Issue #59 - November 2010
On occasion, I’ve suggested you check out my client letter, Wealth Creation Strategies, which focuses on tax and financial matters. The latest issue, #42 takes a look at unsustainable debt as the key challenge we all face in planning for our financial futures. As mentioned in the last TAR, every two to four years I have gotten overtly political, which I feel is particularly appropriate at this point in the nation's history. As you read the client letters, consider the possibility that many of those who have led the way in getting us into this mess may be alcoholics, or children of addicts (Steven Waldman, whose masterful 1987 piece I cite in the top story in the August 2010 edition of TAR provides some good evidence for this idea).
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Thorburn Addiction Report, with its occasional financial undertones.
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month we bring you several sections, including:
- Top Story of the month along with runners up, persons under watch, enablers, disenablers and more
- Review or Public Policy Recommendation of the month
- 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
- Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
- Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.
There is something for everyone!
© 2010 Doug Thorburn. All rights reserved.
The blog is open to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
By the way, call us (800-482-9424) for deals on books you won’t be able to refuse. (They are also available, of course, at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com.) They make a terrific gift to teens and anyone thinking about becoming professionally or romantically involved with someone else! (including other drivers, landlords, tenants, employers, employees, neighbors...)
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Charlie plays Charlie: the Misadventures of Charlie Sheen
“How can you live with yourself, you horrible evil man?”
In a 2008 episode of “Two and a Half Men” (“A Jock Strap in Hell”), one of Charlie’s many jilted ex-lovers, Delores Pasternak (played by Alicia Witt) asked Charlie Harper/Charlie Sheen how he could live with himself after he dumped her years earlier. Charlie’s teenage nephew, Jake, tells us all we need to know: “he drinks,” by which he obviously means “he drinks alcoholically.” Alcoholism causes euphoric recall, which makes Charlie/Charlie view everything he does through self-favoring lenses—meaning he doesn’t (and can’t) remember anything he did as horrible and evil. Yet, as your classic Don Juan type alcoholic, he is horrible in his own self-satisfying way, even if the writers make us laugh at almost every line in one of TV’s great portrayals of alcoholism.
Unfortunately, the actor, Charlie Sheen, is hardly acting while earning $1.8 million per episode. Charlie Sheen, son of the long-time recovering alcoholic actor Martin Sheen, has--and has had for years--a messy personal life. In 1990, Sheen accidentally shot his then-fiancee, Kelly Preston. He was named as a regular customer of Heidi Fleiss, who ran brothels in the early 1990s. He has been involved with at least two porn stars. Sheen overdosed on cocaine in 1998 and, in a classic case of disenabling, his father reported him to authorities for violating parole. Charlie married actress Denise Richards in 2002 who, while pregnant with their second daughter in 2005, filed for divorce, accusing him of threatening her with violence.
In 2008 Sheen married former actress (now real estate agent) Brooke Mueller, with whom he had twins in 2009. Later that year--specifically, Eggnog (Christmas) Day--Sheen was arrested on charges of domestic violence against Mueller. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 30 days in rehab, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management classes. He was not required, as one would think the judge might do if he or she wanted to increase the odds of Sheen's behaviors improving on a more permanent basis, to wear an ankle monitoring device designed to continuously test for alcohol in his system.
The latest of Sheen's escapades--and bear in mind that in the life history of an addict only a tiny fraction of the fun stuff ever makes it into the public eye--is having been found drunk and naked in The Plaza Hotel by the New York Police Department, after having (allegedly) "trashed" his room. According to reports, he accused the woman in his room—said to be a prostitute—of having stolen his wallet. When the woman denied it he reportedly flew into a rage, and she called security as she locked herself in the bathroom. According to police, he was so “intoxicated, irrational…incoherent…[and] emotionally disturbed” he was given the option of hospitalization or jail and wisely chose the first.
According to Charlie’s chief enabler, publicist Stan Rosenfield, the actor was hospitalized after suffering an “allergic reaction” to medication. I think it’s safe to go out on a limb and suggest the odds that Sheen’s long-standing alcoholism isn’t at the root of the behaviors are somewhere between nil and none.
Sheen’s life, like that of his alter-ego Charlie Harper, is best explained by unchecked alcoholism, which left untreated will end in tragedy. Judge Marsha Revel, before removing herself from the Lindsay Lohan case, did the right thing by offering Lohan tough love, the only kind of love appropriate when dealing with an addict. I suspect a Judge Revel could save Charlie Sheen.
However, so strong was my sense that his father’s legal intervention would keep him clean, I wrote about it as an intervention that “worked” in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society’s Most Destructive Disease. I was wrong; Charlie needs more. I’ve long advocated video-taping addicts when committing vile acts and showing the results during an intervention. There may be tapes of Charlie’s antics at the Plaza Hotel. I’m afraid his enabling handlers may not even let him see the tapes. However, if they did—and even better, if released to the public—they could create a bottom that will never be forgotten and even serve as a lesson for Charlie-wannabe’s.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Rebecca S. Parrett, 62, who fled Ohio two and a half years ago after being convicted on a number of charges involving the nation’s largest fraud of a privately held company, National Century Financial Enterprises, arrested while on the lam in Mexico. She was one of the founders of the company, which financed accounts receivable of small hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. The company failed after executives loaned millions to providers without formalizing the loans and spent millions on lavish lifestyles for themselves. While fraud alone isn’t proof of alcoholism, committing fraud is compelling evidence that one is afflicted with the disease. However, she wouldn’t have made it to “runners-up” were it not for her six marriages which, since the odds of alcoholism in someone married four times is 85%, pretty much puts the nail in the coffin. Think: Elizabeth Taylor. By the way, Ms. Parrett, how do you live with yourself and why, in the face of all the evidence, do you try to convince everyone around you that you did nothing wrong? For a rhetorical answer, please see “Charlie,” above.
JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who took a joyride down an emergency chute, endangering and inconveniencing airline personnel and passengers alike, pleading guilty to two counts of attempted criminal mischief and agreeing to undergo counseling and “drug and alcohol” rehabilitation. “At the end of the day, I’m a grown adult and I must take responsibility for my actions,” a seemingly contrite Slater said outside Queens Supreme Court, flanked by his boyfriend, his lawyer and his publicist. However, the fact that one of his flankers was a publicist suggests he still wants to cash in on his criminality. And, he has never admitted to being drunk after launching into a profanity-laced tirade before sliding down the chute with a beer in each hand. Convince yourself of such a likely untruth, Mr. Slater, and you could end up becoming as crazed as Charlie, above.
Saudi Prince Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud, 34, sentenced to at least 20 years in the beating and strangulation death of a servant, Bandar Abdulaziz. Al Saud, who apparently thought he was protected by diplomatic immunity, belongs to one of the richest families in the world, yet faces the possibility of execution for homosexuality if he ever returns to Saudi Arabia. (Lucky for him he didn’t get diplomatic immunity, since the sentence for murder here is mild in comparison with the sentence for homosexuality in his home country. But I digress.) It comes as no surprise that al Saud and his man-servant had been “drinking heavily” the night of the murder. He may have been “drinking heavily” whenever he engaged in “sadistic abuse” of Bandar, which reportedly occurred over a three-year period. Perhaps he could live with himself because “he drank,” like Charlie above.
Jennifer Lynn Petkov, 33, seen taunting a 7-year-old girl dying of Huntington’s disease in a video that must be seen to be believed, here. Days after the video was taken, Petkov allegedly tried to run a neighbor over with her car and, for other reasons, lost custody of two of her children. Just how do you live with yourself, Jennifer Lynn Petkov?
Comedian Andy Dick, 44, allegedly flashing patrons of the Café Audrey coffee house in a drunken stupor. A self-described bi-sexual, he has twice been arrested for lewd sexual advances towards both men and women and has quite a history of bizarre acting-out, an excellent summary of which can be found at Wikipedia. Obviously, his 2009 stint in rehab with Dr. Drew Pinsky on “Sober House,” a “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” spin-off, didn’t stick. While you weren’t completely nude like Charlie Sheen, there’s no need to ask how you can live with yourself, Andy Dick.
In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine suggests there may be some truth in 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 couple of recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the behavior itself.
David Russell Williams, 47, who:
- commanded the Canadian Forces Base Trenton (the country’s largest and busiest airbase),
- was a decorated military pilot who had flown Canadian Forces VIP aircraft for Queen Elizabeth ll, Prince Philip, the prime minister and other Canadian dignitaries,
- was considered a “model military” man with degrees in economics and political science,
- served for two years as an instructor at the 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School,
- obtained a Master of Defense Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada,
- was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and commanding officer of the 429 Transport Squadron at CFB Trenton, Ont.,
- was commanding officer of Camp Mirage(a secret logistics facility believed to be located at Al Minhad Air Base in Dubai, and
- has been described as an elite pilot and “shining bright star” of the Canadian military
...admitted to charges of serial rape and the murders of 27-year-old Jessica Lloyd and 37-year-old Corporal Marie-France Comeau. In addition, Williams, incredibly a married man whose crimes were largely committed within walking distance of his home and vacation cottage, also admitted to 82 fetish home invasion break-ins and thefts. In searching his main home, police discovered stolen lingerie that was neatly stored, catalogued and concealed, along with thousands of pictures he took of Lloyd, Comeau and at least two rape victims. He also methodically tracked and kept detailed records of police reports of his crimes, as if to say, “Look at what I can get away with: burglary, rape and even murder.” Except for some pretty darned good detective work and interrogation, he almost did. While there was no mention of addictive use of alcohol or other drugs in published reports, the best explanation for the behaviors of anyone who appears to be an extraordinary overachiever and evil incarnate wrapped into one, aka Jekyll and Hyde, is alcoholism. Mr. Williams, we would ask you: how do you live with yourself? I think Jake knows the answer.
Representative Laura Richardson, D-CA, again behind on payments on her home (by $42,000 according to bank documents, even though her enabling spokesman says she isn’t behind at all), which hit MLS as a short sale at $399,000. Back in 2008 she asked a Washington Mutual lobbyist to stop a foreclosure on the $578,000 mortgage on her home and, in an extremely unusual circumstance, got it back after foreclosure by claiming, despite having missed 12 payments, she didn’t know the house was sold in a foreclosure auction (incredible details are in the July 2008 TAR). This is the same woman who, in a prepared statement two years ago, said “Earlier this year, I was notified that the mortgages on properties that I own were in default. At that time, I began continuous discussions with the lenders to reinstate and modify these loans and to reinstate my ownership of the properties. Since those discussions were initiated, I was not notified of any preemptive sales of any of the properties.” The House Ethics Committee found her not guilty of ethics violations (August 2010 TAR). Ms. Richardson, just how do you live with yourself? For the likely answer, please see Jake’s response to Charlie’s jilted lover, above.
Alcoholic victims of the month:
The shareholders of Walgreen’s, who could suffer as a result of an alcoholic Chief Financial Officer, Wade Miquelon, arrested on suspicion of DUI for the 2nd time in little more than a year. While the company can’t comment on “personal” matters, DUI is a material factor in whether or not a person can be trusted. We really want to be able to trust a CFO. If I hadn’t already sold my Walgreen’s stock, I’d sell it now. (I’ve long felt the ideas promulgated here and in my books could be used in buy and sell decisions of publicly-traded companies, but it’s rare so far for CFOs or CEOs to be outed and hence not particularly helpful as a practical matter—yet.) While alcoholics can take you on a rocket to the moon, if they are in crash and burn mode they can wipe you out. Thinking “this addict is different” or “I’ll get out before burn-out” is not an appropriate risk-management tool.
Co-dependents of the month:
The fans, producers and everyone else involved with “American Idol,” which announced that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler will join Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson to form the three-judge panel for the upcoming season. According to The Washington Post, Tyler “seemed somewhat dazed” and “looked as though he had unhitched his brain to let it rest a spell” during the press conference in which the new judges were unveiled. Tyler was “fresh out of the Betty Ford Center.” Considering the risk of relapse is so high for addicts in early recovery, the upcoming season could be particularly interesting.
Enablers of the month:
Virginia Thomas, who left a phone message for Anita Hill, asking her to apologize for testifying against her husband, Clarence Thomas, 19 years ago during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Hill told reporters she has no intention of apologizing for accusing Thomas of making lewd and harassing comments when they were colleagues in the 1980s because she simply “testified to the truth of [her] experience.” Considering the fact that according to Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker (November 12, 2007) Thomas admitted in his memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, to “using alcohol to deaden the pain and anger that dominated his life” until he “stopped drinking cold turkey during his tenure at the E.E.O.C.” (where he and Hill worked together), it’s likely that Thomas committed the acts. It’s even likely, if Thomas has the disease of alcoholism, that his denials are genuine and he doesn’t remember what he did or said (having possibly suffered blackouts) or recalls through self-favoring lenses (having regularly experienced euphoric recall). A former girlfriend of Thomas’s, lawyer Lillian McEwen, said while appearing on “Larry King Live” that when they first met Thomas “may” have been a “raving alcoholic” who used pornography to fulfill his sexual fantasies. If Thomas is an abstinent alcoholic, which the evidence suggests in compelling fashion, making lewd and lascivious remarks is about the least of what he could have been capable of. Justice Thomas: you would do the world a favor if, assuming this analysis is correct, you would admit to alcoholism and begin the process of recovery. You would admit to your wrongs and pay amends to those you harmed. In addition, as possibly the most free-market oriented Supreme Court justice, you just might help the libertarian cause by coming clean and explaining that alcoholism is a brain disease that caused you to act badly, some of the time.
Defense attorney Ellyn Garofalo, who claimed the acquittal of her client Dr. Sandeep Kapoor was “a victory for Anna Nicole Smith. This jury did not find she was an addict.” No, it was not a victory for Ms. Smith, Ms. Garofalo. As pointed out in the April-May 2007 TAR, she was quite the obvious addict. Smith’s long-time companion Howard K. Stern and psychiatrist Dr. Khristine Eroshevich were both convicted of conspiring to obtain controlled substances by fraud and by providing false names. You don’t need to conspire to obtain psychotropic drugs or provide false names in doing so if you are not an addict. The defense would not have wanted me in that jury box.
“I can’t believe he did this” of the month:
Federal U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp, Jr., 67, charged with buying cocaine, illegal painkillers and other drugs from Stripper Sherry Ann Ramos, 27. Ramos, who was continually violating her parole by engaging in prostitution and using drugs, hoped to avoid jail by “delivering” a wayward federal judge via a sting set up by the FBI, which she appears to have done in spades. Camp, appointed to the federal bench in 1988 by President Reagan and earning senior judge status in 2008, has handled a number of high-profile drug cases and, therefore, sent people to prison for doing the sort of thing he is accused of doing. Those who know him used the usual phrases: “It’s so unbelievable,” “this is an inexplicable deviation of character,” “there’s no rational explanation,” and “it’s Jekyll and Hyde.” Of course, we know otherwise: his (alleged) behaviors are best explained by alcohol and other-drug addiction, which was probably long-standing, hidden though it may have been.
Quotes of the month:
“He had been warned of the dangers of drinking and driving by a court, by friends and by family.”
So wrote a reporter on the conviction of Andrew Gallo, 23, in the death of the Los Angeles Angels’ promising young rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, 22, in a crash that also killed two others. The trouble is, once an addict gets high he thinks he’s invincible. Countless addicts have told themselves they’d never (again) drink and drive, only to (yet again) get behind the wheel while under the influence. Gallo, like so many before him, didn’t plan on driving, but after a night of heavy drinking, like so many other alcoholics, he did. He even had a designated driver, who ended up as a passenger in his car and survived. The trouble is Gallo was given the wrong warning. He should have been told he could never again safely drink (he already had a DUI on his record) and should have been proscribed from doing so via every legal and technological means at our disposal. I wrote in the May 2009 TAR, “As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, alcoholics are incapable of self-diagnosis, cannot be ‘educated’ to abstain and need to have logical consequences imposed, just like children. Had Gallo been forced into abstinence with the technology of alcohol testing devices, which should be considered for everyone who has been found guilty of DUI, this tragedy would have been far less likely.” His friends and family, with the full support and enforcement of the legal system, should have given him the only warning that can be safely given to those afflicted with the disease of alcoholism: “When you drink, you think you are invincible. One potentially lethal manifestation is when you drink and a car is available and there is a reason for you to drive, you won’t hesitate to get behind the wheel. Therefore, you can’t ever drink again.” If the system worked to prevent the use by those who have proven they cannot safely use, Nick Adenhart would probably be alive today and Andrew Gallo would not have been convicted of murder.
“Alcohol is a very bad thing. It can take the most wonderful person and turn them into the devil.”
So said 29-year-old David Henry Wysocki, apologizing to his wife and pledging never to drink again after U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich slammed him for having repeatedly punched his then- 8 ½ month pregnant wife in the stomach and bitten her arm several times mid-flight in front her children, ages 9 and 14, and a plane full of witnesses. The Judge sentenced Wysocki to six months in federal prison and probation with anger management classes. He’s undergone treatment for his alcoholism, which studies cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits show is all that’s needed for anger to dissipate. It sounds like he’s on track so he won’t continue to act like Charlie, above.
Those who might earn recognition in a future edition of TAR that have recently made news include Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (known for his quick temper, scathing outbursts and heavy use of expletives, recently reported to have been hit with a $2 million back tax bill and behind in paying a number of suppliers).
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
Actor Tony Curtis, dead from cardiac arrest at age 85. Curtis’s screen credits included “Houdini,” “The Boston Strangler,” “The Defiant Ones,” and two of my favorite movies ever, “The Great Race,” and “Spartacus.” Curtis, married six times, was scared into sobriety after almost dying in 1984 of liver cirrhosis, after which he went to the Betty Ford Center and, reportedly, stayed sober for the rest of his life. My appreciation goes out to him for having helped teach me that alcoholism can take form in countless ways, including those that pit addict v. addict: Curtis was infuriated over having to gnaw on a chicken leg 42 times in 42 retakes of one scene in “Some Like it Hot,” in which Marilyn Monroe was so drunk she couldn’t get her lines straight. When someone asked if he enjoyed making screen love to the movie goddess he snapped, “It’s like kissing Hitler.” Curtis couldn’t eat chicken for months.
Singer Eddie Fisher, dead from complications of hip surgery at age 82. Having been married five times, including to at least one alcoholic (Elizabeth Taylor; Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens were two of his other brides), is compelling evidence of addiction. He confirmed it in his 1981 autobiography (by which time he’d already been married and divorced four times), where he admitted to being addicted to cocaine and alcohol. He also acknowledged being a patient of New York’s Max Jacobson, M.D., known as “Dr. Feelgood” who (as Dr. Theodor Gilbert Morell did for Adolf Hitler) gave him “multi-vitamin” injections that included some “feel-good” drugs such as amphetamines. Fisher, who was at his peak in the early 1950s with dozens of songs that made the top 40 and four that reached number one, went under contract as Coca Cola’s spokesman for an unheard of $1 million at age 25 in 1953. Always remember, being a practicing alcoholic not only does not preclude one from becoming a multi-millionaire but may, because addicts take risks others do not, assist in creating such wealth (fleeting though it may be in many cases).
Reggae artist Gregory Isaacs, dead from lung cancer at age 59. He pioneered “lovers-rock” reggae and was a prolific record-maker, releasing at least 200 albums. He admitted he may or may not have invented this style of reggae, but he clearly popularized it and is considered by reggae producer Gary Himelfarb (aka Doctor Dread) to be one of the three geniuses in the reggae music business. Isaacs’ “serious” cocaine addiction contributed to around 50 arrests, mostly on drug- and gun-related charges, as well as “notorious” unreliability and the eventual deterioration of his voice. In a 2007 interview he said, “Drugs are a debasing weapon. It was the greatest college ever, but the most expensive school fee ever paid—the Cocaine High School. I learnt everything, and now I’ve put it on the side.”
So long too to comedian Greg Giraldo (regular on Comedy Central celebrity roasts and a judge on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”), 44, of a drug overdose and former five-term U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy (D-MO.) (who resigned amid allegations she had misused her staff and campaign funds for personal gain, in particular to attend the Grammy Awards), 63, of Alzheimer’s. McCarthy’s family said she had bipolar disorder, which “had gone undiagnosed for a decade.” So too, apparently, had her alcoholism—which she admitted to in March 2003, a day after she fell on an escalator in a House office building and cut her head. Note to her family: alcoholism mimics all of the personality disorders, including bipolar disorder. It may also contribute to Alzheimer’s. Note to other families: it can pay to diagnose alcoholism far earlier than is common, since only then do you have a chance to intervene, before it’s too late.
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.
Workers’ Compensation awards should not be given to those who act recklessly.
Illinois state trooper Matt Mitchell was on his way to a traffic accident.
Along the way, he lost control of his patrol car and jumped a median, colliding head-on into a car in which Kelli and Jessica Uhl, ages 18 and 13, were killed.
Tragic and sudden adverse events, commonly called accidents,* can occur despite careful thinking unclouded by a damaged neo-cortex, or human part, of the brain. However, they are far more likely to occur in individuals with such damage, since the impulses and instincts of the basal ganglia, or pre-mammalian brain, can and often do impel the person to act recklessly when unimpeded by the rational part of the brain. Unless we are alcohol and other-drug addicts, few of us have damaged frontal lobes.
Evidence abounds that 50% to 80% of "accidents" involve some sort of recklessness on the part of alcoholically brain-damaged individuals. As shown in Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence roughly half of road fatalities involve alcohol or other-drug addiction. Studies cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits found that one or more of the participants in 70-90% of snowmobile, workplace and incendiary accidents were likely addicts. Although lacking studies, we might deduce that law enforcement "accidents" often involve an addicted law enforcer.
The behavioral clues in Matt Mitchell were obvious, even though no one else has suggested the possibility. All the addictionologist has to know to get his antennae up is that Mitchell was sending emails and talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone—and driving at 126 mph. The fact he knew that the accident to which he was heading was already attended to by a fire department, ambulance personnel and sheriff’s deputies is mere icing on the cake.
Unfortunately, according to Drug Recognition Experts I interviewed in researching Get Out of the Way!, depending on the police force 20-50% of active duty cops are practicing alcoholics. Mitchell was sending emails. He was on his cell phone. He was driving through traffic at a ridiculous rate of speed. Just what was he thinking? We could easily surmise he wasn’t thinking rationally, because he couldn’t. Whether or not he was under the influence at the time is irrelevant. We’ll probably never know because it’s likely no one suspected it at the time. After all, he is a cop.
After being on paid leave for two years while awaiting trial, he finally pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving. He then resigned from the force and promptly filed a Workers’ Compensation claim for injuries he sustained in the crash. After all, he was on duty.
To the detriment of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system and all who pay into it, he will likely collect. He shouldn’t collect a dime, but the law needs to be changed to make it so. And while we’re changing the rules, all participants in accidents should undergo mandatory testing for alcohol and other drugs as soon as possible after the incident. If we hope to reduce the number of such tragedies, evil-doers need to be held accountable for their decisions—and if the explanation for awful behavior involves alcohol or other-drug addiction, the perpetrator needs to be proscribed from ever using again. And they certainly shouldn’t be rewarded.
* There should be a way to distinguish between crashes that are truly unforeseeable accidents and those that have their roots in substance addiction, an idea discussed in the March 2008 TAR.
“Being drunk doesn’t change who you are; it just reveals it.”
So said Dr. Remy Hadley in the 5th Season episode of “House,” entitled “House Divided.” Many reviewers loved the episode, which was described by one (who thought it was the best “House” ever) as “House” meets “X-Files” meets “Twilight Zone.” Unfortunately, it contained one of the great myths of alcoholism.
Olivia Wilde’s character Hadley, also known as “Thirteen,” repeated what most non-alcoholics believe, because the statement is true for non-addicts. However, for that 10% of the U.S. population with the disease of alcoholism, the statement is a myth: the effect of the chemical on the brain fundamentally changes the personality (think: Jekyll and Hyde). And that small fraction is by far the most relevant part of the population, because it is responsible for 80-90% of society’s ills, woes and dysfunctions. We need to get it right: being drunk doesn’t change who you are if you are not afflicted with the disease of addiction, but it fundamentally changes how you act if you are so afflicted.
My friend, the doormat
My friend has been married for 11 years to a man who drinks daily and comes home and picks fights with her. She used to verbally take him on, but now seems numb and acquiesces to his every demand. I’ve suggested she leave him and offered her a place to stay, but she refuses and instead only complains about him. Is there anything else I can do?
Dear Friend of Codependent,
Other columnists might tell you that you cannot compel your friend to change her life, but should continue to offer to help her break her free of the abuse. They’d suggest you offer to attend an Al Anon meeting with her. Such columnists would be inferring alcoholism in the husband, but wouldn’t be blunt about it.
You need to be blunt.
The man has alcoholism which, giving him the benefit of the doubt, best explains his nasty behaviors. He will not change unless and until he gets sober.
She won’t even threaten to leave him, without which he will not be inspires to seek sobriety. As is all-too-common, the best chance to get him sober is from outside the family.
This is where conspiracies can help. You wrote that he “drinks daily and comes home.” You’re telling us he drinks and drives. Alcoholics almost never get sober without some sort of external coercion or threat of severe consequences. A DUI is perhaps the best form of legal intervention, which many recovering alcoholics credit with having gotten them sober.
Our law enforcement system is not structured to set up alcoholics for arrests for DUI. However, if you can find out where he works and the location of the after-work watering hole, and if you can get the police involved, you just might be able to help your friend. Because she is so unwilling and has become such a doormat, this may be your only chance.
Some may call this a pipe dream. However, until and unless there is a demand from folks like you for this sort of proactive police involvement, nothing will happen. Maybe you can help to bring about the change needed to increase the odds of DUI where it’s most needed.
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, October 27, 2010.)
Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
“DEADBEAT DOLT: Ronald McIntyre was such a deadbeat father that a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to pay child support. He had accumulated a bill of $5,979.66, and sheriff's deputies in Chicago, Ill., heard he was staying at a friend's apartment. They went to serve the arrest warrant but McIntyre, who goes by the nickname "Boobie", wasn't inside. A child pointed to the window, and a deputy looked out to see that McIntyre had jumped out to avoid capture. There were two problems with the tactic: the apartment is on the third floor of the building, and the landing area, while it looks like grass, is actually artificial turf over concrete. McIntyre was hospitalized with multiple compound fractures to both legs. (Chicago Sun-Times) ...Where he will accumulate a bill for significantly more than $5,979.”
…and for which either hapless taxpayers will pay, or the responsibly insured via increased premiums so that insurers can pay the bill.
One of the biggest unheralded costs of health care is addiction-related behaviors that lead to “accidents.” Studies support the idea that well over 50% of all such accidents have their roots in alcoholism. The case of Ronald McIntyre, a deadbeat dad with a warrant committing an act of what would be considered by most gross stupidity, is more likely a result of addiction-related damage to the thinking part of his brain, the neo-cortex. If true, there is little doubt that hundreds of behavioral clues were evident before McIntyre leaped. Society’s health care costs could be massively reduced by proactively identifying addiction—and providing appropriate incentives to stop the use whenever possible.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2010 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 twice the stories—I highly recommend it: www.ThisIsTrue.com.)
To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at PrevenTragedy.com.
Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is now available at
"Every policymaker in America needs to read your book exposing the myths of chemical addiction...Excellent book."
GaltPublishing.com, Amazon.com and bookstores near you.
Jim Ramstad, Member of U.S. Congress (MN)
"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."
Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic Magazine and columnist, Scientific American
Buy your copy of Alcoholism Myths and Realities for only $14.95 or get the whole collection PLUS a two-hour audio cassette from Galt Publishing for just $49.95 plus tax and shipping. That's a $72.75 value for only $49.95.
To order online, click the following link (be sure to put "TAR SPECIAL" in the comments section of the order form.) Orders can also be placed by phone: 800-482-9424 OR fax: 818-363-3111.
If you wish to pay by check, send the appropriate payment with your shipping information and the words "TAR SPECIAL" in the "memo" section of your check to: PO Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327.
Click here to purchase any of the above Thorburn books
Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"
Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation
The Thorburn Addiction Report is a free newsletter published by Galt Publishing and PrevenTragedy.com. Subscibe by visiting our web site at www.PrevenTragedy.com.
The Thorburn Addiction Report is available to newspapers as a regular feature column.
Inquiries are invited.
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Doug Thorburn, P.O. Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327-7777