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, something that didn’t seem to surprise Dave or the staff, but I did have a problem. I was a binge drinker, possibly one of the most dangerous forms of alcohol abuse. Where some…some alcoholics drank every day, a little here and a little more there, I drank until I was so drunk I couldn’t say my name. I drank to the point that the alcohol in my blood could kill me. I drank until I was unable to think, every single time. I didn’t have whatever people had in their heads that made them stop.
That wasn’t the only diagnosis. There were a couple more. An understanding that came two days after I’d told Dave how I had a habit of rearranging my furniture and painting the walls during those quiet moments. Of course, it wasn’t the only thing that led to the diagnosis. Years worth of stuff had led to it.
Depression and Anxiety.
The…the diagnosis didn’t surprise me either, not if I were being truthful. Maybe part of me had always known. Interesting enough, it would be a while before the role that alcohol played in my…my illness was known.
There was also an emphasis on physical activity. Besides the fact I was a little weak and a lot sore from surgery, there was a stress on staying healthy. I was lucky, though. I didn’t need physical therapy.
After the third week, I was allowed visitors twice a week for an hour each time. My parents came the first time, along with my brother, and that was hard. Syd came the second time, and that had been even harder.
Syd had told me that Tanner wanted to visit me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that, but I couldn’t avoid him forever. He hadn’t done anything wrong. For the most part, he’d done everything right, and I agreed to see him.
Tanner came on a Thursday afternoon, in the fifth week. Without makeup, I felt exposed as I waited for him in one of the visitation rooms. The whole makeup thing felt silly, but there was nothing between us now. Not even a layer of foundation. No pretenses.
The room wasn’t bad. It had a couch and two chairs, a table in the corner, and it was painted a pretty robin-egg blue, but I figured the room was monitored. Made sense. No one who worked here wanted people passing drugs or something to the patients.
I’d been waiting for about five minutes when the door opened. I looked up and my tummy dropped as I saw him. Goodness, it felt like forever since I’d last seen him.
Tanner walked into the room and then stopped. The door shut behind him, and he didn’t move as he stared at me. His brown hair appeared freshly cut, buzzed on the sides, and his jaw bare of stubble. Those electric-blue eyes burned bright from behind a fringe of dark lashes. His striking face was pale. For a long moment, neither of us moved, and then I stood on shaky knees.
He came forward, his long-legged pace eating up the distance between us, and then I was in his arms. I let out a soft gasp as I squeezed my eyes shut as he held me close to his chest, and I soaked up the warmth of his body, breathed in the fresh clean scent of his cologne.