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, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.
There is something for everyone!
Rocky and Michelle Delgadillo: If they were celebrities, the press would fill us in on any drinking. But he's a city attorney and she's his wife.
I have long bemoaned the fact that the press discloses the drinking and using foibles of celebrities and sports figures while generally failing to report any evidence of use in law enforcers, politicians, CEOs, attorneys and doctors. In my files of likely and confirmed alcoholics, for every one celebrity suspected strictly on behavioral clues four or five are confirmed addicts; of every four or five law enforcers suspected, I have only one in whom I can prove alcoholism. Yet, the behaviors are similar in all those under suspicion, celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and his wife Michelle are the latest examples of this phenomenon. They offered a belated mea culpa for an incident three years ago, which was brought to light when Rocky pushed for more jail time for Paris Hilton after her (temporary) premature release by Sheriff Lee Baca. Hilton was incarcerated because she was caught driving on a suspended license. Rocky admitted that his wife was behind the wheel of his city-owned GMC Yukon SUV when she backed out of a parking space and hit a pole while visiting a doctor in 2004--after her license had been suspended.
Several behavioral indications of alcoholism or codependency in one or both were evident from the start:
1. City policy prohibits family members of employees from driving city-owned vehicles and from using such vehicles for any personal use whatsoever. Rocky, through a spokesman, told reporters that city ethics guidelines are unclear about whether rules prohibiting family members from using such vehicles apply to elected officials. Yet Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote that he read both the municipal code and the L.A. Ethics Commission policy and found absolutely no ambiguity about the prohibition, which applies to all city officials.
2. The Delgadillos allowed taxpayers to foot the $1,222 repair bill resulting from the 2004 incident, repaying it only now, when caught red-handed.
3. As mentioned, Michelle was driving despite the fact that her license had been suspended. Normal people--especially wives of law enforcers--are unlikely to engage in such illegal behavior.
4. Her license had been suspended a year earlier when she couldn't provide proof of insurance to another driver after being involved in another accident. Several accidents in a short period of time are an excellent clue to alcohol or other-drug addiction.
5. Rocky told reporters at a press conference he had never been uninsured, while an aide told Lopez that he bought himself a policy in 2006 after "discovering" he had not been insured for a year. As Lopez points out, it's frightening to think that two uninsured drivers were "barreling around Los Angeles" in their Ford Expedition, "an SUV the size of Dodger Stadium."
6. Michelle allegedly drove without insurance from June 2005 through February 2007. So, Rocky buys himself insurance and continues to let Michelle drive without. A pervasive "rules don't apply to me" attitude is a superb clue to alcoholism, as is being so spaced out that you aren't even aware you don't have insurance.
7. The City Attorney, the top law enforcer in Los Angeles, either knowingly allowed his wife to drive his car while on a suspended license, or didn't know her license had been suspended, either way an excellent clue to alcoholism or codependency.
8. During her license suspension, she was separately ticketed for disobeying a turn-only sign, a 35% probability of DUI according to research cited in Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence. Don't think the officer would have detected a DUI-- in another study cited in the same book, barely one in four drivers later proven to have been under the influence at the time of the infraction were arrested.
9. Rocky launched "Street Smart," a driving-safety program for students that included "the importance of motor vehicle insurance," in May 2006 when it's likely both he and his wife were driving without insurance.
Heavy drinking or using would likely have long been uncovered if a celebrity had engaged in similar violations, questionable ethics and outright hypocrisy. But there's more.
Michelle was reported to have an outstanding warrant for her arrest for failing to appear in court nearly nine years ago on charges of driving--get this--without insurance in an unregistered car while her license was suspended. And The Los Angeles Times also found evidence that the Delgadillos not only had a least five parking tickets in the last three years, but also were chronically late in paying the fines.
Still, it gets worse.
The Times interviewed seven former or current city employees who, on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said they saw the city attorney use staff for personal business. The city code is quite clear on such matters: "no city official...shall use his or her position, or the power of authority of his or her office or position, in any manner intended to induce or coerce any person to provide, directly or indirectly, anything of value which shall accrue to the private advantage, benefit, or economic gain, of the city official or employee, or of any other person." It's hard to believe the chief law enforcer for the City of Los Angeles would violate the city code he took an oath to enforce without benefit of alcoholic biochemistry in either him or his wife.
But the coup de grace for me as an Enrolled Agent tax professional and alcoholism researcher was the disclosure of Michelle's failure to register and pay the city tax for her consulting business, along with the failure to file corporate income tax returns with the California Franchise Tax Board. Incredibly, Rocky's office is responsible for prosecuting City tax scofflaws. The State suspended her corporate license in early 2005, presumably after non-payment of the state's $800 minimum tax and for failing to file returns for several years. (She claims she paid income tax on the earnings on her personal return; let's hope so.) However, one must wonder about the qualifications of this "stay at home" mom. She happens to be married to a city attorney, hadn't worked since being an aide to a former City Councilman in the mid 1990s and suddenly she's a "consultant" earning, according to conflict-of-interest reports filed with the city, somewhere between $10,000 and $100,000 per year.
As The Times noted, Michelle Delgadillo seems to have disregarded a number of everyday rules and laws. When a law enforcer's wife exhibits a "rules don't apply to me" attitude in serial fashion and the law enforcer is complicit, we give the benefit of the doubt by assuming alcoholism or severe codependency. Rocky applied a different standard to his own family than for Hilton, who was being prosecuted by his office--and has repeatedly applied a different standard to his own family than to his community. When hypocrisy overwhelms we should look for evidence of addictive use. While public evidence of such use wouldn't excuse the awful behaviors, they would serve to explain--and to help either or both get clean and sober. Only then will the misbehaviors stop. Until then, the behaviors, if there's underlying alcoholism, will only get worse.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson, terminated by the Bears after his fourth arrest in two years, this time for DUI. After his third arrest last December, sports journalists won the "Enabler of the Month" award in the January '07 issue of TAR, where I wrote:
"Journalists have euphemized Johnson's 'problems' with words and phrases such as a 'history of questionable decisions,' 'poor decisions,' 'his latest display of questionable decision-making,' 'latest indiscretion,' 'a pattern of off-the-field mistakes,' the Bears' reputations 'could be sullied by Johnson's actions,' and the Bears request that Johnson 'provide them with a list of lifestyle alterations he needs to make.' How about ...[admitting] that his serial poor judgment is most likely rooted in alcoholism?"
The DUI says it all.
Pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who strangled his wife, suffocated his 7-year-old son and hung himself with a weight-machine pulley. Reporters are suspecting "roid rage," which results from the overuse of anabolic steroids. Yet, there are few if any such incidents that do not involve the addictive use of other drugs. While this is a tough call--Benoit is said to have been, overall, a good family man--he was previously arrested for DUI and a "lot of prescription medication" was found in the home. In addition, his wife got a temporary restraining order in 2003 and sought a divorce, alleging "cruel treatment." Based on the available evidence, it would not be unreasonable to suspect he was a "periodic" drunk. Still, Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer, said "It's like if you watched 'Rocky,' and in the end it comes out that Rocky killed his wife and his son." If Benoit was an addict--toxicology reports won't be available for a few weeks--it wouldn't be the first in wrestling. Other pro-wrestlers who have died due at least in part to addiction have included Eddie Guerrero, Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig, Road Warrior Hawk, the Von Erich brothers--David, Mike and Kerry, Bruce "Buzz Sawyer" Woyan, Art Barr, Eddie Gilbert, Brian Pillman, Louie Spicolli, Rich Rude, Bobby Duncum, Jr., and Lyle Alzado. Roddy Piper and Del "The Patriot" Wilkes are still alive to explain that pro-wrestlers eat pain pills like candy in order to find relief from pain--Wilkes, who's been arrested 20 times, admitting to taking somewhere near 100 pills a day during the peak of his use. Other heavy drug addict wrestlers include Jake "The Snake" Roberts and Lex Lugar. Yet, not every pro-wrestler uses drugs addictively, including Ric Flair and Mick Foley--it's only the addicts, which the wrestling world has more than its share of.
Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), indicted on charges that he used his congressional office to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery and corruption. The 94-page indictment follows a two-year investigation following a sting operation in which Jefferson (allegedly) told an investor that he would need a half million dollars to bribe a Nigerian government official to help a digital technology firm, iGate Inc. of Louisville, KY, to gain a foothold in Africa. The investor delivered $100,000 to Jefferson in marked bills, $90,000 of which were found tucked away in Jefferson's freezer, "wrapped in aluminum foil, and concealed inside various food containers." Jefferson could qualify as one of the great functional alcoholics of all time. He's a Harvard Law School graduate and in 1990 he became the first African American elected to Congress from Louisiana since Reconstruction. Along the way he raised five daughters, three of them also Harvard Law School graduates, one of whom is a Louisiana state representative. It will be an outlier if he's not an alcoholic and found guilty. Just keep in mind that journalists are too busy outing celebrities to have an interest in uncovering drinking and using among politicians, CEOs and other non-celebrity professionals and that enablers have way too much to lose in seeing them outed. Not even the FBI had a clue about the subject of this month's review, Robert Hanssen, a likely alcoholic who did more to damage U.S. security than any other spy ever. And recall the example of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, one of the first two men on the moon, who stopped bingeing only days before lift-off. Even under the intense scrutiny of NASA, no one had a clue that he was a full-blown alcoholic.
Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong, stripped of his law license and banned from ever practicing law again for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation" in the rape prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players. While the case was deeply flawed from the get-go (even if the faculty and administration of Duke agreed with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson that the players were guilty before being tried), the fatal blow involved Nifong deliberately withholding evidence showing that DNA from at least four males on the underwear and body of the alleged victim, who was a stripper and an addict, was not from the players. In the January 2007 issue of TAR, I wrote:
"The extraordinary accusations, which may prove to be a disgusting instance of alcoholic prosecutorial abuse, is reminiscent of the infamous 1912 case recounted by author James Graham in which the alcoholic New York City District Attorney Charles Whitman had police lieutenant Charles Becker executed for a crime he did not commit. As I said in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, 'Once an addict achieves a position of power, he is out of control and cannot help himself.' Therefore, the behavior itself is an excellent indicator of alcoholism."
Prosecutorial abuse has been proven. As is typical for those outside of Hollywood and professional sports, proving alcoholism at the root of the abuse--one of the greatest examples of false accusations ever--remains elusive, but the odds are remote that it did not form the essential underpinning of the drama.
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.
"Breach": The Quiet Egomaniac
The greatest portrayal ever of why we need to identify alcoholism
"Breach," the movie about FBI Agent Robert Hanssen (now out on DVD), who for two decades sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets and, later, Russia, is great storytelling with acting to match. It's also the best explanation ever on the big screen with the poignant answer to the question, why should we bother identifying someone as a likely alcoholic?
Reviewers uniformly praised director and co-writer Billy Ray for avoiding psychobabble to explain Hanssen, played by Chris Cooper in what should be an Oscar-winning role. Yet Ray presents not only behavioral clues of alcoholism in the form of a nasty, haughty, egocentric Hanssen at work who charmed his way into the good graces of his family, but also in heavy drinking before the set-up for the final drop leading to his arrest. It was enough to suggest alcoholism in someone who no doubt hid it from everyone--and who, therefore, may have drunk himself to oblivion every night after the family was sound asleep. Many spouses have been on the receiving end of such alcoholism, taking decades to uncover late-night drinking, as recounted in stories in Drunks, Drugs & Debits.
Hanssen, who was finally arrested February 20, 2001, feigned a pious Catholicism. He was the former head of the Soviet analytical unit and the FBI's most knowledgeable expert on Russian intelligence. He was also the best the agency had on information technology and safeguarded the bureau's IT system from cyber-terrorism. All the while, using the most basic clues in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, we would have identified him as untrustworthy within the first minute or two of on-screen dialogue. From the start, Hanssen was gruff, knew it all and exhibited an inordinately large sense of self-importance and a "rules don't apply to me" attitude. He tells his new underling, Eric O'Neill (expertly played by Ryan Phillippe), "Requisition forms are for bureaucrats" after Eric objected when asked to go snatch a new computer. He uses subtle belittling techniques experienced by many if not most underlings of alcoholic bosses, telling O'Neill when they meet, "Your name is clerk. My name is Sir." Hanssen tells O'Neill, "You are as dumb as a bag of hammers," and then asks, "Do you pray the Rosary every day? You should." He emphasizes department rules regarding alcohol, explaining "It's against bureau policy for an agent to consume alcohol, even off duty...because an FBI agent is never off duty." But then, we already learned the rules are not for him.
The hypocrisy is also blatant in regards to sex. After seeing the married O'Neill eye a woman in an elevator he says, "God expects you to live your faith at all times. Besides, I disapprove of women in pants suits. Men wear pants." In the meantime, he sends secretly made tapes of he and his wife in bed to strangers who reciprocate in kind. Moral rules don't apply to Robert Hanssen, either.
The agent in charge of placing O'Neill in Hanssen's office, Kate Burroughs (Laura Linney in a great role), did so under the guise that he needed to be outed for sexual deviancy. She is forced to let O'Neill in on everything only after he shares his doubts about a case against someone who "doesn't drink, goes to mass every day and whose family loves him." She explains that the FBI already knows he is a traitor but needs proof of the sort that can be used in court to set him up for the death penalty. He had given away military and intelligence secrets, including our continuity of government program in case of nuclear attack. He gave away the lives of an unknown number of FBI agents. And oh yes, the sexual stories are true, too; rough sex and a fan of strippers and porn. But the grandkids do love him.
The deeper significance of several scenes will likely be missed by most viewers. Nothing is more ego-satisfying than putting down someone or something far grander, bigger and more powerful than oneself. Along these lines, he inflates his ego when likening the U.S. to a powerfully built but retarded child, potentially dangerous but young, immature and easily manipulated. Hanssen tells the photographer taking his 25-year retirement picture (he was due to retire two months after the set-up began) that he can't take the photo because it's not how he dresses every day--there's a spot on his tie, which is imperceptible to anyone but him. James Graham in The Secret History of Alcoholism pointed out that many alcoholics are perfectly coifed at all times, since looking good allows for greater ease in controlling others. After Hanssen walks out on the photographer session, he degrades him, calling him a faggot. He takes as a personal affront and power play when someone at the CIA can't see him for a prearranged appointment; when O'Neill doesn't see it that way, Hanssen explains, "That's why you're still a clerk."
When the beginning of the end approaches, Kate Burroughs asks O'Neill, "How drunk did he sound?" The implication is she knew something about his drinking and Billy Ray, the filmmaker, may have known enough to realize this was relevant to explain the character's motives. Hanssen also tells O'Neill, with a bottle of booze on the seat between them, "I like to park at night," suggesting that the drinking may frequently occur on drives to the nearby Rock Creek Park. O'Neill somehow knows to challenge his ego to get him to make the one final drop the FBI needs to insure the death penalty. After the arrest, the agent in charge, Dean Plesac (Dennis Haysbert, in an understated role) suggests to Hanssen that he at least tell the FBI why he did it; it'll buy some goodwill, like it did for another turncoat agent before him. Hanssen responds that the answer was easy, because the only thing the other agent cared about was the money. "Why else would he have done it?" Plesac naively asks. Hanssen, who took only a few hundred thousand dollars for secrets that were worth at a minimum tens of millions to the Soviets, gives one of the greatest egomaniacal responses ever: "It's not so hard to guess, is it? Considering the human ego...can you imagine sitting in a room with a bunch of your colleagues...everybody trying to guess the identity of a mole. And all the while, it's you they're after...you they're looking for. That must be very satisfying, don't you think? Or, maybe he considered himself a patriot; maybe he saw it as his duty to show us how lax our security was--we can't rule that out as a possibility." And egomania is almost always rooted in alcoholism.
We expect excitement when watching spies like James Bond, but would never dream the gritty halls of the FBI building could provide such suspense. Thanks to an extraordinary piece of filmmaking by Billy Ray, the movie manages to avoid even one dull moment--even better for the few of us aware of the likely underlying impetus for treasonous behaviors.
Dear Doug: Mommie Dearest goes to school
My 10-year-old daughter, Laurie, is being bullied by one of her classmate's mothers. She elbowed my daughter once and purposely slammed a door in her face. Her daughter does the same sort of things. The school principal reluctantly agreed to separate the girls, despite the fact that school staff thinks this woman is wonderful. I know that she is a lying, manipulative, power abusing woman who seems to know exactly who she needs to charm. Is there anything I can do?
. . . .
Some people know exactly who they need to charm to get what they want, and who they can abuse without fear of repercussions, all with the goal of inflating their ego by wielding power over others. Such power-seekers are almost always alcohol or other-drug addicts.
Other columnists might suggest asking the principal to make sure the woman keeps her distance from Laurie. However, if she's an addict she will find a way to continue the bullying, which serves to inflate her ego. Such columnists might also suggest teaching Laurie to stand up for herself and, the next time the woman touches her or slams a door in her face, to yell "OW!" as loudly as possible to attract attention. Yet there is no one as credible as an alcoholic--and she will be far more convincing than your daughter to those nearby when denying culpability for wrongdoing. Simply stated, sometimes there is little that can be done.
Unfortunately, the best option despite other objections is to remove her from the school. The mother will be forced to find someone else to abuse and your daughter's accusations will later ring true. There is power in numbers and sometimes the only way to increase the number of abused is to make someone else available. Until your daughter leaves the school it will be your daughter's word vs. hers. Because she's probably an addict, without irrefutable proof of wrongdoing, she will win--because in her mind, she must, regardless of who she harms.
(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, June 4, 2007.)
Prevent Tragedy Foundation
"Most people say money is the root of troubles for most young celebrities, citing too much of it as the major reason for stars' problems."
So reported a USA Today/Gallup Poll of 1,007 adults, which reported 79% saying too much money was a big problem for stars whose lives are filled with drugs, clubs, DUIs and rehab. The "pressures of fame" was considered a concern by 68%, "negative influences of Hollywood" by 65% and "parents doing a poor job" of raising the young stars by 63%. Alcoholism didn't make the list.
Karen Thomas, in the cover story for USA Today, wrote "Million-dollar paychecks and suites at tony hotels come with pressures--and the means to self-medicate." Addiction counselor Clare Waismann explains that young Hollywoodites are increasingly combining alcohol and opioids such as OxyContin to "take the edge off." Thomas and Waismann confuse cause and effect. Addicts can use to self-medicate and take the edge off; non-addicts cannot.
Money is not the root of the trouble. If trouble results from alcohol or other-drug use, the problem is alcoholism. Money is instead the biggest enabler, which makes it a problem for addicts, not non-addicts. The same can be said for the "pressures of fame," which has nothing to do with triggering alcoholism. The "negative influences of Hollywood," too, clearly plays a role in perpetuating active addiction, but don't cause it. If they did, we'd read about other young actors in the tabloid news--including Hillary Duff ("Lizzy McGuire"), Mandy Moore (upcoming July film, "License to Wed"), Reese Witherspoon (June Cash in "Walk the Line"), Anne Hathaway ("Brokeback Mountain"), Raven Symone ("That's So Raven"), Christine Aguilera (winner of "best new artist" at the 2000 Grammy Awards), Alexis Bledel (Rory Gilmore in "Gilmore Girls") and Amber Tamblyn ("Joan of Arcadia"). But we don't read much about them because they are not addicts, even if they have plenty of money.
It's true that many of the parents did a poor job of raising the likes of Paris, Britney, Lindsay, Nicole Richie and Lane Garrison--after all, some of them are addicts. But addiction travels through genes, not upbringing.
Thomas, however, got it partly right--she points out that "those closest to the stars have an income that depends on the star working and maintaining a popular image." She cites Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz in explaining that a circle of enablers have helped keep the star's head above water, which "makes recognizing a problem elusive."
Story from "True Stella Awards" by Randy Cassingham, with his "tagline:"
In the spirit of this month's top story and movie review on possibly alcoholic law enforcers, Randy's 2006 # 3 runner-up for The TRUE Stella Awards (http://www.stellaawards.com/) is fitting. The Awards mock wild, outrageous, ridiculous and abusive lawsuits, from which there are plenty to choose. This particularly abusive suit was brought by FBI agent Robert Clymer.
Unfortunately, even if we'd like to think otherwise, many law enforcers are practicing alcoholics. While working a high profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer crashed his pickup--with a Blood Alcohol Level over .30 per cent, almost four times the .08 per cent limit. He had no doubt consumed the empty 25 ounce bottle of Captain Morgan Rum sitting next to him, but fortunately had not emptied his gun, which was found next to the rum, fully loaded. He was found sitting passed out, while his truck began burning. (It gets weirder: he was reported to have been urinating in the parking lot of the Suncoast Casino at about 3:20 a.m., an hour before the crash, apparently with his gun visible. Police later found a 15-round magazine that matched his gun nearby.)
Clymer initially did the right thing and pled guilty, but quickly flipped and sued the manufacturer of his pickup truck and the dealer he purchased it from under--get this--product liability laws, seeking $33,000 in medical bills and $11,000 in lost wages. He claimed that he "somehow lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke that filled the passenger cab" (due to the fire caused by the accident). As Randy points out, "the drunk-driving accident wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you want carrying a gun in the name of the law."
This was not the only public behavioral clue to something amiss in Agent Clymer's biochemistry. Just a month before the accident, he and his wife Tracy, an FBI secretary, filed for bankruptcy listing over $580,000 in debt, including nearly $122,000 on credit cards. Clymer, a 20-year FBI veteran, makes $102,000 per year. A few months after the accident, he left his wife. He later filed for divorce.
Gross overspending and divorce, particularly in conjunction, are frequently behavioral indications of alcoholism. One can only imagine how many related misbehaviors the Agency knew about, many of which likely occurred long before these very public escapades. If the FBI wants to prevent another Robert Hanssen tragedy, they should take such indications seriously. At the very least, those exhibiting such obvious clues should be removed from high profile cases and precautions taken to prevent possible alcoholics from accessing anything that might compromise the integrity of the FBI. At best, they should be given one opportunity to get clean and sober and those failing should be shown the door. The United States would be a safer place.
(Story and tagline from "This is True," copyright 2007 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)
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