"Thank you for sharing, Tara. That was a very touching story. I think this was a big break through," says a suited woman.
"Thank you, Tara," a group of a dozen echoes in unison.
The woman named Tara nods and her lips pull back over her teeth into a garish and forced smile.
The suited woman claps her hands together and turns toward a sandy haired man. "We have a new visitor today. Would you like to share?"
The man looks around nervously, as though he expects to be rushed from behind at any moment. "I . . . I don't know. I don't really know what to do . . .what to say."
"That's fine dear. We have all been there. Just start with your name and why you are here," the woman says.
"Oh. Ok. Well, my name is Mike."
"Hello, Mike," the group chants.
The interruption startles him and Mike is slow to being again. "I . . . uh . . . I have a problem. I have . . . become a monster." As he speaks the words tumble out, each more effortless than the last. "I have become a monster and I don't think I can control it. I have no idea how long this has been happening. But I don't like who I have become."
"We are here for you, Mike," the group answers.
"Mike, think hard. Try to remember back. Hindsight is a powerful tool. Try to remember what might have been the catalyst."
Mike pauses and looks thoughtful for a few moments. "I guess it must have been that time," he says, more to himself than to the group.
"Tell us about it, Mike," the woman presses in a gentle voice.
"I'm an accountant. Or at least I was before all this mess. I was sitting in a meeting when a client just started screaming at me. I have know idea why. She was just screaming bloody murder. I couldn't take it. I just lost it. I lost control and couldn't contain myself.
"After that, things just went down hill. I can't sleep. I'm utterly exhausted. I'm angry all the time. I have destroyed all of my relationships, shredded them to irreparable bits. All I do is eat and fight. I feel as if there is an empty void inside of me that I am trying to fill with food and violence. I hate myself."
"Mike, when did you become aware of your self-hatred?" the woman asks.
"It was last week. I was standing there, trying to fill that damn emptiness inside of me with a bloody drumstick, when I looked up and saw myself in the mirror. It had been so long since I had looked into a mirror and I hadn't seen the monster I had become. I was disgusted. I am disgusted. I . . . I'm hideous and have done nothing to stop it."
"Mike, you have taken an important first step tonight. You have realized that you have a problem and you have come to get help. The next step . . . the next step will be more difficult. In time, with our help, you will learn to accept that you are who you are. You will learn to love and embrace all that is you."
Mike shrugs and hangs his head. "I sure hope so."
"You are not a monster. To us, you are beautiful," the group sings as they surround and embrace him.