Promise Me Always(3)

By: Rhonda Shaw


I scratched at my hair and met his gaze. “Uh…yeah.”

“What happened?”

I cleared my throat and struggled to take a deep breath, the reality of my situation weighing on me. “I OD’d. Almost died.”

“And now?”

“Well, yeah…I want to be clean.”

“Of course, that’s why we’re all here.” He smiled at me. “But why do you want to be clean?”

He asked me the same question every day since I’d first arrived, and I still wrestled with answering it.

“Because…” I trailed off. Today wasn’t any different.

I stared right into the counselor’s pale gray eyes and almost said what was on the tip of my tongue. But if I voiced it, he would lecture me again about how I couldn’t think that way. I can’t change for someone else; everything needed to be for myself.

I understood that, I did, and I wanted to change for myself, but if I were being one-hundred percent straight, I also wanted to be someone she would be proud of. Not this sorry ass drug addict who’d almost killed himself by taking too many Ativan before chasing with bottles of whiskey. She would hate that person, wouldn’t understand the pull, the need for the drugs to make it through the day—to even face the day—and she would have turned away from it all…away from me.

He understood what was going through my head and nodded. “Take more time, Danny. We’ll try again next time. Samantha? How about you?”

With the attention off me, I rubbed my hand over my now short hair and leaned against the back of the chair. I closed my eyes, not bothering to listen to anyone else’s sad, pathetic story. Mine was fucked up enough; I didn’t need the added misery.

Gabrielle.

Just thinking her name caused my chest to ache and my heart to thud. Six years, and I still wasn’t over her—far from it. I thought about her every day, never missing one since the horrible night at The Sanctuary. Countless times, I’d wanted to cave, determined to find her. But I’d stopped myself, knowing she likely hated me and would refuse to give me the time of day. Even though I didn’t blame her, not one bit, her rejection had the power to slay me. From anyone else, I could deal, but not her. Instead, I’d turned to drugs and alcohol, desperate to dull the constant pain deep in my bones, to chase away the hallowing loneliness inside of me. My life since that night had been nothing but a fucking mess.

To any outsider, looking back with remorse probably seemed fucking ridiculous since the stars had aligned for me as soon as I’d reached L.A. with my boys, Dollar and Big T, and had lucked out with a connection to an agent. After securing a contract, it seemed only months later I was a huge star, almost a household name. But I’d lost all that time to a drug-filled haze.

“Okay, everyone. Thanks for all the sharing. We’re done for today.” The torment was finally over as the counselor ended the session.

I hopped up and booked it out of there before anyone tried to stop me. I kept my gaze low to avoid eye contact, and almost made it back to my room without interference, until I turned a corner and smacked straight into one of the other participants. Gary, or something.

“Hey, DOA! I wanted to ask you—”

“Oh, hey, man.” I cut him off, sidestepping him. “Yeah, no, that’s cool, but maybe later, all right?” I shoved a thumb over my shoulder as I kept walking. “I’ve got…something to do.”

“Oh, yeah. Sure. No, that’s cool. I’ll catch you later.”

With my teeth clenched, I let out a breath through my nose and prayed for patience, and when I reached the door to my room, I slammed it behind me. This was the last place I wanted to be, but it was the only place I found peace. To sit in one of the common rooms meant just that; I would have to socialize with others in the program, the absolute last thing I felt like doing. It was always the same, incessant questions about my music, my personal life. Then they’d bring up the stupid fucking rumors—who I was sleeping with, how I’d ended up in rehab—about anything that wasn’t their damn business, and I wasn’t in the mood to ward it off.

So instead, I grabbed my journal with an embossed “D” on the cover from the white Formica desk, and sat on the bed with my back against the wall. I had to work through this fucking block, write ideas for new songs, and somehow get my mind off my problems. But as I sat there struggling to come up with something, even just one motherfucking word, I had nothing. After a half an hour, a blank page blared at me with only doodles in the margin.