|October 2004 / Issue No. 3
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Letter. Each month, you can look forward to several sections, including:
1. Top Story of the month
2. Movie or Book Review 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 from Randy Cassingham's on-line newsletter, This is True
There is something for everyone!
Can Kim Jong Il be trusted to not sell or use nukes?
Top Story: Kim Jong Il, North Korea and Nuclear Weapons
There were a number of competing stories from which to choose this month: the continuing antics of Britney Spears, the death of singer Rick James and the arraignment on murder charges of music producer Phil Spector. However, due to the inclusion of North Korea as a topic of the first Presidential debate, the mystery of a massive explosion and mushroom-shaped cloud of debris over the country's far north and threats against Japan should the U.S. ever intervene, Kim Jong Il and the possibility of alcoholic megalomania wins top honors.
Kim Jong Il (as in "ill" or the post office abbreviation for Illinois, IL) runs what appears to be the most bizarre, totalitarian, repressive, Orwellian and Stalinist regime ever. North Korean propaganda describes Kim (the Korean first name is actually the last) as "incomparable, omnipotent, infallible, clairvoyant, the perfect brain, the morning star" and "one who rivals the sun itself." The same state apparatus claims Kim says his people are "the most beautiful and excellent beings in the world" and that he "deeply worships them." Yet, his brand of socialism puts little food on the table—an estimated two million of twenty-three million of its citizens starved during the 1990s—while squandering at least 30% of gross domestic product on a military whose duty is to protect the country against imaginary enemies. The style is frighteningly similar to the waging of perpetual war against its enemies in George Orwell's nightmare vision of the ultimate totalitarian state, Oceania, in his novel, 1984.
The capital city, Pyongyang, was described in "The New Yorker" magazine (September 8, 2003) as "a city of megalomaniacal architecture and public spaces: immense palaces and coliseums, grandiose [mostly empty] boulevards (six, eight, ten lanes wide), towering monuments to the Great Leader...and skyscrapers (although the tallest [at 105 stories] is a shell, abandoned as structurally unusable during its construction)." Three separate internal security forces independently watch the people (reporting only to the top few and not to each other). Over 35% of time in government schools, from the earliest age, is spent memorizing political propaganda. Every adult takes part in almost daily indoctrination sessions. Each member of every household is accountable for the transgressions of the others, under which a violation by one results in imprisonment for all. Minor infractions, such as speaking poorly of the leadership or using anything other than a special brush to clean the mandatory household picture of Kim Jong Il, which is to be used only on such pictures, can lead to family catastrophe. Every radio and TV set in the country is built to receive only one station, carrying messages such as "Today, the world's people are consistently envious of our people and their great leader," during the few hours a day electricity is on. For a visual of the lack of what we consider civilization, cut and paste in your browser http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/dprk-dark.htm for an amazing picture of the two Koreas at night -- and be sure to scroll down.
And this country -- actually, a man running a combination prison and fiefdom -- may have nuclear weapons.
We know from experience that democracies are far less likely to instigate war than are countries headed by dictators. Arguably, the odds that free societies would ever initiate the use of weapons of mass destruction are also remote. Therefore, the greater concern is over despots, especially if they happen to be alcoholic. Not only are the external checks and balances of a democratic system absent, but such rulers also lack internal constraints, in which the neo-cortex, the seat of reason and logic, restrains the impulses of the pre-mammalian part of the brain, the limbic system. Ask a recovering alcoholic (not one with only a few years' sobriety, but rather at least ten) what he might have been capable of if, while using, he had been in a position of power. The response will often be, "anything." The entire world is at peril when reptilian instincts control the actions of the head of an autocratic state with access to WMD.
Here's the rub: most think that practicing alcoholics act rationally or can at least be reasoned with. The evidence of this can be found in almost any alcoholic family, in which the sober often try to instill logic into the debate, arguing with and attempting to cajole the alcoholic and attempt rational negotiation, sometimes for years. Likewise, the worlds' leaders naively attempt to negotiate with the Pyongyang regime, which they think acts rationally despite the obvious messianic behaviors of its ruler. Yet if the ruler is alcoholic, damage to the neo-cortex precludes the possibility of consistently rational behavior.
There are countless behavioral clues to alcoholism in Kim Jong Il. He inflates his ego at every opportunity, from statues of himself in practically every public place to the required picture in every home. He feeds his ego with a perpetual threat of war against far more powerful nations. He fuels it by threatening to bathe Japan in a sea of nuclear fire should the big, bad U.S ever attack his small country. As "The New Yorker" points out, Kim Jong Il exploits his country's secrecy by keeping "the outside world uncertain and off kilter while he stage-manages the crises he creates." Ask anyone who's ever lived with an alcoholic and you'll find this is a classic alcoholic tactic.
His megalomania is also typical of alcoholic despots. I've confirmed that the worst despots in history have almost all been alcohol or other drug addicts (see clue # 28 in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, in which I include Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and others among these). I have privately confirmed alcoholism in Saparmurat Niyazov, the ruler of Turkmenistan, who has named cities and celestial bodies after himself, vaingloriously littered his country with enormous statues of himself and put his face on all the country's money. Other cult-like leaders have also often been addicts, including Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana, who convinced 900 people to commit Kool-Aid suicide. Why would Kim Jong Il be any different?
Kim Jong Il already raises funds from drug-running, arms trading and counterfeiting. His government produces missiles in ten facilities, along with nerve gas and chemical agents in eight. The country produces nothing else of export value. What would prevent him from clandestinely selling nuclear weapons once he has enough of them for himself? Before responding, remember one thing: rational thought does not enter into the equation when trying to predict what an alcoholic might do.
Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator
|North Korea Through the Looking Glass, by Kongdan Oh and Ralph C. Hassig
Book Review: This section will offer either a movie or book review. This month, I found a terrific book whose subject is the top story and which includes some hard evidence of addictive use.
The title suggests an "Alice in Wonderland" fantasyland, but a huge dose of Edgar Allen Poe must be added to the cauldron to get a feel for the horrors of this most bizarre of lands.
The combination of Confucian kingdom and totalitarian socialist state allows the rulers, Kim Il Sung from its founding at the end of WW2 to his death in 1994 and his successor-son, Kim Jong Il, to wield inconceivable power not only over peoples' actions, but also over their minds. North Koreans almost uniformly believe their rulers are the equivalent of Gods. In the Korean tradition of Confucianism, they willingly subject themselves to a strict hierarchical social order and absolute loyalty to and respect for the Kims, which is returned with feigned benevolence.
The production and dissemination of worthless ideology in Korea, a brand of totalitarianism, nationalism and self-reliance termed "Juche," has exceeded even Stalin's and Mao's wildest expectations in its power to control. Wrapping socialism in an outer cloth of Confucianism, under which the Koreans have been ruled for centuries, has enabled the ruling elite to use both as tools with which to glorify the Kim family. The consequences have been disastrous: a fourth world economy with access to weapons of mass destruction, a populace that mostly believes there is no better place on earth and a megalomaniac ruler. As the big lie of the supremacy of North Koreans and the benevolence of its rulers persists (the differences between North Korea and the rest of the world become ever-more glaring), the incentive to change becomes even less attractive to the North Korean rulers. There are no models for creating some semblance of freedom that would not jeopardize Kim's political power. China's communist party has been rendered almost irrelevant under a form of free wheeling market capitalism. Russia's Perestroika seriously damaged the communist party even as it botched its way towards a semi-market economy. A number of East German officials were convicted of cold war crimes and Kim Il Sung's good friend Nicolae Ceausescu was executed by a free Romania. The North Korean leadership would simply have too much explaining to do if it allowed its citizens to view the world outside.
While the history and troubles of North Korea make interesting reading, the most fascinating aspect for students of addiction revolve around the subtle observable clues to early-stage alcoholism in the current "central brain," Kim Jong Il. Needless to say, the clues are few, since little escapes the "hermit kingdom." Perhaps the highest-ranking defector, former North Korean party secretary Hwang Jang Yop, reported that an understanding of Kim's personal life is irrelevant to comprehending his political behavior. While in a position to have offered insights into his personal life, which are essential to our ability to confirm alcohol or other drug addiction, he has purposely added little. Few others so close have escaped Kim's gulag.
One character attribute important to rulers of totalitarian states is charisma, or charm used to personally influence. Stalin had it; so did Hitler until his amphetamine addiction progressed. Kim Jong Il is said to lack charisma, a character trait often used by alcoholics to wield power. Therefore, Kim is rarely seen in public; his propagandists appear to do all the work, attributing all progress and goodness on the planet to him. However, he shares a number of other traits common among practicing alcoholics: he is arrogant, lacks respect for seniors (a serious breach in a Confucian society) and displays a superiority complex. He is described as conceited, haughty, reckless, impulsive, quick-tempered and violent. He is clearly erratic, unpredictable and capricious in wielding power. While condemning millions to senseless illness, malnutrition and death by starvation resulting from the failure of socialism, he has displayed an amazing concern for a select few: among them, female traffic police in Pyongyang. Chosen for looks rather than an ability to direct traffic among the few cars driven by the elite, he ordered that they be provided warm padded trousers and a fur overcoat in the winter rather than merely skirts. This was reported by the Korean Central News Agency, which concluded that "the streets have been further brightened with the changed dress of traffic control women and that they look taller and prettier than before...Indeed, the traffic control women in Korea live in great happiness." He also likes fast cars, fast horses and, most illuminating, "party" girls.
While the act of subjecting his people to torture and poverty in what many describe as a nationwide concentration camp is enough to suggest an 80% likelihood of addiction to alcohol or other psychotropic drugs, these additional clues merely firm up the 80% estimate. As noted in my books and the calculations embedded in the on-line Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator, barring actual evidence of addictive use a 20% probability of misbehavior must be ascribed to true character defects, in this case, the most extreme imaginable.
However, while such evidence is scarce, it is not non-existent. The late-night parties of his younger days are said to be legendary. Japanese women invited to attend one of Kim's intimate parties, apparently after he became the supreme leader, report that he drank heavily and scattered hundred dollar bills (a rather ironic use of U.S. money). And, "Kim Jong Il relies on a kitchen cabinet composed of a small group of friends and family members of approximately his own age, especially trusting a few close relatives and drinking buddies" (emphasis added). As discussed in my book Drunks, Drugs & Debits, merely having drinking buddies, especially when well past age 30, is a classic sign of alcoholism. "The New Yorker" reported that at a farewell lunch culminating a summit in 2000 with South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung [apparently too late to have made it into this book, published in 2000], Kim Jong Il said, "As far as drinking goes, I'm a better drinker than Kim Dae Jung." As I remarked in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics in regards to biographer Con Coughlin's mention of "the whiskey-drinking Saddam," if drinking is so important to deserve such a comment, he's probably an alcoholic.
The truly frightening aspect to this surreal mess is that not only is the head of state a likely alcoholic (and, therefore, capable of anything), but also that the vast majority of the North Korean people appear to be as indoctrinated as were the citizens of George Orwell's imaginary Oceania. They probably believe they have been on the brink of war with the United States for decades and, without the protection of their "Dear Leader," would have been invaded long ago.
Through the Looking Glass details the amazing propaganda used by Kim, his military amateurism, social controls and "thought" control over the North Korean people. The book is a fascinating read. When we understand alcoholism, it offers a unique insight as to why Kim Jong Il, possibly the only alcoholic despot other than Stalin to have access to nuclear weapons (who had them for only a short time before he died), may be the most dangerous man ever.
||Dear Doug: Family Day promotes healthier kids
Joseph A. Callifano, Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, writes:
"Eating dinner together as a family is a simple event, but it can make a world of difference for children and teens. [We have found] that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.
"Created in 2001...'Family Day -- A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children' is...a simple, effective tool to help reduce substance abuse among children and teens and raise healthier children....
"As difficult as it sometimes may be, making time for family dinners is worth the effort."
Is this true? Can I reduce the odds that my kids will drink and drug simply by eating dinner with them?
. . . . . .
While almost everyone believes this (or wants to), as is the case for so many of life's truisms, cause and effect are not what they seem. A good environment will not prevent the addictive use of alcohol and other drugs once alcoholism has been triggered by what is often the first using episode. If it did, as I discuss in my upcoming book, "Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease," President George W. Bush and his niece Noelle Bush, Florida governor Jeb Bush's daughter, would never have developed alcoholism. Nor would have Michael Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy or Michael Skakel, a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow. William C. Moyers, son of TV journalist Bill Moyers, would not have become a full-blown multi-drug addict requiring 13 stays in rehab to get clean and sober. The available evidence suggests that most if not all of these addicts grew up in the best of families and environments. (From Alcoholism Myths and Realities, Myth # 29: "If he'd had a better upbringing, he wouldn't be an alcoholic.")
The reverse, however, is true. A family in which active alcohol or other drug addiction is not present is far more likely to share experiences in healthy ways, including eating dinner together. If the alcoholic family eats together, there may be yelling and screaming at the dinner table, which negates any value there might otherwise be. And if non-alcoholic parents eat with children who have inherited alcoholism from an ancestor, nothing short of never putting alcohol to their mouths (an uncommon circumstance) will prevent alcoholism from developing.
(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, September 26, 2004. Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebrating Family Day, which may be of special value to newly recovering alcoholics. It's the fourth Monday of each September; this year it was September 27.)
Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month: "Women who choose to end their first accidental pregnancy with abortion...are much more likely to end up abusing drugs and alcohol."
This finding was the result of research recently published in the "American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse." The implication is yet another example of confusion between cause and effect. If life's troubles caused alcoholism, we'd all be alcoholics. Such troubles, including the psychological damage wrought by terminating an unwanted pregnancy, no more cause alcoholism than does being physically abused during childhood. Alcoholism is rooted in a biochemistry that causes misbehaviors and poor judgment, not the other way around.
Instead, the link between abortion and addiction supports the idea that addicts (or children of same) are more likely to engage in promiscuous and unprotected sex. The need to wield power often takes form in serial Don Juanism, including its female version. Reckless behaviors result in, among many manifestations, unprotected sex. The need to wield power and recklessness are, more often than not, rooted in alcohol or other drug addiction in either the person or a parent.
The research purportedly included women who had no history of "substance abuse" prior to their first accidental pregnancy. There may be a couple of reasons for this. First, what the researchers call "abuse" may not yet have been triggered; promiscuous or unprotected sex may result from poor examples of or lax controls exerted by addicted parents. Such sex is one of the many predictable reactions to psychological abandonment by an addicted parent. Second, the definition of "substance abuse" as given in the psychologists' manual, the DSM-lV includes criteria that are the result of a more obvious addiction, which can take years to manifest. In other words, there may be no "history" because the criteria are useful only in the identification of middle- to latter-stage addiction. These criteria require that one or more of the following occur within a 12-month period:
1. "Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use...)." Since early-stage alcoholism may manifest in over achievement at any cost, such failure may be non-existent.
2. "Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving an automobile...when impaired...)." Most of the subjects of the study either wouldn't have their drivers' license or don't appear obviously inebriated in the early years of use. Consider well known alcoholic-addict Elizabeth Taylor, who didn't enter rehab until after her sixth or seventh marriage and who, by her own testimony, was never obviously inebriated.
3. "Recurrent substance-related legal problems." Most alcoholics avoid the long arm of the law throughout their entire drinking career.
4. "Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance (e.g., arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights)." Such problems may take decades to become obvious.
Obviously, these criteria prove addiction, not mere "abuse." (Myth # 100 in my upcoming book, "He's a drug abuser, not an addict," discusses this in greater detail.) Regardless, the behavior -- poor judgment -- is indicative of alcoholism. We should never allow ourselves to be misled into believing that poor behaviors -- including unwanted pregnancies or the resulting distress -- cause addiction.
Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors
An addict relapses, tragedy occurs and the misbehaviors reach their logical extreme.
Story from This is True by Randy Cassingham, with "tagline:"
"SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE: Leah Kravochuck met James Ivinskas at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, and a few days later went on a date for Valentine's Day. "For some reason they went out that night, and they drank and drank and drank," says her lawyer, Stuart Lippe. Since both were drunk, it's hard to say what happened, but Ivinskas was killed by Kravochuck when she ran him over with her car. Twice. When arrested, she tried to bribe the police officer, offering $5,000 and sex if he would let her go. While awaiting trial on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and DUI -- her fifth -- she was caught under the influence of drugs. Twice. Judge Judith Kilbane Koch sentenced Kravochuck to eight years for Ivinskas' death, and three more for the attempted bribery. Lippe called the sentence "totally ridiculous." (Cleveland Plain Dealer) ...So true, but it's hard to believe her lawyer wanted her to get 20 years too. Twice.
The attorney, in calling the sentence "ridiculous," is doing what defense attorneys are often paid to do: enable. While I agree with Randy's implication that the girl should have gotten 40 years (re-read that tagline if it didn't make sense -- Randy is being facetious), it's obvious that the law failed: it should have enforced abstinence long before the fifth DUI. If she had been shown the way to abstinence and sobriety, she might not have relapsed, killed someone and attempted bribery to get herself off the hook.
Ivinskas' death was senseless. Most alcoholics in recovery are decent, hard working and respectable. Believe it or not, this is probably true of Kravochuck as well. The problem is that the law allows the person convicted of DUI to drink. Drinking leads the addict to believe he or she is invincible. The feeling of invincibility impels them, again and again, to get behind the wheel of a car while legally under the influence.
Some favor Prohibition. (If you don't think that some prefer this failed method, take a look at the War on Drugs. It is Prohibition; only the names of the drugs have changed.) I do not. Most people can use drugs safely, including the drug we call "alcohol." The problem is, a few cannot. For these people only, Prohibition is necessary. Should it be imposed after the first DUI? The second? How should it be imposed? These are questions I'm not yet prepared to explore (but will at some point in a book on public policy and alcoholism). However, I suggest that such restrictions be imposed on people who have proven to society by their behaviors that they cannot be relied upon to safely use, sometime before the fifth DUI. And, it should be as certain a prohibition as the law can enforce.
("This is True" is copyright 2004 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See http://www.thisistrue.com for free subscriptions.)
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