Issue # 78 - Fall 2014

Viewing the news through the lens of alcohol and other-drug addiction

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month along with runners up, persons under watch, enablers, disenablers and more
2. Review or Public Policy Recommendation of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2014 by Doug Thorburn

The blog is open to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.

All four books are available on Amazon, and the two e-books are available in multiple formats on IPG.

Cults are Usually Led by Addicts and are Capable of Great Atrocities. This Includes ISIS.

The more precise the generally recognized meaning of a word, the more useful it is. The physical sciences have done well in providing such meaning to words, while most social sciences have lagged far behind. When everyone ascribes different meanings to words, rational discourse is impossible and social progress is difficult.

“Cult” is one of those ill-defined words. The most useful part of the common definition is “excessive devotion directed at a particular figure or object.” I suggest that since the devotion to those figures is quasi-religious, such excess includes that directed at ideas. I would add that cult leaders are so venerated their minions are willing to engage in extreme acts without question if that is the leader’s wish.

This is true of both religious and political cults. Those often identified as religious cults include the Ku Klux Klan, David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.* Such religious cults include those on both the perceived right and left wings of the political spectrum, but usually authoritarian on the Nolan Chart. Those perceived as political cultists also come from all sides. They include Ayn Rand, who while libertarian in her political beliefs demanded followers adhere to strict ideological purity without question, as well as Marlene Dixon, who headed up the socialist Democratic Workers Party.

Except for possibly Koresh, all of these cult leaders were well-known addicts. Many (if not most) of the top brass in the Klan were alcoholics, Jim Jones was an alcohol and amphetamine addict and Hubbard used a potpourri of drugs. Rand’s favorite was amphetamine and Dixon’s alcohol. David Koresh never knew his biological father which, because his father wasn’t dead, is near proof of alcoholism in one or both parents. His mother cohabitated with a violent drunk until he was 4 years old, when she placed him with her mother for three years. The creation of a cult seems to nearly always require addiction in the cult leader, or at least serious and un-treated codependency—living with and, therefore, being subject to psychological, emotional and often physical abuse by an alcohol or other-drug addict for an extended period.

Part of the commonly accepted definition is that cults are “relatively small.” When we eliminate this unnecessary size restriction, we allow the inclusion of large groups expressing excessive devotion and willing to engage in extreme acts. We can then include as cult leaders those who create a “cult of personality” as heads of state. These include North Korea’s rulers Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, Saparmurat Niyazov, Che Guevara, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, Idi Amin and Mao Zedong. All were alcohol or other-drug addicts.** The fact that addiction can’t be proven in some cultish heads of state, including Hugo Chavez, Castro and Pol Pot, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

Based on this understanding, “cult” might include Muslims who argue that Mohamed would support radical jihadism, an especially vile form of terrorism.

On numerous occasions, I have pointed to the likelihood that terrorism is nearly always rooted in substance addiction. In my article on terrorism, I argue for addiction in Osama bin Laden. Yasser Arafat’s amphetamine addiction was the main topic in the very early TAR # 4. The role of amphetamines and other drugs in suicide bombers was discussed in TAR # 13, in which I concluded, “If I am right, Islamic terrorism is motivated by an addiction-driven need for domination and control, which is no different from that of the street thug or in-home terrorist.” I connected the dots between severe parental drug addiction or addiction in the jihadist before he or she converts to radical Islam in TAR # 24 (which, if you link to nothing else, is worth re-reading). The possible role of Khat in fueling terrorism is hypothesized in TAR # 53. The mindset of the granddaddy of all political terrorists, Karl Marx, is best explained by his obvious alcoholism, for which the case is made in the review of the month in TAR # 68. Finally, the brothers Tsarnaev—the Boston marathon bombers—are shown as likely addicts in TAR # 73.

The fact that terrorism is an indication of addiction in the cult leader doesn’t mean every minion is one. By no means were the 900 men, women and children who followed Jim Jones to Jonestown, Guyana and then committed suicide, all addicts. However, Jones was one, which gave him a need to control others, which helped him to sell dangerous ideas to those who were susceptible. These, no doubt, included many who were deeply affected by extremely abusive alcohol and other-drug addicts, as well as others who themselves were such addicts for periods of time.

On a different scale, not every German was an addict, but Adolf Hitler was. I doubt there were more than a relatively few barbiturate addicts among the Chinese, but Mao Zedong was one. Similarly, not every person in the territory now controlled by ISIS who wants to live under Sharia is an addict, but based on the fact that addiction can be proven in nearly every despot in recent history (and even many long ago, in whom addiction is much more difficult to prove), the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS and cult leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably heavily using one or more substances addictively.

The behaviors of his minions include the hacking of limbs and beheading of innocents—whose heads are then put on display (the skeptical may wish to Google “ISIS beheadings”). They include stoning women to death for committing adultery. They include engaging in slave trade. And, they include using chemical weapons such as white phosphorus which, by burning from the inside out once the chemical enters the bloodstream, leads to a tortured death. While there is no direct evidence of addiction, the extreme violence, hatred and other behaviors suggest addiction in at least their leader.

Such barbarians would certainly be capable of mass murder on a much larger scale—they even proclaim that is their intention. Hitler would have launched nuclear warheads if he had the capability. Russian friends tell me Stalin, who had access to nukes before he died, didn’t launch them only because he didn’t have the means of delivery. Given the fact that followers are often reduced to non-thinking automatons or, as in the case of North Korea, families are threatened with certain death, they would certainly carry out an order to launch such weapons or, for lack of technological capability, smuggle them into the United States.

If there is a high likelihood an addicted despot—usually if not always, a cult leader—has access to weapons of mass destruction, such a leader and his followers need to be taken out. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs and Debits, we cannot predict how destructive an alcohol or other-drug addict may become, or when. Recovering addicts admit they were, when using, capable of anything—which means, anything. If a cult gains access to WMD, there is little doubt it will use them. Recent articles have pointed to the presence of WMD in Iraq (albeit, older, less stable ones). If ISIS is able to access and use these weapons, do not doubt that many will die. In a world in which non-proliferation of WMD could become a pleasant memory, ISIS must be eliminated. Even otherwise non-interventionist libertarians—who believe the purpose of government is to protect us from thugs, foreign and domestic—should support this.

* After complaining about being paid a penny per word for his science fiction writing, Hubbard famously told a 1948 science fiction convention, “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” He proved this after founding Scientology in 1952.

** While there is little mention anywhere of use of substances by most of these, I have seen what I consider adequate proof of addictive use by all of them.

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Runner-up for top story of the month:

From swimming in the Olympics to swimming in booze, the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, 29, arrested on charges of driving under the influence at excessive speed (84 mph in a 45 mph zone). This comes a decade after he was first arrested for DUI. “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake,” Phelps said at the time. “I’ve learned from this mistake….” This recent incident proves that, unfortunately, he hasn’t and he can’t. A second DUI increases the odds of alcoholism to near-certain; he will need to deflate his ego to get sober, which is not something that can be learned. In the meantime, the Michael Phelps Foundation focuses on growing the sport of swimming and, ironically, promoting healthier lifestyles. (Tip of the hat to Glenn H. for the find and clever intro.)

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned something those who have read my books would predict: “Many [Club Fed and other white collar] prisoners suddenly discover, post-conviction, that they had a drinking problem….” I would add that those who don’t figure this out might benefit from greater introspection. In the spirit of The Economist’s discovery, a recent story follows for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, allegedly involved in a violent brawl with her dead son’s grandmother, Pearlie Gordon and cousin Tony Petty, over the sale of Michael Brown merchandise near where Brown was shot and killed on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. McSpadden is reported to have yelled at Gordon and Petty, “You can’t sell this s%$&!” to which one of the relatives responded (paraphrasing), “Prove that you own the patent!” Someone with McSpadden then hit Petty in the face with a metal pipe or pole. Violence is nearly always associated with alcohol or other-drug addiction. However, as I’ve learned in the case of married couples with serious marital problems, I can only say that someone is an addict—I just don’t know which of them. In the case of Michael Brown’s family, it could be one, several or all of them.

Nurse Kaci Hickox, 33, defying quarantine orders, threatening legal action and going about her life as if there is no danger of infecting others after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Before you say, “But she’s a hero, she can’t be an addict!” Yes, she can. So were WWII heroes Louis Zamperini, Ira Hayes and Audie Murphy. The most decorated hero of the Viet Nam War, Joe R. Hooper, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin (who was on a bender until two days before lifting off to become the first man on the moon) are also well-known heroes with alcoholism. An indignant Hickox claimed her rights were violated and the treatment was “inhumane,” after New Jersey quarantined her in a tent with no shower. She left for Maine after only two or three days. Hickox objects that she has no symptoms and all tests have been negative. However, the same was true for Thomas Duncan, who later died of the disease, and Dr. Craig Spencer, who exhibited no symptoms until he woke up one morning with a 100.3 degree fever after spending the previous night on subways, in bowling alleys and in Uber taxis. Ms. Hickox—you were a hero in Sierra Leone, but your actions could have put lives in danger in the U.S. Your arrogance, haughtiness and self-centered behavior indicate alcoholism. This would explain, but not excuse, your behaviors. If you do not have alcoholism, then you are arrogant and self-centered without benefit of chemistry—and that’s much worse.

Gavrilo Princip, one of six assassins recruited by Danilo Ilic. Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, leading to the start of WWI just over 100 years ago. The commission of murder nearly always requires substance addiction, but proof eludes in this case. The idea that there is “no neat explanation” for the Great War, as so many historians believe, may be wrong. Alcoholism is often the best explanation for all manner of tragedy, and WWI is no exception.

Codependent of the month:

Angela Reynolds, 40, arrested on charges of first degree domestic violence after hitting her husband, John Reynolds, 44, and then running him over with her car “several times.” According to a police department investigator, “She was upset with him for being intoxicated.” A neighbor added, “They were always having domestic disputes.” Where there’s domestic violence, there’s usually an addict; which one is hard to know. I have identified a spouse as an alcoholic seven times only to discover I pegged the wrong one (I finally gave up trying). We can be pretty certain of the husband, but can’t really be sure about the wife. If she’s not an addict, his behaviors may have made her act like one; that serious a codependent is truly frightening.

Alcoholic retrospective of the month:

“I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.” So wrote poet Sylvia Plath in her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. I suggest she understood an alcoholic’s brain because she was afflicted with the disease herself. I stumbled on to Plath on a list of “other artists” who, according to Maria Puente writing for USA Today, followed the same tragic path as did Robin Williams. Her list “includes painters, poets, writers, musicians and designers: Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, Alexander McQueen to name just a few of the famous creative who suffered from depression and committed suicide.” Depression is often rooted in alcohol or other-drug addiction; where suicide occurs, the underlying cause is usually substance addiction. Puente, unfortunately, appears to have no clue.

I already knew Van Gogh, Hemmingway, Woolf and Cobain to be addicts; I quickly added a fifth to my list, fashion designer Alexander McQueen. But what about Plath?

In “20 Distinguished Writers and Their Drink of Choice,” we learn that “Anne Sexton and her fellow writer Sylvia Plath met in a poetry class, and the pair would skip off to the Ritz-Carlton afterwards for a few rounds of apparently dry martinis. They welcomed other students and patrons into their fold as well, one of whom later became Sexton’s illicit lover behind her husband’s back. [Sexton] apparently loved throwing caution to the wind by illegally parking in the hotel’s loading zone before pumping her system full of booze.” Anne Sexton was clearly alcoholic; because addicts hang out with other alcoholics and a sense of power and God-likeness are nearly the exclusive domain of addicts, Plath almost assuredly was as well.

Alcoholic side dish of the month:

Allen Trammell, 29, arrested for selling crack cocaine in a McDonald’s parking lot in Radnor Township, Philadelphia, PA; he was between food preparation shifts. Radnor police Lt. Andy Block quipped it gives “a new definition of what may be considered a Happy Meal.” Except for the victims of the addicts who purchased those drugs.


Alcoholic scam of the month:

Eric McLean Slighton, 53, arrested on suspicion of public drunkenness after allegedly posing as an airport security screener for the Transportation Security Administration at San Francisco International Airport. Slighton, an apparent partner with a private equity firm in Singapore and, before that, managing director of Barclays Capital in Hong Kong and Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, steered two women into private screening booths used to pat down passengers. While the first woman wasn’t noticed, the second caught the attention of real screeners (male screeners are prohibited from taking women into the booths without a female screener present). In case you wonder why Slighton isn’t being charged with impersonating a federal agent or false imprisonment, the women quickly boarded their flights and couldn’t be found to testify. On the other hand, why wouldn’t the screeners’ testimony be enough? Perhaps because the TSA is rather embarrassed about the breach, as outsiders wonder who’s screening the screeners.

Child alkies of the month:

In a case showing that addicts hang out together and that addiction can be triggered when very young, a 13-year-old was arrested for DUI with five other juveniles—all 14 or younger—in her mother’s car. The 13-year-old was driving without headlights when pulled over at 11:45 p.m. There is nothing in the record showing that the theft—or her daughter’s disappearance—had been reported, suggesting either the mother may have been asleep and had no idea, or that she is afflicted with (and makes the rest of us suffer from) the same malady as her daughter. One of the juveniles was reported as a runaway by his mother earlier that evening, another had an “active apprehension request” from the Department of Human Services and a third had an active temporary physical custody order on him. It’s possible the other five are children of alcoholics, but it’s also possible that some of them have already triggered the disease.


Grown-up child alkie of the month:

Former child star Amanda Bynes, 28, getting her second DUI and, again, put under the conservatorship of her mother. In the space of two years, she’s made a mess of her life. Two years ago, she sideswiped a police car and was charged with DUI; separately, she was charged with two hit and run incidents. In another incident, a DUI charge was dropped only because she pled out to reckless driving; after that, she was cited for driving with a suspended license. Off the road, she was arrested for criminal possession of marijuana, tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment for throwing a bong out the window of her 36th floor Manhattan apartment (she claimed it was a vase). Two days later she accused the arresting officer of sexual harassment. In Thousand Oaks, California, she allegedly started a fire in the driveway of a stranger’s house. Aside from her latest DUI, she accused her father of repeated sexual abuse when she was a child, only to retract her statement two days later, tweeting, “The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he’s the one that ordered them to microchip me.” That got her a psychiatric hold and now everyone thinks she’s crazy. How about starting with, “Let’s get her sober and make her stay that way?” and watch the crazy behavior dissipate. Please, someone coerce abstinence, lest my prediction comes true that she slips into a “let’s have multiple plastic surgeries” stage of addiction, where addicts can go overboard.


Codependent journalists of the month:

Journalists, informing readers that Amanda Bynes has a mental illness, when they should instead point to her behaviors and suggest she has the disease of addiction. They are welcome to say she may have or, more likely, may have triggered a mental disorder, but we cannot know this until she is clean and sober for at least several years.


Alcoholic passengers of the month:

Two women, Lilia Ratmanski, 25, and Milana Muzikante, 26, who went to the lavatory and consumed a “significant quantity of their duty-free alcohol purchase,” lit a cigarette, got into a physical altercation with each other and made a “threat against the aircraft” on a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Cuba. NORAD scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets to escort the flight back to Toronto. Assuming the women won’t be able to shoulder the cost of fuel, salaries and inconvenience to Sunwing, NORAD and the passengers, the costs alcoholics impose on the rest of us are incredible.


Alcoholic hero-villain of the month:

NYPD Officer Eugene Donnelly, 27, pleading innocent to having allegedly battered a 30-year-old woman after going out on the town celebrating receipt of a Police Combat Cross—the department’s second highest honor—for stopping a gunman while he was off-duty. The four-year veteran crashed at a friend’s and, at some point, wandered out of the residence wearing only his briefs. He wound up in another apartment in the same building and encountered the woman, who had never seen him before. He allegedly punched her twenty to thirty times, at one point saying, “I’m a good guy, but sometimes I’m a bad guy.” He may as well have said, “Sometimes I’m Dr. Jekyll, and sometimes I’m Mr. Hyde.”


Alcoholic sportsman of the month:

Abdiel Toribio, 42, was observed driving a vehicle with long-expired (2007) tags and pulled over. When he couldn’t find paperwork proving the vehicle belonged to him, the officer, a sheriff’s deputy, let it be known he was going to make an arrest. Toribio was going to have none of that and drove off—with the deputy partly inside the vehicle. After slowly pulling himself into the car, the deputy convinced Toribio, who had numerous priors, to stop and face new charges, including resisting an officer with violence and driving while license is suspended or revoked for DUI. Toribio is a horse jockey with career earnings of nearly $27 million in purse money and close to 10,000 starts, so he too could be considered a hero—and a villain.


Alcoholic untruth of the month:

Lawrence Goetzman, 30, rolled his SUV on an interstate ramp and, landing right-side up on its tires, drove away. Officers found a debris field of broken glass, clothes, tools and paperwork on the ramp, along with skid marks and red paint from a vehicle on the road. When officers tracked him down at the hospital, with a laceration under his left eye and blood all over his face and clothes, he greeted them with, “Oh, (expletive).” Goetzman told police he had fallen down the stairs at his house and hit some bricks. Police charged him with DUI, driving without a valid license and failure to maintain control of his vehicle. He also qualified for the next category:


DUI of the month:

Elias Velez-Morales, 24, who was, among other charges, arrested for DUI, while “dancing” on the seat of an International 354 tractor on a city street near Vero Beach, Florida. He registered a .24 percent blood alcohol level. He not only reeked of alcohol, but also of urine because he peed on himself and, in an apparent attempt to dry out, had his pants down when he was arrested. There are plenty of partially clothed alkies, but a partially clothed DUI is rare.


Alcoholic blackout of the month:

Daniel Suba, 36, waking up to find a neighbor’s televisions, electronics and jewelry in his apartment but no recollection of how it got there. He remembers drinking and pill-popping the night before. He’ll also remember—hopefully for the rest of his life—charges of grand theft and burglary, and perhaps connect the dots between the “night before” and the jail in which he will hopefully spend a few months.


Alcoholic law enforcement malfeasance of the month:

Aaron S. Jansen, 29, clocking in at 90 mph on Interstate 70, igniting a police pursuit. After evading spikes, Jansen drove into a soybean field, where he drove in circles for 40 minutes as law enforcers set up a perimeter, blocking all exits. Along the way, Jansen threw blankets, CDs and other items from the car and, at one point, slowed to about 5 mph, climbed out and “surfed” the car’s roof. Wearing a cowboy hat, boots and a woman’s dress, he yelled bible verses, made faces and flashed peace signs at officers. Jansen finally surrendered to deputy sheriffs and was charged with fleeing and eluding, obstruction, reckless driving and speeding. If you wonder why this is law enforcement malfeasance, consider what’s missing from the list of charges.


Alcoholic law enforcer of the month:

Nora Longoria, an elected judge of Texas’s 13th court of appeals, producing her badge after being pulled over for speeding. Smelling alcohol and observing slurred speech, the officer gave her sobriety tests; she failed. After being placed under arrest, she told the officer, “You are going to ruin my life. I worked hard for 25 years to be where I am today.” Longoria, 49, refused to be handcuffed or get into the police car, complying only after being threatened with additional charges of resisting arrest. Longoria adjudicates both criminal and civil cases. Because alcoholics have poor judgment, Texas residents will be well served if Longoria steps down or at least steps aside for a few years while she works on her sobriety. Message to Ms. Longoria: the officer wasn’t out to ruin your life—he was out to save it.


Polite alcoholic criminal of the month:

Mark Williams, 37, arrested for trying to rob one business, robbing the clerk at another business, running (literally—on foot) from a hit-and-run car crash and then breaking into four homes, all in the space of less than 40 minutes. He apologized to the neighbors at the fourth home, where he had surrendered, for being high and for interrupting their night.


Alcoholic chutzpah of the month:

Ria Buford, 32, charged with public drunkenness, robbery of a motor vehicle and disorderly conduct, when she helped herself into an unmarked police car after the driver had stepped out. An officer in the passenger’s seat tried to push her out while telling her they were cops; another in the back seat yelled at her to exit the vehicle. Ms. Buford (and this where “chutzpah” comes in) informed the officers she would drive the car to her car. One of the officers got out and raced around to the other side, trying to pull Ms. Buford out, when an unidentified man grabbed the officer’s shirt and yelled not to touch Ms. Buford. After a couple of knee strikes to his back area from another officer, the two were arrested. Surprisingly (not), the arresting officer wrote that Ms. Buford had “an overwhelming odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from her person.” The man was charged with public drunkenness, aggravated assault and resisting arrest.


Alcoholic medical analysis of the month:

The Medical Board of California explaining that Jason Lane, M.D. showed up at work with a .39 percent blood alcohol level, because he was “self-medicating” to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The board overlooked the fact that Lane’s obviously alcoholic bio-chemistry allows him to drink to a point where non-addicts would be comatose and possibly dead. Alcoholics “self-medicate” because they can; PTSD coincides with heavy drinking because the afflicted can drink heavily. Therefore, Lane showed up at work with a .39 percent BAL because he’s an alcoholic.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if he was given a chance to clean up his act and be regularly and randomly tested prior to his likely ruining countless relationships and, possibly, botching procedures and making faulty diagnoses? Instead, Lane was fired and could lose his medical license. This seems to have created enough pain to inspire in Lane a real need to get and stay sober: after detoxing in the hospital, he checked himself into a week-long program where—surprise, surprise!—he was diagnosed with alcohol dependence. After that program ended, he checked himself into a 30-day treatment center and followed that up with a six-week outpatient program, regularly attending AA meetings. Keep it up, Dr. Lane. You now have a shot at getting a real life and really helping people.


What follows is a slew of alcoholic “relatives of the month,” showing that family has nothing to do with the prevention of alcoholism and alcoholic misbehaviors.

Alcoholic dads of the month:

Mark Allen Hughes, 35, catching his 15-year-old son drinking alcohol and deciding to teach him a lesson: he gave his son multiple shots of vodka. The learning experience landed the son in the hospital, on a ventilator. Hughes has been charged with aggravated child abuse. Regular readers wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Hughes has a record of arrests on charges such as DUI, public intoxication and evading arrest. However, even you might be shocked that he has had 18 such arrests; he’s simply teaching what he knows best.

Charles James, 36, “flipping out” while doing drugs with his 14-year-old daughter in a hotel room. He was reportedly glassy-eyed and incoherent. Just what were you teaching your daughter in the hotel room, Mr. James?

Joshua Delong, 28, charged with child neglect after leaving his three children, ages 5, 7 and 8, in his car for four hours, with the windows up and the key in the ignition, while he drank beer at a bar. A witness reported the kids were honking and one said, “Daddy does this all the time.” Delong told police he left his children in his mother’s care and that his wife dropped them off at the bar without his knowledge; the mother and wife deny his claims. The kids may be learning the connection between drinking for hours, child abuse and lying.

Vontrell Hines, 25, arrested for child endangerment after shoving and then running from officers after being pulled over—leaving behind his 10-month-old daughter and 15 bags of marijuana in his car. Before you say, “See Doug? Pot can make people act really badly!” let me suggest the possibility he was using other drugs. While not crystal clear, among the charges was “being under the influence of drugs.” The daughter was, unfortunately, too young to learn a lesson.


Alcoholic aunt of the month:

Djuna M. Tansmore, 48, accused of abandoning her 1-year-old niece in a bid to avoid arrest for alleged theft of laundry detergent and Miracle Whip from a Walmart. When confronted by the store’s loss prevention officer, she struggled to remove the child from a cart (the toddler was buckled in) and ran off without the tyke. Tansmore was also charged with—are you ready?—use and possession of drug paraphernalia.


Alcoholic uncle of the month:

Clarence W. Hairston, 58, arrested for DUI, endangering the welfare of children and numerous other counts after taking his two nephews out for a joy ride. While his 8-year old nephew steered the vehicle while on his lap, a 9-year-old jumped around the back seat unrestrained; Hairston held a 25-ounce can of beer and an empty 25-ounce beer can was found in the center console. An officer had noticed the car moving erratically, stopping in the middle of the road, then accelerating and then braking, before striking a parked car. When the car stopped, Hairston got out, beer in hand. The cop observed, “He’s pretty drunk.”


Codependent mom of the month:

The mother of the kids who Clarence W. Hairston had in his car. Mom told officers that while she was aware Hairston was intoxicated, she would never have let him take the kids for a drive and “definitely” wouldn’t let the children drive. But she’d let him—an obviously known drunk—watch her children?


Alcoholic parents of the month:

Michael Pierce, 41, and his wife Melanie Pierce, 34, arrested after passing out from a heroin overdose in their car in a restaurant parking lot, with their 4-year-old and 11-month-old sons in the back seat.


Alcoholic grandma of the month:

Cynthia Ann Watson, 51, arrested after allegedly putting methamphetamine in tea that was later ingested by her 2-year-old granddaughter. The toddler’s mother told responding deputies that her child hadn’t fallen asleep since being put to bed the previous evening. The 2-year-old “was talking rapidly, scratching her skin, could not sit still and was very agitated.” Thinking there could be a medical issue officers took her to the hospital, where they found meth in the little girl’s system.

Alcoholic son of the month:

Dwight Ridgeway McGinnis, Jr., 67, charged with vulnerable adult neglect after leaving his 98-year-old mother in his truck inside the parking garage of a casino; she is confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for herself. She was found at 6:30 p.m., it was 81 degrees, one window was partially down, the only evidence of food or drink was an empty soda can and the truck had been parked for nearly five hours. McGinnis’ drinking wasn’t mentioned in any reports, probably because no one realizes it’s the best explanation for his “not-giving-a-damn-about-anyone-else” behavior.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

John Anthony Walker, Soviet spy, dead in federal prison at age 77 of causes related to diabetes and throat cancer. Walker specialized in communications during his time as a United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer; this expertise allowed him to create a spy ring that deciphered more than one million encrypted American messages, likely resulting in more damage to the U.S. military than any spy ring in history. Even more shocking was that close family and a friend made up the spy ring: his son Michael, his older brother Arthur and best friend, Jerry Whitworth. This spying allowed the Soviets to track every U.S. submarine 24/7, which then U. S. Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, admitted would have resulted in huge losses of American lives in the event of war.

At age 17, Walker was arrested on charges of burglary. The court offered him a choice between jail and the military, and he chose the latter. Thirteen years later, in 1968, he became distraught over financial difficulties and walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. with classified Navy communications documents. He negotiated payments and a weekly salary for spying. North Korean forces seized the USS Pueblo one month later, likely at the behest of the Soviets, who wanted to study equipment described in the documents (although there is some debate over whether the seizure was coincidental, I would suggest such events rarely simply coincide).

The U.S. government missed a number of opportunities to identify Walker as a spy. Sailors working alongside Walker weren’t suspicious of his swanky apartment, sports car and sail boat because they figured he was moonlighting as a pimp. “Traitor” never entered their minds. Walker and his wife Barbara divorced in 1976. By 1980, she had become an obvious drunk and didn’t want her son to become involved in what she finally realized was a spy ring. She tried several times to contact the Boston office of the FBI, but either hung up or was too drunk to speak. In 1984, she drunkenly confessed that Walker was a spy for the Soviet Union. The FBI figured she was simply a drunk, bitter woman and turned the report over to the Navy Investigative Service (now known as NCIS, Naval Criminal Investigative Service). When the NIS began asking how Walker could afford luxury vehicles and three residences, they broke the case wide open.

While we can’t be as certain of Walker’s addiction as we can in the case of Robert Hanssen (see the movie review of “Breach" in issue # 31 of TAR), there is plenty of evidence for his affliction:

  1. He was a spy. In his magnificent The Secret History of Alcoholism, James Graham devoted an entire chapter to spies and other heroes, as well as traitors and other anti-heroes, many of whom have been addicts.
  2. Walker’s actions demonstrate his mindset as invincible and God-like, which are signal symptoms of alcoholism. Anyone without that mindset simply wouldn’t be able to take the risks required to sell secrets to the enemy.
  3. He mocked the armed services; when asked how he had managed to access so much classified information, he responded, “Kmart has better security than the Navy.”
  4. He was a great liar. He lied not only to his employer, but also family and friends, including his best friend, Whitworth, telling him the stolen data would be used to help America’s ally, Israel.
  5. His marriage to Barbara was marked by physical abuse. The fact that his spouse was an alcoholic could explain this, but long-term physical abuse in such cases would be highly unusual. It’s much more likely that he was also an alcoholic, albeit a far more high-functioning one than his wife. Walker inflated his ego by wielding power over a superpower, the United States, thereby staving off late-stage addiction.
  6. He verbally abused his three daughters and urged one to abort his unborn grandson so she could enlist and spy for him. Verbal abuse goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism.
  7. While his wife cheated with Walker’s older brother, he cheated with women half his age. Serial Don Juan-ism is common among alcoholics, especially with much younger women.
  8. His excuse in grooming son Michael to take over the “family business” was that Michael was too inept to succeed at anything without fatherly help. Belittling is another classic behavioral indication of addiction.

The last seven of these are classic behavioral clues to addiction, elucidated in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics.

In opposition to the hypothesis that addiction explained his behaviors, Walker never got sober in prison. His self-serving autobiography claimed, among other delusions, that giving secrets to the Soviets helped to end the Cold War by convincing the Kremlin that it could never match our military superiority, causing them to simply give up. Since sobriety requires both abstinence and ego-deflation, it’s possible he never got truly sober. Many convicts, even those who stop drinking and using, never deflate the ego.

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts—which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.

The Case for Drug Decriminalization

I’ve long been a proponent of decriminalization of all drugs. To an addict, a psychotropic drug is a psychotropic drug; addicts can nearly always fall back on any available substitute. Make one drug illegal and either the addict will find a way to get his hands on it, or find another drug. When the U.S. tried prohibition of the drug alcohol in the early 20th century, the results included monstrous black markets, corrupt cops and no reduction in use by addicts. Current prohibitions do the same, and as before it allows really bad people—nearly always alcohol and other-drug addicts—to become obscenely wealthy; illegality results in immense mark-ups. Worse, due to civil forfeiture laws that didn’t exist during the earlier prohibition, criminalizing drugs creates perverse incentives among law enforcers: they enrich themselves by taking property without due process.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State (and soon, due to recent election results, Oregon, Alaska and D.C.) is resulting in unintended consequences. However, while creating some bad results, they are arguably not as negative as those caused by criminalization. Still, bad side effects can be reduced by allowing business-owners, landlords and others to discriminate against pot users.

I generally wouldn’t knowingly hire, otherwise do business with or rent to an alcohol or other-drug addict. This includes those addicted to marijuana. We addictionologists have a unique tool to ferret out such addicts before or shortly after hiring someone: behavioral indications (see How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). However, if we err it can be catastrophic to our pocketbook and sanity, and we can make mistakes because some addicts can make themselves appear normal for extended periods. Although I can often pick up likely addiction within minutes of meeting someone, I’ve missed a few after knowing them for years. Worse, non-addictionologists have no such tools. Therefore, employers need to be able to test and give employees who test positive one chance. This is especially crucial for employers of law enforcement personnel and other government employees. Landlords need to be given similar rights. Although this may result in occasional errors, such tough love would create far more sober addicts in the long run, which will be a net good for everyone.

Statistics cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits reported that the prevalence of workplace injury among “users” and “those under the influence” (aka “addicts”) is monstrously greater than among non-addicts. While pot users may not engage in the reckless risks that alcoholics take, they may instead make stupid errors. Behaviors vary, just as they do with other drugs. Potheads may not work as hard as they would when sober. Some may be less focused, while others (especially long-term users) may suffer short-term memory loss. Their judgment may be impaired.

A correspondent from Washington State writes that he is seeing the effects of legalized pot in the workplace after only ten months of decriminalization. He’s watching co-workers getting, as he puts it, “dumber.”

Assembly-line workers are missing key steps and incorrectly installing parts. In one case, black boxes produced by an airplane supply company weren’t properly sealed before being put into a test chamber, where they were to undergo a leak test. Electronics costing $100,000 were ruined.

In Colorado, reports are trickling out of poisoned dogs as a result of eating pot-laced food and children getting high by eating pot-filled candies. Obviously, to reduce the number of such horrible accidents, strict controls and stringent enforcement is essential. And, no-nonsense consequences for such foul-ups need to be imposed.

The good news out of Colorado so far is, contrary to the expectations of many who do not understand how addiction to pot creates vastly different behaviors than addiction to alcohol and certain other drugs (such as methamphetamine), violent crimes are down (click here for a complete six-months-in analysis and click here for a more critical discussion). I suspect this may be a result of many alcoholics moving towards weed, which leads to less violence than does booze in addicts (just as alcohol use by addicts leads to less crazy behavior than does methamphetamine use by addicts). When violence occurs, I suspect drugs other than pot are usually in the mix, in which case those other drugs may be causing the other-destructive misbehaviors. Further, very few deaths occur solely from marijuana use; most of the time, such deaths occur in conjunction with the use of other drugs. Compare reported overdoses from pot (so small I can’t even find reliable statistics; maybe a few hundred yearly if that from “real” marijuana, as opposed to the synthetic versions) with 16,007 deaths from prescription painkillers in 2012 (the latest year for which data are available) and an estimated 88,000 yearly deaths from alcohol for years 2006 through 2010. Self-destructive results from pot pale in comparison to those from the use of other drugs, both legal and illegal.

As regular readers know, we believe the drug (or, let’s say, gun) isn’t the cause of problems; it’s the person on the drug (or wielding the gun). The focus of the War on Drugs should be narrowed to creating certain consequences for those people exhibiting misbehaviors as a result of use. This is true for both guns and drugs.

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Sloshed mom

Dear Doug:

My husband and I are both well-educated, own a home and are ready to start a family. My mom is less than enthused, however. We were out enjoying some drinks with my folks when mom, who seems to have been a bit sloshed, told me she wished my older brother and his wife would have a child first, “No offense intended.” They’ve been trying for years and, due to the cost of fertility clinics, have decided to stop trying until my sister-in-law earns her degree.

I’m obsessing over my mom’s comment and fear discussing it, because she may not remember she said it. I think we’ll make great parents; I only wish my mom was on board with us.


Ready to be a mom


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might point out that those who drink heavily often make inappropriate remarks. They would suggest you ask what she really meant. Perhaps, they might surmise, she was thinking of your brother and sister-in-law and the pain they are experiencing because of their inability to conceive.

Nonsense. Your mother’s a drunk. She thinks of nobody but herself, her drink and when and where she’s going to get her next drink. Good intent should never be read into anything an alcoholic says or does.

Such columnists might also suggest that you let her know her comment was hurtful and to give her a chance to clarify her intent, adding “if she even remembers saying it.” That is tacit acknowledgment that your mother may have been in a blackout, during which time events will never be remembered. A blackout is so frightening, non-addicts never have more than one; they never again drink so much. Based on your observation that your mom may not remember saying what we know she said, she’s already had numerous blackouts, which is something only an alcoholic experiences.

Other columnists might even suggest you ask her to cut down her drinking “because memory lapses can be a symptom of a drinking problem.” No, she shouldn’t “cut down.” She needs to stop and never drink again because, dear mother-to-be, your mom has the disease of alcoholism and alcoholics cannot moderate their use over extended periods. And you do not want to have a baby whose grandma is a practicing alcoholic.

(Source for story idea: “Dear Abby,” August 3, 2014.)

Beethoven is one of those historical figures so famous that everything worth knowing about him has been known for a long time.”

So writes Edmund Morris in a review of Jan Swafford’s Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph in The Wall Street Journal (“The Mystery of Creativity: The madder Beethoven got, the more lucid his musical intelligence became,” August 2-3, 2014).The trouble with Morris’s observation is, knowing is not understanding.

He says Beethoven was “so unable to relate to other people’s feelings as to suggest a modern-day diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.” (For Myers-Briggs enthusiasts, this suggests he was either INFP or INTP.) “Nor did he ever really understand love….Hence the long list of occasions when Beethoven unfeelingly hurt those who loved him and whom he loved (or imagined he loved). Hence the stupid puns and incomprehensible jokes—not to mention the fits of paranoia—that make his letters read, on occasion, like the meanderings of a madman.” This suggests alcoholism. Finally, in the 17th paragraph, his “drinking too much” is mentioned, but without any mention of cause and effect.

Matt Goldstein's website, which is dedicated to the “art and culture of eating and drinking” (albeit moderately), gets it right in his article, “Beethoven: Classical Musical Genius, Alcoholic, Abusive, Paranoid.” Goldstein begins the piece by stating the single most important fact about this subject: Beethoven “was a drunken mess….[who] drank heavily….[and] showed the classic signs of alcoholism.” While pointing out he was famous for “legendary and pioneering classical music,” Goldstein quickly points out Beethoven “was very difficult to get along with socially. Mostly drunk, Beethoven was notoriously mean, abusive and suspicious of everyone. Beethoven hated all of his servants, thought most of them stole from him and thought some were even plotting against his life.” All of his business partners were out to steal his money. Friends and family were “abused and distrusted. An infamous womanizer, Beethoven also moved 71 times, indicative of an alcoholic.” Goldstein, as good an analyst as he is, doesn’t get everything: “Although an alcoholic, Beethoven is one of the most influential musicians of all time with an immeasurable impact upon the world.” With respect Mr. Goldstein, the correct word is not “although.” Beethoven was an alcoholic and, therefore, needed to wield power over others. The world, if not friends, family and business partners, got lucky: this need compelled him to both abuse others and to overachieve.

Biographers have long known that Beethoven was an alcoholic. They don’t get the fact that his musical genius—especially a need to continue to write music as he went deaf—is best attributable to this addiction. Knowing is not understanding. Only by understanding addiction can we understand the alcoholic subject of a biography.

And a bonus myth-of-the-month:

“Being Elvis comes with risks…. As a teenager, Sean began drinking and smoking pot.”

So wrote Bo Emerson, in “Requiem for a blues player” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in explaining why Sean Costello, a “child genius who grew into a mature artist” and whose “legacy lives on,” overdosed in 2008. No, Mr. Emerson, having the ability and notoriety of an Elvis Presley doesn’t carry risks; having alcoholic genes does. On tour, Costello could be a stay-up-all-night party animal. He’d been in rehab at least once. He was described as manic, staying up for three or four days. But mania rarely occurs without benefit of external injections of chemicals; he always did drugs. The toxicology report found his brain “swimming” in psychoactive chemicals, including cocaine and heroin.

While Emerson gets it partly right, acknowledging Costello began drinking at an early age, he fails to ascribe cause and effect. If psychotropic drug addiction isn’t the problem, addicts can’t get sober because there is nothing to get sober from and there’s no reason to stop using. Identify addiction as the cause of all the other problems and we’ll be right about 80-90% of the time. Once we know someone has the disease of addiction, they can be coerced into stopping the use and, only then, will they have a chance.

Stories from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”

Vroom: It wasn’t such a big deal that Karen Marie Dilworth, 50, was having sex with the motorcycle in her Ormond Beach, Fla., garage. The problem was, the garage door was open, and the young boy outside, and various other neighbors, couldn’t help but to notice. Dilworth, who admitted to police she had been drinking, was arrested and charged with ‘lewd/lascivious exhibition by a person over 18 on a person under 16.’ She denied having sex with the motorcycle. Then what was she doing in the garage? Smoking, she said. (RC/Daytona Beach News-Journal) ...Smoking, ‘smoking afterward’ — big difference.

It’s not that drinking “loosens inhibitions” so much as “impels one to do things that sober people would never consider doing.” Many non-addicts think about doing things they never act out on, even when drinking. The difference is alcohol and other-drug addicts act out on some of those thoughts, some of the time. And conversely, when we see someone acting in a way that causes others harm, substance addiction must be hypothesized as the most likely explanation. The hypothesis will prove true at least 80% of the time.


And, because we’ve missed so many issues this year and, well, because this one’s too good to pass up, a BONUS alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month:

Calculate the Odds of this Catching up with Her: A student at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley, Ariz., complained a math teacher was drunk in her classroom. The principal and school police officer investigated, and Kathleen Jardine, 57, allegedly admitted she had been drinking the night before, that morning, and during lunch at school; her blood alcohol measured .205 percent, the Pinal County sheriff’s office reported. A half-empty, 750 ml bottle of vodka was found in her purse, along with an empty wine bottle. The night before, Jardine was arrested for drunk driving on her way home from school. It was about an hour after she left work, and her blood alcohol was .257 percent — high enough to classify the crime as a ‘Super Extreme DUI.’ Deputies found a half-empty bottle of peppermint schnapps in her car, and asked if she was drinking and driving. ‘I only drank it when I was stopped,’ she replied. During her field sobriety test, the math teacher was counting her steps out loud and suddenly stopped to ask the officer, ‘Did I run out of numbers?’ Jardine was fired three years ago from a previous job — teaching math at a high school in New Mexico — because students complained she was drunk in her classroom. She passed a background check before she was hired in Arizona. (RC/KTVK Phoenix) ...Maybe background checks should also include a quick Google search.

The trouble with a Google search is that not only are problems hidden deep in Google’s search engines, but also too often drinking is not seen as relevant and, therefore, goes unreported. A diagnosis of alcoholism in a teacher—and a .257 percent blood alcohol content qualifies—should result in automatic choice of dismissal or being subject to regular and random alcohol and other-drug tests for years, if not for the rest of a teaching career. With ankle bracelets and other technology behind it, this would result in far more sober teachers. And because this sort of excess is only the tip of the iceberg—there’s no question that for every Kathleen Jardine there are ten or twenty others hiding it—those who teach children should be subject to regular and random testing and occasional screening for substance addiction. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

(Stories and taglines from “This is True,” copyright 2014 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:


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"My father died of alcoholism. His father died of alcoholism. Three generations of alcoholism is enough. Now is the time to abandon superstition and pseudoscience, to debunk the myths surrounding alcoholism, and to apply science to solving this problem. Doug Thorburn's book is a model example of how this should be done. Read it and be prepared to change your thinking on this important topic. When enough of us understand what is really going on with alcoholism, society can make the shift from treatment to prevention and intervention."
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