|November 2006 / Issue No. 25
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story-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!
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it.”
H.L. Mencken, early 20th century journalist
Note: Remember that by giving one (or all!) of my books to a friend for Christmas,
you may just save a life.
Likely Addicts Cause Havoc for the Right: Congressman Mark Foley, Writer-Pundit Ann Coulter and Evangelical Christian Rev. Ted Haggar
Alcoholics have an impact way out of proportion to their numbers. While only about 10% of the population consists of alcohol or other-drug addicts, they commit as much as 80% of crime, abuse and unethical behaviors. That affects all of us, often in disastrous ways.
Groups of peopleand how others feel about their ideascan also be affected. It probably didn’t help my libertarian brethren or dissemination of the philosophy of free markets that the man who may be more responsible for our freedom than anyone was an alcoholic. Thomas Paine authored Common Sense, the pamphlet that inspired the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. By the time of his death in 1809, he had become so obvious and nasty a drunk that all of the surviving Founding Fathers had renounced him. While thousands showed up at Benjamin Franklin’s funeral, only six showed up at Paine’s.
His alcoholism was likely long-standing, as is true for almost every addict who becomes obvious in the spiral down. Paine’s behavior was erratic enough throughout his life that author Eric Foner hypothesized that he suffered from severe depression, while author Craig Nelson in a new book on Paine (Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations) suggests he may have had Bipolar Disorder. Since these are usually mimicked or triggered by alcoholism, Paine likely went through the typical stages of alcoholism in which a trajectory of achievement in the early stage is often followed by crashing and burning as late-stage addiction takes hold.
Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL), author and pundit Ann Coulter and the Rev. Ted Haggard offer examples of achievement (whether or not we agree on the quality of the achievements), followed by crashing in various stages. The first was an obscure Republican Congressman from Florida whose poor judgment may have contributed greatly to his Party’s loss of the legislative branch of the federal government to the Democrats. The second is an outspoken Republican and offers a classic example of how nastinesspossibly impelled by alcoholismcan inflict damage on an entire political party. The latter just stepped down as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 30 million evangelical Christians, due to accusations of gay sex and meth use. One alcoholic can have extraordinarily wide-ranging effects.
Congressman Foley, 52, was head of a congressional committee, charged with shutting down child molesters using the Internet, the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. He was caught sending lascivious emails to 16-year-old male Congressional pages. House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted he had heard about the emails months before, but was told the matter “had been taken care of.” Not if Foley is an alcoholic and was still drinking, it wasn’t, because alcoholism drives misbehaviors.
Representative John Shimkus, the Congressman who runs the Page Board, attempted to treat symptoms. Shimkus, a straight-talking West Pointer and former Army Ranger, warned Foley in the fall of 2005 to stay away from pages. Shimkus, satisfied with what appeared to be remorse and a promise to follow orders, now refers to Foley as a “slimeball.” He admits he was fooled by Foley’s performance. Alcoholics can be great performers, tell you everything you want to hear, repeatedly make promises they never intend to keep and convince you of their sincerity, every time.
No one seems to be able to recall seeing Foley “drunk,” except when he “allegedly” showed up inebriated at the pages’ dorm after a 10 p.m. curfew in 2002 or 2003. However, consider the fact that enablers frequently keep the secret and that alcoholics often don’t look drunk at BALs that obliterate the rest of us. Also, consider the oft-repeated story that Foley’s former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, sometimes accompanied Foley to “keep him out of trouble.” There was probably far more going on than the public was let in on.
Ann Coulter has been described as “hard drinking.” She is quick-witted and callous. She branded 9/11 widows as “witches” in her latest book, writing, “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ death so much.” I appreciate much of what Paine wrote; I even like much of what Coulter has written. But like Paine, she has made an ass out of herself.
Just days before the election, the Rev. Ted Haggard admitted he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts. Haggard denies having had sex with the Denver man, Mike Jones, 49, and claims he “never used” the meth and bought it because he was “just curious.” Sorry Reverend, your excuse sounds eerily similar to the one drug addicts use every day with parents and cops: the stash “isn’t mine,” or it’s a friend’s, or “I don’t know how it got there.” The denial of heavy use, “I only drank two beers,” is familiar to every cop making an arrest for DUI.
While it’s hard to quantify the effect each of these (likely) alcoholics’ misbehaviors had on voters’ decisions, it’s probably well above zero. The Economist reported before the election that the Foley scandal resulted in an additional seven Congressional seats as “toss-ups,” up from 18 before the scandal, all of which likely went Democratic (including New York’s 26th District, which threw out Rep. Tom Reynolds, who headed the House Republican campaign committee). Add to this the other scandals of the last few years, including Abu Ghraib and Rep. Bob Ney (see below), both of which involved alcoholism, along with likely-alcoholic Rep. Duke Cunningham and the entire Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, which was probably brimming with alcoholics. It’s possible that many disillusioned evangelical Christians, who usually vote at least two to one Republican, didn’t quite make it to the polls on November 7. At exit polls, when asked which issue was extremely important to their vote, more voters said corruption and ethics than any other issue, including the Iraq war.
We should all reconsider when thinking we don’t want to know too much about someone, or that we should “protect” him because he’s our friend. It may bring down our house.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Ex-convict businessman Bo Stefan Eriksson, 44, who pleaded “no contest” to embezzling two exotic cars, a Ferrari and a Mercedes McLaren, and being a felon in possession of a handgun, facing a new trial just four days after a jury deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of conviction. A few weeks before, he pleaded “no contest” to a DUI in the now infamous Malibu, California crash of a million-dollar Enzo Ferrari into a telephone pole in February. He previously turned down a plea deal that would have put him away for just over two years despite the fact that Judge Patricia M. Schnegg made it clear she felt it was a “very generous offer.” The offer got a little less generoushe was sentenced to three years. Eriksson, who personifies the idea that digging deeper with only one initial clue to alcoholism (driving 162 mph anywhere off a race track) can lead to the uncovering of a cesspool of misbehaviors, has nine criminal convictions in Sweden for forgery, counterfeiting, narcotics and firearms offenses.
Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), pleading guilty to bribery charges after confessing to taking bribes in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal. In a plea agreement reached a month earlier, he explained that alcoholism contributed to the downward spiral in his life and he had checked into rehab. In a written statement after the courtroom plea he said, “I accept responsibility for my actions, and I am prepared to face the consequences of what I have done.” Alcoholics Anonymous, which is part of nearly every rehab and requires addicts in recovery to take full responsibility for their misbehaviors, appears to have already done Mr. Ney good.
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, 52, ticketed for public intoxication several weeks before his sentencing and several months after his conviction on 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors in the investigation of Enron’s collapse, which cost investors billions. The punishment, a $385 fine, pales in comparison with the 24-year sentence he was handed down for the Enron conviction. In April 2004, Skilling was involved in a scuffle with patrons of a cigar bar, after which he was taken to a hospital where a test revealed his blood alcohol level to be .19 per cent. As a result of this incident, a U.S. Magistrate ordered Skilling to stop drinking and join an alcoholism treatment program. Anyone older than 30 who can function at a BAL in excess of .15 per cent or is past 40 and drinks the equivalent of over 18 ounces of 80-proof liquor (or two bottles of wine) in the space of four hours is extremely likely to have the disease of alcoholism. As I pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, financial abuse is an indication of alcoholism and alcoholism explains (but doesn’t excuse) most financial abuse. Skilling and perhaps most of the Enron participants are a tragic example of this truism.
Florida school teacher Debra Lafave, once again in the news. Lafave, who pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious battery charges in 2005 for having sex with a 14-year-old student when she was 23 and who blamed Bipolar Disorder for her behavior, was interviewed by Matt Lauer for NBC’s “Today” and “Dateline.” She admitted to “drinking heavily by age 15” and said, “I would drink. I would drink a lot” at age 22, when she began smoking and dressing “provocatively.” She told Lauer that she didn’t care what people thoughtshe’d shrug it off, feeling “confident” that she wouldn’t get into trouble. She also admitted she “didn’t care about anyone else.” Indications of alcoholism from just this one interview include 1. alcoholic drinking; 2. smoking; 3. a need to wield sexual power; 4. overly confident and 5. she felt she should be at the center of your universe. The behaviors in general suggest a bloated ego, a Supreme Being complex and a sense of invincibility. As I mentioned in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, sexual abuse is an indication of alcoholism and alcoholism explains (but doesn’t excuse) most sexual abuse. By the way, she also told Lauer that her father was “emotionally absent” for much of her childhood, which might explain the particular behaviors her alcoholism impelled her to engage in.
Former Army private Steven D. Green, indicted by a federal grand jury on 17 counts of murder, sexual assault and obstruction in the death of an Iraqi family near his checkpoint in central Iraq in late 2005. The case has raised questions about the Army’s recruiting because Green had a known history of alcohol and drug-related problems, including repeated contacts with the law. He was honorably discharged in May because of a “personality disorder.”
Cheryl Athene Miller, 59, charged with the murder of four of her babies, aged one month to one year, from 1965 to 1970. Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Poma, who wouldn’t reveal means or motive, told reporters that Cheryl’s brother, Gerald Miller, came clean after carrying the secret for 35 years. The series of mysterious deaths began when Cheryl was 18 and living in an Escondido, California motel with the father of the first baby to die and ended in Mendocino, California, where the death of her 9-month-old child was deemed suspicious, because it was the fourth. All four deaths, however, were ruled natural and the cases were closed. Gerald explained that Cheryl had suffered a rough childhood, with frequent beatings by her mother, before drifting, using drugs and serving time in prison in the late 1990s. According to Poma, Cheryl seemed ready to unburden herself and was remorsefula hint that she may have gotten sober several years ago.
Raymond Lee Oyler, 36, charged with the murder of five firefighters who died in the Esperanza, California wildfire, which he was charged with setting. Co-workers and friends, who were “shocked” by the allegations, described Oyler as “a very good guy.” However, he pleaded guilty to auto theft in 1995 and possession of illegal drugs in 2001. While his former father-in-law hosted the marriage of his daughter, Christy, to Oyler in 1997 in his backyard, he later described Oyler as a “lowlife.” Christy, who died a year ago in a traffic accident, explained in her 1999 divorce petition, “[He] verbally harassed me, there is…drug trafficking [at our home]…He is so paranoid, it scares me. He is very unpredictable and hits walls.” Perhaps his co-workers and friends would benefit from a reading of Jekyll and Hyde, in conjunction with How To Spot Hidden Alcoholics.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Novelist William Stryon, author of Sophie’s Choice and numerous books related to his obsessions with race, class and personal guilt, dead at 81. Styron firmly maintained he wasn’t an alcoholic, even while admitting to a “huge capacity to abuse alcohol.” He stopped drinking suddenly at age 60, after a lifetime of using alcohol “abundantly, almost mercilessly.” He fell into a deep malaise and began taking powerful prescription medicines, including Halcion and other “mood stabilizers” (also known as “sedative-hypnotics,” or “tranquilizers”). When he emerged from a deep suicidal depression, Styron traced the source of his pain to his mother’s death when he was only 14. He didn’t consider the fact that his “pain” continued for decades while drinking “abundantly” and that if he had not “abused” alcohol, he might have better dealt with his mother’s early demise.
Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, dead from esophageal cancer at age 73. A Democrat known for her “freewheeling oratory” and one of the most prominent female politicians in the United States, she was in political office from 1976 until 1994, when she was defeated by George W. Bush. In 1980 Richards was forced by family and friends into rehab and reportedly never relapsed. While Governor from 1990 to 1994, she started treatment programs in the Texas prison system (which Bush largely put the kibosh on). When visiting inmates she told them, “My name’s Ann, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Actor Wesley Snipes, indicted on charges of tax fraud and failure to file income tax returns since 1999. Statistics in Drunks, Drugs & Debits suggest that 80-90% of convicts, or those who should be, are alcohol or other-drug addicts. I found early in my research that those who went beyond reason in “interpretation” of tax law were usually no different. Who else could think they are more powerful than the U.S. government? Snipes also has recently been embroiled in civil lawsuits, including one brought by United Talent Agency, Inc., for failure to pay nearly $1.5 million in commissions, along with another suit brought by Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. for failure to make payments on his Florida mansion. The combination of troubles gives sound reason to think Snipes has a disease that causes confabulated thinkingalcoholism. As a result, Snipes, who could face 16 years, may soon join tax-evading alcoholic Richard Hatch of “Survivor” fame in the pokey.
Ecuadorian Rafael Correa, a 43-year-old with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois, who has pledged to raze the political system in Ecuador and rebuild it to ensure his long-term agenda. Sounding eerily like Hugo Chavez, who has become de facto dictator of Venezuela, Correa is charismatic and ambitious enough to have come from nowhere to force a runoff in the Ecuadorian presidential election November 26. After Chavez’ rant before the United Nations in which he called Bush the devil, Correa said that Satan should be insulted. Note that Chavez has militarized the Venezuelan government, centralized all power, run the private sector into the ground and, judging from his friendship with Fidel Castro, yearns to make Venezuelans as successful as Cubans. Just who is the devil here?
Mrs. Stephen Hawking, Elaine, from whom the wheelchair-bound Professor Hawking, 62, is finally seeking divorce. Hawking, who is perhaps the most well-known long-term survivor of Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), publicly denies that he has been the tragic victim of abuse. However, a number of his former nurses, all of whom have left his employ because of Elaine’s abusive behaviors, have no doubt that various injuries over the years, which Hawking refuses to explain, were inflicted by his soon-to-be ex. The injuries and indignities, which represent a lexicon of extraordinarily mean-spirited behaviors designed to control and manipulate, are indications of alcohol or pharmaceutical drug addiction. They include slamming Hawking’s wrist on his wheelchair, fracturing it; refusing access to a urine bottle, resulting in his wetting himself; allowing him to slip beneath water while bathing, letting water enter his tracheotomy; and leaving him alone in his garden on the hottest day of the year, resulting in heatstroke and severe sunburn. According to a family friend, after marrying in 1995, Elaine, herself a nurse, began letting go the nurses caring for her husband, replacing them with care-givers. The friend explained that Elaine didn’t “want to be on the same level as those who looked after her husband. It was very important to her that she was superior to them,” which she could show by employing less qualified staff.
The fact that Hawking was complicit is evident from the story of a former employee, who asked the wheelchair-bound Hawking how he got a black eye. He replied, “I bumped into a door.” The reason he stayed so long is, paradoxically, similar to that of young wives of alcoholic men who have few skills, a baby and nowhere to go: any relationship, he told a former employee, is better than none. In addition, one friend says, “For a man like Prof. Hawking to admit that he made a big, big mistake [in marrying Elaine] would be the ultimate humiliation.” Memo to Prof. Hawking: practicing addicts can be cunning, charming and charismatic. You are an exceedingly rational person and were never given the tools to understand irrationality. Therefore, you had no chance to avoid such an error. Congratulations on your decision, Prof. Hawking. The world supports you.
Co-Dependents of the Month:
Actress Nicole Kidman, who according to a friend, didn’t know that her husband, Grammy-winner Keith Urban, “was drinking and using coke when she went to sleep at night” from the time they married. When she figured it out four months later, to her credit she staged an intervention and Urban checked into rehab. In 2002, long after first getting clean and sober, Urban reportedly told a reporter that he didn’t consider alcohol a problem. “I still drink. I get drunk. But it’s never sent me back to other things.” According to reports, Nicole’s prenuptial agreement states that if they divorce, Keith receives nothing if he uses illegal drugs or drinks “excessively,” but otherwise gets $600,000 for each year they are married. And according to friends, Kidman was “heartsick” that Urban lied to her about his sobriety. There are at least three issues: 1. Urban doesn’t think alcohol is a drug; 2. Kidman doesn’t think alcohol is a drug; and 3. Kidman doesn’t understand that addicts lie convincingly, especially to family and friends. Message to Nicole: Urban is an addict. If you love him, change the prenup. He can’t drink or use other drugs, including psychotropic pharmaceuticals, period. And to decrease the likelihood of relapse and your unwitting enabling if he does relapse, get him to agree in advance in an amended prenup to mandatory third-party regular and random alcohol and other-drug tests that continue for several years.
Psychiatrist Wayne S. Fenton, allegedly murdered by one of his private patients. Fenton, 53, specialized in research and treatment for schizophrenics and was an advocate for improving their care. Vitali A. Davydov, 19, has been charged with his murder. Davydov was previously arrested for possession of marijuana and “drug paraphernalia” and, therefore, may have been an addict with schizophrenia-like symptoms. A misdiagnosis may have cost Fenton his life.
Enabler of the Month:
Publicist Judy Katz, insisting that former “Baywatch” actor David Hasselhoff, who was turned away from a British Airways flight in July because he appeared bombed, had simply been taking prescribed meds following a “shaving accident” that resulted in a deep cut in his arm. He also looked and acted intoxicated on a popular morning British television show. Reps for the show, “GMTV,” blamed his behavior on “fatigue.” In October, Hasselhoff checked into rehab but checked out after three days. His recent stints in rehab include one in 2002 and another in 2004. One “insider” pointed out his handlers do him no favors by covering up. Here, here!
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 misbehaviors and proactively intervene.
“The Last King of Scotland”
An extraordinary contrast of relatively benign and extremely non-benign addiction
Somewhere in my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, I remarked that it’s impossible to understand history and current events without comprehending alcoholism. The history of the Dark Continent is perhaps the shining example where this couldn’t be more true, yet for which we have little hard evidence. Where evidence of actual use does exist, it consists of a ten-second scene in a partially fictionalized two-hour account of a despot and his enablers.
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, magnificently played by Forest Whitaker, is accurately portrayed as a monster with numerous behavioral indications of substance addiction. He was mercurial, charming, narcissistic and charismatic, a combination of attributes common among high-functioning addicts. When he overthrew his predecessor-tyrant, Obote, he made a hyperbolic speech and said, “I am a simple man. I know who you are and everything you are.” Who else but an addict could feign humility while imparting the idea he is all-seeing? And while many are capable of reading people (iNtuitive Feelers in particular), only an addict will do so and use it against them in terrifying ways.
Unfortunately the masses fall for the oratory, while we hear the truth through Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, a fictional character inspired in part by a Scottish doctor who briefly served Amin. Garrigan is told that the speech was “just like Obote’s first speech and everyone loved him until they realized he used the government treasury like his personal bank account.” While beginning the massacres and purges that would end in the death of some 300,000 Ugandans during his eight year reign, Amin takes a liking to Garrigan. He asks him to be his personal physician, pointing out it will be an easy job because he’s in “perfect health.” Sensing what every doctor must feel tending to the medical needs of a dictator, Amin reassures Garrigan that he needn’t fear making a mistake, since he was told in a dream that he will die in the distant future.
At a state party, he brags about Garrigan’s skills, telling everyone “he saved my life” when all he did was tend to a strained wrist. Such exaggeration by putting another undeservedly on a pedestal serves to control in a style not dissimilar to manipulating for the purpose of sexual conquest. He has the typical addictive need to win at any price, even in something as unimportant and mundane as a swim competition; he jumps the gun at the start, wins and brags to everyone that he’s won; nobody argues. He puts others down in subtle ways, calling his two closest advisors, Garrigan and Dr. Junju, “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” He says of Dr. Junju, “even his suits look silly.” Forebodingly, as Dr. Junju walks away Amin comments to Garrigan, “I do not like the way that man looks at me.”
Among the most extreme behavioral indications of alcoholism is grandiosity, which is exemplified in Amin’s title: "His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular." Addicts frequently identify other addicts in deprecating ways, as Amin did when he caught a would-be assassin, a supporter of Obote, and asked, “You want to kill me for that drunk, silly man?” Addiction frequently mimics narcissism, as when Amin was showing off his body double and asks, “Is he as handsome as me?” Somehow, we know by this time that no one would dare respond “yes.” Addicts frequently twist and lie about what others say for their own purposes, as when Amin explains to Garrigan after he asks to go home, “You cannot [go home]. You promised me you would help build a new Uganda.” He did not; he only swore an oath as a doctor. And nothing can top the combination of charm and manipulation put on by practicing addicts. “You are like my son,” Amin tells Garrigan; “your home is here….You are my most trusted advisor.” Yet when Garrigan pleads for the Asians, capriciously expelled from Uganda, Amin remarks, “You are nothing but a doctor. You are a nobody.”
I asked a dozen or so people exiting the theater with purposeful vagueness, “So, what was Amin on?” Six responded they hadn’t thought about it that way, including one who said, “He was drunk on his own power.” After I gave her my two-sided “Behavioral Indications of Early-Stage Alcoholism Include/Sobriety Can be Characterized by” card, she came back and admitted that my suggestion got her to reconsider. Three said knowingly, yes, he must have been on something, but couldn’t say what. Three responded, “Amphetamine.”
Perhaps this was a highly intelligent group. Aside from his sometimes profuse sweating and paranoia, common among amphetamine addicts, there were only ten seconds that provided the crucial clue, one that reminded me of Dr. Morrell giving “multi-vitamin” injections to amphetamine addict Adolf Hitler. Perhaps not coincidentally, Amin admired Hitler and was a friend of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the head of which was amphetamine addict Yasir Arafat. Ten seconds may have given away the secret: Amin tells Garrigan, “Give me a boostersomething to make me feel strong again.” The next thing we see is Garrigan sticking him with a syringe.
Amphetamine addicts not only take enormous risks; they also become paranoid. In a small-scale version of Stalin’s purges, while much of Uganda’s budget was diverted from civilian to military spending, an estimated two-thirds of Uganda’s small 9,000-man army was executed in just the first year of Amin’s reign. Like the early version of Hitler, many in the West considered Amin’s outlandish statements to be a joke and viewed him as a buffoon. I doubt his victims saw it that way.
But then, addicts are frequently victimized by addicts. The fictionalized Garrigan, along with at least some of those who inspired his creation, are probably no exceptions. Nicholas Garrigan, M.D., gulped a toast with his father, also a medical doctor, as he was being welcomed into the family business. Another reviewer said, “This drinking, pot-smoking free spirit is terrified by his suffocating future of being a family practitioner in business with his overbearing old man.” Yes, addicts can’t stand being suffocated and frequently look for adventure. After smoking in bed, he recklessly decides to spin a globe and go to the first place his finger lands on. After hitting Canada, he spins again and heads to Uganda.
Garrigan, played by James McAvoy, has a one-night stand and is depicted sharing what looks like a pint of vodka with a villager in broad daylight en route to his remote post, where he hopes to put his new medical degree to good use. Once there, he immediately begins attempting to seduce the pretty wife of the doctor-in-charge, Sarah Merrit, played by Gillian Anderson (formerly of “The X-Files”). Garrigan then does something that seems inexplicable for the uninitiated: he has an affair with one of Amin’s wives. Reviewer Todd McCarthy of Variety.com, comments, “No matter how impudent Nicholas is capable of being, and no matter how drunk at the time, his rash decision to get it on with a Mrs. Amin is ludicrous…” While it would be unimaginable for a non-addict to engage in such extraordinary reckless misbehavior, it is not ludicrous, because it is not inconsistent with alcoholism. Practicing addicts do truly crazy things.
A review of the reviews found all wanting. Instead of being an early clue to addiction, thinking he’d been poisoned becomes “an early indication of his paranoia” (Ruthe Stein, The San Francisco Chronicle). Instead of being an addict, Amin is “a charmer,” “A psychopath,” a “childish chief of state,” and “mercurial” (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal). According to David Denby of The New Yorker, Amin is a sociopath, with no mention that addiction might explain his horrific behaviors. Marjorie Baumgarten of AustinChronicle.com naively says that Amin was a “probably well-intentioned president who was ultimately undone by his raging paranoia and violent impulses,” rather than “he may have been a decent guy until he triggered addiction, which caused untold grief among his countless victims.” Not one reviewer identifies addiction in either Amin or Garrigan. Yet, addiction explains the behaviors of both, in an exemplary tribute to the multi-faceted variations of the disease.
Dear Doug: Demanding Dan
My husband, Dan, is unemployed, sits up late drinking and watching TV and gets angry when I wake him in the morning to care for our infant son when I go to work. He wants to hire a child care provider, but I’ve explained to him we can’t afford itwith my four children from a previous relationship, along with his three kids for whom we have to provideuntil he gets a job. He doesn’t even look.
On top of this, Dan accuses me of cheating and not caring about our family, right in front of our 2-year-old son. I’d like to stay in the marriage, but Dan refuses counseling.
. . . .
Other columnists might say that Dan is in a rut and depressed, and that you should tell Dan you love him, have confidence and think your bond with him would be strengthened with counseling. The truth of the matter is that Dan is a drunk and you shouldn’t leave any of your children with him, much less your infant son. Leave him now and thank your lucky stars you and your children survived. And take a good, hard look at yourself and the reasons you even have to ask what to do.
PS: I’m not imaginative enough to make this stuff up. This really is an accurate sense of the letter and response. It’s hard to fathom that an average of two responses a week are published where a likely correct diagnosis of alcoholism is completely missed and where, in my opinion, the analysis could prove lethal to the letter writer.
Prevent Tragedy Foundation
Don't Blame Alcoholism
“Don’t blame alcohol,” read the caption to a letter to the editor in USA Today. Letter writer Cheryl James of Englewood, FL wrote that Congressman Mark Foley attempted to blame his behavior on alcoholism. “Alcoholism alone does not cause pedophilia or turn someone into a sexual predator.”
No, Ms. James, alcoholism does not by itself turn people into predators. However, without damage to the neo-cortex and, therefore, a loss of restraint on the impulses of the lower brain centers, such misbehavior is unlikely to occur. Impulses vary by addict, which with environment, circumstances, Psychological Type of the addict and virulence, determines the style of addiction and the misbehaviors in which the addict will engage. If the style is one of a sexual nature and circumstances allow, pedophilia or other sexually inappropriate behaviors may occur when the area of the brain that restrains base behaviors is damaged. If the style is one of being untroubled while people suffer, an addict may murder hundreds of thousand of innocents in a bid to achieve and maintain power, or devote an entire national economy to the production of weapons of mass destruction while people starve.
Foley did not, as the letter writer says, use his disease “to minimize his abhorrent behavior.” It explained, but didn’t excuse misbehaviors. If Foley hadn’t triggered alcoholism, or had been forced into sobriety rather than enabled by his handlers, his functioning neo-cortex would have likely prevented him from acting out sexual fantasies that were harmful to others, including both his intended as well as unintended victims.
|Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors?
A Combustible Mix
What happens when you mix a pooper-scooper, scissors and crack cocaine? What do you get when you mix anything with crack cocaine? Something right out of a Stephen King novel.
Waukesha County, Wisconsin Circuit Judge Lee S. Dreyfus, Jr., sentenced Leisa K. Reed, 47, to two years in prison and five years extended supervision for her attack of a Waukesha couple she didn’t know.
John and Linda Dormer were awoken at 4:40 a.m. by the family’s Shih Tzu barking. Linda walked into the kitchen and saw a stranger wildly swinging a pooper scooper and babbling, “They are going to kill me. I’m going to kill you.” Linda screamed and John ran into the kitchen. Reed, all of 105 pounds, hit the 6-foot, 210 pound John with the pooper scooper and grabbed two scissors. Dormer said he tried to reason with Reed and couldn’t believe her strength, as she fought him with scissors in each hand.
By the time the first officer arrived, Reed was foaming at the mouth while struggling with Dormer. It took three stuns of a Taser gun and the combined weight of five officers to finally subdue Reed.
Reed had a history of alcoholism, DUIs, domestic violence and repeated trips through the revolving doors of the criminal justice system. She admitted smoking crack cocaine before the incident. The Dormers said they usually lock their doors, but had left one unlocked for their son, who was at an all-night graduation event at his High School, from which he had graduated that day. Reed somehow found that door. She was crazed and given almost super-human strength from the crack cocaine.
Reed wept through much of her hour-long sentencing. Like most addicts, she’s probably a decent human being. If she’d been coerced into abstinence with a requirement to undergo regular and random alcohol and other-drug testing, the odds of such an occurrence would have been greatly reduced. But then, we wouldn’t have been entertained.
(Story and tagline usually from “This is True,” copyright 2006 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. See http://www.thisistrue.com for free subscriptions.)
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Doug frequently posts alcoholism-related articles, as well as his responses, so be sure to check back often.
Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is now available at
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