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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.