|January-February 2008 / Issue No. 37
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, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.
There is something for everyone!
This era of deflationary housing and now, it appears, stock prices may be a great time to protect yourself and loved ones from those who prey upon those in financial trouble. Order your copy of Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse from GaltPublishing or Amazon today. You'll discover how such abusers get away with conning others in the "Review of the Month" section of this double-month's issue. Enjoy!
Jim Leyritz, Baseball Hero, Alcoholism Enabled
and an Innocent Person Dies
Jim Leyritz, best known for hitting a key three-run homer in the 1996 World Series, drove off in his 2006 Ford Expedition at 3 a.m. after celebrating his 44th birthday in a Fort Lauderdale bar. Fredia Ann Veitch, who had just left her late-night shift at a steak house, didn't stand a chance when Leyritz ran a red light and broadsided her 2000 Mitsubishi Montero, causing it to flip. The 30-year-old single mother of two was ejected and died shortly after. Leyritz reportedly had "red, watery eyes, a flushed face and an odor of an alcoholic beverage" and refused a Breathalyzer at the crash scene after failing several field-sobriety tests. He was tested at the station (the results for which are pending), jailed and released on $11,000 bail just hours later.
The trouble with this tragedy, like almost every other, is there were the proverbial dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close persons or the law could have intervened, but didn't. He was known to party hard and had been divorced twice. Court papers from the latest divorce show more than $10 million in earnings over 11 years shrinking to about $600,000, and that he burned through thousands of dollars on high-priced booze, expensive nightclubs and ritzy hotels. Of course, like any good alcoholic he blamed everyone else on the loss of wealth, including "exorbitant taxes and a shady financial advisor." If his wife and friends ever attempted to intervene, their efforts were overwhelmed by the strength of his addiction and enablers.
As have so many other alcoholic ballplayers before him, he often partied even before games. One game day, he was hung over and fell asleep by his locker. When a fellow ballplayer told him he was in the line-up, he wondered aloud how he was going to function out on the field. He ran into a teammate who gave him two little "helpers," a code word for amphetamines, and he batted 3-for-4 with two home runs. His fellow ballplayers and management could have intervened, but didn't want to--or didn't want to try too hard. He was too good.
Like many alcoholics he hung out at bars, the clientele of which included many off-duty cops. He was escorted out on countless occasions. Police tell stories about how he often "haughtily" asked them, "Don't you know who I am?" when they pulled him over for traffic violations. This simple question is an almost-certain indication of alcoholism-fueled egomania and the traffic violations are an excellent clue to a DUI, particularly at the times he was presumably cited. These cops could have intervened and popped him for a DUI, but incredibly, prior to this tragedy, there is no record of Leyritz ever having been subjected to even one sobriety check.
Some friends claimed that Leyritz chose to drive while under the influence even though he knew this was wrong. Others said he "just didn't give a damn," or that "it didn't have to happen"--all he had to do was think. Unfortunately, Leyritz has the disease of alcoholism. He can choose not to drink--but once he's under the influence, damage to the neo-cortex impairs judgment and removes the restraints on the lower brain centers, which scream at him, "You are invincible!" He probably did "give a damn"--but only in moments of clarity while not under the influence. He could think--but while drinking, alcoholism-induced euphoric recall and egomania made him think he is god-like. Like almost every alcoholic, his family, friends, co-workers, employers and the law were given countless opportunities to draw a line in the sand regarding him ever drinking again--which is the cardinal point of Drunks, Drugs & Debits. Because they either didn't or failed, Fredia Ann Veitch's two small children lost their mother--and Jim Leyritz, former hero, will lose his freedom and stand forever as another tragic example of the results of unchecked alcoholism.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Robert Hawkins, 19, who shot and killed eight people including himself at Westroads Mall in Nebraska on December 5. As usual, everything except his obvious drug addiction was blamed--which serves as an excuse to authorities for not having appropriately intervened. Diagnoses from various mental health professionals included schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. Yet Hawkins had a history of alcohol and other-drug violations, including being a minor in possession of or dispensing alcohol and being a minor in possession of an open alcoholic container. He was charged with intent to deliver a controlled substance and found guilty of disorderly conduct (which almost always involves heavy use of alcohol or other drugs). He managed to get kicked out of a drug treatment program after asking the counselor the classic alcoholic question, "Who are you to judge me?" and telling a state caseworker in typical alcoholic style that he was sick of "all this court stuff."
Clue # 6 in the chapter "Apparent Mental Confusion" in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, "appears to have a Personality Disorder or mental illness," shows that because alcoholism can mimic virtually any of the Disorders and mental illnesses, addiction to psychotropic drugs is usually the underlying cause of such problems. One of the most pervasive myths, "Personality Disorders are more common than alcoholism" (# 64 in Alcoholism Myths and Realities), is perhaps the most destructive, because the mental health establishment often treats only symptoms while giving false hope to friends and family.
In a more addiction-aware society, reports might read something like: "Robert Hawkins, age 19, inherited alcoholism from his untreated mother, Maribel Rodriguez. Rodriguez lost custody after a court affidavit filed by his father, a sergeant in the Air Force, alleged that she smoked marijuana and drank excessively, affecting her ability to parent. She was at times so deep into her addiction that her second husband, another Air Force sergeant, got custody of their two children after Rodriquez missed a hearing in which it was alleged she used dope, coke and other drugs in front of the children. Hawkins' alcoholism took form in what appeared to be numerous personality disorders, for which medical authorities tried 'talk therapy' and psychiatric medications. Appropriate treatment would have included an enforceable requirement to abstain from the use of alcohol and other drugs. Because this was not done, seven innocent people were murdered at a mall prior to Hawkins' suicide. Hawkins and his victims became yet another tragic example of the consequences of misdiagnosing alcoholism as personality disorders and allowing alcohol and other-drug addiction to progress unimpeded."
Five suspects, ages 18 to 27, arrested for having an illegal middle-of-the-night campfire near a cave in Malibu, California, when a blaze broke out. Detectives were able to trace alcohol containers and food wrappers to the men, who purchased the items at local markets using debit cards. Though authorities do not believe they intentionally set the inferno, which charred 4,900 acres, destroyed 53 Malibu homes and injured six firefighters, they said the suspects acted recklessly by lighting a campfire while Santa Ana winds howled through the area. The men are charged with taking off without extinguishing a campfire they knew had gotten out of control and failing to report the fire to authorities. Who'd ever have thought that these young men were "partying"?
Actor David Hasselhoff, 55. What else can be said other than what has been said in the November 2006 and June 2007 issues (including, among other tidbits, a story on his publicist, Judy Katz, lying for him)? He's an obvious drunk and is, therefore, less dangerous than a hidden one. However, near as I can tell he hasn't been ordered by a court to abstain from drinking or using under promise of incarceration and is, therefore, easily capable of getting behind the wheel of a car and terrorizing the rest of us. By the way, given his age there were likely hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened before his latest visits to rehab--four times in the last two months. Oh, and there was a visit to the emergency room where his BAL reportedly tested at .5 per cent, a level that can snuff out a life. Oh, and actress Pamela Bach, who enabled Hasselhoff for 16 years as his wife, has rights to visit their children, for whom he has legal custody. How many times could she have intervened, but didn't--or were her own perceptions too distorted?
Pop singer Britney Spears, 26. What else can be said other than what has been in the January 2006, August 2007 and September 2007 issues (including, among other choice dirt, a story on OK! Magazine picking up a $21,000 tab for goods "lost" and damaged by Spears at a photo shoot)? She's an obvious drunk and is, therefore, less dangerous than a hidden one. However, near as I can tell she hasn't been ordered by a court to abstain from drinking....oops! I just said all this. Are we getting the picture? Hello? Oh, except her age and one court-mandated intervention. Still, there have been by now hundreds of other incidents for which such intervention would have been appropriate (no, she didn't get caught that many times, but we can imagine). The most interesting thing about Britney is she likely experienced late-onset alcoholism, which makes one wonder how much good delaying its onset really does. Talk about a brain-damaged individual.
Actor and star of "24" Kiefer Sutherland, 41, spending 48 days in the Glendale, California city jail washing the bedding and cooking food for fellow inmates. The fact that he finally got more time than some other stars' 48 minutes may help him realize he cannot safely drink. He sounds contrite, which is an essential prerequisite for staying sober. Fans of "24," of which I am one, are rooting for you, Kiefer.
Sallie Mae's Chief Executive Albert L. Lord, cagily declining to properly respond to a number of questions in a conference call from investors about the student-loan company's finances and strategies. Reacting to investors' anger, he pledged to answer many of the dodged questions at a meeting in January and promised, "I can assure you, you will be going through a metal detector," an implicit acknowledgement that their wrath could turn lethal. He ended the call saying, "Let's go. There's [sic] no questions. Let's get the [expletive] out of here." Lord recently sold 97% (over 1.265 million shares) of his company stock, against which he had borrowed and apparently faced a margin call as the value of his holdings declined. He called it "embarrassing and troublesome to me personally." Lord is known as a hard-charging executive with a brusque manner. Clue # 9, "has recurring financial difficulties" in the chapter, "Poor Judgment" in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics suggests he is privately known as a heavy drinker and that, perhaps, a few of his closest family and professional confidants stand at the receiving end of at least verbal abuse, if not worse.
Co-Dependent of the Month:
The U.S. Government, for allowing North Korea's alcoholic despot Kim Jong Il to blow another "important" deadline--this time, to report details of the dismantling of its nuclear program. We need to remember that when dealing with alcoholics, lines must be drawn--and promises must be kept. (Note to readers: until I understood that alcoholics are, when using, capable of "anything," I was a died-in-the-wool isolationist libertarian. An understanding of alcoholism makes one question that idea in an age of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.)
Enablers of the Month:
Country-western goddess Dolly Parton, 61, for defending her drunk brother, and Roanoke Rapids, N.C. , for allowing a drunk to help destroy the financial fortunes of a theatre. Dolly said Randy Parton, 54, who lost his job after allegedly showing up drunk before a scheduled performance at the $21.5 million city-owned Randy Parton Theatre, was a scapegoat for its failure. Yet, he was reportedly intoxicated at a number of recent performances and had been using profanity on-stage ("regularly uses foul language" is clue # 2 in the chapter, "A 'Supreme Being' Complex" in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). He is also accused of using theatre money to buy booze and, we might surmise, lots of perks. The theatre had been paying him $750,000 per year.
Michael Rosenberg, friend and former agent of U.S. figure skating champion Christopher Bowman, who reportedly spent years bailing Bowman out of jail and cleaning up his messes, admitting that he always feared his life would end tragically. "He had tattoos, he drank, he used cocaine, he had affairs with almost every top female figure skater at the time. He was like a rock star," Rosenberg said. And his eyes bulged at the success and the babes and the money, so in bailing out Bowman he maintained his position of power, prestige and fame. As reported in "Sometimes it takes an addict," below, it also enabled Bowman to an early demise. No doubt it's not solely Rosenberg's fault, but others might learn a lesson or two: enabling kills.
Disgraced political donor and con-man Norman Hsu's lawyers, who asked Judge Stephen Hall to dismiss the 1992 no contest plea by Hsu, arguing that Hsu's right to a speedy trial was violated because authorities were not "actively pursuing" him while he was a fugitive. Let's get this straight: Hsu pled guilty to defrauding investors out of millions, was out on bail awaiting sentencing, jumps bail--and the case to which he had already pled guilty should be dismissed because authorities didn't find him fast enough? Just what are the lawyers smoking?
Disenabler of the month:
Jane Hambleton had two rules for her 18-year-old son and his car: "Keep it locked, and no alcohol at all." When she discovered alcohol under the seat of his car, she took out an ad that read: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet." And she kept her promise: the car sold.
Victim of the month:
The San Francisco Zoo, where a 350-pound Siberian tiger jumped over a fence and killed Carlos Sousa, Jr. , and injured his two friends, Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal. Authorities found an empty bottle of vodka on the front seat of the car the trio had driven to the zoo and suspect the three may have been taunting the tiger. Attorney Mark Geragos, who has represented many others suspected of alcoholism, including Bill Clinton's former business partner Susan McDougal, Wynona Rider, Michael Jackson and Scott Peterson, is representing the survivors in a suit against the zoo.
Question of the Month:
Antonio Llerenas, 24, was arrested after he dangled a baby over a second-floor motel railing in Sylmar, California, because the child's mother broke what object?
a. His DVD player
b. His arm
c. His meth pipe
If you answered "His meth pipe," you understand methamphetamine addiction. If you said, "His DVD player, but he must have been high on meth," you were only half right but you've got the idea. If you responded, "No man would do that to an innocent baby," you haven't read my books, which you can purchase via www.GaltPublishing.com or www.Amazon.com.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
U.S. figure skating champion Christopher Bowman, found dead at a budget motel in the San Fernando Valley from "unknown" causes. Bowman, a former child actor who had a part in "Little House on the Prairie" for one season, won the U.S. men's figure skating titles in 1989 and 1992 and won spots in the Winter Olympics in 1988 and 1992, where he finished fourth. A fellow Olympic champion said Bowman was one of the three most talented skaters of all time and could turn on a crowd in seconds, describing him as a natural athlete with extraordinary charisma. Yet, training was a challenge because practice didn't interest him, while drugs did. He went to rehab at least twice, once before the 1988 Olympics and again after the 1992 Games. Canadian skater Toller Cranston, in a 1997 book, Zero Tolerance, wrote how drug dealers and prostitutes rang Cranston's doorbell at all hours in search of Bowman while they shared a home together. This seemed inconsistent with the fact that Christopher, according to observers who didn't know how he did it, "was always on" during competitions, becoming known as "Bowman the Showman" for his dramatic flair and flirtations with female fans. The explanation, of course, is that Bowman, as he put it in describing his own "human garbage pail" use, felt "invincible," which compelled him to overachieve (see clue # 1, "over-achiever, due to a need to win at any cost" in the chapter, "A 'Supreme Being' Complex" in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics) and gain the spotlight. Bowman was 40.
Rock-n-Roller Ike Turner, who reportedly married an extraordinary 14 times, dead at 76 from cocaine overdose, with hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema listed by the coroner as "significant and contributing factors." Turner is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock 'n' roll record, "Rocket 88" in 1951, although it was officially credited to the record's saxophonist and singer, alcoholic Jackie Brenston (Ike wrote the song). But he is perhaps best known for having discovered and then abused his second wife, Anna Mae Bullock, whom he christened with the stage name Tina Turner, who later told her tale of harrowing abuse in the 1987 autobiography, I, Tina and 1993 movie, "What's Love Got To Do With It." Although he denied abusing her, in his 2001 autobiography he admitted, "Sure, I've slapped Tina...There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her." Tina apparently didn't appreciate the fine distinction between being "punched to the ground" and being "beat," and walked out on him during their 1975 tour. In the 1980s, cocaine addiction drained his finances and he ran afoul of the law numerous times. He said he often prayed, "God, if you let me get three days clean, I will never look back." While he couldn't make it to three days on his own, he finally got the help he desperately needed with a legal intervention stemming from an arrest and conviction in 1989. He may have had an assist in staying clean and sober for a time by always being mindful of the reason he missed the 1991 ceremony in which he and Tina were jointly inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: he was in prison. He reportedly stayed sober until near the end (notwithstanding his denial of having beat Tina), when his emphysema was so advanced he was on oxygen and extremely weak. We might surmise the relapse was intended to kill.
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 .
Alcohol and the Writer
Why are a disproportionate number of writers, actors and con artists alcoholics?
Donald W. Goodwin, M.D. wondered why so many writers, way out of proportion to the overall population, have been alcoholics. In his little 1988 book, Alcohol and the Writer, Goodwin presents brief biographies of seven great alcoholic writers. Piecing their stories together (and, along the way, providing peripheral looks at numerous others), Goodwin concludes that alcohol can provide inspiration and facilitate creative thinking conducive to great writing. He also figures that since writers are "loners" and alcoholics are individualists, alcohol and writing inexorably go hand in hand. He posits that both can produce trancelike states, alcohol promotes fantastic thinking required for creative writing, and alcohol helps to create multiple personalities, which can advance writing from the standpoint of getting into the minds of various characters.
However, Goodwin believes that circumstances determine alcoholism, which results in confusing cause and effect. He gets closest to solving the riddle in citing F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment to a friend, "Drink heightens feeling." I explain how this is so in the article reprinted below, from my client newsletter Wealth Creation Strategies, where you may find a number of timely articles, including a series on the late great real estate bubble). I expand the scope of the question and ask why so many writers, musicians and con artists are alcoholics. This more general question allows us to arrive at a more fundamental reason for the seemingly inexplicable enigma. I hope you find the article provocative and stimulating.
How do Alcoholics Get Away with Financially Abusing Others?
A dozen years ago I stumbled upon the idea that alcohol and other-drug addicts ("alcoholics" or "addicts") not only commit the vast majority of physical and psychological abuse, but also most financial atrocities. My first article on the subject (February-March 1996 edition of the precursor to this newsletter, Tax & Financial Trendletter), titled "The Sobering of America: Alcoholism, Other Addiction and Financial Disaster," was seminal in helping clients forge the link between addicts in their lives and financial abuse. It also set me on a path that led to the publication of four books, numerous articles and, since August 2004, a web-based monthly newsletter, the Thorburn Addiction Report (www.AddictionReport.com).
I have answered the question "why" addicts abuse others throughout these works. They abuse because alcoholism causes egomania, which compels the addict to wield power. While this almost always takes form in psychological, verbal or emotional abuse, physical violence and financial abuse are also common threads to addiction-fueled egomania. Perversely, power can also be exerted through overachievement--after all, what better way to control family, friends, fans, constituents, customers and patients than through extraordinary competence and success. Those who doubt this might consider, as just one example of many, baseball, in which arguably the three greatest players ever--Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle--were all full-blown alcoholics during their entire careers.
The "why?" gives clues that can help us identify alcoholics, most of whom are otherwise well hidden. Because they can be potentially lethal to your physical, emotional and financial well-being, outing hidden addicts before becoming personally, professionally or financially entangled can be a supremely useful survival tool. While keeping in mind that 10% of us are practicing alcoholics, consider how many people you know that can be positively identified as such. Unless you were raised in a family filled with addicts, you may think you know at most several--and yet, if you are familiar with five hundred people, the odds are you know fifty. Who the heck are they?
One of my main contributions came about from asking a simple question: if addiction causes misbehaviors, how often were the behaviors clues to underlying alcoholism? When able to dig deep enough I found it about 80% of the time, vastly greater than the statistical odds of 10%. Even relatively innocuous instances of verbal abuse often turned out to be subtle indicators of alcoholism. I concluded that if abusive behaviors are evident, rather than figuring someone is just "having a bad day" or suffers from a Personality Disorder, we should first look for alcoholism.
But none of this explains "how." Just how does the alcoholic get away with abusing others--often repeatedly, frequently for years? Part of the answer can be found in the fact that if a parent was an alcoholic, we experienced abuse (even if only psychological or intellectual abandonment), which either we feel comfortable with or "learned" that's just how people are. And since the addict can be nothing if not charming and exciting in their reckless ways (who wouldn't fall in love with an Elvis or a Marilyn?), we put up with the behaviors, taking the good with the bad.
This doesn't account for the fact that we find ourselves abused by people we hardly know. Many find themselves abused by leaders, professionals (20% or so of doctors and lawyers are addicts) and con artists. How are addicts so convincing--to the point at which their lies are more believable than your truths? How could something recovering addicts admit to be all-too-true: when using, they can sell ice to Eskimos?
An additional piece of the puzzle lies in the addict's need to win regardless of cost. After all, wielding power requires control over others. There is no more efficient way by which to control than to win and be better than everyone else. This may be the best theory accounting for the fact that 30% of Academy Award winning actors have been alcohol or other-drug addicts and a stunning five out of eight Nobel Prize winning authors from the United States during the 20th century were alcoholics. But it's not the only reason; as so often proves true in alcoholism, the paths of explanations and observations intertwine in convoluted ways. In this case, it provides a more direct clue as to "how" they get away with abuse.
Consider the fact that almost every musician, ever, who has created revolutionary change in music, has been an alcoholic. We owe the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Elvis, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, three of four Beatles, Curt Cobain and James Brown to alcoholism. Part of this can be explained by the willingness on the part of those with an inflated sense of self, usually alcoholics, to take the inordinate risks required to create revolutionary change. However, all-too-many actors and writers have been addicts, working in fields that are perhaps not as amenable to radical change as music. This is not to say that greatness is impossible without addiction, the evidence for which can be found from Bach to Meryl Streep and Judi Dench. But addiction increases the odds of success in fields that reward excessive risk-taking and require one to connect on an emotional level with the audience.
And this provides the vital clue. Addicts suffer damage to the frontal lobes of the brain, the seat of reason and logic. The lower brain centers, responsible for survival, instinctual actions and reactions, emotions and herding, are undamaged. We might hypothesize that this allows the primitive brain to override the restraints of the logical brain, allowing alcoholics to better connect with others at an emotional level. This should be helpful to a con-man when attempting to tap the primal instincts, including greed, and bilk the mark.
Reflect on the emotions that great writers cause their readers to feel. Edgar Alan Poe, Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, James Thurber, Jack London, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and O. Henry--all alcoholics--can bring out extremes of fear, hatred, sorrow, passion and love you barely knew existed. Reflect on some of the greatest actors ever--Joan Crawford, Dorothy Dandridge, Robert Downey, Jr., Frances Farmer, Jamie Foxx, Judy Garland, Samuel L. Jackson, Vivien Leigh, David Niven, Jason Robards, George C. Scott, Peter O'Toole and Elizabeth Taylor, again, all alcoholics--with whom we can experience a deep emotional bond.
And so it is with the con artist tenant, contractor, debtor or financial salesman. I've deducted thousands of dollars of repairs to property vandalized by tenants who rented even from recovering addicts with the promise they'd be the best tenant ever. I've witnessed clients suffer tens of thousands of dollars of unexpected costs resulting from contractors who promised the world and left a concrete slab--with cracks. Debtors to bad debt deductions have mostly been addicts. And the financial con-man, while difficult to prove is an addict (and none of these are addicts every time), with enough information has proven more often than not to be one.
One of the premiere financial cons of all time was perpetrated by Charles Ponzi in 1920. He promised returns of 20% within months--and paid such returns by paying off early investors with funds provided by later investors. When his scheme collapsed, he was jailed for a time and then sent back to Italy, where he reportedly turned into an obvious drunk. But early in his drinking career, he connected. He made promises, and people believed him. It's not because they were stupid; rather, it was because Ponzi connected his lower brain center, the limbic system, to theirs. He knew what others wanted to hear on an emotional level and satiated their psychological needs--survival and belonging, creating a herding effect that proved difficult to resist. (Politicians do this every day.)
Financial thuggery is perpetrated by people who are good at making sure your thinking is disconnected from economic or other reality. They get you to buy and do things you would never ordinarily consider. Since alcoholics have a far better ability to connect at the emotional level than others, addicts and con-artists are often one and the same.
My wife works for a company that hosts a large Christmas dinner party that turns into a drunk fest. The boss buys repeated shots for everyone. I have become disgusted with the incredibly adolescent behavior and even fights. Worse, while my wife and I have a designated driver, no one else does. It's only a matter of time before someone is killed by one of the partygoers.
Each year my wife has talked about not going but always does and insists we leave last. I suggest that if we go, we enjoy the cocktails and dinner and leave soon after. My wife thinks that would be rude. What do you think?
Signed, Too Old to Party Hardy
. . . .
Other columnists might suggest that while you are right, refrain from making your farewells in a hurried manner. That way, the heavy drinkers may not even notice you're gone and others who may be uncomfortable may gain a bit of courage and walk out early as well. Perhaps the boss will get the hint and tone down future parties.
First, as the lead alcoholic, the boss is incapable of getting the hint. Second, the fact that the company is not only led but also populated by a slew of alcoholics suggests it may not survive (my guess is it's a sub-prime lender and hasn't). Third, even if it does, your wife is at risk of back stabbing and betrayal by co-workers or even the boss, which at some point may cost her job. Finally, your wife may be one of them, the evidence for which is her heavy drinking and refusal to leave the party early.
You drink too. But note you are not interested in staying once the party really gets going. Alcoholics generally hang in there. Observe the difference between your drinking behaviors and your wife's: she wants to party long after you are ready for bed. This is one of the classic differences between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinking, even if the non-alcoholic occasionally drinks heavily. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits (page 87) the fact that alcoholics "don't feel sick from the poisonous effects of acetaldehyde as quickly as do non-addicts...give the alcoholic the ability to party all night long."
You've got your hands full. You need to start at home: determine whether your wife is has the disease of alcoholism. If she does, you need to intervene in her disease. Once sober, the rest will follow as day follows night.
(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, December 18, 2007.)
Jim Leyritz "just didn't give a damn."
So said sports journalist Shaun Powell of Newsday.com in commenting on Jim Leyritz's decision to get behind the wheel of his Ford Expedition and drive off while obviously stinking drunk. Sorry, but we cannot know that Leyritz, or any other addict who kills, doesn't really care.
We do know the evidence that Leyritz has the disease of alcoholism is compelling, in which case consequential brain damage makes him think he is god-like and therefore invincible while under the influence. Therefore, Leyritz, like all alcoholics, should be given the benefit of the doubt: he probably cares during periods of clarity and will care deeply if and when he gets sober. As pointed out in myth # 73, "Most people who engage in destructive behaviors are just bad people" in Alcoholism Myths and Realities, most are alcoholics first.
Misconceptions like this take our focus off the ball. We might think, "All we have to do is make him care," which suggests we can talk to him about it. We saw how well "talk therapy" worked for Robert Hawkins and his victims. Maybe if we simply punish him others will learn the lesson and start caring. But those who need this lesson are also addicts and do not learn rationally. If instead we figure he'll probably care when sober, then we need to focus on coercing abstinence, which is often required to inspire in the addict a need to get sober.
Myths often lead to false cures. This increases the odds that tragedy will occur--at which point many people figure the instigator must not have given a damn. If instead we assume that addiction-induced brain damage interferes with a caring attitude, we'll focus on sobriety and prevent the tragedy--and never give anyone a reason to think he "didn't give a damn.”
To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at PrevenTragedy.com.
Doug frequently posts alcoholism-related articles, as well as his responses, so be sure to check back often.
Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is now available at
"Every policymaker in America needs to read your book exposing the myths of chemical addiction...Excellent book."
GaltPublishing.com, Amazon.com and bookstores near you.
Jim Ramstad, Member of U.S. Congress (MN)
"My father died of alcoholism. His father died of alcoholism. Three generations of alcoholism is enough. Now is the time to abandon superstition and pseudoscience, to debunk the myths surrounding alcoholism, and to apply science to solving this problem. Doug Thorburn's book is a model example of how this should be done. Read it and be prepared to change your thinking on this important topic. When enough of us understand what is really going on with alcoholism, society can make the shift from treatment to prevention and intervention."
Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic Magazine and columnist, Scientific American
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To order online, click the following link (be sure to put "TAR SPECIAL" in the comments section of the order form.) Orders can also be placed by phone: 800-482-9424 OR fax: 818-363-3111.
If you wish to pay by check, send the appropriate payment with your shipping information and the words "TAR SPECIAL" in the "memo" section of your check to: PO Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327.
To purchase any of the above Thorburn books, go to www.galtpublishing.com
Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"
Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation
The Thorburn Addiction Report is a free newsletter published by Galt Publishing and PrevenTragedy.com. Subscibe by visiting our web site at www.PrevenTragedy.com.
The Thorburn Addiction Report is available to newspapers as a regular feature column.
Inquiries are invited.
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Doug Thorburn, P.O. Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327-7777