Clair had more bouts with anxiety and called Glenn many times when she was down. The last phone chat with her, he suggested she attends one of his outpatient programs. During the conversation, Clair told him she wanted to toss out the prescribed pills and face her life head on without interference. Glenn suggested talking to her doctor first.
The group members gathered twice a week in a small, dimly lit room at the treatment center. It had stark, clinical white walls, and the ceiling painted a hideous shade of green, like watery pea soup, and the whole place smelled of disinfectant. On the walls hung the typical trappings: a framed copy of The Serenity Prayer, the AA symbol, and a large, full color poster of a unicorn. The chairs were lined up in a semi-circle; the furthest one was against a wall in a windowless room, and that is where Clair sat —smack dab in the middle. Glenn was positioned in the center, facing the rest of the attendees and straight across from Clair about ten feet away.
After weeks and a dozen meetings, she zeroed in about what her life meant to her, focusing on the past. She was always mindful of what Suerenia wrote in her book about letting go of her demons and those thoughts that haunted her, but this time in a pleasant way.
“It’s all under control.”
There were ten in the group including Glenn. He began the session with a brief, “So how are you folks doing today?”
And like little smart-ass elementary students, they replied in unison, “Very well, teacher.”
Counselors are trained ‘ignorers,’ except for those things that matter, and not much seems to get under their skin. They are more like trained seals, but Clair liked Glenn. He was a quiet man and an excellent therapist, but when you get him going —he’s like a dog on a bone.
“Before we get started today, we have a little business to discuss. Clair, I understand you and Hunter raided a sex addict meeting.”
“How appropriate is it to ask the group,” —then looking at his notes — “who wants to relapse?”
“It was fun,” she said with a hint of nervousness.
“Could you two please entertain yourselves with something else, like maybe go to a zoo?”
“You mean like this place?”
“Very amusing, Clair. And while you’re at it, please stop referring to the codependent patients as —” he does a quick scan of his notes again — “let me see here…, oh yes, ‘those poor sick, half-crazed bastards.’”
Embarrassed, she again let out a nervous giggle.
“Well, they are. They can’t breathe in and out without approval.”
Suerenia was always quiet and reserved but had something to say.
“Clair, how can you be so judgmental? I’m sorry, but you’re not here because you are the poster child for mental stability.”
Clair said nothing because she knew Suerenia was right.
Glenn sat and listened to Suerenia with approval, then said to Clair, “Do me a favor, keep your insults to yourself and leave the other groups alone. They have their struggles just like you. One more thing, Larry, I heard about your cousin. You have my sincerest condolence.”
Lisa asked, “What happened?”
“My cousin, Earnest passed away.”
Lauren responded, “That’s terrible!”
Glenn got up from his chair, walked over to Larry and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He responded with compassion and soft-spoken words.
“Larry, I am sorry your cousin died, but that’s not passing away —he got shot. Knowing the difference will help you in the grieving process.”
He knew of the circumstances involved in his death and aware he was killed during a rival gang confrontation. Glenn returned to his seat to finish the conversation.
“It tickles me — not in a rude way, but some confuse the term. The same thing with a suicide. I’d hear the same rhetoric that, so-and-so passed away when I knew damn well they killed themselves.”
Clair jumped to her feet.
“How can you be so cruel?”
“Cruel? I’m just stating the facts. Again, suicide is not passing away —one got gunned down, and the other one blew their damn brains out! Mostly they are decisions. One was at the wrong place at the wrong time, the other decided to ‘check out’ on their own.”
Clair sat down and muttered, “Semantics.”
“No, Clair, it isn’t. Passing away is something you do in your sleep or drop dead because of a heart attack or extended illness… that’s passing away. It’s nature’s way of saying it’s time to slow down.”
Blake commented, “Yeah, way down,”
Glenn glanced at the clock.
“Any questions or comments?”
“I have one.”
“Yes, what is it, Clair?”
“Glenn, you’re an idiot.”
“Thank you, Clair. I will take it under advisement. Alrighty then, enough of that. Let’s get started. Who wants to go first?”
There was silence.
“Clair, we’ll start with you.”
“Why me? What did I do? You’re just mad at me; besides, today is my birthday —the big two-eight.”
“I’ll address each. First off, I run the group, not you. Second, I didn’t suggest you did anything. Third, I don’t get mad, and by the way, happy birthday. Do you want us to sing you a song?”
“I’m good, I have the album. I’ll play it later. Start with Larry, he’s the most fucked up one in the room.”
“That’s not very nice, now is it?”
“Clair’s right. I am the most fucked up.”
Everyone in the room burst out laughing, including Larry, and not his usual style… Glenn did too, then got the group to refocus.
“All right folks, let’s get serious. So, Larry, why don’t you lead us off and tell us how your day has been going so far.”
He told the others’ how good he’d been dealing with his anger and reported he hadn’t hit anyone today.
Not his usual style but Glenn said with a hint of sarcasm, “We’re very grateful, Larry. Keep up the good work.”
The group members let out an enthusiastic applause. Larry stood up and took a bow.
At receiving such accolades, he smiled and said, “I also haven’t thought about cutting off my mother’s head or stabbing the rest of my family to death either.”
That didn’t get an applause, only silence and stares, but it didn’t stop Glenn and remained professional with his continued comment.
“Larry, that is also something to be proud of.”
Glenn pretended to take a note and whispered to himself, “Psycho.”
Glenn got back to being the skilled therapist and added, “Larry, so you know, the gash on the janitor’s face is healing quite nicely. He’s able to eat solid food again.”
“I said I was sorry. Did he get my card?”
“Yes, he did. It was very thoughtful. Clair, you’re next. How was your day?”
Slumped and relaxed in her seat, responded, “Fine.”
Glenn leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms.
“Fine? Okay, group, we all know what that means, don’t we?”
After the question, they chanted, “Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional!”
Not amused, she responded, “Ha, ha, ha. That’s hysterical. I’m all right. Thanks for asking. Can we please move this thing along?”
“What a great idea.”
Glenn gazed around at the others, then looked at Clair.
“I want to ask you a question.”
Still slumped in her chair, said, “Shoot.”
Larry jumped out of his chair and exclaimed, “Shoot who?”
Mike, another one of the group members, said, “It’s an expression. It means I’m giving you permission to proceed. So, sit your fat ass down and shut up!”
Larry complied, but also made a gesture with his pointer and middle finger, aimed at his eyes, and motioned in return with the implication, “I’m watching you.”
Mike looked at him and shook his head.
“Larry, go to hell.”
“Okay, fellows, let’s keep the testosterone to a manageable level. Let’s get started again, and can we try it with no more interruptions? Clair?”
She stood up at attention and saluted.
“Yes, Comrade Counselor?”
The room erupted with slight laughter.
“Please sit down.”
“Ya Vol, Mein Fuhrer!”
Obeying his command, she sat down and again slumped in her chair, but now both feet were kicked straight out, rigid and crossed.
Glenn wasted no time, remained poised, and got straight to it.
“Clair, I want to ask you a question; who are your demons?”
Pondering the question, she replied, “I don’t know, maybe the boogeyman.”
More chuckles from the participants, but it gave her a moment of pause, remembering back when Edward said it to her.
He repeated the question, implying he would not settle for another smart-ass answer.
“Clair, who are your demons?”
There was a hushed silent in the room, and every eye was on her. She acted as though she didn’t hear the question this time. To add to her posture, her arms were now tightly squeezed across her chest.
Still calm, and without changes in his tone, Glenn asked again, “Who are your demons?”
She remained in her defensive stance —but now her arms grew tighter, legs remained outstretched… also crossed, and added a hint of nervous foot twitching.
“Clair, I asked you a question.”
She swelled up inside and was about to burst wide open, but managed a calm, chilled retort.
“Back off, Glenn.”
“Who are your demons?” he asked again.
Now less calm, she said, “I swear to God, you are really starting to irritate me.”
“Clair, I can’t make you feel anything. It belongs to you.”
“You’re right, you can’t. But, you can stick that therapy shit up your ass, because right now, you’re pissing me off!”
Glenn remained poised.
“Clair, please stay focused and answer the question.”
She sat up and uncrossed her feet and planted them on the floor. And with outstretched arms, she flung them with each word.
“What, Glenn? What do you want me to say?”
Clair is running out of room to hide and is feeling attacked. He knows it and perseveres.
“I don’t want you to say something; I want you to tell me and the others. I’ll ask it one more time. Clair, who are your dem…”
Before he could finish the question, she jumped up from her chair and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Everyone! Everyone is a fucking demon! Are you happy now?”
Angry and frustrated, she dropped onto the chair with so much force it hit the wall with a loud bang. The room went silent.
“I can see you’re upset.”
She lowered her head and said, “No shit.”
“But who are you the angriest with? Surely not all of us —” and in a rare stab at a little humor, he finished with — “except maybe me.” That brought a brief smile on her face.
She got back to her relaxed posture.
“I guess I’m the angriest at Hunter.”
“Isn’t that a little too easy? You really think Hunter is one of your demons.”
“He’s damn sure no saint.”
“When you guys are together and getting along, aren’t you happy?”
“Let’s rule him out. What about your father?”
“You mean the sperm donor? He’s dead.”
“Yes, I know. Before then. Is he one of your demons?”
“Not really, I just hate him.”
“And your mother?”
“No, I only despise her.”
“What about Edward, your brother?”
Clair paused for a moment, sat up, then looked Glenn straight in the eyes, and in a voice of calm, said, “I would like to see him tortured to death and cut into little pieces.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.”
Larry jumped up and raised his hand.
“Can I help?”
If any help were needed, Glenn told him she’d call.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Clair. Edward is not one of your demons either.”
“Then, who is? You seem to know everything else. Who are my demons?”
“All of those you mentioned are only distractions and not letting you see who they truly are.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll show you.”
Glenn reached under his chair and slid an object on the floor toward Clair. It got to its mark, and she picked it up.
“I’ve had a ton of practice.” Referring to her and Charlies’ shuffleboard routine with the drinks.
“OK, now what?”
“Hold it up.”
She held the object at eye level with her arms bent to get a good view.
“Now, turn it around.”
As she did, her reflection appeared and peeked for a moment then sat it on her lap.
“Clair, pick it up. Look at it again and listen to what I am saying.”
She picked it up and held it as before. “What do you see?”
“Yes, you are right, it is you, but tell us what you see. Describe it to us.”
She slammed the mirror back on her lap again.
“Why are you such a jerk?”
“I’m paid to be your therapist, not your friend. I have to practice the jerk part.”
“You’re doing a good job.”
He ignored the jab and told her to pick up the mirror again and look at it.
As she did, he asked the others, “Now group, let’s help her out. Lisa, what do you see?”
“She’s always been a kind friend.”
Clair lowered the mirror and Glenn said, “Keep looking.”
She raised the mirror back in position and listened to other group members. A slight sniffle was heard, followed by a small trail of goo coming from her nose, and hoping no one noticed, wiped it clean.
Glenn asked, “Do you need a tissue?”
“No thanks. My sleeve will do.”
“Okeydokey, let’s get back to it. Blake, what do you think?”
“Her eyes are gorgeous.”
Now a tear rolled down her cheek, followed by another. Clair was unable or unwilling to see what they saw, but tried to absorb each word they said. Saying something good about what was in the mirror was contrary to what she believed.
“And you two? What do you boys think?”
Ryan and Jason said together as if they rehearsed it, “She’s hot!”
That made her chuckle in between sniffles.
“Lauren, your thoughts?”
“I would kill for that hair!”
Larry again jumped to his feet again, “Right on, sister!”
“Sit down Larry and relax.”
Glenn didn’t want to leave him out of the exercise, but with reluctance asked him the same question. He seemed put off and not very enthusiastic.
He yawned and said, “OK, Larry, tell us something about Clair.”
Not in his usual, obnoxious behavior, he said with great sincerity, “I wish Clair was my girl.”
It’s hard to explain, but Larry’s answer got her tears to flow.
Clair got up from the chair, went over to Larry, put her arms around him, and gave a big hug, then whispered, “Thank you, Larry,” then kissed him on the cheek and returned to her seat.
She settled in, only this time, and on her own, got the mirror back in position.
“Clair, I’ll ask you one last time, who are your demons? Take your time.”
The group waited as she gazed into the mirror. She stared for a few more moments and let out a sigh. The others sat in deafening silence waiting for her answer.
Glenn already knew, but instead said, “Clair, please, tell the group who they are,” and said to himself, “Come on Clair, you can do it.”
The wheels started to turn, and the power the demons had on her were becoming weaker and weaker. Clair stared at the reflection, and as she did, millions of images raced through her brain like a high-speed movie projector. All the way from childhood until now seemed to pass right in front of her mind’s eye within those few moments.
All the while, she hadn’t moved and continued to stare, then quietly announced, “I know who the demon is. There is only one.”
Glenn leaned forward.
“And who might that be?”
Everyone had remained quiet this whole time, then Suerenia whispered, “Clair, tell him.”
Clair took a quick glance at Suerenia, paused, then lowered the mirror and placed it on her lap.
She let out another deep sigh, then in a soft tone said, “Me, I’m the demon.”
The room again went silent except for a collective exhale. You could hear a pin drop because the group knew this was a crossroad for Clair. She finally met her demon face to face and prepared to challenge it.
“Clair, what you see in the mirror is the face of torment. You are not the demon. The past that haunts you is, and I want you to know the difference. What you saw was an image of its representative, and that’s all. It’s not real —only a reflection. But when you put into your head harmful thinking, you give it a reason to live. Your actions, like trying to kill yourself, are nourishment for the demon, and you must starve it. Now, you call the shots —” then Glenn emphasized — “because you are now in control, not an image in a mirror. Pick it up again.”
Clair raised the mirror, looked into it, but this time with a hint of a smile.
“Now what do you see?”
She paused for a moment, then let out a comforting sigh and said, “I see hope.”
“Me too. Good work. I’m very proud of you.”
Her response was short and somber.
“Thank you, Glenn,” and she meant it.