Untruth & Consequences: Drug School! (Part II)

By Tardsie

I Have Always Believed Learning To Be A Life-Long Process.

Part The Last: In which we finally stop talking for a while.

After finishing my class-prep in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, I arrived for my 9:00 AM Drug School appointment with ten minutes to spare. I wanted this experience to run smoothly, and to antagonize the DS faculty by being late would only serve to put the relationship on a bad footing from the start. Despite these precautions and my generally optimistic nature, it was hard to believe that this experience would turn out any better than had my previous brushes with counseling. As it happens, I got lucky.

Except For Not Being A Nerdy White Dude With Glasses, She Was Exactly Like This.

I’d signed up for a private class, and after filling out a few forms was shown to a conference room where the instructor awaited me on the opposite side of a small table adorned with a fantail of legal documents, reference materials and drug quizzes. Carmen was a black woman in her early fifties, with a tailored suit that softened her heroic contours. She was not fat precisely, but possessed of a certain bigness which spoke to neither poor health nor indolence, and was simply formidable.

I told Carmen the circumstances which had brought me to Drug School, and she asked me what I thought about being there. I told her, “I know you probably hear this from almost everybody who comes through this program, but I don’t really think I need to be here.” She agreed that she did hear that a lot, and encouraged me to expound on what I’d said.

“I think it’s bullshit,” I said, explaining that for all their incompetent zeal, this was the best result the prosecution could muster, and sending me to Drug School was more an act of spite than honest concern for my welfare. Careful not to get off on the wrong foot, however, I added, “But I don’t mean to disrespect you.”

Carmen managed to look amused. “You don’t have the power to disrespect me,” she said. “Nobody can disrespect me unless I let them.” I was starting to really like this woman.


One of the first questions she asked was about my drug and alcohol history, and about my current behavior. Although weed was the only bad behavior to which I’d have to confess at that time, I was worried that some of my past experiences would complicate matters. In addition to some heavy alcohol use in my late teens and a fondness sometime later for psychedelics, there were a few chemical enhancements that I’d tried once or twice which I feared were sufficiently heinous to set off her substance abuse warning system.

On the other hand, I knew that only by being honest would I derive any benefit from this experience, so I told her everything. When I was done, she said something that let me know she was a cut above the “professionals” to whom I’d previously spoken.

“Well,” she said, her voice slow and neutral, “From what I’m hearing, it sounds like you smoke too much marijuana.”

Seriously, How Difficult Was That? It Just Seemed Pretty Obvious From This End.

We did have one sticking point. “I’m confused,” she said, flipping through her files until she located my drug evaluation from Pee-Testers International. She looked up and gave me a hard stare, “Your evaluation indicates that you’re drug free, but from what you’re telling me, that’s not the case at all.”

I smiled. “I wasn’t as forthcoming with them as I have been with you.”

“I see,” she said, her face inscrutable and unsmiling.

But I Never Lied To You.

Exceeding even my wildest expectations, Drug School was done by 11:30. In fairness to both Carmen and the program, we covered a lot of material and I took several quizzes. I’m a fast test-taker, and it also helps to remember that the curriculum is hardly designed for Rhodes Scholars. Carmen and I talked quite a bit. She was informative, kind and frank.

“I want to thank you for creating an environment in which I could be honest,”¹ I told her. “I could have jobbed this, you know.”

“I know,” she said, no doubt remembering my drug analysis interview with the credulous folks at PTI.

She gave me my DS diploma and court certificate, and offered me a final piece of advice. “Listen,” she said, hesitant for the first and only time in our short acquaintance, “You probably didn’t really need to be here, but I want to make it clear to you that you smoke too much marijuana. It’s not good for your lungs.”

“I’ve started using a vaporizer,” I told her truthfully.

“Oh,” she said. “That’s much better for you.”

Seriously, Lady–My Body Is A Temple.

So kids, I’m hardly a role model. These things that I’ve done–please don’t do them. Not unless you want to be hella awesome like me. In the coda to this already-bloated series, Untruth & Consequences: Debriefing,² I’ll attempt to find a moral in these sordid episodes.

¹”B.S. Who talks like that?” I do–that’s an exact quote. The way I talk and the way I write are so very often misconstrued as ridiculously grandiloquent affectations. In fact, that’s just how God made me. Elderly ladies find it quite charming, in case you’d like to know.  ∞ T.
² Yeah, I thought I was done as well. It’ll be short, I promise.  ∞ T.
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22 Responses to Untruth & Consequences: Drug School! (Part II)

  1. renxkyoko says:

    Great series of posts, riveting, and I think you’re a great guy, despite the past shenanigans.

  2. calahan says:

    I’m assuming the DS diploma hangs framed above your fireplace. “Daddy, tell us again about the Carmen lady and how she built a whole school out of drugs.”

    • Smaktakula says:

      In all seriousness, such is my perverse nature that my DS diploma is just the kind of thing I’d hang in my office. However, were I to do that, I’d have to sacrifice either my velvet Elvis, original comic book art or framed DEVO LP, and I’m just not willing to do that.

      However, when my kids ask me about my experiences–and they will, I plan to be frank with them, and tell them why I think that drugs and alcohol are so very bad for developing bodies and brains (although I started drinking some in high school, I didn’t drink heavily or start drugging until college). It’s something I think about a lot–I don’t want to glorify drugs to my children and influence them that way, but neither do I want to lie to them (ala D.A.R.E.) and risk them developing a problem they’re unable to handle and about which they don’t feel they can come to me.

      • calahan says:

        Portraying the reality of drugs and alcohol is the way to go. If you demonize it, it becomes attractive. If it’s glorified, it become a goal. Knowing the realities of partying allows them to make good choices (hopefully). You could always just have them read Basketball Diaries before bed. That might dissuade them, too.

      • Smaktakula says:

        That’s not a bad idea at all–I’ve been trying to inculcate a love of literature into the lads. I’ve never read “BD,”although (and this is true of so many books & films) I should. I know it’s about the devastating effects of heroin.

        Perhaps I’ll read Trainspotting to them, which will hopefully serve both as a cautionary example and a proud reminder of their heritage (their maternal grandfather was born in Scotland; regarding their paternal heritage, well, there are a great many books on the subject, but not a whole lot to make you proud).

        Actually, though–Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting is a wonderful book. I enjoyed the film, but as so many films are, it was but a fingernail clipping of the novel (more properly a series of interrelated short stories), which is deep and rich. I read the book just before seeing the movie (that’s an idiosyncratic thing with me–almost a compulsion), and I say without a shred of exaggeration that it changed the way I think about serious literature.

  3. Brigitte says:

    Smak, it sounds as if you found the therapist you needed and you’re damn lucky to have done so. It doesn’t always work out that way. Isn’t that weird? I think you and I believe a little different on the theory of things happen as they should (i.e., there are no accidents) but nevertheless, your walking in that day and getting a therapist that obviously had some kind of positive influence on you, saw through and respected your “ahem” bullshit (and I mean that in the most loving way, after all you were a kid) — well, I’m just saying. She obviously had some kind of strong influence on you because the way you’ve written this, it sounds as if you had a great respect for her. Her “you don’t have the power to disrespect me,” I loved that. I can’t wait to hear your closing — the moral, as you say of the story. (and I so hope it’s not love the one you’re with). I’m kidding of course. Love these.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Thanks, Brigitte–you’re right, I was very lucky to have found her. And given the nature of her business, dealing with the kinds of people I assumed she dealt with, I had very low expectations. She took her job very seriously (and I gather had something of a professional reputation; she mentioned to me about presenting something at a conference in Washington DC), and was a thoroughly decent human being. I did and do (although I haven’t set eyes on her since) have a lot of respect for her. It’s hard to convey in writing just how she came across–she was completely in control of the situation, but it felt so relaxed. She was fearsome, but I wasn’t afraid of her. I hope I captured some of that, because she was a unique person.

  4. I love the look of that vaporizer. It looks so early 1980’s. A true classic.
    And the moral of the story is…moderation in everything is the best policy. That, and other people should mind their own fucking business and leave other people alone. God forbid.
    Nice series, man.

    • Smaktakula says:

      Thanks, Bill–I had a lot of fun writing it, and I think that the analysis of these memories necessary to write about them does me good.

      Aw, that was the moral I was gonna use. Now I’ll have to just pick something out of a hat: “The Early Bird Gets The Worm,” perhaps, or “Marry In Haste, Repent In Leisure.”

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    Uh oh. I’ve always liked the way you speak (going on your audio posts) and write. I guess that makes me elderly. I prefer to think it just makes me weird.

    But I like that counselor. She’s got good attitude. The kind that’s respectful of others but also refuses to let people take advantage. As a woman, that can be a tricky balance to find. If not done ‘properly,’ she risks getting labeled with an unpleasant word.

    • Smaktakula says:

      But I like that counselor

      Absolutely–based on my limited experience, she was a credit to her profession. I picked her at random, and am not so naive as to believe that had I picked someone else I would be likely to find someone who could have ministered to me as effectively as she did. One thing that I had to cut from this already-long story was telling her (and meaning it), that my two-plus hours with her were the sole bright spot in what seemed at the time an interminable affair.

      I guess that makes me elderly.

      Hold on now, I didn’t say that it was appreciated exclusively by the elderly. I can think of two reasons why it might appeal to you. A) As someone whom I know is not averse to occasionally looking a word up in the dictionary, complex sentences aren’t likely to make your head hurt somethin’ turrible. and B) Despite your chronological age of 32, your North Dakota origins place your actual date of birth as sometime around 1890.

      In all seriousness, though, I really do appreciate the kind words. I love language (well, I love English–I’m sure I might love “language” if I’d been a better student in high school). I love its subtleties and intricacies, how certain words can sharpen or dull a point, obfuscate meaning or drive it home. It’s so much fun. The people who know me know it’s not an act, and that’s really all that matters. But it bugs me for two reasons when someone thinks something I’ve said is rehearsed or gussied up. The first, obviously, is the implication that I’m being dishonest, even if it’s only in how I speak. The second, though, hits me where it hurts–in my pride. “What? You fuckers don’t think I can come up with this shit on the fly?”

      • Carrie Rubin says:

        Spoken like a true writer!

        And you are right about my actual date of birth. Due to the frigid temperatures, those of us from No Dak are much older than we appear. Kind of like vampires. And I like the number 32. So yeah, let’s go with that.

        By the way, I just learned this word today from another blogger: nacreous (consisting of or resembling mother-of-pearl). I challenge you to work that into your next post. Along with invaginate.

  6. :D !!! Love It, Dude. You Sure Do Know How To Weave A Wonderful Tale. The Best Part Being It’s All True! hahaha Sheesh. Are You Sure We’re Not Brothers, Dude?! ;)

    • Smaktakula says:

      Thanks, my man! I’m so glad you liked it. I got so carried away with the tale that before publishing I had to excise about 400 words, and it’s still longer than I wanted! Like most experiences, it was a good one in hindsight.

  7. whiteladyinthehood says:

    You have a very nice ‘writers voice’, Smaktakula. Your humor is always present, consistent and unique. I like your honesty and the fact you don’t gloss things over or say what you think people ‘want’ to hear. I’ve enjoyed reading this series about your past – I LOVE the posts you always share, but I hope you occasionally throw in some more of these more personal ones – it’s nice to get to know you better.

  8. You are a wonderful story teller. You got lucky with that DS teacher. She seemed to ease the pain. Thanks for the great read.

  9. No doubt that Carmen’s heard it all, but even though you didn’t want to be there, it was ultimately to your benefit that you were frank with her about your history. At least then she could make an informed assessment about the situation and then give you your DS diploma. Overall, it sounds like DS was a positive experience for you, probably because you got lucky and you were paired with the right counselor. It’s also says a lot that you remember her name after all this time.

  10. tomsimard says:

    Thank God there are people like Carmen. It almost gives one a little faith. A willingness to look at the facts (see Joe Friday) and not be caught up in some sort of psychological mumbo-jumbo.

  11. saradraws says:

    Vaporizers are really great.

  12. Alex Autin says:

    Yes, Carmen is definitely cool but she’s wasting her time in Drug School. She should be giving seminars aimed at today’s easily-offended and ‘how dare you say that shit to me’ minded people. (And by ‘people’ I mean mainly women.) Great series Smak, but wtf is a vaporizer? Sounds all science-fiction-y.

  13. El Guapo says:

    Based on your story, and her commending the vaporizer, if she had laughed a bit more, I probably would have gone to visit her whenever I had drug stories to tell.
    Of course, that would have been a lot of visits…

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