A Walk Down Misery Street

Such disclosure in and of itself no longer becomes helpful, because you may not be concerned about connecting with painful feelings anymore, but rather with just impressing your audience. How striking it is to stand before everyone and proclaim: “Because of dope, I cheated on my husband with a famous baseball player” or “I sold crack and was shot three times, but by some miracle, I survived.” Wow!

Moreover, just as a maestro works on his composition, many drug users often change parts of their confessional stories slightly to sound a little more artful, like writing for a dramatic film or novel. (Writers and screenwriters who lack inspiration and plots could find in any addiction clinic an inexhaustible source of creativity for any genre—from soap operas to action films).

Unlike the other students, Kevin was a man of few words. He responded to questions briefly and without theatrics.

He was an American of Norwegian descent. Clean-shaven, he was always neat in appearance, punctual and polite. He rarely kept the conversation alive. He was a quick study, passing every exam on the first try.

But Kevin’s stubborn unwillingness to answer the question of whether or not he used drugs evoked general irritation and even some anger from the students. They posed this question to Kevin from the first day to the last day of school. Everyone asked him about it—first the students, then even several teachers. Yet Kevin remained enigmatically silent on the matter. If he was answering a question on the board, for example, on pharmacology or some other topic, someone would always take the opportunity to ask him: “C’mon and tell us: Are you in recovery? Did you use?”

Kevin would shrug, with a look of regret on his face.

“I can’t answer. Sorry, this is personal,” he would say with a sigh, and everyone in the auditorium would shoot him a dirty look, thinking:

What a timid one! So sly! He was clearly one of us—a junkie. Why should he contort himself into the semblance of a normal man? Why pretend? Does he think he’s better than us? No way! He is cut from the same cloth. He’s from the very same dirty, corrupt, screwed-up world we are! Or . . . is he?

Kevin worked as a counselor in a rehab clinic. He was a teacher by profession, but about a year ago quit the school job and entered the substance abuse field. In the clinic where he was now working, his boss required him to get a diploma as a substance abuse counselor.