Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. 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!
|The Haidl gang-rape trial: addicts and enablers fill the courtroom
Top Story: Who is most guilty -- Gregory Haidl, Don Haidl, Jane Doe or Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D.?
In the criminal justice system, addict is often pitted against addict. The Orange County, California Haidl gang rape re-trial is yet another in a long list of examples. The testimony shows that defendants and plaintiff alike appear to biochemically process psychotropic drugs in a way that cause them to engage in destructive behaviors, some of the time. Gregory Haidl, Keith Spann and Kyle Nachreiner, as well as the alleged victim "Jane Doe" are, by this definition of addiction, all likely addicts.
Haidl is the most obvious of these. Aside from drinking heavily before the alleged rape on July 5, 2002, Haidl subsequently crashed his car into oncoming traffic, injuring two innocents. At the time he attributed his apparent intoxication to "spicy Indian food;" police later determined that he was high on alcohol and a "massive" dose of illegally obtained Xanax while on his way to procure more drugs. He blames society, reporters, the porn industry, police, prosecutors and the girl for his own plight, typical of (practicing) alcoholics. Although he has a dream team of defense lawyers and consultants, he complains that the criminal justice system is stacked against him. He has the alcoholic chutzpah to claim that prosecutors are pursuing a "groundless case." He at first denied he was involved in the alleged rape of the 16-year old, even though he owned the top-of-the-line Sony hand-held camera that filmed the action, he clearly participated, he exhibited the film for friends and lived at his father's house in Corona del Mar where it was filmed.
Spann and Nachreiner were also drinking heavily before participating in the (alleged) rape. All three of the alleged perpetrators are children from broken homes, increasing the odds that one or more parents have the disease of alcohol or other drug addiction, which also ups the likelihood of inheritance.
Doe, who was so comatose in the video that police originally believed a corpse was the target of attack, has since admitted to post-incident addictions to meth and alcohol. The odds of addiction in a person doing meth are nearly 100%. She testified in the first trial that the night before the (alleged) rape she partied with the defendants and downed 10 shots of rum and one shot of tequila within an hour. Despite this, she was still able to think and engage in consensual sex with two of the three boys. Although she has since described the shots as more like "swigs," anyone who can drink this amount and still function has the disease of alcoholism. If she weighs 120 pounds, her blood alcohol would have been about .30 per cent (perhaps .20 per cent if mere "swigs").
The night of the (alleged) rape, she drank some beer, smoked some dope and then willingly gulped more than five shots of 80-proof liquor. She did not, however, willingly take the possible "spike" of a powerful prescription sedative later found in the Haidl house (believed by some to have been added to her drink by Nachreiner). If she weighs 120 pounds, the liquor alone put her blood alcohol level at over .15 per cent which, when used in conjunction with other drugs, strongly suggests alcoholism even in an adolescent. Yet, the prosecutor in the current case, Chuck Middleton, called Doe an "enigma," describing her as a bright, outgoing and excellent student, even while rebelling against her parents and partying with illegal substances. No Mr. Middleton, addiction causes good people raised in fine homes to act badly some of the time. Jane Doe is almost certainly in the throes of early-stage multiple-drug addiction, which makes her seemingly enigmatic acts all-too comprehensible.
Addicts and their enablers are also often found among law enforcers in the criminal justice system. After the first trial ended with a hung jury, Haidl was ordered to remain drug- and alcohol-free pending a re-trial. After the car crash, police may have attempted to cover up a marijuana possession charge by driving Haidl home without citing him. Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, a friend of Gregory's father former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, and watch commander Lt. Lloyd Downing agreed that the incident would remain "our secret." In a classic example of law enforcement's pervasive "code of silence," Jaramillo is heard saying in a taped radio transmission that "the press will be all over this" and "we['ve] got to make sure that this gets buried."
Don Haidl, who has made a fortune (reportedly worth $90 million -- and by the way, why was he bothering with the job of assistant sheriff?) selling used government vehicles, sought to pay certain jurors after the first deadlock "for post-trial consulting services in anticipation of a retrial." He couldn't bail Gregory out quick enough, even while the younger Haidl was flipping off reporters outside the courthouse. Between trials Don gave his son trips to Hawaii, Mexico and England, new clothes, an expensive watch, "wads" of cash, a 2005 Scion (which he crashed), all the while continuing to allow him to attend unsupervised teen parties. These are amazing perks for a teenager who, after being exonerated in the first trial, was arrested for trespassing, vandalism, the collision and a second alleged rape of a minor (apparently the night he celebrated his first victory). The elder Haidl continues to pay apparent millions for his son's defense. The payroll includes several ex-sheriff deputies, O.J. Simpson jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, a full-time publicist, four doctors and a nine-member legal defense team. Haidl has somehow managed to gain editorial support from the two local daily newspapers. Orange County-based Los Angeles Times columnist Dana Parsons blasted not Gregory Haidl but instead District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in five different pieces for treating the case so seriously. Yet, Parsons is reported as having attended less than 10 percent of the first trial, zero in the second one, never interviewing anyone on the prosecution's side and never viewing the video of the (alleged) rape.
The trial also includes typical criminal defense lawyers, paid to enable bad behaviors. The lead attorney, Joseph G. Cavallo, a long-time friend and business partner of Don Haidl, said in the first trial that Doe should be charged with sexually assaulting the older, larger defendants. While it is true her drug addiction took form in causing her to act like, as he called her, a "slut," he feigns no understanding that if she had no memory of what happened, she could not consent to sex. He repeatedly asks, "How do you know you didn't consent?" What, to putting pool cues, lit cigarettes and Snapple bottles up her vagina and anus? It's tough to give consent if you're unconscious; and no, you wouldn't remember NOT giving consent. He says, "Greg isn't a sociopath. He's a teenager, an adolescent and immature. He's just a kid who is lost." No Mr. Cavallo, Gregory Haidl is an addict who will continue to act badly and fail to find redemption until he is required to atone for his crimes and willingly does so, which requires that he get sober. You are helping to prevent this necessary process, which serves only to increase the odds that tragedy will again occur.
But the icing on the cake in this story filled with likely addicts or enablers is the amazing testimony of the apparent lead psychiatrist. Dr. Jeffrey I. Barke, co-owner of Newport Medical Consultants, said on the witness stand: "The kid needs love...The car accident was the result of medication he took and was his way to ease the pain of his depression." No Mr. Barke, the kid takes medications far in excess of pharmaceutically prescribed doses because his alcoholic biochemistry allows him to. "He's suffering from severe clinical depression, severe anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and he desperately needs counseling." No, he suffers from alcoholism, which mimics, causes or aggravates depression, anxiety and stress; he needs sobriety, without which counseling has no value. "Greg's a very conflicted young man...suffering from medical and mental illness." Yes, if by this you mean alcoholism, which causes the afflicted to act in ways inconsistent with his or her values, resulting in internal conflict. "In a perfect world, we could go to Greg every day and say, 'How's your anxiety?'" In a perfect world, Mr. Barke, Greg would attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous every day and his anxiety would recede. Arguing that the rape trial has put a burden on Haidl, Barke said, "Greg is understandably very, very angry, depressed and frustrated that he has no way to vent" [in healthy ways]. Yes, this is understandable, since addiction causes anger, depression and extremely unhealthy venting. Barke called Haidl's experiences "horrendous." It is true that during moments of clarity he may comprehend the gravity of his actions, which eventually causes a zeroing out of self-esteem in addicts. Barke added that Greg "needs a caring environment." Yes Mr. Barke, Gregory Haidl needs a caring environment: that of the uncompromising tough love found at meetings in which recovering alcoholics admit they needed nothing other than sobriety to begin to solve their problems and improve their behaviors.
(R. Scott Moxley of the "Orange County Weekly" was the source for most of this since, near as I can tell, the establishment press is beholden to the elder Haidl.)
Runners-up for top story of the month: Former Oakland Raiders' lineman Barret Robbins who, after going on a drinking binge in South Beach, Florida, body-slammed two officers responding to a burglary call and then tried to reach for their guns; Robbins is breathing with the help of a ventilator in a Miami Beach hospital after having been shot by the officers. "Twin Peaks" star Lara Flynn Boyle who, after consuming "at least two alcoholic drinks" and "some pills," was reported as "behaving strangely" as she staggered about the first-class "cabin half-dressed aboard a British Airways flight. Courtney Love, who pleaded no contest to assault and guilty to possession of a forged prescription (thereby disposing of two felony charges for possession of synthetic opiates), agreeing to random drug testing and -- get this -- anger management counseling. "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down" actor Tom Sizemore, who was arrested for parole violation stemming from his 2003 domestic violence conviction involving former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, for failing drug tests seven times in February (and using a fake penis in an attempt to cheat the tests), freed on bail and demonstrating a classic case of inflated ego on the courthouse steps (truly amazing to watch). Former "Friends" star Matthew Perry, hospitalized after suffering prescription drug-induced seizures, whose publicist Lisa Kasteler denied that the incident had anything to do with prior treatment for alcohol and prescription drug addiction. Veteran Hollywood stuntmen and admitted illegal drug users Gary McLarty, 64, and Ronald Hambleton, 68, testifying that alcoholic actor Robert Blake, 71, solicited each of them to murder his alcoholic wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, dead at age 44 in 2001 of a gunshot wound to her head (another classic instance of addicts filling the courtroom). Santa Barbara County Judge Rodney S. Melville, who at age 11 or 12 realized that drinking "did something to me that made me feel more important" and says he drank real heavy from the get-go," sober since 1978, now presiding over the Michael Jackson trial. Country singer Lynn Anderson, who was recently arrested on charges of shoplifting and assaulting a police officer, entering rehab. Actress Sandra Dee, who played "Gidget" in the movie of the same name and struggled for years with alcohol and other drug addiction but apparently sober since 1990, dead at 62 from kidney disease.
Under watch: Thirteen-year old Devin Brown, shot and killed by police officers reacting to the ramming of a stolen car he was driving into theirs, and Brown's parents, who reportedly had no idea their son was out stealing cars and evading arrest at 4am. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, fired after a failed attempt at empire-building by centralizing much of the company's operations in her office and over-paying for Compaq, who focused on "too many tasks...which is no focus at all," "chasing...away talent," and "not tolerating strength in others." (Rich Karlgaard, WSJ, 2/11/05.) Televangelist Gene Scott who, as a young man, rebelled against the strict teachings of abstinence from alcohol that he grew up with as the son of a fundamentalist preacher and subsequently married three times, dead at age 75 from prostate cancer. "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion after failing to report $1.01 million in winnings from the first Survivor contest in August 2000 and $321,000 for co-hosting "The Wilde Show" on Boston radio station WQSX in 2001 (just what was he thinking?).
Note to family, friends and fans of the above: we give the benefit of the doubt by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. One absolute 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. To give sobriety a chance, the enabling needs to stop.
Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator
|Fear and Loathing in the Mind of an Addict
Movie Review: Counterculture "journalist" Hunter S. Thompson, who committed suicide at age 67 in February 2005, provides a classic example not so much of all-too obvious addiction, but more so of the enabling and codependency of the media elite. He was lionized, as were so many addicts before him, a hero. When he submitted disorganized notes for an article in Scanlan's magazine that focused more on himself than on the purported subject of his article, the 1970 Kentucky Derby, his notes were published intact. Fellow journalists almost universally acclaimed the resulting piece, one of whom termed his style "Gonzo" journalism. Though nobody seems to know exactly what that means, it is considered a form of journalism that carries no pretext of objectivity. Whether one thinks of journalism as necessarily objective is, perhaps, a question of whether one agrees with the views of the journalist.
A "wild outlaw with a pen," the rules were definitely not made for Hunter Thompson. His 1971 semi-autobiographical story Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie version of which we'll discuss shortly, was proclaimed a masterpiece of "New Journalism." Yet, it portrayed drug-addled brains and outrageously destructive behaviors which, while not quite glorified, were not deeply criticized. In classic alcoholic style, he was termed eccentric and a "cult" figure, while sharing his nihilist views that life is absurd and the world has no meaning. He was successful because he put his feelings to paper apparently succinctly at a time when so many others of his ilk in the '70s who couldn't write held the same vacuous beliefs. He wrote nonsense very well indeed, reportedly never wasting a word.
While long-time friends of the writer were shocked at his self-inflicted demise, a basic understanding of alcoholism -- that we cannot predict how self- or other-destructive the behaviors of a practicing alcoholic may become, or when -- would help them grasp the idea that they should have been shocked he lived so long. He easily could have been killed in a wild escapade such as that related in Fear and Loathing, or in an accident with one of the many guns he regularly used and loved. Although eluding initial fame until the '70s, he is said to have "personified the wild personal freedom" of the 1960s. Yet his freedom was a license to ride roughshod over others, for which he could have paid with life in prison (one that might easily have been shortened by correctional officers). The movie, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is a classic portrayal of such licentious behavior.
The story portrays two druggies in grown-up bodies with the minds of, at best, the fraternity boys in "Animal House." Benicio Del Toro, who gained 40 pounds for the role, beautifully plays gun- and knife-toting lawyer Dr. Gonzo. Gonzo accompanies seemingly cogent chain-smoking journalist Raoul Duke (Thompson's alter-ego, which served as the model for the thinly disguised sleazy "Uncle Duke" in the Doonesbury comic strip), played by Johnny Depp, to report on the 1971 Mint 400 Desert Race and a District Attorney Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, both held in Las Vegas. While the movie clearly does not glorify the use, it leaves us bewildered over the incredible luck in failing to get busted for destroying hotel rooms and endangering others on the road as they drive to and around Las Vegas with a suitcase full of every drug imaginable while stoned out of their minds. Snorting coke during speeches at the D. A. Conference, they haven't a clue as to what's going on. Nothing gets written on either event for Duke's employer.
The movie was billed as one about two guys who find that "sometimes going too far is the only way to go." No it's not. It's about two addicts on a binge who destroy cars and hotel rooms, steal room service (averaging $35 per hour for 48 hours in 1971 dollars), and adversely affect more than a life or two. While there was no real message to the movie other than "it's the only way to go" for those who enable such behaviors and "disgusting" for those of us who don't, there were at least a few laugh-out-loud moments (but then, I have to admit to having a bit of a taste for ridiculous Leslie Nielson movies and, even, "Animal House").
More importantly, although you'd have to listen very carefully to notice, inflated egos were evident. As he's readying himself to cover the race, journalist Duke comments, "Those of us who had been up all night were in no mood for coffee and donuts; we wanted strong drink. We were, after all, the absolute cream of the national sporting press." While cruising the Strip and thinking of themselves, he says, "Stoned, Ripped. Good people." After running into a beauty in an elevator (played in a cameo by Cameron Diaz) and threatening her boyfriend with a knife, Del Toro's character tells Duke, "She fell in love with me, man; eye contact, man," claiming she was flirting. While the first two comments may have been sarcastic, the latter was a clear sign of euphoric recall, which causes the addict to view everything he says or does in a self-favoring light.
They also consistently display a "rules don't apply to me" attitude. This even takes form in parking wherever they please (which I have found to be a classic symptom of alcoholism) as they arrive at a Debbie Reynolds show, which they are quickly thrown out of after talking their way in without paying. And one astute point is made when Duke talks about leaving, with Gonzo wielding his hunting knife: "One of the things you learn after years of dealing with drug people is that you can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug. Especially when it's waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in your eye." Note his use of the term "it," suggesting that even Thompson, in a rare moment of total honesty, knew he was dealing not with a real person but, instead, with an addict, and that the problem is not the person or the drug, but rather the person on the drug.
The movie was directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam ("Life of Brian") and was billed as a comedy. While for the addiction-aware it's more of a tragi-comedy with a decent-enough portrayal of poly-drug addicts, I must admit to laughing out loud at several scenes, particularly the check-in scene at the hotel where Depp's character is hallucinating. In addition to Diaz's cameo, Gary Busey plays an enabling cop, and you will also find Tobey Maguire and Chris Meloni of "Law and Order: SVU," in cameo roles.
||Dear Doug: I know he's a drug addict, but...
My husband of six years, Tony, can be a great companion and provider. He is not only successful at his regular job, but also helps at home with chores and is terrific with my fifteen-year-old son. The problem is, Tony is a cocaine addict, which I had no idea of before we married.
While I want to help him deal with his 20-year problem, I sometimes wonder if I should just walk away. The confusion stems from the fact that while during his occasional binges our family life is disrupted, at other times Tony is wonderful. Still, I'm concerned that he does more harm than good for my son.
Signed, Occasionally Abused
. . . . . .
Other columnists might suggest that if Tony proves unable to control his "habit," you should leave him, but first give Nar-Anon a chance. This suggests that Nar-Anon and similar programs (such as Al-Anon) for those living with addicts could show you how to continue living with the practicing addict, which would be a gross disservice to both you and your son.
Programs for codependents should show the boundary line at, "no use, or you're out," period. Unfortunately, they often show a way to ignore the addict's misbehaviors. Even if you can detach from the abuse (which no doubt exists to some degree), a child is far less likely to be able to do so without grave emotional damage.
There is little doubt that Tony, like most addicts, is a fundamentally good person. However, while on his binges, we cannot predict how destructive his behaviors may become, or when. He may go on for decades simply doing the things that "disrupt" your family, including the infliction of verbal abuse, failing to keep promises, adultery and showing up for engagements late, if at all. On the other hand, he may become physically abusive at the drop of a pin, and financial abuse may occur from which extricating yourself could take years. The correct response, then, is to offer Tony the choice of rehab, emphasizing that because you love him you will be there for him, or leaving today (not tomorrow). Attending Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings will help you get the "feel" for addiction needed for support in setting this one essential boundary, as will reading my first book, "Drunks, Drugs & Debits."
(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, December 18, 2004.)
Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month: "Excessive alcohol consumption causes addiction."
"Because excessive alcohol consumption can be harmful -- causing addiction... -- most doctors say it is never a good idea to tell a non-drinking patient to start consuming alcohol. Although most people can drink responsibly, it is impossible to know which patient may eventually start to abuse alcohol as a result of moderate daily consumption."
So said columnist Tara Parker-Pope in her column, "Health Journal," in "The Wall Street Journal" (December 28, 2004). While doctors should generally refrain from suggesting that patients begin drinking, cause and effect are reversed. Excessive alcohol consumption does not cause addiction; rather, once triggered, addiction causes excessive alcohol consumption. Alcoholics do not "abuse" alcohol as a result of moderate use; their inherited addiction not only allows, but also impels excessive use.
Getting it backwards perpetuates the myth that alcoholics are weak of character and that if we can only "teach" alcoholics to control their use, they will be normal drinkers. It also can encourage many of those with a genetic predisposition to alcoholism to try the drug; after all, no adolescent thinks he cannot control himself.
The conflict stems from the fact that numerous studies have reported far lower risk of heart disease among moderate drinkers than non-drinkers. However, "moderate" is defined in such studies as only one-half to one drink per day (one drink = 1.5 ounces 80-proof liquor, 5 ounces wine or 12 ounces beer).
The trouble with alcohol as with every prescription drug and, for that matter, every tool in the broadest sense of the term, is it can be used and misused. There are both good effects and side effects. Alcohol, like other drugs capable of causing distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals ("psychotropic drugs"), can cause some people to act destructively toward others. My suggested caution on the warning labels of alcoholic beverages (a variation from the back cover of Get Out of the Way!) is apropos: "Caution: Use of this drug may cause destructive behaviors directed toward family members, friends, coworkers and others, known -- or unknown."
Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors
"Evil spirits" or "shots of spirits"?
Story from "This Is True" by Randy Cassingham, with his "tagline."
SPIRITED OFFENSE: Police in Merrillville, Ind., arrested Jerry L. Jongsma, 55, for criminal recklessness after, they say, he admitted firing a gun outside his motel room. Jongsma allegedly told officers he was aiming at "evil spirits" who were trying to "suck blood from him." (Munster Times)...Leave it to small town cops to get everything wrong: he said he was taking "shots"of "spirits" which made him "evil," as reflected in his "blood alcohol" level.
Randy, with his ingenious tagline, touches upon a truth that few see clearly: heavy (addictive) use of alcohol causes misbehaviors. In fact, alcohol and other drug addiction is at the root of most evil, as reflected in such outrageous conduct.
("This is True" is copyright 2005 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See http://www.thisistrue.com for free subscriptions.)
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 frequently posts alcoholism-related articles, as well as his responses, so be sure to check back often.
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"My father died of alcoholism. His father died of alcoholism. Three generations of alcoholism is enough. Now is the time to abandon superstition and pseudoscience, to debunk the myths surrounding alcoholism, and to apply science to solving this problem. Doug Thorburn's book is a model example of how this should be done. Read it and be prepared to change your thinking on this important topic. When enough of us understand what is really going on with alcoholism, society can make the shift from treatment to prevention and intervention."
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