Monday, March 7, 2016

Just Say Maybe

When I was in elementary school, it was a big thing to be in the 4th grade. It meant being upstairs and finally being one of the big kids. It meant having a big kid locker on the first floor. It meant finally getting to sign up for the Just Say No Club.

Yes, the well intended and oft failed Nancy Reagan brainchild. It was conceived during her trip to Day Top Village while campaigning for her husband. She saw all the addicts and shuddered for the youth of America. Nevermind many had traumatic upbringings, were Vietnam vets, or it was a genetic predisposition. Nevermind science has been asking what makes a person an addict. Nevermind the world has wracked their brains for years to treat these people as rehab doesn't work, jail is a fail, and AA barely does a mediocre job with this issue. Nancy Reagan, clutching her pearls came up with the anti-drug platform of "Just Say No."

Well I joined Just Say No as soon as 4th grade hit like all the other good little adherents in my sheltered suburban elementary school. Our sponsor, Ms. Dallet, an old school mistress type who got angry when you doggy eared your library books, was losing her hearing so we had to shout when we spoke. We watched a video about the dangers of pot. It was sort of an after school special type of thing, full of drama and at the end it's okay that little Jimmy said no. He did the right thing. As we watched said video, we had the drug free but ever sodium and sugar filled pretzels and soda. Note, some experts consider sugar a drug but nevermind.

After the video was shown, they asked us what to do if we ever were in a situation where we were offered drugs. Our little voices shouted, "JUST SAY NO!"

Then there was the practical portion, what to do if offered drugs. I raised my hand and suggested making an excuse, like you were sick or had to go. I got Ms. Dallet's praise and the approval of the group. And then a few other people gave suggestions and we yelled, "JUST SAY NO!!!" again.

Yes people got hooked on drugs because it was all about peer pressure. As I said, there is a genetic predisposition to addiction, and science even backs me up on this. Heck, some of my own family members are case studies. But truth be told, it was all the evil PEER PRESSURE, PEER PRESSURE, PEER PRESSURE. They were putting that joint in your hand and pouring that liquor in your mouth. And then there is the Gateway Drug Theory, but I could spend a whole blog debunking that but won't. Bottom line, science still doesn't know a lot about addiction and it is foolish miseducation like this that punishes addicts, shames the sick, and kills people. Yet at the time we didn't think of that. We were cool and got to join a big kid's club.

The following year Ms. Dallet's hearing loss forced her to retire and hang up her spurs as the Just Say No sponsor. She was replaced by a woman by the name of Ms. Samson. This denizen was a biker moll who somehow was teaching 5th grade. She wore leather and too much makeup, and how she got a job in the district I will never know, It got awkward when she came to student events with her motorcycle boyfriend named Rick who had long hair. Sometimes he would show up drunk.

Ms. Samson was about 25 I think, and would smoke during lunch behind school. The year before she had gone on our pumpkin picking trip for Just Say No and smoked behind the bus while the students were picking their pumpkins. Yes, we were supposed to Just Say No to tobacco too.

Our first Just Say No meeting with Ms. Samson we got pizza and watched a movie. Unlike Ms. Dallet who took the whole thing seriously and maintained a moral high ground, Ms. Samson didn't front. After the movie she said, "Kids, say no to drugs. Seriously. They are bad. Life happens. But seriously do your best to try to say no."


Needless to say, the mission of Just Say No pretty much fell apart and disbanded shortly thereafter.

Over the years, many former Just Say No graduates went on to drink, smoke, and do drugs. A few went to rehab, but most turned out alright. Still, it was amazing how much that initiative failed worse than Mama June at Weight Watchers.

Heck, I have even seen people I love negatively affected by drugs. One former boyfriend who self-medicated because they couldn't get his bi-polar meds right could never get sober, and I had to let him go. I buried two friends I cared about because they couldn't get clean. A kid I went to karate with died of an overdose. Another family friend has a son who desperately cannot get clean. Even some of my family members too.

However, it's not that they won't say no. It's that they can't say no. Plus sometimes people get hooked because they are given a medication and it is much more complex. Then again, liberal critics said the same thing I did so I know I am not crazy.

Yet at the same time, I look back at how campy and corny those meetings were, and how well intended the whole thing was. It just didn't work. Like Communism. Sigh......

Maybe Ms. Samson was onto something. Do your best. Just Say Maybe....

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