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!
“My husband died a year ago at the age of 58 from pancreatitis, brought on by long-standing alcoholism. I began reading about alcoholism in order to better deal with his death. Your books have been the most helpful and relevant, particularly Alcoholism Myths and Realities. I began earmarking the pages with sentences or paragraphs that pertained to me, but soon found I was bending every page! I hope some day I can help even one person in the battle against this tragic disease.”
Thanks, Cindi. I’m sure you just did.
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Foreclosures and alcoholism: Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon, U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson and boxer Evander Holyfield
In the August 2007 Thorburn Addiction Report’s top story, The Mortgage Mess, the Real Estate Bubble and Alcoholism, I suggested that the bubble and its aftermath were at least partly a result of alcoholics doing what they do best: inflating the ego. Any one of a set of common spin-offs of egomaniagrandiosity, excessive optimism, a sense of invincibility and excessive risk-takingcan cause the afflicted to take chances that sober individuals would rarely consider. Another setinfectious enthusiasm, all-too-believable lies, charisma, charm and a “rules-don’t-apply-to-me attitude”can be used to cajole others into accepting risks they would never otherwise take. Such risks, as shown in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, include those of a financial nature.
Working backwards, financial turmoil might be an excellent clue to alcoholism in either the person or others nearby, particularly when the subject by any reasonable standards should be immune to such troubles. Three noteworthy individuals of this ilk who have recently sunk into a financial cauldron include Johnny Carson’s former sidekick Ed McMahon, U.S. representative Laura Richardson and former boxing heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. McMahon reportedly once owned $200 million in real estate, Richardson earns $169,000 yearly and Holyfield’s monthly income was over $600,000 as recently as 2003. As shown throughout my work, when individuals of such income and wealth suffer financially, the odds that addiction is nearby are nearly 100%.
Those who understand the concepts behind the Thorburn Substance Addiction Indicator (TSARI) know that we can ascribe up to an 80% or so probability of alcoholism based on observable misbehaviors, since (with compelling statistics, anecdotes and personal observations in Drunks, Drugs & Debits) at most 20% of the time some other factor, such as bipolar disorder, explains the conduct. Therefore, we need either actual confirmation of addictive use or self-diagnosis (which is possible only in recovery) to approach a 100% likelihood of addiction. Using this methodology, Ed McMahon is the only one of the three cited for whom we can positively diagnose alcoholism. However, we can ascribe odds close to 100% that, if Richardson and Holyfield are not addicts, somebodyor severalin a position to have contributed to the financial turmoil that permeates their lives are.
Ed McMahon, 85, put his home on the market some 2 ½ years ago for roughly $6.5 million. Because he followed the market down (reduced his price after the market had already fallen), the house hasn’t sold and he is facing imminent foreclosure on his $4.8 million mortgage, on which he is more than $650,000 in arrears. According to his business manager, Johnny Podell, McMahon, who in 1969 wrote Ed McMahon’s Barside Companion and once boasted he drank eight martinis before breakfast, got sober a decade ago. By then he probably had lost much of his fortune, but his apparently free-spending 54-year-old wife of 16 years, Pamela McMahon, may have contributed to the malaise by charging more than a few expenses on their American Express card, for which court documents show a $747,000 judgment. While he fell (circumstances unknown) and broke his neck 18 months ago and has since been unable to work, the disinterested observer might be flabbergasted to be told that $4.8 million of the some $200 million he reportedly earned over his lifetime wasn’t used to pay off his home mortgage. Such an observerhaving been told that Ed was soberwould probably be amazed to learn that the mortgage still wasn’t paid off after receiving $7.2 million in a settlement the couple won in 2003 after claiming that mold sickened them and killed their dog, Muffin. And an outsider would likely be stunned to learn he recently bounced a check for $135,000 with only $729 in his account. Unfortunately, while the financial reverberations of unchecked alcoholism can continue for decades, continuing travails of this magnitude indicate active addiction close by.
Lawmaker Laura Richardson rocketed from city councilwoman to California Assembly member to U.S. Congresswoman before reports surfaced that she lost her Sacramento home to foreclosure and had defaulted six times in the past couple of years on homes in San Pedro and Long Beach, one of which her mother lives in. In her apparently insatiable need to wield power over others she bankrolled her campaigns with $177,500 of her (or the bank’s) money which, considering she garnered 75% of the most recent vote in one of California’s politburo-like gerrymandered districts, was way overkill. She angered neighbors of her Sacramento home before she lost it by letting it deteriorate; at one point a neighbor, a retired police sergeant, offered to mow her nearly foot high grass. More telling, after agreeing to an interview with the L.A. Times, she changed course and instead gave prepared statements. Once again proving that truth is far stranger than fiction, she wrote an explanation that should become a classic in obfuscation (and I couldn’t possibly make this up): “Earlier this year, I was notified that the mortgages on properties that I own were in default. At that time, I began continuous discussions with the lenders to reinstate and modify these loans and to reinstate my ownership of the properties. Since those discussions were initiated, I was not notified of any preemptive sales of any of the properties.” Incredibly, she claims the house was sold in a foreclosure auction without her knowledge. The new owner, James York, who happens to own a mortgage company, responded, “She doesn’t know what happened, but she’s an educated woman who hasn’t made her payments for 12 months and she doesn’t know why she lost her house?” York, who sounds like he would know the foreclosure business, added that’s an excuse he frequently hears.
Evander Holyfield wants to continue fighting even though at 45 he’s long past his prime. This may have less to do with $250,000 in past-due income taxes than with imminent foreclosure on his $10 million 54,000 square foot 109 room home located on the Evander Holyfield Highway in Fayette County, Georgia. On the other hand, his desire to stay in the ring may have something to do with the fact that a federal lawsuit was recently filed against him seeking repayment of $550,000 in loans allegedly made for landscaping, or that he is being sued by Toi Irvin, the mother of one of his nine children, because he stopped making his $3,000 per month support payment. Irvin’s attorney explained, “My concern is there may be a lot of other mothers not getting paid, and I would like my client to be at the front of the line.” Irvin was originally awarded $2,000 a month in support, but after hearing evidence that Holyfield’s monthly income was $604,000 while Irvin was bringing home less than $32,000 per year, a jury increased the payment to $3,000. We might hypothesize that Holyfield’s financial misbehaviors could be explained by having suffered at the hands of alcoholic parents, who may have made him easy prey for alcoholic financial professionals, but there is no direct evidence of either.
We know from experience that when we shake our heads and wonder, “What in the heck happened? How could this person have been so stupid, reckless and irresponsible?” we should instead ask, “Who is the addict in this person’s life?” No matter how much esteem we may hold for the person, it could be him or someone close, because where financial or other turmoil exists, an addict is usually not far away.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
|Former Broadcom co-founder and CEO Henry T. Nicholas, 48, charged with orchestrating the backdating of stock-option awards and with buying and distributing cocaine, ecstasy and other controlled substances. Employees reportedly regarded Nicholas as a messianic leader who routinely convened 2 a.m. staff meetings during his company’s heyday, no doubt driven by alcohol and other-drug fueled mania. The fact that Nicholas was released only after his mother posted $2 million in home equity towards a $3.4 million bond suggests he has hit the burn-out stage financially. The details of his life while head of Broadcom, if they come to light, will prove to be lurid if initial reports pan out. Recall from Drunks, Drugs & Debits the point that addicts are like icebergswe are often privy to just a fraction of what is really going on. Now consider the construction of a series of tunnels and underground rooms at an equestrian estate in Laguna Hills, California, designed to allow Nicholas to indulge in what the indictment terms his “manic obsession with prostitutes.” Imagine how interesting the trial will be.
Former chief executive of the now-defunct hedge-fund Bayou Management, LLC, Samuel Israel lll, who is now the subject of a manhunt. Israel was supposed to begin serving a 20-year prison term after pleading guilty to conspiracy, investment-advisor fraud and mail-fraud charges. Instead, he left his car near the 150-foot high Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River in New York with the words, “suicide is painless” written in the dust on the hood. Since 1980, more than 40 people jumping from the bridge have died, with almost all of the bodies found quickly. Israel first qualified in the “under watch” section of the September 2005 TAR, when he was under suspicion of having bilked investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars while shutting his doors due to “family troubles [and] an impending divorce.” He was upgraded to “runners-up” in the November 2005 edition when reports of a DUI and crack cocaine arrest in 1996 surfaced. Unfortunately, no such reports have been made public regarding Atlanta-based hedge fund manager Kirk Wright, whose firm, International Management Associates, collapsed in 2006. Since Wright was convicted of swindling millions of dollars from clients ranging from National Football League players to his mother, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he qualifies for the “runners-up” section. Facing up to 710 years in prison, however, he is unlikely to be mentioned again. He committed suicide, hanging himself in his jail cell.
Boston-based U.S. bankruptcy judge Robert Somma, 63, arrested for DUI while wearing a black cocktail dress, fishnet stockings and high heels, announcing his resignation from the bencha second time, apparently after a groundswell of support. Perhaps his backers are easily amused by such antics, but those of us looking for people with good judgment in a position to judge others might prefer he stick to cross-dressing. Oh, and Judge Somma, perhaps you could do some good by enlightening your supporters about your diseaseand explain they should never, ever trust your judgment or that of any other alcoholic.
Los Angeles celebrity plastic surgeon Jan Adams, who made headlines when rapper Kanye West’s mother Donde West, 58, died after he performed multiple surgeries on her, arrested for DUIagain. Before the latest incident, the Medical Board of California was already considering yanking his license to practice medicine. Hey, Medical Boardif you would simply require that all prospective patients be given a history of Adams’ DUI (and any other) arrests, along with a copy of Drunks, Drugs & Debits, you won’t have to pull the plug on him. You’ll find the full write-up in the Top Story of the December 2007 edition of TAR.
Former NFL Linebacker Steve Foley, 32, charged with failure to secure two pit bulls, which bit his neighbor on her arms and face before killing her puppy. Foley, who played from 1998 through 2006 with the Bengals, Texans and Chargers, ended his career by driving with a blood alcohol level of .23 per cent at 3 a.m., weaving erratically at speeds ranging from 30 to 90 m.p.h. and getting shot by an off-duty police officer who was trying to get him off the road while Foley’s girlfriend tried to run the officer over. Incredibly, he was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of DUI and sentenced to five years probation. He now faces two to 10 years in prison. Steve, be sure to tell the worldand the judgethat this is the term you should have been required to serve after having been an accessory to attempted murder in 2006.
Former NFL star quarterback Ken Stabler, 62, now a radio analyst for University of Alabama football, charged with DUI. This is not his first. He pleaded no contest to a charge of DUI in 1995 and guilty to another one in 2001. He led the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl title in 1977. Ken, remember how your early-stage alcoholism fueled your egomania and compelled you to win that title? Consider now, DUI by DUI, you’re slipping into late-stage alcoholism. Get sober, before you kill someone.
Big-wave surfer Milton Willis, 51, whose alcoholism killed his 24-year-old passenger in a single vehicle incident. Willis, who was not wearing a seat belt (clue # 2 under the heading, “A sense of invincibility,” in Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence) was seriously injured after losing control while driving in Del Mar, California at 65 mph in a 25-mph zone and striking a palm tree. Investigators believe alcohol was a “major factor” in the tragedy. I hypothesize in Get Out of the Way! a high probability of DUI and, therefore, alcoholism when speeding markedly over the limit. Taking extraordinary risks, even in one’s line of work, is also often an excellent clue to addiction. Milton, like Evel Knievel, you provide exciting entertainment for the rest of us. But should you survive, it’s time to get clean and tell the world how your addiction drove you and that the bad results outweighed the good.
“Star Trek” to “T.J. Hooker” to “Boston Legal” star William Shatner, 77, who has come clean about his alcoholism (apparently some two decades after getting sober) and tumultuous life with his wife Nerine Shatner, who he found drowned in their pool in 1999 with “huge levels” of alcohol and Valium in her system. “Star Trek” co-star Leonard Nimoy, also a recovering alcoholic, told Shatner just before he married Nerine, “Bill, you do know that Nerine is an alcoholic.” When Shatner responded, “I know she is, but I love her,” Nimoy responded, “Well, Bill, then you are in for a rough ride.” Nerine was apparently sober for a time before they married, but after going to bed that night “ecstatic,” he woke up at 8 a.m. and found her drunk. “Later, I found she had hidden bottles of vodka all over the house.” She went to rehab three times while she was with Shatner, who stayed with her even after she almost killed his daughter while driving drunk (he fit an “immobilizer” to her car so she couldn’t drive while intoxicated). “I thought, stupidly, that I could heal her.”
He should have known better. According to Nimoy, Shatner kept his own alcoholism completely hidden from the cast while making “Star Trek” in the late ‘60s. Since his fellow actors heaped “caustic criticism” on him when he interviewed them for his book (Star Trek Memories) in the early ‘90s, those with a grasp of the behavioral symptoms of alcoholism might have concluded the odds of Shatner having the disease were about 80%. It was widely reported that Shatner was “devastated” to learn his peers disliked him intensely and accused him of being “utterly self-absorbed,” giving no support to fellow cast members. A tip of the hat to the former center of the universe, Mr. Shatner and shame on Nerine’s friends, who resented you after referring to her as an alcoholic shortly after the tragedy. If we don’t call a spade a spade, we’ll never learn what one looks like.
Actress Tatum O’Neal, who chronicled her long-standing addiction in her 2005 memoir, A Paper Life, busted for cocaine possession with two bags in her pants pocket. She reportedly told police that the drug buy was part of her research for an upcoming part as a junkie. Sure, and she consumes only two drinks a night, tooso long as they’re 28 ounce Long Island iced teas.
“Spiderman” co-star Kirsten Dunst, who claims she was in rehab at Sundance, Utah’s Cirque Lodge for depression. A spokesman for Cirque coyly told reporters that they address “chemical dependency issues [and] if someone is suffering solely from chronic depression, we’re not the place to go.” Dunst, who joked with talk show host Jay Leno in 2005 that she might end up in rehab after being reported by friends to have been “drinking up a storm at clubs and parties,” admitted to having no room for food in her refrigeratorjust lots of Veuve Clicquot and other alcohol.
Defense attorney Stephen Charles Hollingsworth, who according to the L.A. Times was citedagainby L.A. County Superior Court Judge John J. Cheroske for lateness, failure to appear and “other strange courtroom behavior.” The latter may include the time he limped in with a crutch and blamed his tardiness on a knee injury. Deputy District Attorney Christopher Frisco said, “Then someone called him from the audience and he walked up to them, forgetting his crutches and his limp.” When he failed to show up at a preliminary hearing, court staff called two phone numbers he had provided. Neither one worked, so the judge, who was “not happy,” issued an arrest warrant. After Hollingsworth showed up for a new hearing 35 minutes late (on a Monday morning, of course) wearing a “rumpled suit over a T-shirt, with no tie,” Cheroske found him in contempt of court and had him taken into custody. As is true of many of the cases listed in the “under watch” section, one would be hard-pressed to imagine an explanation for Mr. Hollingsworth’s behaviors other than alcoholism, but due to the requirement that addictive use be proven for the privilege of appearing in the “runners-up” section, we’ll leave him here for now. However, because he probably would be really fun to watch, if anyone reading this knows him, please do chime up!
As explained in the July 2007 TAR and elsewhere, the lack of direct evidence of addictive use relegates many lawyers, law enforcers, politicians and professionals to this section. This is true, as well, for lawyer Melvyn Weiss, who will begin serving a 30-month prison term for his role in a decades-long scheme to pay plaintiffs kickbacks for helping bring class-action lawsuits against corporate behemoths including AT&T, Xerox and United Airlines, who may well have not been as guilty as he made them appear. Because alcoholics are superb at “gaming” systems, they may well be largely responsible for the tort liability disasters consumers have been paying for over the last few decades.
Clayton County, Georgia School Superintendent John Thompson, PhD., who not only handed out 1,000 blank pieces of paper to graduates at a ceremony in lieu of high school diplomas, but also ordered the “real” diplomasnearly 3,000 in allshredded after learning his name wasn’t on them. He demanded that they be reprintedwith his name, of coursewhich would have cost taxpayers $80,000 had the printer not offered new ones at no additional charge. Thompson, who was hired on April 28 at a yearly salary of $285,000 after requesting $500,000 plus perks, claimed the diplomas were invalid because they were signed by the former superintendent. Funny, the Department of Education says they’re valid. Thompson, in a rather bizarre defense of himself, said he has “repeatedly responded publicly to each of the allegations listed, refuting each.” Sounds like hyperbole, since the record seems to show only two simple facts: he ordered perfectly valid diplomas shredded at a cost he will not bear. So, let’s make a real allegation, Mr. Thompson: you want to see your name in the lights so long as it doesn’t cost you a dime. And regarding cost, you are quoted as having said, once again in hyperbolic fashion, “What does it matter if it costs $25,000, $50,000, or $1 million, if you are providing children with something that will last for a lifetime? If wanting to do the right thing for children is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.” The attitude that “it’s only other people’s money, so screw them” is one often held by egomaniacs, as is the belief that they are worth far more than they are paid. Egomania and hyperbole are usually products of alcoholism.
Co-Dependents of the Month:
Once again, the U.S. Government, for continuing to “negotiate” with Kim Il Jong of North Korea. In exchange for removing North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring nations, the totalitarian regime blew up the cooling tower for its main nuclear reactor as a signal that it is sincere about dismantling its nuclear weapons program. The trouble is, the tower would take a month to rebuild, while the rest of the buildingsstill standingwould take at least 18 months to replace. John R. Bolton, who headed nuclear proliferation policy at the State Department during President George W. Bush’s first term, said he thinks it’s an embarrassment and “represents the definitive collapse of the Bush Doctrine and I’m sure they’re popping champagne corks in Pyongyang.” It’s a long way from the Doctrine, which in 2003 required that Libya’s dictator Moammar Gadhafi destroy every aspect of his nuclear program. More troubling, as The Wall Street Journal points out, is the message this sends to other rogue states: when you build a weapon, your political leverage increases. And what none of them acknowledge or are even aware of, an alcoholic despot still is inches away from possessing nuclear weapons.
Enablers of the Month:
Psychologist Lillian Glass. This is the sort of psychologist I lambasted in Chapter 5 of Drunks, Drugs & Debitswho, by the testimony of addicts long in recovery are their biggest enablers. Commenting on former “Full House” star Mary-Kate Olsen’s two-night wild party binge, during which she was described as “way out of control” by friends and after which she checked in and checked out of rehab after only two days, Glass said, “In my opinion, she’s a very troubled girl. I think she may be depressedand could use the help of a professional therapist.” Friends used to say they sometimes detected a note of anger in my voice when discussing alcoholism and implied it was directed at my addict-ex. No. I’ll admit to some anger, even after 14 years of studying the subject, but it’s not at addicts. It’s for psychologists like Glass who just don’t get it.
Nerine Shatner’s brother, Warren Kidd, apparently blaming actor William Shatner for Nerine’s death. Kidd claims that Shatner’s AA sponsor had warned Bill not to leave Nerine alone in the house because she might swim while drunk. He also claims that Nerine was haunted by suspicions that Shatner was having an affair. “Nerine was isolated and depressed. It’s no surprise she drank.” Sorry, Mr. Kidd, but Nerine drank alcoholically because her biochemistry not only allowed, but compelled it. Yes, Bill made a mistakehe didn’t stick to an apparent ultimatum a few months earlier. But then, if she didn’t make the right decision, she might have died anywayand you still would have blamed him. Mr. Kidd, I have a few books for you that will explain your sister’s disease and allow you to leave Mr. Shatner in peace.
Disenabler of the Month:
Singer Lionel Richie, accepting the “Icon” honor at the TV Land Awards, telling the audience, “Forget about surviving 40 years in the music business. Just surviving 27 years of [my daughter] Nicole Richie has been a struggle-and-a-half…I stand here as a survivor, I want you to know, for all the parents out there.” After Nicole’s arrest for DUI and driving the wrong way on the 134 freeway in Los Angeles, reported in the January 2007 TAR, her dad reportedly said a little jail time might do her some good. Keep up the educational comments, Mr. Richiethe world needs to hear them.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
Comedian George Carlin, dead at age 71 from heart failure. Carlin, who was raised by his mother after she left his very abusive alcoholic father when he was two years old, was a frequent performer and guest host on “The Tonight Show” during the three-decade long Johnny Carson era. He was the first host of “Saturday Night Live!” (October 11, 1975he confessed to having been high on cocaine at the time) and had roles in a number of films, including “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Cars.” He admitted that his drug addictiona “54-year buzz,” as he put itresulted in neglecting his business affairs, resulting in an IRS debt that took him almost 20 years to dig himself out of. He also said it made him a better comedian, because it forced him to stay on the road where he refined his routines. As is true of so many comedians (so many are addicts), he was liberal in his use of profanity (clue # 2 in the chapter, “A ‘Supreme Being’ Complex,” in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). When comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested on charges of using profanity in 1964 and police began questioning members of the audience, Carlin refused to produce his identification. After telling them he didn’t believe in government-issued IDs, he was reportedly driven to jail in the same vehicle as Bruce. In 2004, after Carlin was fired from his headline position by the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas for belittling his audience’s intellect, he announced he would enter rehab for his dependency on alcohol and painkillers. Carlin will be honored posthumously by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this November. Like him or not, Carlin was an addict who channeled his symptoms into success by entertaining people while getting them to question many of their most cherished assumptions about politics, society and life.
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, where possible, proactively intervene.
Review: “Tom Paine: America’s Godfather” by W. E. Woodward
“If Thomas Paine had drunk even half the liquor that [the experts in the art of slander] said he drank he never could have written anything, but would have died of delirium tremens before he had reached middle age.” (p. 16)
“In describing his alcoholic habits [the maligners of Paine] made his liquor consumption and drunkenness so preposterous that, if it were true, he could never have written anything at all, and certainly not such powerful literary creations as Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. Nor could he have lived to the ripe age of seventy-two.” (p. 337)
So wrote W.E. Woodward near the beginning and end of his 1945 biography of Thomas Paine. As pointed out on a number of occasions in these Reports, as well as in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, one cannot make sense of the lives of all-too-many historical figures without comprehending alcoholism. Alcoholism-fueled egomania explains the apparent contradiction between the public achievements and private turmoil of countless famous people. One of these is the giant who may be more responsible for the creation of a free United States of America and our Fourth of July celebration than Thomas Jefferson or any other revolutionary.
Common Sense may have sold more copies per capita in a few short years than any publication ever written (an extraordinary 500,000, most of which were sold in the Colonies with a population of 2 million). It not only laid the foundation for the Declarationsome who study styles of writing who have compared the two documents say he wrote that too. Yet, he died maligned and hated. Six people attended his funeral. “Not even one person of distinction took the time to pay his respects, to stand over the grave with uncovered head, or to say a few words at the funeral service,” wrote Woodward.
How could that square with the fact that not one person attending Thomas Jefferson’s dinners and social gatherings in the early 1800s while Paine was his guest at the Executive Mansion “said he was…a drunkard, or that his manners were bad.”? The likely explanation is that alcoholics often cycle in and out of abstinence. They know when they must be on their best behavior and control their drinking for extended periods. How could a drunk have written so many great books? Like Steinbeck and Hemmingway and so many other great writers*, when he was in his prime he was able to connect with readers on an emotional level better than others. When combined with his intellectual prowess during the Age of Enlightenment, his books had an appeal like few others have ever had.
Woodward argues that Paine couldn’t have been a drunkard since contemporaries failed to mention Paine’s drinking habits, and heavy drinking, if it existed, would have caused all manner of ailments that did not afflict Paine. Many contemporaries may not have witnessed the drinking and he may have inherited a particularly sturdy constitution from his father, who lived to nearly 80. The fact that no one of stature attended his funeral after having been a house guest of the President just a few short years before his death in 1809 speaks volumes. While one could attribute the hatred so many had for him to his publication of The Age of Reason, in which he advocated deism, the timing isn’t quite righthe published it in 1796 and was still obviously best friends with Thomas Jefferson and many others in the early 1800s. The best explanation for the absence of friends at his funeral, the lack of contemporaneous commentary on his drinking and his (for the time) long life is that Paine was a periodic: he went on benders after what may have been long periods of abstinence. During the benders he destroyed relationships, as alcoholics so often do.
His struggle with alcoholism doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the life of Thomas Paine. He is the first to have proposed the name The United States of America. He published the first article in America on the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of slaves. In fact, if it were it not for his alcoholism we might not be celebrating the Fourth of July. As is true of so many great writers and others, egomania rooted in alcoholism probably explained both his prodigious public achievements, as well as his private failures.
* Examples of other great alcoholic writers are provided in the winter 2008 edition of Wealth Creation Strategies headline piece, “How do Alcoholics Get Away with Financially Abusing Others.” These were: Edgar Alan Poe, Stephen King, Ernest Hemmingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, James Thurber, Jack London, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and O. Henry.
Wait for this guy? Huh?
My daughter, 21, never really had a boyfriend before she graduated from college. Suddenly, she moved out of our home (we’ve always been close) and into the house of a 45-year-old man whom she met playing on a sports team he coaches. When we asked to meet him, she said he would decide when. That was six months ago.
Although I attended several games, he not only hasn’t said a word to me but also never even looked at meeven though he knows full-well who I am. My daughter says he is nice, but she admitted he let her sit for three hours after a job interview he drove her to because he had to rotate the wheels on his truck. He said he’d co-sign for a car loan for her, but hasn’t so far. As close as we were, she hardly talks to me now and doesn’t visit from her boyfriend’s home, 40 minutes away, because he won’t drive her here. Should I just wait and let her be disappointed when it doesn’t work out?
. . . .
Dear Codependent of Codependent,
Other columnists might suggest that you do everything to stay on good terms with your daughter and maintain contact by offering to help her find employment and helping her with transportation by offering to co-sign on a car loan.
Huh? This guy is the ultimate control freak. He refuses to meet you, except when he decides. He let’s your daughter sit and wait for hours (you think that’s the only time?). He’ll decide if and when she drives. He’s potentially lethal.
You should do one thing: run a background check on him. That will likely confirm abuse in his past, alcoholism in his past and present and the possibility of a codependent spiral for your daughter. If this proves to be true, you need to do everything in your power to set up an intervention on your daughter, which will be designed by a qualified chemical dependency counselor with an open mind (they usually only lure addicts into recovery) with the goal of breaking the chains this man has your daughter tied to.
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy by Amy Dickinson, May 28, 2008.)
“Be cautious of dealing with people driving cars with bumper stickers.”
So concluded a recent paper by Colorado State University social psychologist William Szlemko and his colleagues, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. The “surprising” results of the study on which the paper is based found that drivers of cars with “territorial markers” including bumper stickers, decals and personalized license plates were far more likely than others to express anger or rage by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior. The message of the stickerpeaceful and loving or angry or politicalwas irrelevant.
The researchers found that people who have no such markers on their cars get angry, too, but are less likely to act out on their anger. They may fume, but more often they keep it to themselves and move on. Szlemko also found that “the more markers a car has, the more aggressively the person tends to drive when provoked.” A co-author, Paul Bell, explained, “Territoriality is hard-wired into our ancestors from tens of thousands of years ago…because it had survival value.”
Territoriality, then, is a product of the primitive brain and is likely to increase as the lower brain centers take greater control over behaviors. This is far more likely to occur where the neo-cortex is damaged, as in the case of alcoholism. As pointed out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages (p. 19), “This may explain the tendency [of alcoholics] to act without considering consequences, along with the manifestation of other uncivilized behaviors.”
Another territorial marker is the tattoo. Before they became de rigueur, even a single modest one was probably an excellent clue to addiction. While this is no longer true, those with numerous body markings are probably far more likely to be addicts than others. Felons, 80-90% of whom are addicts, frequently have many tattoosand anecdotally the more they have, the more likely they are addicts whose aggressive behaviors resulted in crimes for which they were imprisoned.
Consider a decal or tattoo as an ego-inflating device. The person with such a marker has a need to push his or her opinionsor machismo, or femininity, or whateveron others. However, as with any clue we need to be careful. While U.S. smokers are more likely to be alcoholics than non-smokers, more than half are not. And a mea culpa: I used to place bumper stickers with a libertarian message on my cars, and still have my “Prevent TragedyReport Drunk Drivers” sticker on our older car. (After an apparent angry drunk left me a very threatening note in a restaurant parking lot, I opted not to put the sticker on our new cars.) But then, I’m an INTJ, a personality type that seems to gravitate towards “sharing” our opinions with others, as well as a child of an alcoholic. Ha!
Still, vehicle and body markers comprise yet another clue that we can put in our arsenal of tricks to help protect us from the capriciously erratic behaviors of the alcoholic. So the headline should read, “Be cautious of dealing with people with territorial markers such as bumper stickers and decals on their vehicles, or tattoos on their persons, since such markers increase the odds of alcoholism and, therefore, threatening behaviors.”
Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
"UNSATISFIED: An unnamed 24-year-old man told his 28-year-old wife that they had ‘three hours’ to quit smoking, drinking, swearing and committing certain types of sex acts because ‘they were going to be good Christians now,’ the Silverdale, Wash., woman told sheriff's deputies. With that three-hour ultimatum, the woman started screaming at her husband, which prompted neighbors to call in law enforcement. Deputies said the woman, who was holding a half-gallon of whiskey, then had a ‘meltdown.’ Her agonized screams over her husband's denial of sex were ‘blood-curdling,’ they said, and she ‘repeatedly, without sparing a vulgar euphemism, told the deputies about how unsatisfied she was with her sex life.’ She was taken to jail after assaulting a deputy. (Kitsap Sun) ...Maybe ‘unsatisfied’ is the wrong word. Shall we try ‘unsatisfiable’?”
Giving one’s self “three hours” to quit drinking (before which they will be not be able to quit smoking, swearing and committing “certain types of sex acts”) isn’t one of the ways to get sober. The point at which to stop, one day at a time, is when the blood alcohol is zeronot when it’s up to .38 (or whatever). That is when the addict is truly “unsatisfiable” in every feasible waynot enough sex, drinking, money, partying and spending.
Randy includes only the information he needs for the tagline to make sense and add a touch of humor to reports of difficult situations. The rest of this story is far worse than what he disclosed.
The couple’s two children, ages 3 and 4, witnessed the entire scene. During the argument with the deputies, the woman picked up her 20-pound dog and threw it at them. Bear in mind, the children are watching. Oh, and the time is 2:40 a.m. Despite the tantrum, the obviously high blood alcohol level, the animal abuse and potential danger to the children, the deputiesapparentlyconvinced the couple to simply separate for the night, incredibly booking neither of them. Near as I can tell from the report, she left, returned and took her husband’s military identification card and keys. Only later was she arrested. The implication is she was allowed to drive and he is in the military, which may account for the good ol’ boy response to behaviors that could easily have turned the scene into a bloodbath.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2008 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)
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