February 2006 / Issue No. 18

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story-of-the-Month
2. 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!

Super Bowl Sunday is one of those days non-alcoholics drink right along with the alcoholics…until the second or third drink. Then, if their team is winning, the alcoholic continues to drink and cheer them on; if losing, the alcoholic continues to drink to drown his or her sorrows. Whatever the excuse, they often follow it up with the drive home, or to the bar. So, please be careful this Super Bowl Sunday.

Robert Prechter, Jr., has written a magnificent essay on behavioral indications of alcoholism in Edward de Vere, aka William Shakespeare. If he is correct—and I think he is—Shakespeare’s portrayal of alcoholics and alcoholism may be at the root of many of the great myths of alcoholism. You’ll find the essay on the home page of our main web site, PrevenTragedy.com. Click on Articles & Interviews in the masthead.

Click here to visit the PrevenTragedy.com homepage

I am very proud to be welcomed as a contributor to the New Criminologist Journal, which has just republished several of the top stories from the Thorburn Addiction Report. You'll find the welcome at http://www.newcriminologist.co.uk/news.asp?id=-952025650 and articles under "latest articles" at http://www.newcriminologist.co.uk/author.asp?bio=-1752448488.

Click here to visit the New Criminologist Journal (Online Edition)

Bode Miller: Olympian Skier, Party Boy and Likely Non-Alcoholic ENTP

ImageSometimes, personality type and upbringing explains what may appear to be alcoholism.

Bode Miller, reportedly the most naturally gifted American skier in decades and one of America’s great hopes in the upcoming Olympics, recently made news with loose talk and foul language in a “60 Minutes” interview. He essentially claimed he once skied a World Cup event either while drunk or extremely hung over. He often peppers his speech with profanities, which is by itself a frequent early clue to addiction. According to Newsweek, he is an avid partyer and “often grumpy.” He is an extraordinary overachiever, which as we know does not preclude alcoholism and may even be driven by it.

By his late teens, Miller (again according to Newsweek) “clashed with every coach, every teacher, every official he came across.” He has a “smirking disrespect for the media.” He not only argues for the legalization of performance-enhancing drugs, but is also “a vocal critic of the drug-screening process in sport.” Without further inquiry, we could easily conclude he may have early-stage alcoholism. Yet, his reasoning could be related to the fact that the system permits the use of creatine, which is clearly performance-enhancing, yet bans Sudafed. If he sees hypocrisy in such a system, he would not be alone.

Could there be another explanation for whatever misbehaviors he may be guilty of? His seeming innate lack of respect for authority and playfulness is consistent with the Artisan personality type (“SP” in the Myers-Briggs paradigm; see http://www.Keirsey.com for insights into this Temperament). The Artisan is a natural competitor and the most common type from which sports legends develop. If non-alcoholic, the competitiveness is benign; if alcoholic, Artisans can be extremely dangerous hyper-competitors, having a need to win regardless of consequences (see the discussion of actress Bette Davis in my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, along with last month’s issue of the http://www.addictionreport.com for more insights into such a need).

A crucial contrary indicator to alcoholism is that Miller does not have an apparent need to win at any price. Furthermore, if we look at examples of Miller’s analysis of skiing and inventiveness in the sport, we might conclude that not only is Miller not alcoholic, but also may be a Temperament apart from the usual supreme athlete.

According to Time Magazine, at one point in his career Miller rarely finished a race, seemingly because he was “determined to either win or crash.” While some observers might have figured he was being reckless, which is a signal clue to alcoholism, he was apparently instead changing his style using scientific analysis. Time explains that Miller was trying to find the shortest route between gates on the slalom course, which should be the quickest route down, but “needed to learn how to change directions and generate force that was different from other guys.” He had to consider “ankle torsion, where the screws are on the ski, how that affects the forces going into the ski and how the ski bends, your leverage points.” Such deep analysis is not the forte of the Artisan, but rather the Rational (“NT”). Crucially, he said he didn’t love racing to win. “I loved it because it allowed me to do that exploring,” referring to the physics analysis. In terms of both reasoning and goals, he thinks like a Rational.

The playfulness of a more specific NT type, the NTP, is evident from the title of his autobiography, Bode: Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun. It’s also apparent from comments he made about the period of experimentation when he wasn’t winning: “I was having the greatest time, making the mistakes, crashing.” We can hypothesize the full type when we read in Time that, after recently “tinkering with his boots, he discovered that inserting a composite—as opposed to aluminum or plastic—lift under the sole gave him a better feel on the snow and better performance.” Then, Miller did something totally inconsistent alcoholism—he shared the discovery with everyone, including his competitors. He explained that if he hadn’t, he would be “maintaining an unfair advantage over my competitors knowingly, for the purpose of beating them alone. Not for the purpose of enjoying it more or skiing better. To me that’s ethically unsound.” An innate personality type of ENTP, or Extroverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceptive, best explains both the thinking and behaviors, which alcoholism does not.

David Keirsey describes this type in his book, Please Understand Me (which, as an INTJ would say, should be on everyone’s top ten reading list). “ENTPs wish to exercise their ingenuity in the world of people and things….They deal imaginatively with social relationships as well as physical and mechanical relations….The ENTP is the most reluctant of all the types to do things in a particular manner just because that is the way things always have been done. They characteristically have an eye out for a better way, always on the lookout for new projects, new activities, new procedures.” Bode Miller, meet Thomas Edison and Tom Sawyer.

As for Miller’s disregard of authority, ENTPs (again from Keirsey’s description) “display a charming capacity to ignore the standard, the traditional, the authoritative.” The motive is not the alcoholic’s need to violate rules for the purpose of wielding power over others, but rather for “competency and the sense of power this gives.” In other words, this type seeks power over nature rather than over people, especially in its mechanistic form.

The most important clue to alcoholism in Miller is the copious use of foul language. However, he may have grown up around those who use such language (many learn to use obscenities from alcoholic parents) and may use profanity in a misguided attempt to “employ debate tactics to the disadvantage of” his opponents or in an effort to “maintain a one-up position with others.” ENTPs may even “work against the system just for the joy of being one-up.” While not inconsistent with alcoholism, a more vile manifestation of behaviors would be expected than those seen in Miller, at least by those of us on the outside.

We will know only in the fullness of time whether Bode Miller has the disease of alcoholism. He seems a bit young and fairly wild for age 28, so he may. But there is a greater likelihood of this being just a phase in his life. While often a dangerous idea—not something we would hope close observers might suggest for a budding young alcoholic with the name Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson or Darryl Strawberry—an athlete whose innate strengths are Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking and Perception might act the way Miller does without alcoholism.

(Sources: Newsweek, January 23, 2006, “You Don’t Know Bode,” by Devin Gordon; Time, January 23, 2006, “Rebel on the Edge,” by Bill Saporito; Please Understand Me, David Keirsey.)


Runners-up for top story of the month:

Actor Kiefer Sutherland, star of the hit series “24” and son of actor Donald Sutherland, reportedly seen downing a lot of booze at the Strand Palace Hotel in London, then refusing more alcohol because he could no longer stand up. Keifer, 39, was convicted of a DUI in 1992, has been involved in several barroom brawls, has been seen drinking at 9 in the morning and has reportedly shown up on the set of “24” hung over. As a strident fan of “24” and one who thinks it’s the most suspenseful show ever on the small screen, I’d hate to see Kiefer go head first into the maelstrom of late-stage alcoholism. Unfortunately, he appears perilously close to the edge. If anyone reading this is in a position to impose consequences and coerce abstinence, please do so. [As an aside, Kiefer was actor Gary Oldman’s passenger when Oldman was arrested for DUI in 1991. Oldman, aside from other great roles, played the addict and (therefore) corrupt DEA agent in one of my favorite movies of all time, “The Professional,” starring Jean Reno as the good-guy hit-man and a young Natalie Portman as Mathilda, the little girl he befriended.]

Singer Whitney Houston, reportedly out of control on cocaine. Apparently, while her mother’s recent threat to remove daughter Bobbi Christina got her into rehab, sobriety didn’t last. Sometimes, when addiction has been unimpeded for so long, lockdown is the only way out. Houston is a poster child for the idea of early-stage intervention. The best hope at this point is that she runs out of funds to feed her addiction. The bad news is she signed a $100 million record deal in 2001; the good news is she gets paid only as successful albums are recorded and drugs have reportedly (hopefully temporarily) ruined her voice.

Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981, freed at age 48 from prison in Istanbul, Turkey. Over the course of some 120 interviews, he reportedly frustrated investigators with contradictory statements about his motivation for the shooting. How about this: he is an addict, the evidence for which is the fact that amphetamines, which cause addicts to act badly, were found in his blood after the shooting. Addicts, who view themselves as superior to others, have a need to wield power over others; murder, especially of a very public person, is one way by which to do so. He was also convicted of the 1979 murder of a prominent liberal journalist and of escaping prison soon after. Whatever compelled Turkish officials to release him is beyond me. (Unless...hmmm....)

Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers III, and ex-wife Kim Mathers, planning on taking another stroll down the aisle despite a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer that “theirs is a tender love story of romance, marriage, divorce, song lyrics saying he was going to kill her, a defamation suit, nasty custody battles and drug rehab.”

Survivor winner Richard Hatch, who despite claiming that the show’s producers agreed to pay the taxes on his million dollar prize because he had allegedly caught other contestants on the show cheating, found guilty of tax evasion. (Hatch made Top Story in the April 2005 edition of the http://www.addictionreport.com.)

Morteza Bakhtiari, who allegedly ran down and critically injured John Royston in the Aliso Viejo, California Town Center parking lot. Royston and two friends had asked Bakhtiari, whom they saw speeding and running a stop sign in the lot, to slow down. Instead, Bakhtiari continued speeding, struck a parked Mercedes, turned around and headed for the three men. He drove erratically and spun around several times before hitting Royston. Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino said, “We don’t know what set [the driver] off…We don’t know whether he was under the influence.” Three days later Bakhtiari pleaded “not guilty” to attempted murder with Haidl gang-rape trial attorney Joseph Cavallo by his side (see the March 2005 edition of this letter for the full report on the Haidl case). The follow-up piece mentioned—in the 13th paragraph—that Bakhtiari has been convicted twice of DUI. Amormino doesn’t grasp the idea that with alcoholism we observe the irrational, which doesn’t require anything in particular to “set a person off” other than a challenge to his or her authority. And please note, the fact that Bakhtiari already had two DUI convictions suggests yet another failure in the criminal justice system: a failure to coerce abstinence in those who have proven to society they cannot use alcohol without behaving badly.

Michael A. Morales, scheduled for execution February 21, 2006, for the 1981 murder of Terri Winchell, a Lodi, California high school student. For the first time since California reinstated capital punishment, a judge, Ventura County’s Charles R. McGrath, has asked a governor for clemency in one of his own death penalty cases. McGrath believes the sentence he imposed was based on false testimony from an informant, Bruce Samuelson, who claimed that Morales had boasted, in a jailhouse Morales knew was filled with informants, that the rape and murder had been planned and that he felt no remorse (the “special circumstance” required for a sentence of death). Samuelson, whose time was reduced to one year because prosecutors dropped four of six unrelated felony charges against him in exchange for the testimony, explained away Morales’ open admission by saying they spoke in Spanish. A later investigation, however, showed that Morales, a fourth-generation Californian, doesn’t speak the language. Morales is described in a petition for clemency prepared by attorneys David A. Senior and Kenneth W. Starr, former special independent counsel investigating President Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky perjury case, as “a deeply repentant sorrowful Christian who has accepted full responsibility for a terrible crime that will haunt him forever. Unlike some who express no remorse for their offenses against humanity, Michael has not fled from his responsibility for the deed committed…in his reckless and drug-saturated youth.” This appears to be a classic case of Jekyll and Hyde: Morales was under the influence of alcohol and PCP when he committed the murder and is now, reportedly, a decent human being, just like most addicts in recovery.


Under watch:

Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra, appearing and sounding inebriated in a stunning CNBC interview at 8:30am on Tuesday, January 24, 2006. Research tentatively supports the observations. Recently charged with accusations of sexual battery involving a 17-year-old girl and reportedly a target in a gambling probe, he was also charged with DUI after a serious accident in 1991 that almost derailed his career.

The mother and grandfather of 13-year-old twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede. The twins lead a band called Prussian Blue, named after the residue of Zyklon B, the poison used to gas Jews in Nazi concentration camps. They idolize Adolf Hitler in their music and wear T-shirts with a Hitler smiley face. Their parents are divorced; the mother, whose father brands his cattle with a swastika, is reportedly the driving force behind their success. Note that the twins may or may not be alcoholic; the effect of severe codependency can make some, especially young people, appear to be as destructive in their thinking and actions as the alcoholics nearby. We might predict that if they did not inherit alcoholism, they will recant their imbecile beliefs by their early 20s.

Louisiana congressperson William J. Jefferson who, according to former aide Brett M. Pfeffer’s plea agreement admitting guilt to charges of aiding and abetting bribery of a public official and conspiracy, “sought bribes, jobs for his children and other favors for providing political support to a company setting up Internet service in Nigeria.” A search of Jefferson’s home in August 2005 turned up, among other items of interest, a large amount of cash in his freezer. Too bad: Jefferson, 58, was the first African American elected to Congress from Louisiana since Reconstruction.

Alexander Koptsev, 20, who made his way past metal detectors in the well-known Bolshaya Bronnaya synagogue and Jewish cultural center in downtown Moscow, stabbing several people with a butcher knife while shouting “Heil Hitler!” Borukh Gorin, spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, when asked whether there was any evidence Koptsev is insane, responded: “If you take a young man and from day to day poison his brain with just one publication out of a hundred which come out in Russia today, with wild anti-Semitic philosophical propaganda, in principle, he can turn insane.” Gorin failed to suggest that a dose of amphetamine or other drug is usually required for mad thinking, and almost always an essential prerequisite for turning that thinking into heinous misbehaviors.

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts—which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and proactively intervene.

Review: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Good attitude; flawed analysis

Addict James Frey’s story of his own “Leaving Las Vegas”-style bottom from which he recovered was originally marketed to publishers as fiction. It has been outed by www.TheSmokingGun.com as fiction. The trouble is that Frey had to call his story a “memoir” in order to sell it. Frey lied, even to Oprah, who is deeply “embarrassed and disappointed” and feels duped for recommending the book and making it the September 2005 Oprah book club selection of the month. While every word could have been real and forms a composite of the young late-stage poly-drug addict, the fact that so much was embellished has created one of the great literary scandals.

I read A Million Little Pieces almost two years ago. Despite my abundance of notes and the fact that it was already a runaway best seller, I opted not to review the book when, several months later, I began writing the addiction report. Quite simply, there are better books about addicts, including Martha Morrison’s autobiographical White Rabbit and B. D. Hyman’s biographical sketch of her famous mother Bette Davis, My Mother’s Keeper. Far more interesting to the drug addiction recognition expert is that addiction, while explaining the misbehaviors of the subject, progresses undetected by most observers during the early and middle stages of the disease. Frey, due to the plethora of drugs he ingested, seems to have been catapulted to obvious late-stage addiction by age 16. The period before—he was sneaking drinks by age 7 (p. 86) and obviously triggered alcoholism by age 10 (86 and 218)—was virtually ignored. This is unfortunate, since whatever misbehaviors he exhibited might serve as examples of behavioral indications of addiction in children. Such examples could help parents snuff out the active disease in a young person, increasing the odds that the sort of tragic experiences Frey later endured might be prevented.

Frey’s early slip into late-stage addiction became manifest in his beliefs. The deceptions in his story are relatively unimportant when compared to the myths of addiction his work serves to sustain. “The life of the Addict is always the same. There is no excitement, no glamour, no fun. There are no good times, there is no joy, there is no happiness....There is only an obsession” (159). Tell that to a young Lennon, Elvis, Marilyn, Elizabeth Taylor or Ted Turner. Observe in retrospect the far more typical alcoholic, who nurtures his or her addiction for decades before the body and life disintegrate due to a failure of the brain to produce neurotransmitters on its own. The idea that his addiction may have been triggered during his first drinking episode seems to go unrecognized. At age 7 he was stealing drinks because “It made me feel better about myself for some reason, and I liked it, liked it more than anything I had ever experienced. I did it as much and as often as I could, which was fairly often” (218). Yet at age 23 he said, “I’ve been an Alcoholic for a decade and a drug Addict and Criminal for almost as long” (153). Sorry Mr. Frey, but if you were stealing drinks at age 7 and it immediately gave you that classic inflated sense of self, you were an alcoholic for 16 years, not ten. Your readers would have been well served by the stories of misbehaviors during those early years.

Worse, Frey doesn’t understand his own addiction as a biochemical disorder. While to his credit he is adamant about accepting responsibility for using, he insists that addiction is a decision (258) and ignores the idea that behaviors as a result of use are not within the power of the addict to control. “I won’t accept disease and genetics as the cause of [alcoholism]. It makes it too easy to deflect the responsibility for what I have done….” Although the diabetic must own a disease over which he has no choice, the alcoholic cannot accept responsibility unless the affliction is a choice. He even implies that his loneliness and inability to relate to other kids his age caused his addiction (73-74). An unaware drug counselor insists on trying to get at “the source of your anger” (201), which Frey throughout the book calls his “fury”, and on uncovering “the source of your addiction and what the root causes might be” (262), seemingly unaware that addiction caused his fury (or, if it existed at age 7, prevented him from growing out of it). His good attitude in accepting responsibility is derailed by faulty analysis, misleading millions of readers.

Still, there are a number of salient points. While a drug counselor said that Frey had a “psychological predisposition to addiction” (133) and he must have had a bad childhood (223), Frey informs us his parents were caring and non-abusive. He admits, ever-so-briefly (78) that he destroyed relationships (much of the book is spent recalling relationships he attempted to build in rehab). He writes his own obituary as others would write it, euphemizing and even ignoring the addiction that drove his life (85). He attempts to eliminate his enablers by telling his parents, “If I relapse, you can’t Bail me out again. This is my last chance. I need it to be that way because if I know there’s a safety net, I’ll use it.” (291) Frey points out that good men look like bad men when they are practicing addicts (13) and that addicts all start out life as normal people (295). Unfortunately, these key messages are buried inside 382 pages of text and muddied by the myth that addiction—a biochemical processing of the drug that causes some people to act destructively some of the time—is a choice.


Dear Doug:

My sister Lenore has been dating Benjamin for a year. While the family initially welcomed Ben, we have just learned of several pending charges and two convictions for forgery and writing bad checks. At the same time, Lenore discovered that credit accounts were recently opened in her name. When she accused Ben, he charmed her into believing he’s innocent.

Although Lenore knows that Ben used her debit card without asking, she has forgiven him. She even asked him to forgive her for having accused him of identity theft. The rest of the family is doing what it must to protect themselves, including banning him—and, because she is forever at his side, her—from their homes. However, Lenore seems totally taken by this con artist who, I fear, will cause her financial catastrophe. What can we do to help Lenore see the light?


Concerned for her Sister

. . . . .

Dear Concerned,

Other columnists might note that Lenore is obviously not going to listen to reason and that this is “unfortunate” because Ben “sounds like a bad risk.” This dramatically understates the potential for a tornado-like aftermath. Such columnists might suggest that isolating Lenore isn’t a good idea when she may well suffer at the hands of Ben, and that you can meet her on neutral grounds. While correct, such advice doesn’t go nearly far enough because the end result will likely be tragic for your sister and, possibly, others with whom Ben comes into contact.

The problem is that Ben is likely an addict who may use methamphetamine. Investigators and attorneys with whom I have recently spoken believe that 60-80% of identity theft is committed by meth addicts, who are known to commit bizarre and unspeakably destructive crimes. Your sister’s finances are certainly at risk, but worse, her life may be in danger as well. In either case, she needs to be coerced out of the relationship by whatever means are necessary.

(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, January 17, 2006.)

Dear Doug: Concerned for her Sister

“McCowan has no answer for why he threw away his second chance. ‘I really want to give you a reason, but there’s no good explanation.’”

So said a Los Angeles Times report on defensive back Howard McCowan, on track in 1990 for starting position with the USC Trojans and a likely NFL draft pick, now in High Desert State Prison in California for life for committing a third strike felony offense. After spending seven years in prison for a one-night crime spree and almost completing his degree at USC afterwards, he robbed a liquor store with a handgun. He has no idea why. If the criminal justice system focused on prevention, it would have monitored him for alcohol or other drug use after the first offense. Because it didn’t, Howard McCowan gets to ask a question for which he has no answer. It’s tragic that he has to ask.

Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors™

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

“THAT WARM FEELING: Daniel Zeiszler, 22, pleaded no contest to a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine and was sentenced to five months in jail and three years of probation. Zeiszler didn't use typical methods to make the drug. He had just smoked some meth, so he tried to filter the residue out of his urine using solvent. The ‘methodology this guy used would work,’ said San Mateo County, Calif., chief deputy district attorney Steve Wagstaffe, ‘but it would take bottles and bottles of urine.’ (San Francisco Chronicle) ...Which of course will now have to be tightly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

When I first researched and wrote Drunks, Drugs & Debits in the late ‘90s, I thought that alcohol was the most dangerous drug for the addict. While I still believe that undetected alcoholism usually results in the alcoholic causing the most damage to others, the use of methamphetamine is clearly a close second, if shorter-lived. The most insane behaviors can usually be attributed to meth addiction. The good news is that it’s usually obvious the addict is on something, which allows even the addiction-unaware to move into defensive mode, thereby preventing entanglement and harm to others.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2006 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See http://www.thisistrue.com for free subscriptions.)

Visit www.thisistrue.com for free subscriptions.


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