Chapter 17

    "Come on, Michael! You can do this!" He spoke encouragingly to himself, splashing cold water on his face. 

    Looking up into the mirror, Michael took one look at himself and was startled by his appearance. His eye's were sunken, and he was sweating profusely. It had only been 72 hours since he quit drinking, and his body was in turmoil. He hadn't slept in days, had a terrible headache, and his body shook constantly. 

     Michael knew that he should probably get some professional help, but he chose not to. He wanted to be around to visit Leila, and he also didn't want the media in his business. He knew that trying to withdraw from alcohol on his own could be dangerous, but he was determined. 

    Many times within the last couple of days, he wanted to give in and have a drink, but the thought of having a happy future with Leila wouldn't allow him to quit. After splashing a bit more water on his face, he went into the small library he created in his condo. It was nowhere near the size of the one he had at Neverland, but for now, this would have to do. 

    Just as he sat down to read a book on alcoholism, his phone rang.


    "Hey, sweetie, it's Leila. How are you?"


    "Hi baby, I'm doing so-so. I haven't been feeling so well."


    "Is everything alright? How are things going with your album and the shows you're planning?"


    "Um-- I've decided to put them off for a bit."


    "How come?"


    "For you, Leila. I want to be readily available to you if you need me."


    "Oh, Michael-- that's so incredibly sweet of you, but you can't put your life on hold for me."


    "Leila-- My life is you."


    With tears stinging his eyes, he blinked quickly to keep from crying. He missed Leila badly. He felt alone and as if he would break soon. He knew that she was getting the help she needed, but everything was taking a toll on him. 

    "Are you crying, sweetie?" Leila spoke with concern filling her voice. 

    "A little-- I just... I miss you. I'm not sure I'm gonna make it through the next 87 days." 

    "Hey, hey-- listen to me, baby, I'm fine. I know I was a bit sad and afraid at first, but everyone has been treating me kind here."

    Michael sniffled. "That's good to know. I'm sorry, I should have asked how you were first."

    "It's Ok, sweetie-- I know that you care about me."

    "I don't just care about you, Leila... I love you." He smiled. 

    "I love you too, Michael."

    "Really?"

    "Yes, really... I've loved you for quite.  

some time now."

    Feeling as if his heart was going to leap out of his chest. He took a picture of Leila out of his shirt pocket and kissed it. 

    "I need to see you, Leila. When can you have visitors?" 

    "Sometime next week, I believe, once my withdrawal symptoms have eased up a bit.

I'm doing OK right now... Since this isn't a cold-turkey detox, they've been giving me medication to ease the symptoms."

    As Michael listened to Leila explain her withdrawal experience, he felt an uncanny connection with her. He wanted to tell her about his alcoholism but decided not to. Her body was already going through enough stress, and he didn't want to add to it.

    "Well, I guess I should get going now. I have to get up at 6 am." She laughed. 

    "But isn't that the exact time you used to wake up to walk the dogs? Speaking of dog's-- I hope your friend is taking good care of Curly."

    "Don't worry Michael, Zina has a puppy of her own and works from home. Trust me-- he's well taken care of." 

    Leila yawned. "I have to go now-- I'll speak to you tomorrow... Have a goodnight, baby."

    "You have a goodnight as well Leila. Talk to you later."


***


    "Good morning Ms. James, how are you?" The therapist greeted warmly. 

    Leila yawned. "Alright, I guess? Last night was rather rough. I had tremors and shakes all night."

    "Sorry to hear that dear-- drug detoxification is very hard on the body. Hopefully, yours won't last too much longer." Dr. Banks smiled sympathetically. 

    Feeling a bit vulnerable, Leila hunched over in her chair with her arms tucked in her lap. This was the first time she had ever spoken with a therapist, so she didn't know what to expect. 

    "You can relax, Ms. James. It is Ms. James correct? I see from your medical records that you're also Married to a Mr. Harris?"

    "Yes, that's correct. I didn't take on my husband's last name or well-- he didn't allow me to." Leila spoke sadly. 

    "Hmm, I see. Did you want to take on his last name?" Dr. Banks asked curiously. 

    "I did, but Calvin gave me some asinine excuse. At the time we got married, he was a new up and coming music producer. He thought he would be more hireable if he appeared to be a single man. He said he didn't want potential clients to think that family life would get in his way of working on their projects." Leila shrugged.

    "So, when did you first start using Heroin Leila?"

     "Not too long after Calvin began verbally abusing me. It was the only thing that helped me cope day in and day out." Leila spoke quietly. 

    "Did someone offer it to you?"

    "Actually, no. When I was looking for something to calm my nerves, I purchased some weed to smoke, but it made me cough like crazy. When I asked the drug dealer if he had something else that would relax me, he suggested heroin." 

    After taking down a few notes, Dr. Banks became silent before speaking again. "So before your husband's abuse, you had no desire to use drugs?"

    "No-- I didn't," Leila answered without hesitation. 

    "Leila, I want you to know that Heroin or any drug that you grow a dependency for is not the solution to your problems. In fact, they can make things worse. Instead of dealing with your problems head-on, you used them to block the pain you were enduring. After you stop taking the drug, your problems will remain." 

     Leila covered her face with her hands. "My life has been a complete failure... I'm a failure.'

    "You're not dear-- you're here. You've taken the first step in turning your life around. You're already a success... A lot of people don't even make it this far." Dr. Banks spoke tenderly, passing Leila a Kleenex."

    "Thank-you, Dr. Banks. I'm trying. I want to turn my life around. There are so many things I want to do." Leila spoke optimistically through tears. 

    "And you will! Just stay positive, Ms. James. You're gonna be just fine." 

    After her therapy session was over, Leila retreated to her room. As she sat on her bed, contemplating her next move, she drafted up a 'to-do' list." In bold capital letters, she wrote: [DIVORCE CALVIN'S SORRY ASS!]

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