More of the Formative Years: A Scathing review of the D.A.R.E Program

When you’re an addict, at least from my experience, you don’t understand the difference between pleasure and happiness.  That is, more appropriately, you confuse pleasure with happiness. Pleasure is brought on by an external source and it only lasts for a short time.  Happiness comes from within and is long lasting. Those unfortunate enough to confuse pleasure with happiness fall victim to the Hedonic Treadmill.  An endless crusade chasing drugs or sex or food, whatever brings pleasure. The feelings fade, and the external source of pleasure is pursued again. Wash, rinse, repeat…

During my second go in 2nd grade, I remember losing interest in things.  Generally speaking, this should be a happy time of self-realization and personal development.  Pudgy little seven-year-old me was pissed off at the world for having to endure the shame of being held back.  My social life was in tatters, boy was I a dramatic little shit. For good and for bad, mostly to my detriment, I’ve always had an ironclad stubbornness about me.  I made the conscious decision to not make any friends in my new class. Rationalizing this as a protest against The Man (teachers, my parents) the powers that be responsible for making me retake a grade when, in reality, I was just a little boy afraid of entering a new environment.

When I was in third or fourth grade I had my first, and only pre-use, exposure to drug education.  I still remember the DARE instructor, Officer Weiner- because I was an immature child and his name was Weiner no doubt- saying to us, “I tried cigarettes once in high school, and I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get addicted.”  There are two things I remember- outside of Weiners stupid, albeit appropriate, words of wisdom on cigarettes- from DARE, which I believe occurred weekly over the course of one month.

First, the vast majority of the conversation centered on “gateway” drugs; which, upon further review, I believe to be kind of stupid.  Here’s my line of thought: children are far more intelligent, adaptable creatures than most give them credit for or choose to realize.  By focusing so much attention on alcohol and marijuana, we’re inadvertently creating the false narrative that all drugs are created equal. Talking to them about about alcohol and weed has very little value because of their prevalence in society.  Frankly, it’s insulting to the kid’s intelligence that we would think an hour-long class, over a few weeks, would shape their beliefs on these substances when they see them around all their life. In my opinion, in preaching abstinence, we’ve lost credibility.  Kids- by kids I mean me, this is how I thought- think you’re full of shit because you’ve told them not to smoke weed, yet life seems manageable with little side effects for those who do so. This train of thought was further validated by the fact that plenty of adults drink, and hell, a lot of them smoked pot.  Since kids are such rational little bastards they deduce your shit credibility applies to other drugs too. Look, this isn’t to say I don’t think we should touch on those substances, as not doing so would be irresponsible, simply that the focus should be brief. And if we’d like to keep DARE how it is, we’ve got to freaking implement more education- practical education- prior to high school.  I think I know a guy who might be working on that.

A quick tangent, perhaps I’m the exception, but I don’t recall my youth through the lens of a child.  What I’m saying is this: from an internal perspective, even as a kid, I’m quite certain I had the same moral and mental capacities I have to this day.  There’s been a shift in the external, outward perspective, of my understanding the world around me. When I was younger I thought there was something wrong with me, folks a getting so wrapped up in the most tedious of conflict, “No I called shotgun!  I challenge you to a duel for the front seat of this Ford Escort- literal fight ensues.” The frivolous monotony of the day to day, as well as its bickerings, confused the hell out of me when I was younger.  On the other hand, maybe I haven’t grown up and am cursed to roam this earth a manchild.  In any event, I digress.

The second piece I remember from DARE, and this was the damnedest thing: I remember sitting in the classroom one day when we talked about hard drugs, and thinking to myself how fascinating I found the thought of getting high.  As if my mind was saying, “hold on one gosh darn second, you’re telling me you can drop acid and see cartoons of things that don’t exist, have conversations with my goldfish, and see the colors of music? That sounds hella appealing to me.”  An ironic thought, because I’ve always hated hallucinogens. Methinks I’m too mentally unstable to truly handle a trip where I could enjoy it. No sir, just give me my pain pills and I was happy as a clam for years, until I wasn’t.  In retrospect I think the true appeal came from the notion that drugs might allow me to get out of my head, this hypothesis is supported by opioids being my drug of choice.

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