Erik’s leg was shaking up and down as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He felt almost embarrassed by how anxious and distracted he was that evening. Great first impression, huh?
But he couldn’t help it. There was just too much on his mind.
He thought of Harper’s grandmother, Jocelyne. He barely knew her, but her death still weighed heavily on his heart. She was always so kind to him, even when she had no right to be. His heart ached when he thought of everything Harper had put her through, and the part he had to play in it all.
At least I got to tell her I was sorry while I had the chance. Erik kept telling himself. But had Harper? He certainly hoped so.
Harper… She’d been on his mind so much too. Especially since the funeral. It’s really over. The realization hit him so hard… But seeing her that day had cemented the truth in his mind. There would be no going back for them. But then, did he really want that anyway?
As painful as it was to admit, without Harper, it felt like things were finally moving forward for him. He’d finally finished his rehab program after six long months. Hours spent every single day on bettering himself and overcoming his addiction.
It wasn’t easy at first… There were so many times he’d almost failed. Even one terrible night when he’d been moments away from calling up his old dealer. He literally had the phone in his hands before he came to his senses. And he was so glad that he did.
For so long, it had felt like he was carrying around a huge backpack full of rocks everywhere he went. Weighing him down. Making him slow, and weak. Hurting him.
Finally being free of his addiction had done so much to lighten that load. It was like he could finally stand up straight and breathe again.
And with some of the weight lifted, everything else had finally started looking up for him too.
He was still living with his brother. Danny said he could stay there as long as he needed to, until he got back on his feet. And Erik hoped that wouldn’t be too much longer…
He would be starting his first day of work the next morning.
That was the another thing on Erik’s mind that evening — the fear, uncertainty, and excitement of finally finding a job, after over a year of nothing. It was a programming position for a very small startup that was working on developing a series of mobile apps. And while it may not have been the job Erik had envisioned having back when he was at school, at least it was a job. He was so, so grateful to have one.
It felt good knowing he’d finally have the time and energy to actually focus on his career again. Now that his time in rehab was officially over, Erik only had two brief therapy sessions a week. He would be continuing his one-on-one work with Dr. Kirby… And attending a group session too.
Erik felt his panic beginning to rise yet again as the thought crossed his mind.
He was no stranger to group therapy. He’d spent the past six months meeting with a group down at the rehab center twice a week. And they were amazing. Erik had come to feel so comfortable with the other members of his group. They were all in the same boat. And he trusted them so much.
But now, he was back to square one. This was a whole new group — strangers.
Dr. Kirby assured him they were still people he’d be able to relate to and connect with… They’d all struggled with addictions. And they’d all made it through rehab, just like him.
But it still just felt so terrifying to be there with them.
“Thank you, Kevin…” The sound of Dr. Kirby’s familiar voice called Erik back to the present. “Erik? Would you like to introduce yourself to the group?” She offered kindly.
Shit. Erik felt his stomach turn. He had barely been listening as the other members of the group introduced themselves. Wow, I’m such an ass. He kicked himself mentally.
Obviously those introductions had been for his benefit — he was the only new member joining that evening. And he’d been so wrapped up in his own thoughts, he’d barely paid them any attention. The names and faces were already blurring together in his mind. The only one he seemed to remember was the freckle-faced woman with the sweet smile. Rubi, he recalled.
But what about the others? Oh well… I’m sure there’ll be plenty of chances to get to know everybody again. He told himself as he opened his mouth to speak. Well, here goes nothing…
“Um… hi.” Erik finally found his voice. “I’m Erik. I, uh… just finished up six months at Riverside.”
He felt his cheeks redden slightly as the others applauded him. God, I forgot how touchy-feely this crap can be. Erik almost laughed. But touchy-feely or not, this was what he needed. That much he knew.
“Heh. Thanks.” He continued uncomfortably. “So, um, anyway… I… I’m pretty glad to be done with that place. Not that it wasn’t great.” He added quickly. “I just… I guess I’m looking forward to finally working on… adjusting? Like, it almost feels like I’m re-entering the Land of the Living or something.” Erik let out a small chuckle.
A few of the other group members nodded sympathetically at his words. “I totally feel you, man.” The bearded man beside him said.
Across from him, Rubi smiled her sweet smile yet again. Erik felt his cheeks grow slightly warm at the sight. “Yeah… It’s never easy.” She said.
“Can you explain what you mean about the ‘Land of the Living’?” Dr. Kirby asked.
With a bit of reluctance, Erik turned his eyes away from the blonde woman’s freckled face. “Well, I guess I just mean, like… Feeling ‘normal’, I guess? I never realized til recently just how long it’s been since I’ve felt that way.” Erik’s lips curled into a slight smile as he spoke. “And the closer I get to ‘normal’, the closer I get to having custody of my kid someday, so… ‘Normal’ is pretty damn high on my priority list right now. And I’m hoping this group might help me get there.”
His therapist nodded kindly at him. “I hope so too.” She agreed before turning to address the group at large. “I think Erik brought up something very interesting about normalcy… Is there anyone else who’d like to share some thoughts about that?”
Erik breathed a small sigh of relief as the attention finally shifted away from him. Okay, that was a lot easier than I thought it’d be. He admitted to himself.
Maybe Dr. Kirby was right… Maybe this new group wouldn’t be so bad after all.
And maybe it would truly be another step toward ‘normal’.