|November 2005 / Issue No. 15
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you 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
There is something for everyone!
While Im sorry to have missed a month, I think youll agree that we more than make up for it in this combined October-November issue. Be sure to check out not only the lead article on President Bush, but also the book review below for another authors opinion. And before I forget, now is the time to place your Christmas orders for my books, either through your favorite book store or my publisher.
Has Bush Relapsed?
The U.S. has survived a number of Presidents who were alcoholics. Could this time be different?
The United States has had several obvious alcoholic Presidents. In The Secret History of Alcoholism, James Graham identifies Andrew Johnson and Franklin Pierce as having been active alcoholics while in office. Ulysses S. Grant was in recovery by the time he was elected President. As Graham points out, all held office in the nineteenth century and none had much of an opportunity to abuse others while in office. Although their ego-fueled need to wield power capriciously may drive them to abuse that power, alcoholic Presidents are stymied from taking full advantage of such privilege in an open society that has a system of checks and balances. Thank God.
Graham, in my opinion, fails to identify as likely alcoholics several more recent U.S. Presidents. In my early research, Graham warned me to be careful when identifying alcoholism due to the risk of lawsuits over defamation of character. Yet, his work confirmed my idea that misbehaviors, particularly the abuse of others and flouting of rules, were usually symptoms of alcoholism. I began to grasp the idea that alcoholism causes power-seeking behaviors and there was, therefore, a higher-than-normal likelihood that those rising to positions of power have this disease. It dawned on me that Graham may have been too conservative due to a concern over lawsuits (and, perhaps, for running the risk of being viewed as one who sees an alcoholic under every bed) in his estimate of the number of alcoholic Presidents.
I realized the big issue was worth the risk: someone needs to argue that the benefit of the doubt is given when assuming alcoholism as the cause of misbehaviors. A 1964 Supreme Court decision, New York Times v. Sullivan, which protects those who say something about public figures or public officials in good faith and unaware of its falsity that turns out to be untrue, was icing on the cake. Suggesting alcoholism as the root of abusive, horrific or unnecessarily reckless behaviors implies that the person is NOT fundamentally rotten or stupid. Assuming otherwise is, in my opinion, defamation.
One possible alcoholic President was FDR. Among other behavioral symptoms was his attempt at packing the Supreme Court, a blatant power-seeking misbehavior that flouted everyones idea of the rules, something for which alcoholics are known. JFK was a polydrug addict from a long line of alcoholics. While his reckless abandon in dealing with the Cuban missile crisis may have worked, it appears to have been rooted in addiction. LBJ wielded power ruthlessly and was a known heavy drinker. Im skeptical about Nixon. What I know about his actual drinking is from Oliver Stones film portrayal, which may be inaccurate because Stone is an addict and, therefore, cannot be trusted. In addition, Nixon had zero alcoholic charm. Clinton, on the other hand, had not only charm but also engaged in adolescent-like misbehaviors in the Oval Office, was a superb liar and, for a time, had a classic alcoholic look to his face. Yet, the Republic survived all of these and will likely survive more.
This doesnt make the fact of alcoholism irrelevant, even in a democracy. Alcoholism breeds corruption and worse, it causes judgment to become impaired. Due to self-favoring perceptions, the alcoholic thinks he can do no wrong. This shows up in a sense of invincibility that can have tragic results. This is particularly true in international affairs in an age of advanced weaponry, even if I am far more concerned over North Koreas Kim Jong Il and Venezuelas Hugo Chavez, who has access to all-too-much oil money. (Its irksome that while many complain about oil companies profits, they ignore the far larger state oil monopolies in Venezuela and the Middle East, which are potentially lethal to our well being.)
George W. Bush is a known alcoholic. He stopped drinking after alcohol caused him to act badly on a number of occasions, as evidenced by the fact that his wife Laura gave him an ultimatum, Jim Beam or me. He appears to have stopped cold turkey without attending AA, which has led many commentators to describe his political behaviors as those of a dry drunk. However, it is all-too-easy for such an analysis to be clouded by political beliefs. As I point out in Alcoholism Myths and Realities, Most people balk at calling someone of like politics or personality an alcoholic, even if some of their behaviors are bizarre or destructive. Yet, many wouldnt hesitate to suggest that a person with whom they differ who drinks the equivalent of a bottle of wine every day must be an alcoholic, which could be restated as, many wouldn't hesitate to suggest that a person with whom they differ politically has convoluted thinking and must, therefore, be a dry drunk. As my friend and author Bob Prechter observes, it can be a challenge to separate political behaviors from alcoholic ones. Those holding strong opinions that differ from the person under scrutiny must be diligent in preventing their views from attributing political behaviors to alcoholism or its dry drunk equivalent. Unfortunately, many who have strongly disagreed with President Bush have not been diligent, which could hamper our ability to detect an actual relapse.
Some critics, for example, would have us believe that the deterioration in President Bushs speaking abilities is an indicator of a relapse or dry drunk syndrome. Instead, comparing videos of speeches in 1994 with his 2004 debate skills suggest some sort of thinking impairment consistent with what one observer suggests may be pre-senile dementia. (A truly amazing comparison is made at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1019.htm.)
The assertion that Bush is single-minded, which is considered by some to be symptomatic of either alcoholism or dry-drunk syndrome, flies in the face of observable reality. Since we cant read minds and determine if he really is single-minded, were left with observing the products of his mind. These include public policy proposals on an amazing array of topics, from a now-aborted attempt to partially privatize Social Security (I would have been far more single-minded in such an attempt) to a revolutionary expansion of Health Savings Accounts (for a detailed explanation of these accounts and why they are revolutionary, check out my online client newsletter dated Jan-April 2005 at http://www.DougThorburn.com). And what is wrong with what appears to be single-mindedness anyway? Few would suggest that Thomas Edisons experimentation with 10,000 filaments to create the worlds first practical light bulb meant that he was a dry drunk.
The suggestion that Bush has displayed indications of paranoia in his call to stop rogue states and terrorists before they use Weapons of Mass Destruction against us is another false indicator. Terrorists have already used what some consider WMD (planes filled with jet fuel) and Saddam poisoned, gassed and tortured his own people. The likelihood that, sooner or later, others will sell or slip WMD to terrorists is, in the opinion of some (particularly those who understand alcoholism), a high probability. A few of us may even agree with then Governor Bushs espousal of the idea presented in a November 1999 speech that mutual democracy blocks mutual belligerency. I, for one, support the democratization of the planet as the only way to prevent an atomic holocaust, only Id argue that privatization of resourcesparticularly oilmay also be essential.
Critics have also suggested that Bush is grandiose because of the words he uses. Even a clearly non-alcoholic President Ford used grandiose phrases and political buzzwords in an attempt to accomplish the goals of a nation, wrong-headed though they may have been (recall his Whip Inflation Now buttons). Leadership should not be confused with alcoholic behaviors, however much we may disagree with the stated goals. If anything, returning power to the individual, as Bushs Ownership Society would clearly do, is an abrogation of government power, an unlikely policy prescription for the ultimate control freakan alcoholic lawmaker or law enforcer.
The idea that there is a political agenda on the part of many who have commented on a dry-drunk syndrome and Bush should be obvious. This is particularly true considering Clintons irresponsible behavior while President, along with his amazing rationalizations for his misbehaviorsincluding parsing the meaning of the word isis never mentioned by these commentators, or any others.
Yet, I have concerns. While stress cannot cause alcoholism, it does contribute to relapse. Recovering alcoholics tell us that there can be a slip despite what may have been excellent, long-term recovery, sometimes after decades of sobriety. I doubt many of us can imagine the degree of stress a President experiences.
My concern isnt over public behaviors that are easily confused with political ones. Unless blatant in politicians (such as the Huey Longs of the world), private behaviors are essential to a diagnosis of possible alcoholism or a relapse. While terms such as crusade, infinite justice and evil doers are more likely political terms than ones rooted in alcoholism, the inappropriate use of foul language is far more likely alcoholism-driven. Bush has reportedly used such language, casting blame all about, lashing out at aides, unleashing obscenity-filled outbursts at anyone who dares disagree with him, and exploding into tirades. He has, according to online journalist Doug Thompson (himself a recovering alcoholic with, as of August 15, 2005, 11 years, 2 months and 9 days of sobriety), flipped others the bird and been prescribed anti-depressants (alcoholism is frequently misdiagnosed as Depressive Personality Disorder). The regular use of foul language, blaming others for ones problems, inappropriate anger and volatile mood swings are all indications of an impending relapse or an actual one. I would hypothesize that he went into relapse mode six to twelve months ago and may have hit the bottle, as reports have suggested, somewhere around August or September. One Washington source was reported to have said, He has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him
Family sources told reporters that when she saw him recently downing a shot, she yelled, Stop, George.
If such reports are true, President Bush is in the throes of the process of relapse. It is important to understand the process. He may have one drink in a sitting, or 16. The ability to have only one will make him believe he can control how much he drinks. Distortions of perception will make him think he is in control over his behaviors. The distortions themselves will prevent him from realizing he is the cause of his problems, not his staff or the American people. Because the distortions will make him believe he can do no wrong, he will be incapable of identifying alcohol as the problem. Our best hope is that Laura will do now what she did when Bush hit 40: offer a choice and let him know she will act on that decision, role as First Lady be damned.....
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Many of these are from September (October was a slow month for such news), but they’re really good.
Supermodel Kate Moss, 31, who has a two-year-old daughter, in rehab after being photographed allegedly snorting cocaine with her drug-addicted lover Pete Doherty looking on; according to reports, she combined the drug with champagne and vodka cocktails. Insisting she didn’t touch drugs, she went into a tirade of four letter words when reporters questioned her. Regularly using foul language is clue number 2 under “Supreme Being complex” in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics.
O.J. Simpson, celebrating the ten year anniversary of his acquittal. When asked by a friend how he would celebrate, O.J. reportedly responded, “I’m going to light up a joint, have a drink and toast those wonderful people who found me not guilty.” In the meantime, the criminal investigation arm of the IRS has reportedly nailed O.J.’s former business manager Mike Gilbert for fraud. The probe is now reportedly centering on O.J. for failing to report almost $1 million in income from public appearances and autograph sessions that Gilbert arranged. Gilbert is cooperating with authorities (he received funds for O.J., out of which he says he kept a 20% commission) and says, “I’ve ended up as just another life he’s destroyed.” I wonder how many more relationships O.J. will ruin and lives he will destroy before he gets clean and sober.
Samuel Israel III, who pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges stemming from the collapse of the hedge fund he helped found, Bayou Management, reported in the September issue of the Thorburn Addiction Report in the “under watch” section as “suspected of defrauding investors of hundreds of millions of dollars.” In a Wall Street Journal piece from September 30, the 21st paragraph discussed signs that went unheeded by financial advisers and investors: “Less obvious were aspects of the duo’s [he and co-defendant Daniel Marino, who also pleaded guilty] personal behavior. Police arrested Mr. Israel on the evening of May 11, 1996, for operating a vehicle [while] under the influence of alcohol…The police also” found crack cocaine in his wallet and charged him with criminal possession. Knowing the personal behavior of those entrusted with your funds is, indeed, essential to your financial health. And by the way, this information should have been at the top of the story—followed by, “and his alcoholism took form in wielding power over others by conning them.”
Parker Ray Elliott, sentenced to life in prison for the murders of his ex-wife and daughter near Columbia, TN in June, 2004. The 11th paragraph of an article on the sentencing in the Tennessean of September 25 mentioned that it was revealed during three days of testimony that “Elliott was an alcoholic who blamed his wife for many problems of his own making.” That information should have been in the first paragraph, followed by, “and his alcoholism took form in wielding power over others by murdering them.”
GA State Representative David Graves (R-Macon), chairman of the House committee overseeing laws governing the alcohol industry, cited for DUI twice in twelve months, arguing for immunity from prosecution because he was “leaving a gathering that was tantamount to a committee meeting” when he was apprehended. A centuries-old provision in Georgia law protects a lawmaker from arrest during sessions of the General Assembly, legislative committee meetings or while in transit to a session or meeting. He had been at a dinner meeting with other lawmakers. Gary Jones, the assistant solicitor assigned to prosecute Graves, pointed out, “Just because you’re having dinner with other politicians doesn’t make it a committee meeting. They could be at a casino doing the same thing, and he could allege it was a committee meeting, even though they’re gambling. Only in this case, they were drinking—which to me is another indication it was not a committee meeting.” Graves admitted to the arresting officer in the latest DUI that he’d consumed two to four drinks, but he didn’t define “drink.” If Graves is 200 pounds and he consumed his drinks over four hours, each “drink” would have been 3.5 to 7 ounces of 80-proof liquor, 28 to 56 ounces of beer, or 12 to 24 ounces of wine, depending on whether it was two drinks or four, just to get his BAL to .08 per cent. The legislative immunity provision is one of many across the country, perhaps accounting for a far higher rate of active alcoholism among lawmakers than in the general population. I suspect the same is true for diplomats, who are protected by “diplomatic immunity.” Graves has since instructed his lawyer to drop the immunity plea, noting in a statement, “I have personal problems that need to be addressed.”
Kalispell, Montana’s most prominent businessman-philanthropist, Dick Dasen, sentenced to 20 years in prison after a conviction on prostitution-related charges. Locals were furious at cops for wrecking a “good man’s reputation” when arrested at a cheap motel in 2004, but police chief Frank Garner helped prove Dasen spent more than $3 million on women and the methamphetamine he supplied them with over several years. Dasen, reportedly a staunch conservative, built a convention center, owned two banks and helped down-and-outs through his own charity, Christian Financial Counseling, which introduced him to many young single mothers struggling with debt and drug addiction.
Jesse Jackson, complaining that Bush “has not appointed a single black to head up the Katrina relief…” Note to Jesse: the mayors of New Orleans and Baton Rouge are black, as are their police chiefs, the head of the Louisiana State Police, the head of the Army’s ground operation in New Orleans and the Congressman from New Orleans.
New York Attorney General Elliott Spitzer, who continues to devote multiple lawyers to his case against the New York Stock Exchange over former Exchange President Dick Grasso’s compensation package, while claiming his office is too low on funds to pursue Medicaid fraud (Medicaid consumes $40 billion yearly in New York). One of the directors of the Exchange compensation committee, Ken Langone, explains that if his office prevails (which it likely won’t), the damages would be handed back to the owners of the Stock Exchange, “millionaires one and all—myself included.” Langone, who was smeared by Spitzer as “unsavory” and “deceptive,” and whose heart Spitzer pledged to “put a stake through,” points out that Spitzer has a “troubling method of making loud legal threats, strong-arming witnesses, and intimidating boards and companies into destructive concessions.” The use of hyperbole, intimidating others and the need to destroy worthy people are superb behavioral indications of alcoholism.
And finally, the negotiators claiming a “breakthrough” in six-party talks in Beijing with North Korea, ratifying its “peaceful right to the uses of nuclear energy” and a goal of “verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in the Wall Street Journal, “Pyongyang’s ‘peaceful nuclear energy program’ is…an entirely imaginary animal—akin to the unicorn.” I’ve long suspected that many diplomats may be alcoholics. In this case, a likely combination of alcoholics and codependents could spell catastrophe. We need to be cognizant of the likelihood that North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Il, may potentially be the most dangerous alcoholic since Stalin and that while Stalin didn’t have the means to deliver nukes, Kim does.
There is a wonderful exchange of ideas on my blog (http://www.preventragedy.com/worldpress/, which by the way has a great search feature) between me and Harry A. Van Twistern, who knew the very unconventional pastor, Dr. Gene Scott. Because of a dearth of information on misbehaviors, I knew that including Scott in the “Under Watch” section of the March newsletter was a stretch. However, I was curious whether someone would notice and confirm or disconfirm my weak hypothesis. Van Twistern has clearly disconfirmed addiction in Scott. However, anecdotes strongly suggest alcoholism in his grandfather, which may explain much of his father’s behaviors and beliefs, which in turn affected Scott.
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 addictswhich 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 the misbehaviors and proactively intervene. .
Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator
Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, by Justin A. Frank, MD
Dr. Frank’s well written if overly complex book suffers from two fatal flaws and numerous lesser ones. First, he views everything President Bush says or does through his admitted (pseudo)liberal bias. Despotism aside, mixing psychological and political analysis is fatal to an accurate diagnosis of psychological state and alcoholism. One of Frank’s unstated but recurring underlying themes is that those with views differing from his must be psychologically disturbed. This is particularly true of those who would cut government programs aiding the poor and hungry, as if government creates food and other wealth. Frank leaves no room for agreeing to disagree.
Second, in arguing that Bush has never examined the reason for his addictions, he assumes that underlying emotional problems lead to alcoholism. Yet, there is no difference in aggregate levels of such problems in children who later trigger addiction and those who do not. As described in my book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, this reversal of cause and effect has helped to create one of the grand myths of alcoholism, which has contributed to its stigma. Frank furthers this myth, even if true that the recovering alcoholic must deal with stunted emotional growth and psychological problems resulting from alcoholism.
Among the lesser flaws is the idea that religiosity reinforces a childlike sense of omnipotence and infallibility. It seems to me, a person who is non-supportive of religion in the traditional sense, that religiosity increases humility. Frank uses Freud’s Oedipus Complex, which describes the ambivalence of love and hatred for one’s parents, and Melanie Klein’s model of infant development, which claims that our internal world is shaped by the “chaotic, terrifying terrain into which we are born” and that babies are born with destructive impulses as a result of "fighting their way" out of the womb, in an attempt to explain why George W. Bush is an unstable, sadistic and paranoid megalomaniac. The use of such unprovable hypotheses and extreme language serves only to take the focus off verifiable behaviors that may suggest a return to active alcoholism. Frank frequently attacks Bush’s choice of words, suggesting that, for example, it was inappropriate to use his “nationalistic and religious rhetoric” to “create a tribe of believers deeply invested in his beliefs…” after 9/11 and before the Iraq invasion. He might have said the same of FDR in marshalling public opinion in favor of war after the attack on Pearl Harbor, or of Patrick Henry in inspiring the War for Independence in his “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech.
The recurring psychobabble is an unverifiable attempt at mind reading. Frank begins integrating psychological and political analysis by claiming that George W., who “craved love and affection from his father,” suffered terribly as a child from his father’s numerous absences. Aside from asking how he knows this, the idea that it would have “profound implications” for W’s psychological health makes one concerned over the terrible effect this must have in the increasing numbers of truly fatherless households. Frank links this apparent psychological abandonment to W’s policies’ “disregard for those less fortunate than him, at home and abroad.” Dr. Frank would no doubt conclude that libertarians, who support policies far more radical than any either Bush I or II has ever proposed, must all have been unloved as children. Perhaps instead, some grasp the idea that policies purporting to help those “less fortunate” almost always suffer from the laws of unintended consequences and serve only to harm the less fortunate. Frank, in asking why George W. tolerates increased arsenic in the public water supply and wants to lift logging restrictions, leaves no room for argument over how much arsenic is safe and how many trees can be felled while keeping a forest healthy or, for that matter, whether government should even own forests. Frank seems to think that anyone disagreeing with his policy prescriptions couldn’t possibly be psychologically healthy.
Why is Bush psychologically unhealthy? Frank engages in some truly fanciful analysis. “Much as Barbara tried unsuccessfully to compensate for her own mother’s unhappiness, George W. couldn’t erase his mother’s pain, which found vivid expression when her hair turned prematurely white in her grief” over the loss of her daughter to leukemia. He wonders “what it was like for [a very young] George to watch his mother’s hair turn white.” Further, “The pattern of reparation by denial is something Bush learned at a crucial moment in his childhood, when his grieving mother decided to put on a brave face so her seven-year-old son wouldn’t have to worry about her.”
Why does Bush support what Frank decries as harmful policies? “A wide array of his domestic policies punish[es] elements of society whose weakness reminds him unconsciously of his own.” “Given what we know about the inattentiveness of his parents—who the young [Bush] understood to have rejected him—it’s easy to see how this indifference could have been transposed in his mind into hatred, projecting his unrequited longing onto other targets.” “Why does Bush hate us?… His deepest level of contempt is reserved for people who remind him of his parents—and of his own defects.” “…Fiscal conservatives have begun to question Bush’s comfort with unprecedented deficit spending. What they fail to recognize is that his need to diminish future progress is an unconscious attack on his own parents…” I’d suggest this is drivel, but the word is hardly adequate in describing such garbage.
Frank confuses innate personality type with psychological disorders. His list of W’s “thought disorders” includes “a limited capacity to think in abstract terms” and a “tendency toward concrete thinking.” In pegging Bush as a concrete thinker, Frank denigrates the 75% of the population who score as Sensing types on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Similarly, he attacks Introverts by suggesting that “Bush retreats into solitude and routine…[because he is] unable to trust other people…”
Frank is quite the mind reader. He claims that George W. Bush “turned to alcohol late in his youth, presumably to narcotize anxieties he couldn’t bear to confront….It seems highly likely that the inner demons he tried to manage by drinking still bedevil him today.” No Dr. Frank, Bush used alcohol addictively because his biochemistry allowed him to; alcoholism causes or increases anxiety; and inner demons are borne of alcoholism. Frank continues to explain that Bush “abused alcohol to soothe his anxious soul.” No, he “abused” alcohol because he could and it made him feel god-like, which caused anxiety in moments of clarity when he may have had an inkling of the damage he did while drinking. Frank suggests that Bush’s thinking and behavior may have been “deeply influenced by an alcoholic personality, one that is continually trying…to keep the compulsion to drink under control.” Sorry Dr. Frank, but there is no way to observe someone’s thinking and whether a person is “continually trying to keep the compulsion to drink under control.”
While Frank grasps the idea that active alcoholics are “uninterested in self-knowledge and incapable of introspection” and, therefore to his credit, will not knowingly treat one, he thinks the only proper treatment is AA. He claims Bush “remains in the grip of alcoholic thinking that the program of AA…helps its members to keep at bay.” Since alcoholic thinking is rooted in egomania, anything that helps deflate the ego will decrease such thinking and, more important for those who may be adversely affected by the afflicted person, misbehaviors. Religion, while not the only way to do so, is very effective at deflating the ego. Yet Frank debunks religion as a treatment for alcoholism because, according to him, it serves to replace the endorphin rush, thereby preventing the addict from dealing with his or her underlying pain. Sorry Dr. Frank, but there is no way anyone’s brain, regardless of religion or other belief system, can release endorphins anywhere near the degree that drugs can. Further, religion no more prevents the addict from dealing with pain than does the power of positive thinking. While Frank claims he has “treated alcoholics who are in recovery in AA and alcoholics who are abstaining on their own, and it’s easy to tell the difference,” I’ve known many in AA who are not in recovery and many in sobriety with excellent recovery who never attended AA. And he accuses Bush of rigid thinking. (I will have more on the subject of recovery without AA on the blog and invite your comments on this issue; email me at the link at the bottom.)
As other critics have noted, “it’s hard to ignore the many troubling [alcoholic] elements of his character…including grandiosity, judgmentalism, intolerance, detachment, denial of responsibility, a tendency toward overreaction, and an aversion to introspection.” There are, to be sure, some anecdotes hinting that W. lacks a good program of recovery, including, as Frank reminds us, a Jay Leno interview on the eve of Ws DUI revelation in which he abruptly and inappropriately changed the subject, thereby avoiding a discussion of things he had done of which he was ashamed. On the other hand, any politician proposing that health care be put back into the hands of health consumers is taking anything but a grandiose approach to public policy. Instead, schemes that put our lives in the hands of a government that has repeatedly proven itself inept at everything from disaster relief to delivering mail could arguably be considered grandiose. Perceptive personality types view judgers as overly judgmental; I imagine Frank would so categorize me. Intolerance is anything but an apt term for a sitting President who visited a mosque after 9-11 and commented that “we do not impose any religion; we welcome all religions” at a prayer breakfast shortly after the atrocity. He opposes gay marriage not because, as Evangelicals claim, it is against God’s will, but rather because marriage is an institution so fundamental to society that it simply should not be changed. While we may disagree, his view is not based on intolerance. Kitty Kelley, in her recent book on the Bush dynasty, describes what could be interpreted as the epitome of tolerance at a college reunion hosted by Bush in the White House. Bush told an old classmate, Peter, who had undergone a sex change operation and was now Petra, “Now you’ve come back as yourself.” I have no way of determining whether Bush is detached or has an aversion to introspection because, unlike Frank, I cannot read minds. However, while Bush has been known to deny responsibility, he was quick to point out the federal government’s failures in the Katrina disaster and did not point fingers, even if his choice for FEMA director was based on cronyism.
The most commonly-believed accusation is the purported “tendency toward overreaction,” of which Iraq is frequently cited as proof. Bush was outlining his views on foreign intervention in speeches as early as late 1999 in discussing, as the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, “the need to combat new threats posed by the intersection of weapons of mass destruction and ‘car bombers and plutonium merchants and cyber terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators.’” It took months of debate before invading Iraq, and only after repeated warnings. The accusations against Bush in regards to Iraq and the idea that he “knew” Saddam didn’t have WMD are reminiscent of Republicans declaring that FDR “lied us into war” with the Nazis and Japanese. How easily the media forgets Al Gore’s assertion in 2002 that “we know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons…” and Hillary Clinton’s claim a few weeks later, “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members…” Most people seem to have conveniently forgotten that John Kerry, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton all voted for the Iraq resolution. If megalomania drove Bush to invent adversaries so that he could destroy them as Frank posits, what drives others to rewrite history? And what could make Frank state as if absolute fact that Bush invented the adversary? As one reviewer wrote, “try inventing 9-11, try inventing the Taliban, try inventing the countless beheadings of innocent people in Iraq” and the one million killed in his invasion of Iran.
If Bush can be accused of anything, it is a steadfastness that can work against him. He can be slow to admit he is wrong and to change his approach. In this, Frank is correct in pointing to Bush’s rigidity, but for the wrong reason: he cites Bush’s “reliance on daily routines,” pointing out “a healthy person is able to alter his routine; a rigid one cannot.” Yet, he complains that “he managed to spend 42 percent of his first seven months as president away from the White House,” largely at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, implying he is not working while at the ranch. One might be skeptical that rigid people take repeated vacations, whether or not working ones. Frank suggests the “rigid routine” goes with rigid thought processes, an “obsessive way in which he holds on to ideas and plans after they have been discredited….” Frank, again, inserts his own self-righteous views.
Frank finally points out some behavioral symptoms of alcoholism and the reactions of close persons. His discussion of the drinker’s unpredictability and those nearby “walking on eggshells” is excellent (all of it on page 45). He is right in being more concerned when treating an alcoholic who does not attend AA than one who does. He is also correct in being concerned over Bush’s inability to speak, his repetition of key words and phrases and the idea that if he relapses, he will do everything possible to hide it. Frank explains that there is significantly impaired memory in heavy drinkers and in former heavy drinkers, but fails to mention that such impairment dissipates over time, especially after as many years of sobriety as Bush has had. The possibility of some other brain dysfunction such as pre-senile dementia is largely ignored. While Frank rightly points out that the public has a right to know about cognitive function in the President, I’d go further in opening up the medical records of politicians and other government employees in regards to psychotropic drug use and their aftereffects. The most important indication that there may be a problem is found 191 pages into the book, where he mentions the August 2003 physical that reported on the removal of a number of spider angiomas from his nose—capillary bursts most common to pregnancy and chronic alcoholism.
According to Frank, Bush replaced alcohol with religion. He explains that "Bush now numbs himself through exercise, prayer, and sleep." He argues that obsessive behavior drove Bush to alcoholism, again reversing cause and effect. While obsessive behavior can pre-exist alcoholism, many non-alcoholics are obsessive. While it has nothing to do with causation, it is exacerbated by active addiction. Some might suggest that Christianity was adopted in an effort to deflate his ego and as a tool for recovery, but Frank sees only obsession. While some might see exercise as a means to keep physically fit, Frank sees obsession. Talk about rigid and, at the same time, conflicted. Frank says, “…when he stopped drinking Bush discovered that spirituality could serve as something like his own personal opiate, offering him the means to calm himself in the absence of liquid spirits.” He debunks the idea of spirituality serving to keep the addict off the booze because religion is “…a system of endorphin-mobilizing ideas” and “when we numb our pain…we sometimes avoid resolving it.” He is not only reversing cause and effect, but also suggesting that religion prevents us from dealing with pain.
Frank admits that the American Medical Association has proclaimed that his methods of analyzing someone without ever meeting that person are not only impossible, but also unethical and unprofessional. If there is active alcoholism, there is no need for psychoanalysis; we know that alcoholism causes egomania and abusive behaviors. However, most of Frank’s analysis rests on behaviors that are rooted in political beliefs with which Frank disagrees, rendering a diagnosis of active alcoholism impossible. If W. falls apart before 2008, the cause will be active alcoholism. Frank diverts our attention from the real issue and sheds more light on himself than on Bush.
Dear Doug: Immature parents
My son and daughter-in-law, after neglecting their twin toddlers for the first three years of their lives, are now divorcing. While the mother went out drinking and cheated on him, our son did what he could to feed and bathe the children. Because there was often no food in what was usually a filthy house, my husband and I helped with the groceries and cleaning.
My son is experiencing bouts of depression while the mother, who is supposed to bring them to us for babysitting in a shared custody arrangement, takes them to the YMCA. Contrary to court order, she frequently brings her male friends to her home when the kids are there. This cant be good for my grandchildren: one is exhibiting what seems to be a serious lack of emotions and the other is acting overemotional and sometimes out of control.
We love our grandchildren but, in our 60s, dont think it would be good for anyone if we end up with them. Please help.
. . . . .
Other columnists might point out that the children have two very immature parents. They are immature, however, for a reason that must be taken into account when attempting to solve the problem: your daughter-in-law has the disease of alcoholism and your son is suffering from codependency.
Alcoholism causes the afflicted person to act in ways contrary to their true nature. The destructive behavior takes numerous forms, one of which is a self-centeredness that puts even the needs of their own children in second place to their own perceived desires. It often takes form in sexual promiscuity, even with the children nearby.
While other columnists might naively suggest she appears ready to give up the children voluntarily, alcoholic egomania may cause her to dig in her heels if threatened with losing them. In a courtroom battle, she might make false accusations against your son that will not be flattering. Your sons truths may be no match for the believability of her lies. To keep her victims safe, you should treat her as an adversary capable of any horrific misbehavior.
You should do everything you can to keep the children away from her and to let the law intervene. Bear in mind no oneincluding law enforcerscan detect an alcoholic with a blood alcohol level up to three times the legal limit by appearances alone. Do your best to conspire with local police or child protective services to have her arrested for DUI or any other abusive behavior.
By the way, your son is experiencing a typical reaction to the insanity of dealing with an alcoholic. As Christopher Kennedy Lawford puts it in his new autobiography, the worst part for a child of an alcoholic parent is the inconsistency in behaviors. It also negatively affects adults, who havent a clue as to why the person is acting this way. Understanding alcoholism will help your son out of his depression and show him he must proactively do everything possible to get his children out of harms way.
(Source for story idea: Annies Mailbox, August 17, 2005.)
And a bonus Dear Doug inspired by another columnist:
Since I moved away from my ex-boyfriend several months ago, our relationship has taken a turn for the worse. He verbally abuses me over the phone, threatens to beat me and has promised to ruin my life. He tells me he wants me back and loves me and, in the same breath, tells me he hates me. Could his verbal abuse turn into something worse?
. . . . .
While other columnists might say that people who love each other do not treat each other this way and that your ex- has become obsessed, the truth of the matter is that sober people do not treat others this way and that alcoholics, in the active stages of their disease, are far more likely to become obsessed than others. Other columnists might suggest you warn him that if he persists, you will inform police and that under no circumstances should you have anything to do with him. While correct, its imperative to understand that if his obsessions and abuse is driven by alcoholism (the odds are 80% absent proof of addictive use), that his behaviors could easily become far worse. You need to act to protect yourself in any way necessary.
(Source for story idea: Dear Abby, October 8, 2005.)
Several brief Myths-of-the-Month.
“Royal watchers…predict (Prince Harry’s 21st birthday) may mark the maturing of the royal family’s most wayward son.”
So claimed a news report in the Los Angeles Daily News on the wild child, Prince Harry, who frequently appears in British tabloids with a cigarette and beer in hand. Sorry to disappoint, but he will not begin to mature emotionally until he is in a program of sobriety.
After husband Robert Altman’s reputation was ruined when he was accused of taking bribes in a bank scandal, Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, “unable to keep up with her TV character’s clean-cut image, hit the bottle.”
So said a report in the National Enquirer on the now sober Carter. As usual, cause and effect is reversed. If she was sober, she relapsed—stress will do that to alcoholics. If she wasn’t, she merely spun into more obvious alcoholism. Either way, she hit the bottle addictively because her inborn biochemistry allowed her to.
“The human impulse to blame grows out of the evolutionary need to avert harm.”
So explained Ohio University professor Mark Alicke, who researches the psychology of blame, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. However, the author of the piece, Jeffrey Zaslow, doesnt differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate blame in describing Alickes views. A group of prehistoric men blaming a member of the group for a threat to their survival for not carrying his load may appropriately point fingers. Someone stubbing a toe on a chair kicking and cursing the chair is reacting inappropriately and childlike. Such behavior is an excellent indicator of alcoholism, suggesting that the human impulse to inappropriately blame grows out of this disease and not an evolutionary need to avert harm.
Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors™
Society’s icons are often alcoholics
Stories from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
"THE DRUG-DRIVEN LIFE: After Brian Nichols grabbed a deputy's gun and shot his way out of the courthouse in Fulton County, Ga., killing four people, Ashley Smith was hailed as a hero. Smith, who Nichols took hostage in her own apartment after his rampage, told police how she convinced him to surrender by talking about God and reading aloud from the book, The Purpose-Driven Life. Now, Smith is putting out her own book which details how she really got Nichols to cooperate: she gave him her supply of crystal methamphetamine. Smith admits she was a meth addict and had used the drug hours before she was taken hostage. 'Do you smoke it? How do you do it?' Nichols asked her when she handed her stash over. She prepared the drug for him so he could snort it. 'You gave him drugs, Ashley,' she said to herself at the time, but, she says now, 'God led me to do that.' Smith received $70,000 in rewards for capturing Nichols, and says she no longer takes drugs. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) ...Someday, maybe we'll revere people who succeeded without ever getting addicted to drugs, rather than people who overcame them after being showered with money and fame."
Randy observes something that seems inexplicable, until we understand the overriding need of the addict to inflate his or her ego. Society often reveres and enables the over achieving addict with money and fame. Unfortunately, the addict is protected from consequences, leading to continued use and oftentimes death; long-term sobriety is rare when the money keeps rolling in. Think of Marilyn, Elvis, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Belushi and all-too-many others.
Somehow in the case of Ashley Smith, her ordeal turned out to be her bottom—at least so far. But then, she had already likely been scraping the bottom after losing custody of her five-year-old daughter, spending time in a psychiatric hospital and a serious injury from a drug-induced car crash. Bottoming is a process and the example of Ashley Smith just goes to show, we never know what will trigger the need to finally stay clean and sober. It also shows that addicts can get away with dealing with other addicts in ways the rest of us probably can’t.
And talk about seemingly heroic behavior that needs no comment:
"SSSSAFETY LASSSST: Stephen Sodones, 62, spotted a snake alongside the road in Jefferson, N.J., and worried that it would get run over when it crossed, so he picked it up to carry it across himself. The snake, a venomous copperhead, bit him for his trouble. Three times. His condition was listed as 'critical but improving' and he is expected to live. 'It was a good thing to do,' said venomous snake expert Joe Abene about the case, 'but the wrong way to do it. What the heck was he thinking?' (Newark Star-Ledger) ...While everyone else wondered, 'What the heck was he drinking?'"
(Story from “This is True,” copyright 2005 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)
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