Walk Down Misery Street

Slow Learners


Gradually, I got used to my studies. Month after month were passing by. The school curriculum included nine subjects. Each course lasted a little over a month, with some quizzes, then a final exam, followed by a new module. To graduate, one had to pass seven of the nine exams. In the director’s office there was always a line of petitioners who were close to being dismissed because of not meeting these requirements. But I don’t recall anyone ever being expelled for failing their exams; everyone somehow pulled through.

The subjects were varied: psychiatry and pharmacology, family relations and spirituality—all within the context of drug and alcohol addiction. The teachers explained theory in an accessible way. Practically everything they described made sense to me. This was in contrast to many of my classmates, for whom theory made no sense. They constantly asked the teachers to repeat practically every word again and again. I looked upon my future colleagues with sympathy and arrogance. Such slow learners!

My know-it-all arrogance dissipated at once whenever one of them, not getting the meaning of the academic language in the books, would switch to layman’s terms as spoken by addicts everywhere, in crack houses, police stations, and substance abuse clinics. They would reference themselves and their buddies rather than the fictional characters in the books.

As I heard my classmates’ real-life accounts, I stared at the ceiling, pensively thinking that I would soon receive my diploma and treat people about whom I did not have the slightest clue. What the fuck did I get myself into?!