Issue #63 - April/May 2011

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

Many of you know my “day job” is tax preparation and planning, which led to my discovery that financial abuse of others is, like most other abuse, usually rooted in alcoholic egomania. You may not know, however, how I ended up becoming an Enrolled Agent, or the link between this and the name of my publishing company, Galt Publishing. For a bit of history, you may want to check out issue # 41 of our regular client letter, Wealth Creation Strategies, available here. Those who find the issue interesting will find the review of the movie “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” below particularly intriguing, and vice-versa. Enjoy!

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

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

Actress and “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Kirstie Alley gets a long-awaited public apology

Why is alcoholism such a tough disease to overcome? First, since 95% of alcoholics are “functional” during 95% of their drinking careers, why stop, when most everything seems to be going just fine? Second, few family members, friends and co-workers are willing to impose appropriate consequences for misbehaviors. Why seek sobriety when the pleasure of use is greater than the pain of consequences? Third, as explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, the biochemistry in alcoholics is different: they feel “no pain” at blood alcohol levels where the rest of us are either flat on our faces, long gone to bed or praying to the porcelain gods. Why stop when they obviously don’t look plastered during most drinking occasions? Fourth, drinking and its glorification are all around us, from neon signs to movies to “the most interesting man in the world.” How can anyone stop when it permeates the culture?

Given these obstacles, the miracle is that many addicts do attempt sobriety and get to step 9 of the 12-step program, which requires that direct amends be paid to those they have harmed. It is beautiful when it occurs.

Usually, making amends is a private affair between the perpetrator and victim. However, an amends occasionally becomes public, as has just occurred in the case of Cherrie Glymph, now 57, who slammed into a car carrying actress Kirstie Alley’s parents in 1981, resulting in Kirstie’s mother’s death. Glymph admits, “I shouldn’t have been driving that night.” Because she was clearly under the influence (and no doubt got a plea deal), she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular homicide and spent about six months in county jail and another half year in an alcohol recovery center and a halfway house. In rehab, she wrote a letter of apology to the then anonymous survivor of the crash, which was never mailed because she didn’t know who he was—until now, with The Enquirer unearthing the long-forgotten account of the incident. Glymph, who long ago admitted to her wrongs by pleading guilty and paying for it (even if the sentence was too lenient by today’s standards), has been offered an opportunity to apologize to any surviving victims and, at the same time, serve as an example for others, both good and bad. The wonder of it is she has taken the opportunity: she is publicly apologizing to Kirstie. Glymph, a longtime fan of Kirstie on both “Cheers” and “Dancing with the Stars,” admits, “If it wasn’t for me, her mother could be in the audience watching her dance…. I want to publicly apologize to Kirstie for what I’ve done. I am so sorry for killing her mother. I hope and pray that one day she can accept my apology, and I can tell her in person how truly sorry I am.” Hopefully Kirstie, a recovering cocaine addict who should understand the challenges of sobriety, will acknowledge Ms. Glymph’s amends.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Osama bin-Laden, dead from an assault by a Navy Seal team inside Pakistan. Several weeks after 9-11, I was listening to late-night talk radio and, of course, the topic was 9-11. “Mr. KABC” was taking questions, to which he always gave his best answers. I called and was able to ask, “Mr. KABC, why do you think people become terrorists?” He went into a 5-minute psychological analysis, after which I asked, “Would you like to hear another theory?” He said sure, and I responded that addiction-fueled egomania is the most likely reason, especially for those at the top (remembering that alcoholics can be so charismatic and charming they can get people to follow them and do awful things). Host Doug McIntyre, host of the Red Eye Radio (beginning then at midnight) happened to have just shown up for work and he emphatically told Mr. KABC that I was on to something. McIntyre, a recovering alcoholic, got on the phone and promptly booked me for his show, which I was on in the middle of the night a few weeks later. I realized I had to write about this, which resulted in this piece on terrorism and bin Laden. The Thorburn Addiction Report (TAR) has featured several top stories on terrorism and its likely roots since then (see issue # 4, issue # 13, issue # 24, issue # 42 and issue # 53). Unfortunately, I haven’t heard that anyone in the U.S. government has considered the possibility that I’m “on to something.”

Former Major League Baseball star and “financial guru” Lenny Dykstra, charged with embezzling property from his bankruptcy estate. He is accused of arranging to spirit away a “dazzling array of antiques, big-screen TVs, artwork and collectible books from his residences,” including the one he purchased from hockey great Wayne Gretzky. We first noted his antics in the “under watch” section of the February 2006 issue of TAR, which came about because I viewed what I then described as a “stunning CNBC interview” in which he appeared and sounded stinking drunk; I subsequently discovered he had been accused of sexually battering a 17-year-old girl, was reportedly a target in a gambling probe and in 1991 charged with DUI. He was “promoted” to the “runners-up” section of the August 2009 issue, which detailed his bankruptcy filing the day before the former Gretsky mansion was to be auctioned in a foreclosure sale and how his reported $58 million net worth in 2008 imploded only a year later to a negative net worth of roughly $50 million. It also includes links to several must-see videos, including a hysterical “Daily Show” piece.

Crystal Mangum
, 32, who was described as the “alleged victim” in the April-May 2006 issue of TAR, which detailed the false accusations of rape made by her with the support of then District Attorney Mike Nifong against three Duke University lacrosse players. Mangum is now charged with murdering her boyfriend, Reginald Daye during an argument. In an all-too-common story of judicial system malfeasance, she has repeatedly escaped appropriate consequences for crimes, which has only allowed her to go on to commit more of the same, culminating in the ultimate crime. In 2002, after giving a taxi driver a lap dance at a Durham strip club, she stole his car and led law enforcers on a high-speed chase that officers thought was over when she ended up on a dead-end road. Instead, as the officer exited his vehicle, she tried to run him over. Her blood alcohol level registered .16 per cent, which when combined with attempted murder should give the judicial system the right and obligation to coerce abstinence for the rest of her life; but no. In February 2010 Mangum was arrested for assaulting her then-boyfriend, setting his clothes on fire in a bathtub, threatening to stab him and then resisting arrest, all of which occurred while her children were at home and is so over-the-top it suggests (along with an apparently related charge of identity theft) that methamphetamine was on board. In a June 2010 television interview, in a wonderful case of alcoholic confabulation-speak, Mangum claimed, “I do feel that I am being unjustly treated because of preconceived notions about my character in the media.” Yes, and war is peace and slavery is freedom. She’d be a terrific politician if only her felonies could be wiped clean.

Actor Nicholas Cage
, 47, charged with domestic abuse battery, disturbing the peace and public drunkenness after an argument with his wife in New Orleans’ French Quarter. He earned an “under watch” entry in the Nov-Dec 2009 issue of TAR, after filing a $20 million lawsuit alleging his former business manager was reckless with his money and failed to pay more than $6 million in taxes owed by Cage. I implied the accusation was contradicted by his extraordinarily reckless purchases, including more than a dozen mansions (one, a castle in England), a couple of Bahamian islands, two yachts, a Gulfstream jet and more than 50 high-end cars, and pointed to Cage’s own admission that he went through a period of “drug and alcohol abuse.” He claims to have gotten “out of that scene on his own.” Nick, I don’t think so. My only question remains: did you relapse or were you a victim of an alcoholic business manager, or both?

After the Royal Wedding, my loyal readers might expect an expose of a British drunk or two. Let’s make it a twosome: Prince Harry and his girlfriend Chelsy Davy. The wedding party likely tightly controlled these two, as both are known to engage in drunken antics. Harry often appears in British tabloids with a cigarette and beer in hand, has reportedly turned into a “drinking machine” and “never sips his drinks; he gulps them.” He had to be pulled away from another man at a night club after the man made “comments” about Chelsy and Harry screamed, “I’ll kill him.” Harry was “really smashed.” As Harry and Chelsy have had an on-and-off again relationship for at least five years, the addiction-aware would expect Chelsy to be a big-time enabler or a co-addict. The addiction-aware would not be disappointed. Chelsy can be seen in this photo

appearing quite sober and in this one

appearing quite drunk. The 20-something Zimbabwe-born beauty was drunkenly carried home from a Durban, Australia race in 2008 and there have been, no doubt, many other instances that have gone unmentioned by the media.

Elizabeth Taylor’s husband # 8, Larry Fortensky
, who was denied a financial bailout by the late star before she died when he couldn’t pay his $5,800 monthly mortgage. The baffling thing is he purchased the Temecula, California three-bedroom home in 2002, long before the peak of the late, great real estate bubble, with money he received in the settlement from the couple’s 1996 divorce. Oops, correction! It’s not baffling….Fortensky injured himself in 1999 when he fell down a staircase drunk, making him unable to work. Wait! That was in 1999 and he purchased the home with the settlement proceeds long after his drunken fall! Ok, so maybe he leveraged the purchase a bit…and then a bit more with cash-out refi’s for a little spending money. Imagine that! Yup, he bought the place for $330,000 but with a second mortgage (and who knows how many others) ended up owing more than $700,000 on a now-foreclosed home that’s plummeted from its peak value to under $450,000. (Unfortunately, Taylor gave him money to fritter away anyway, leaving him an $800,000 bequest.)

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine suggests there may be a bit of truth in something those who have read my books might 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.

Marc Mezvinsky, 33, Chelsea Clinton’s husband, who friends fear is headed for a mental breakdown after reportedly quitting his Wall Street banking job and becoming a ski bum in Wyoming. Some suspect that the Clinton clan’s insistence that Marc break ties with his father, Edward Mezvinsky, is the cause of the mental “crisis.” The senior Mezvinsky, a Congressman from 1973 to 1977, was convicted in 2001 on 31 charges of swindling investors out of $10 million and spent five years behind bars; he still owes $9.4 million in restitution to his victims. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after his indictment, but the judge disallowed a mental illness defense. There is no word as to whether the junior Mezvinsky has been diagnosed with this disorder, but as described in Myth # 64, “Personality disorders are more common than alcoholism” in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society''s Most Destructive Disease, alcoholism mimics bipolar disorder and can precipitate other “mental crises.” The evidence reported in Drunks, Drugs & Debits shows the odds alcoholism as the root of misbehaviors are about ten times that of a mental disorder. Due to genetics, chances are either both father and son have bipolar disorder or, more likely, both have alcoholism.

Pitcher Derek Lowe
, 37, a squamous-cell carcinoma survivor who started in the 2002 All-Star Game and signed a four-year contract with the Atlanta Braves in January 2009 for $60 million, arrested for DUI after being spotted racing another vehicle down an Atlanta street by a Georgia State Patrolman and then failing a field sobriety test. Coincidentally, Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was recently accused of cursing, crude and threatening behavior before a game in San Francisco and was placed on administrative leave. One behavioral indication of alcoholism in each doesn’t guarantee the disease, but I have repeatedly found that even one incident should make our antennae go up. All-too-often, when able to delve deeper, we find many more behavioral manifestations of alcoholism before finally getting proof of addictive use.

Sometimes, however, outsiders won’t see any such indications, much less the drinking or using itself. A terrific example from my personal life involved a lovely woman who headed up an organization to which I belonged until a few years ago. Since there were several problem people we encountered over the years and she was the effective CEO of the group, I occasionally shared my work with her and suggested the problems (including a few glaring ones for which there was no question about addiction as the root cause) almost always involved alcoholism. I recently ran into her and she pulled me aside, telling me she had something to share: she’d gotten sober a couple of years ago. Stunned, I responded, “I didn’t even know you drank.” She replied, “You never saw me sober. I was drunk morning, noon and night for a decade.” I told her I didn’t recall observing any misbehaviors and quickly asked, “Where were they?” “Behind closed doors. My husband and son finally gave me an ultimatum: they told me to head to rehab or leave our home. I went to rehab, but suffered delirium tremens, was rushed to the hospital and told by my doctor good thing I was there because my liver had six weeks to go. You’ve been right all along about tough love: it’s what got me sober, and just in the nick of time. Of course, my personal relationships were largely destroyed but at least I can start over and rebuild what I can.”

Families and friends might save the lives of Mr. Lowe and Mr. McDowell and prevent them from ruining the lives of others, as addicts so often do, by considering the possibilities and offering appropriate consequences.

Enablers of the month:

Journalists, who wrote that “a gunman distraught over a friend’s death fired a rifle round into an LAPD helicopter, forcing it to make a perilous but injury-free landing at Van Nuys Airport as his relatives subdued him and held him for police.” Many of us have been distraught over the deaths of family members and friends; I’ll bet that none has ever fired at a helicopter (or anything else) because of such anguish. There was no report on his blood alcohol level or other drugs in the system, but the addictionologist in me doesn’t require absolute proof in such an obvious case where the evidence is all but in.

Quote of the month:

Martin Sheen, on his son Charlie Sheen: “He’s not a kid, [but] emotionally he still is. Because when you’re addicted, you don’t grow emotionally…. When you get clean and sober you’re starting at the moment you started using drugs or alcohol [sic]. You’re emotionally crippled.” Great point Martin: where there is addiction, there’s an adult with the emotional capacity of a child. Only addicts are even more challenging because children can sometimes be reasoned with. Addicts need to be dealt consequences and treated accordingly.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, dead at 79 from congestive heart failure. In a larger-than-life tale of alcoholic overachievement combined with chaotic personal drama that makes no sense without comprehending alcoholism, Taylor collected five Oscar nominations, two Best Actress awards and seven husbands (one of whom, Richard Burton, she married twice). There are too many stories relating to her long-standing addiction to discuss here, but one that stands out was her performance and the entire theme of the 1966 film for which she won her 2nd Academy Award, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” George Segal and Sandy Dennis play Nick and Honey, who are dragged into the insanity of alcoholism by Burton’s George and Taylor’s Martha, who throw verbal insults at each other and at their “guests” for almost the entire 2 hours 10 minutes of the movie. We might imagine evenings at the Taylor-Burton household during which scenes from Virginia Woolf were likely mimicked. The violet-eyed actress’s heyday is often considered to have been the 1940s through the 1960s, long before she got sober the first time in 1983 (she may have been the first celebrity to stay at the Betty Ford Center, where after two-weeks of a four-week stay for a 35-year long sleeping and pain pill dependency she concluded, “Oh, I’m an alcoholic too!”). She didn’t stay sober until at least a second visit in the late 1980s. Around this time, she reinvented herself, as her movie career effectively ended and she befriended homosexuals and helped humanize the AIDS epidemic, while becoming a huge advocate for safe sex.

Violin virtuoso Eugene Fodor
, dead at age 60 of cirrhosis of the liver. He began playing at age 5, made his debut with the Denver Symphony at age 10 and started touring by age 12. He began using, as do most addicts, sometime during his teen years; he studied under the famed violinist Jascha Heifetz for about a year beginning in 1970, until Heifitz kicked him out of his USC class for refusing to cut his hair. At age 24 he became the first American to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. However, in the classic alcoholic tradition of looking like a narcissist, he took risks few sober classical musicians would consider, including posing shirtless on horseback for publicity photos (for which he was dubbed “the Cowboy violinist”), which almost overshadowed his musical prowess. His technique was described as “dazzling” and he often played showy pieces described by critics as “fiendishly difficult” by Niccolo Paganini and Fritz Kreisler, among others. In 1989, Fodor was arrested on charges of breaking and entering and possession of heroin and cocaine and went into rehab. Because classical music critics are not as “forgiving” (read: enabling) as movie critics, his fate was largely sealed: he was mostly condemned or ignored after the incident. Considering his early demise, we might be excused for suggesting he likely relapsed rather quickly and continued drinking alcoholically for most of the rest of his life.

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.

“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1”

I read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged at 17. Like so many, it changed my life. It helped me understand the idea that there are two very different ways of dealing with other people: voluntarily or coercively. The first requires a unit of exchange (in the U.S., it’s called the “dollar”); the second requires a weapon of destruction (as Mao Zedong put it, “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”). It portrayed moral entrepreneurs, who want to make a profit (and say so) by providing value for value and goods and services that others willingly purchase; and immoral ones, who want to make a profit (but never admit it) by gaming the system and seeking government favors and handouts. The first are market entrepreneurs and the latter are political entrepreneurs (terms probably coined by Burton W. Folsom, Jr., in his extraordinary piece of revisionist history, The Myth of the Robber Barons). While no one has the right to exact values from anyone else by physical force or fraud, to the extent we expect government to solve our problems force and fraud are the realities of the world in which we live. The book helped me to comprehend the arrogance of thinking I know better how to run your life than you do and worse, preventing you from making mistakes from which you can learn, grow and become all you can become; yet such is the nature of extra-market based government regulation that goes beyond the protection of property, prevention of fraud and enforcement of contracts. Rand’s book and now the movie Part 1 (the first third or so of the book) are largely about these opposites: those who move civilization forward and those who attempt to thwart its progress, using every means at their disposal—primarily the power of the state to give them an unfair competitive advantage at the expense of others.

I also got the idea that parasitical relationships can survive only if good people tolerate it, which Rand called the “sanction of the victim.” The idea took form thirty years after I read the book, when I needed a name for my publishing company and realized I was telling codependents the same thing she, through John Galt, was telling the most productive members of society: stop playing host to parasite and, as I put it in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, uncompromisingly disenable.

Unfortunately for those of us who have waited 53 years since the book’s publication, many critics have panned the movie, even if non-professional critics at largely rate it 8 to 10 stars (giving it a median rating of 9; for the amazing difference between the median and far lower weighted average rankings, see the breakdown; nearly 75% of the votes are 7 and greater, with almost 45% giving it 10 stars). Those who critique the movie negatively focus on (and in my view exaggerate) the technical flaws of a movie produced on a $10 million shoestring budget. Contrary to the critical attacks, the movie’s stars (Grant Bowler as Hank Reardon and Taylor Shilling as Dagny Taggart) are terrific. Several supporting cast members, especially Michael Lerner as Wesley Mouch (mimicking the likes of Congressman Barney Frank as a lobbyist and later a government bureaucrat) are superb. The music is good and scenery gorgeous. And after having read the book forty years ago, with a quick re-read of the first few hundred pages a couple of years ago, I was amazed at how deeply the characters had slipped into my soul: how I fell in love with Francisco D’Anconia (even if Jsu Garcia was one of the weaker actors) and Dagny, and seethed with contempt for the scheming James Taggart. I figured it helped tremendously that I knew the story, but found you don’t necessarily need to know the story to appreciate the movie: my wife, who’s never read the book and to whom I never told the story, gave it an 8 or 9 out of 10—and suggested we see it a second time. We did; I still had the same feelings and she told me it still earned 8 or 9 stars.

I concluded that a number of critics panning the movie are eerily reminiscent of the antagonists in Atlas Shrugged. The lies about Rand and her philosophy are worthy of James Taggart and Wesley Mouch. For example: “Rand’s philosophy can be summed up this way: to hell with the common man and hurray for the corporation.” See the distinction above between political and market entrepreneurs as to why this is a gross misinterpretation of her views. Another reviewer commented, “[Rand said,] ‘No one else has a right to limit your ideas and your pursuit of happiness, so long as you live and let live and respect others—judging them on their merits and achievements.’ What a laugh riot that is. Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff—two classic cases of success and happiness.” At whose expense? Were property rights honored, contracts enforced and fraud prevented? The one thing government is supposed to do is protect us from thugs foreign and domestic; it clearly failed in the case of both Enron (Ken Lay was CEO) and the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Another wrote, “’Me! Me! Me! Me! Me!’ and ‘Screw all you stupid peasants’,” which is yet another grotesque misreading of Rand; it’s only about “me” if I can please “you;” the only “Me!” this moron refers to is the one basking in the slime of government largesse.

If one wants to pan Atlas for anything, pan its creator: Ayn Rand. Her then close friend, journalist Isabel Paterson, told her, “Stop taking that Benzedrine, you idiot. I don’t care what excuse you have—stop it.” as early as the mid-1940s. Her pupils in a picture on the cover of the December 2009 issue of Reason Magazine are extremely dilated. She was clearly an amphetamine addict. Such addicts, as we know, have a need to wield power over others. One way is to create a following, which can evolve into a cult, which is the reason probably most if not all cult leaders are addicts of one stripe or another. She also openly cheated on her husband, Frank O’Connor, for some 30 years, as if to say, “Look at how much power I have over you” (even if, ironically, he appears to have been an alcoholic). Her personal life was obviously not the model for the heroic individuals she wrote about. One could also pan her writing, at least to a degree: she was not a great writer of dialogue and she included speeches in the book that were clearly beyond the pale in terms of length, even bombastic, as might be expected of an amphetamine addict. While the dialogue was largely repeated in the movie, the speeches were (appropriately) not. In my view, however, many are lambasting her greatest story either by misreading or purposely distorting her basic philosophy of individualism, freedom and achievement—at your own expense and within the confines of natural law (voluntary exchange absent force and fraud), not at the expense of others.

Click here to check out Doug''s movie reviews.

In celebration of the end of Tax Season, I thought it appropriate to include several letters involving financial abuse of others.

Dear Doug:

When my 84-year-old mother returned home from the hospital two years ago after hip surgery, I asked my 40-year-old son, who hadn’t had a job for two years, to help her out (I work full-time, so couldn’t do everything she needs). He takes her shopping and to the doctor, but belittles her continuously. She pays all his bills, gives him spending money and even, apparently, bought him a new car. What should we do?

Mother of an Elder Abuser

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest that you contact the National Center for Elder Abuse and talk to a social worker. They would suggest that if professionals intervene, you should expect your son to cease contact with your mother. They wouldn’t bring up the possibility that alcoholism drives your son’s behaviors, which is by orders of magnitude the best explanation for his behaviors. This explains both the verbal (belittling is a HUGE clue to addiction) and financial abuse (she bought him a new car?!!!), and makes him potentially lethal to your mother (consider the possible consequences if your son is drinking and driving). What are you waiting for? You need to get him out of her life pronto and find other ways to help her (a taxi might be cheaper than the new car).

Dear Doug:

My daughter’s abusive ex-husband has stopped paying child support, yet she can’t seem to move on with her life. She’s broke, often upset by something he has done and tells us she’s always “off-balance,” whatever that means. What can we do to help her move on?

Ex-Mother-in-Law of a Wife Abuser

Dear Codependent,

While other columnists would call the ex- a “deadbeat,” they would fail to use the term “alcoholic,” which is by far the best explanation for your ex-son-in-law’s misbehaviors. She hasn’t been able to move on and feels “off-balance” because she doesn’t understand that alcoholics, in a bid to wield power, do all they can to keep their victims in the maelstrom of insanity for as long as possible, which gives them an “off-balance” feeling. This goes on until either the addict is taken out of the picture serendipitously or the victim begins to understand the disease and leaves. Other columnists might suggest that she seek counseling and assistance from her local office of family and children’s services. That’s ok, but she’s far less likely to do what she must without understanding the root cause of the ex’s misbehaviors. Give her a copy of Drunks, Drugs & Debits, which is designed to help codependents grasp the central idea of alcoholism—that addicts must wield power over others and only you can take that power away, removing (as Ayn Rand would have put it) the sanction of the victim. Read it with her so you can repeat some of the ideas to her when appropriate. It may take time, but she’ll eventually get it.

Dear Doug,

My divorced-but-living-together parents have come to my brother and me for financial assistance. My father quit his job two years ago because he “didn’t like it” and my mother has since racked up $20,000 in credit card bills. Whenever I phone my dad and ask about applying for jobs, he gets upset and hangs up on me. They are now at risk of losing their condo and I have laid out several hundred dollars a month over the last year to help them make payments. Should I cut my parents off the financial assistance merry-go-round?

Daughter of Financial Abusers

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would suggest seeking professional financial mentoring. Sorry, but the odds that any such counsel will help are remote. The chances are nil if the root of the problem is alcoholism, for which the probability is nearly 100%. Your dad showed zero responsibility when he quit his job in the middle of a recession without another ready to replace it. By itself, it could be gross stupidity, however unlikely. But he also hangs up on you and God knows what else. One of the numerous behavioral indications of alcoholism discussed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages is “reverse telephonitis,” which is precisely this behavior. The best thing you can do for your parents is to tell them you love them so much you are cutting them off. Tell your dad that only when he’s in a confirmed program of sobriety will you discuss any return to financial assistance, and then only for a limited duration. And if they lose their home in the meantime, so be it (just don’t let dad move in with you and before you consider letting mom move in, rule out alcoholism in her). Always keep in mind, the pain from consequences must be greater than the pleasure of use, that we cannot predict how much pain is required and our only logical course is to lay it on as much and as hard as possible. It’s enough only when the addict cries out, “I’ll try sobriety.”

(Source for story ideas: Ask Amy, April 12, 2011, April 13, 2011 and March 16, 2011 respectively.)

PrevenTragedy Foundation

“Bullying is largely motivated by a desire to climb the social ladder.”

So reported a new study by the University of California at Davis on why bullies bully. As is all-too-common, this half-truth doesn’t get to the root of the problem.

One of the study’s authors, Robert E. Faris, an assistant sociology professor at UC, admitted there may be other factors, including trying to compensate for trouble at home, as many assume. However, he said “our study found that it was about social status, even more than demographics or socioeconomics.”

The question left unanswered is why do these kids, a small minority of children, need so desperately to climb the social ladder at the expense of others? And if there’s trouble at home, why?

The litany of reasons given by Jim Bisenius, a “bullying expert,” comprises many of the clues to addiction listed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages. The three “types” of bullies include spoiled children without a sense of limitations (clue # 10 listed in the chapter, “Poor Judgment,” is “out-of-control children”), neglected children who lash out for attention and high-pressure achievers set on climbing the social ladder (the first clue to alcoholism listed in Hidden Alcoholics is “overachievement due to a need to win at any cost”). “Social climbers” are distinguished from normal popular teens by their need to control, using intimidation (clue # 21 listed under “A Supreme Being Complex” is he “intimidates others to get his way”) and politics (think: charisma and charm; clue # 4 is he is “extraordinarily charming”) over genuine likeability (the theme in the chapter “A Supreme Being Complex” is this overarching need to wield power over others). They use fear of exclusion to keep “followers” in line (think: cult leader) and suddenly break up friendships that threaten their authority (this capriciousness with relationships is common in many areas of the lives of alcoholics; those who are familiar with Ayn Rand’s personal life may recognize this sort of behavior). Bisenius seemed rather shocked that “these kids think strategically like little chess players…. [and bullying is] much more planned and plotted than I would ever have thought initially.” If Bisenius understood alcoholism, he wouldn’t be surprised. Alcoholics often get to the top socially, politically and professionally precisely because in order to wield power over others most effectively they must plan and plot—and they do so long before succumbing to late-stage alcoholism.

Faris hopes that “if” bullying is a matter of power, adults will discourage it. What he and Bisenius don’t seem to get is that teens often have already triggered an incipient alcoholism (the average age at which one triggers addiction is 13) and those who aren’t addicts themselves but who engage in bullying are often children of particularly abusive alcoholics. Since alcoholism tends to run in families, the alcoholic parents of bullies won’t likely discourage and may even encourage such misbehaviors in their children, through whom they may get a vicarious high. Other methods must be used, including every effort at identifying the alcoholics involved, whether parents or children or both, and inspiring in them a need to get sober by nipping such behaviors in the bud with logical, certain and painful consequences.

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

“MOVIE SCENES III: Sheriff''s deputies in Milwaukee County, Wisc., were called to the scene of a crash. When they arrived the offending driver had already fled the scene. Minutes later, Bridgette Benavides slowed down to drive by the wreck, and a man -- later identified as the crashed driver -- ran up to her car and tried to get in. The doors were locked, so the man jumped onto the roof and started pounding on the sunroof. Benavides kept going, sometimes at freeway speeds, while a passenger called 911 for help. An officer raced after the car while the man kept trying to get inside, eventually smashing a side window. Benavides pulled over for the pursuing officer, who ordered the suspect to the ground at gunpoint. The unnamed 24-year-old man was charged with reckless driving, hit and run, operating while intoxicated, criminal damage to property, and recklessly endangering safety. (RC/Ozaukee Press) ...Nicholas Cage is a shoe-in for the role.”

Addicts have an amazing capacity to function while high as a kite. This man was holding on to the roof of a car at high speeds and managed to break a side window—and he was under the influence. I’d suggest that when he gets out of prison, he applies for a job working as a stunt double for Nicholas Cage, but Cage, an alcoholic as well, probably doesn’t need one. On the other hand, a job may not be available, since Cage could easily end up in jail.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2011 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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