|January 2009 / Issue No. 45
"Your books have opened my eyes.
You have explained what was otherwise incomprehensible.
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!
We attempt to post each report to the blog within a day of its arrival in your mailbox. Although we have posted little else, depending on time constraints and other factors, I may begin posting a weekly “Dear Doug” column. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
By the way, call us (800-482-9424) for deals on books you won’t be able to refuse. (They are also available, of course, at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com.) They make a terrific gift to teens and anyone thinking about becoming professionally or romantically involved with someone else! (…including other drivers, landlords, tenants, employers, employees, neighbors…)
Order Books Here
Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich: His God-Complex Indicates Alcoholism
In the latest of a series of scandals emanating from the Illinois governor’s mansion, Rod R. Blagojevich, 51, and his chief of staff John Harris, 46, have been charged with, among other extraordinary acts, solicitation of bribery in connection with an attempt to sell the Senate seat recently vacated by President-elect Obama.
In How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages I describe several key early-stage generic clues to alcoholism, including a “Supreme Being” complex and sense of invincibility rooted in egomania. Here are a few of the specific egomaniacal power-seeking symptoms that may be relevant in explaining Gov. Blagojevich’s otherwise inexplicable behaviors:
1) Is employed in an occupation that allows one to wield power
2) is a great liar
3) wields power over others capriciously (or attempts to do so)
4) regularly uses obscenities
5) has a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude
6) behaves in an unnecessarily reckless fashion
7) engages in felonious behavior
8) uses twisted logic to win an argument, get one’s way or justify one’s actions
Let us view the Governor’s words and behaviors through the lens of these clues. Keep in mind that several indicators are required to suggest that alcoholism is the best explanation for the behaviors, and without absolute proof of addictive use the odds must be capped at 80%. We’ll begin by stating the obvious: as a politician, clue number 1 is satisfied.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, ran in 2003 on an anti-corruption platform for the spot vacated by former Republican Governor George Ryan, now serving a six-year prison sentence for racketeering and fraud charges, the sordid story of which is recounted in the “runners-up” section of the May 2006 Thorburn Addiction Report at http://www.preventragedy.com/pages/TAR/020.may06.html. If the accusations against Blagojevich prove true, the fact that he got elected under the pretense of being eager to clean up Ryan’s mess satisfies clue number 2: he had to be a great and prolific liar to win the election.
While Blagojevich has reportedly been under investigation by the FBI ever since the 2003 election, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said that federal investigators only recently began bugging his campaign offices and home phone. When he announced the charges, Fitzgerald called the two-term governor’s actions “the most staggering crime spree in office I have ever seen” and said he is guilty of “appalling conduct” that “has taken us to a truly new low.” Special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, Robert Grant, said colleagues are “disgusted and revolted” by the case. According to the 76-page FBI affidavit, Blagojevich:
- Conspired to sell or trade the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama for the personal benefit of himself and his wife Patti. Fitzgerald alleges he wanted “tangible and up front” cash in return for appointing Obama’s successor. If true, this qualifies Blagojevich under clues 3, 5 and 7capricious use of power, a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude and the commission of one or more felonies.
- Said, “I want to make money,” adding that if he was not going to get anything of value for the seat, he would appoint himself as Senator. This provides more corroboration for clue 3.
- Also said, the seat “is a f------ valuable thing; you just don’t give it away for nothing;” “…It’s a f------ golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f------ nothing….And I can always use it.” Clue number 4, the propitious use of foul language, is satisfied in spades.
- Called for the Chicago Tribune, whose editorial writers often criticized Blagojevich, to dump them, saying: “Our recommendation is to fire all those f------ people, get ‘em the f--- out of there and get us some editorial support.” This provides more evidence for clues 3 and 4, which require attempts at wielding power capriciously and the use of gutter language.
- Said that Obama wanted an unnamed candidate for the seat, but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F--- them,” adding to behavioral clues 3, 4 and 5.
Blagojevich committed brazen acts while knowing he was being watched. Such behavior is exceedingly reckless, satisfying clue 6. After his arrest, he attempted to explain the words he was quoted as using in the FBI affidavit as not meaning what we mere mortals would think they would mean, satisfying clue 8, the use of twisted logic in an attempt to justify one’s misbehaviors.
As Fitzgerald put it, “The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.” The degree of hubris and delusions of grandeur, which are also behavioral and attitudinal clues to alcoholism, are also stunning. The government alleges in the affidavit that he was considering appointing himself to the Senate, hoping to avoid impeachment, rebuild his career, polish his image and make contacts that might pay off after leaving office. He figured he could rehabilitate his reputation and build his power base in a bid for a 2016 presidential run. He believed this was possible despite talk of impeachment and an approval rating that had already plummeted to 13% in the weeks leading up to his arrest.
Incredibly, he is also accused of attempting to bribe the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, demanding $50,000 in exchange for about $8 million in state funding. He threatened, in a style worthy of Venezuela’s de facto (and I believe psychotropic-drug addicted) dictator Hugo Chavez, to stall the sale of Tribune-owned Wrigley Field if the Chicago Tribune newspaper failed to fire editors who had been critical of the governor. He expressed frustration at being “stuck” in his $177,000 per year job as governor, complaining he is financially “hurting” and needs to consider his family. Financial disarray and lack of savings in high income earners is an excellent clue to alcoholism, as described in numerous stories throughout Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse. This is especially significant considering his real estate broker wife’s annual income, largely because of her connections, was as much as several hundred thousand dollars in recent years.
As discussed in the Top Story on Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo in the July 2007 TAR, journalists and historians generally don’t understand alcoholism or its relevance and, therefore, rarely report heavy drinking in their subjects. In the May 2006 TAR, a compelling case was made for alcoholism in Governor Ryan, and there’s no question about the diagnosis in another Illinois cellmate alumnus, former Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski. In the case of Governor Blagojevich, the behavioral indications are overwhelming. However, to up the odds to 100% (and, therefore, explainbut not excusehis behaviors), proof of heavy drinking or use is required. While such proof is elusive, Blagojevich exhibits a physical clue that is rare among non-alcoholics, which author James Graham in The Secret History of Alcoholism refers to as the “chipmunk” look. Graham explains: “Heavy drinking can cause enlargement of the salivary glands, leading to swelling in the cheek area which gives the drinker a facial appearance suggestive of a chipmunk.” He points out that the late alcoholic Senator John Tower had this symptom, as did W. C. Fields. So does, in my opinion, Rod R. Blagojevich, which suggests that his behaviors are rooted inand best explained byalcoholism.
|Runners-up for top story of the month:
The Mumbai, India terrorists, who battled Indian commandos for 60 hours, relied on cocaine and “other stimulants” to stay awake. Drug paraphernalia was recovered from the sites of the attacks, in which almost 200 people were murdered. Officials said, “We found [syringes] containing traces of cocaine and LSD left behind by the terrorists and later found drugs in their blood.” They added there was also evidence of steroids, “which isn’t uncommon in terrorists.” I have suggested elsewhere that terrorism is rooted in alcohol and other-drug addiction, including in an article written shortly after the September 11 attacks available at www.preventragedy.com under “articles and interviews,” as well as the TAR August 2005 Top Story “Tantalizing Clues to Suicide Bombers”.
American heiress Sunny von Bulow, made famous in the Jeremy Irons/Glenn Close film, “Reversal of Fortune,” dead at age 76, after having been in a coma for nearly 28 years. Her second husband, Claus von Bulow, was convicted and later acquitted, in an appeal guided by Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz, of trying to kill her with injections of insulin. Although the prosecutions were the result of an investigation initiated by the two children from Sunny’s first marriage to Austrian playboy Prince Alfred von Auersperg, which pitted them against their stepfather Claus and their half-sister, all three children said in a statement that they “were blessed to have an extraordinary loving and caring mother.” I generally don’t use the term “denial,” but in light of her behaviors detailed in this month’s “Review” and Dershowitz’ comment while planning the defense, perhaps it’s a fitting term for the children.
O.J. Simpson, 61, who is so far the only person to have earned Top Story honors in TAR twice (December 2006 and October 2007), finally, as Fred Goldman put it, “in shackles like he belongs.” Simpson got 33 years, with eligibility for parole after nine, for planning and executing an illegal attempt to retrieve sports memorabilia and other mementos in a Las Vegas hotel room in September 2007. Goldman, whose son Ronald was murdered along with O.J.’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson in 1994, relentlessly pursued O.J.’s assets in an attempt to satisfy a $33.5 million wrongful death judgment. This may have, as Goldman put it, “pushed him over the edge,” leading him to commit the robbery. Shortly after the trial, which occurred around the same time I was learning about alcoholism first-hand, I told friends, “If I am right about O.J.that he is an alcoholiche will make a mistake later that will land him behind bars.” Ironically, if he’d gotten sober, the latest incident would have been exceedingly unlikely to have occurred, in which case he might never have gotten his comeuppance.
Henry T. Nicholas lll, accused by his former wife, Stacey Nicholas, of squandering $60 million of their fortune on “personal indulgences,” which forms part of a demand that he be removed as co-trustee of their family trust for gross mismanagement. The “indulgences” include a $3.1 million limousine bill (can you imagine the bar in that limousine?) and $1 million spent on detectives to tail her, their three children and her boyfriend as far as Europe. In a court petition, she also claimed that her former husband repeatedly threatened her physically. Nicholas, whose bizarre story is briefly mentioned in the runners-up section of the July 2008 TAR is under indictment for backdating stock option awards and buying and distributing cocaine, ecstasy and other controlled substances. He is alleged to have maintained homes and a warehouse for “using and distributing” cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine, and to have secretly slipped drugs into the drinks of business associates in a bid to gain competitive advantage. Nicholas also constructed a series of tunnels and underground rooms at his estate, designed to allow him to indulge in what the indictment terms his “manic obsession with prostitutes.” The trial should be among the most entertaining ever.
I have long maintained that if 80% of felons are alcohol and other-drug addicts, a similar percentage of those who commit white-collar crimeincluding those who perpetrate Ponzi and other con artist-type schemesare also addicts. Charles Ponzi was an alcoholic. The behaviors suggest that those listed below are as well (and if not, they are likely children of particularly emotionally abusive ones).
Unfortunately, the number of celebrities outed as alcohol or other-drug addicts are inversely proportionate to the number of attorneys, businessmen and politicians who are not. Occasionally we run across a non-professional con artist, in whom we are more likely to have a chance at confirming addiction. We might argue there should be no difference in the incidence of addiction among cons of various stripes. Alex Molina, the then 21-year-old who claimed to be homeless on Oprah Winfrey’s “Wildest Dreams” show in 2004, moved Oprah to spend tens of thousands of dollars to help her turn her life around. But when Alex claimed to have been sleeping on park benches and washing in Wal-Mart restrooms, she was actually, according to her aunt Magda Marroquin, “living in my apartment…[She] begged me not to say anything to ruin her chance of a new life with Oprah.” It sounds like a young lady worthy of compassion, until we learn from Marroquin that “she’s not the sweet kid you see on TV….She beat me up in front of my own children….She’d sleep all day and party all night.” Oprah paid $40,000 for a 30-day stint in rehab, which, if Aunt Magda is to be believed, confirms that Molina was both a con artist and an addict.
A study by the National Association of Securities Dealers found that people with financial education and higher incomes are more likely to fall for investment scams because of the sense they are too smart to be conned and that we are wired to make so many critical decisionsincluding those involving moneyemotionally. Consider the fact that addicts in recovery admit to having been the world’s greatest con artists when using. Think of the likelihood that alcoholism drove those featured in the stories below to have a need to wield financial control over others, even if we lack definitive proof of addiction. It’s crucial to understand the impetus for criminal financial cons because, while much of what transpires during financial bubbles comes to light after such bubbles burst, there is a tendency for such schemes to continue as con-men seek prey, who are desperate to regain their lost fortunes.
Bernard Madoff, 70, who is behind what may have been the largest Ponzi scheme ever, arrested on charges of fraud and, by his own admission, bilking investors out of $50 billion. Madoff used his standing in the Jewish community and as former head of NASDAQ to commit what is referred to as “affinity fraud,” which requires a high level of trust among fellow members of a similar religion, club or other group. According to Donna Rosato in a November 2006 Money piece entitled “Hello, Sucker,” con artists infiltrate a social group and persuade new friends to enroll in the scheme. “Members of that inner circle become an unwitting sales network, spreading word to family and friends….Once people you trust have embraced a scheme, it runs against human nature not to be swept up in it….When we go along with peers, activity in a part of the brain that thinks analytically may decrease, presumably reducing our skepticism. And when we go against consensus, there’s a reaction in the part of the brain usually triggered by fear. So we’re afraid to go against the crowd.” As Ronald A. Cass wrote in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Madoff Exploited the Jews:” “Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information [on the promises made] is like demanding receipts from your auntit just doesn’t feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work.”
Madoff apparently took full advantage of this, the best explanation for which is alcoholism. As I wrote in the top story, “How do Alcoholics Get Away with Financially Abusing Others?” in the Winter 2007-2008 issue of Wealth Creation Strategies.
“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 and bilk the mark.”
I concluded that financial thuggery is perpetrated by people who are good at disconnecting their victims’ thinking from economic or other reality and getting them to buy and do things they would never ordinarily consider. Since alcoholics have the ability to connect at the emotional level better than most and feel the need to wield power over others, the great con-men are often alcoholics.
Barron’s asked Madoff in 2001 how he accomplished the high, steady returns he claimed to have earned his investors. “It’s a proprietary strategy. I can’t go into it in great detail.” Although his “proprietary strategy” has been employed by con-men for hundreds of years (Ponzi only made it famous), be suspicious of anyone claiming to have a “secret formula” that can’t be described, especially when it comes to investment acumen.
Numismatic stamp expert Greg Manning, 62, who Spanish prosecutors have asked U.S. authorities to indict in an alleged postage stamp investment fraud that rocked Spain two years ago. A “no loss” stamp investment program (“Invest with me! You can’t lose!”) that prosecutors allege was a Ponzi scheme resulted in catastrophic losses for Spanish retirees. Manning allegedly arranged the purchase of cheap stamps and prepared them for sale to clients of Afinsa Bienes Tangibles for more than $128 million, which prosecutors estimate was over 800 times Manning’s cost. Although we Americans don’t hear much about foreign Ponzi schemes, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The financial mania was a worldwide phenomenon, as is alcoholism.
Lawyer Marc Dreier, 58, hit with criminal charges over defrauding investors out of $380 million by selling phony investments. He surrendered to authorities in New York after returning from Canada, where he was charged with impersonation while attempting to fraudulently complete a business transaction. Separately, he allegedly attempted to secure funds from New York asset-management firm Fortress by impersonating another attorney. In civil actions, Wachovia Bank filed suit against Mr. Dreier and his firm, alleging that the firm defaulted on loans of about $12.7 million. The complaints allege that Dreier fabricated promissory notes by an unnamed New York real estate developer and sold them to hedge funds. He also fabricated supporting financial statements. Mr. Dreier is known for his “flashy” lifestyle, four “dazzling” homes on two coasts, an Aston Martin and a 123-foot yacht. We suspect he is also known for heavy drinking, but as is all-too-common in cases involving lawyers, politicians and CEOs, the journalists aren’t saying. The odds that he is just plain rotten, assuming he is guilty of the charges alleged, are only 20%. The likelihood that he is an otherwise decent human being, led astray by the particular effect of the chemical CH3CH2OH on his brain, is 80%. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest that alcoholism is the best explanation for someone respected as an incredibly capable lawyer who benefited from a “fantastic” education and worked “very, very hard.”
Esteban Armando Nunez, the 19-year-old son of former California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, arrested in connection with the stabbing death of a 22-year-old student after a night of drinking at a party near San Diego State University. He and his three cohorts (one of whom had a felony record and had been charged in two DUI cases), also charged in the death, identified themselves as members of The Hazard Crew, or THC, perhaps not coincidentally the abbreviation for the active chemical ingredient in marijuana. Nunez and one of the other men were reportedly heard bragging hours before the incident about how they learned to gang up on victims and take turns punching them. They were seen drinking beer and rum, talking in belligerent tones and displaying anger over being refused entry to a fraternity party. The four defendants did not know the victim, who was attacked with knives and died after a 30-second fight that ended with a single stab wound to the heart. Nunez is reported to have told his friends that if they were charged, his father could get them off on a self-defense argument. As often occurs in such cases, friends and family came to his defense, including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who said: “I’ve known him since he was a little boy. He’s a great kid, a good boy.” Yes, Mr. Mayor, near as we can tell, so long as he stays off the hooch and other drugs, just like almost every other addict.
Victim of the month:
Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, despite billing themselves as a place “where a kid can be a kid,” for becoming popular among disorderly adults. Several of the restaurants, under pressure from locals, have stopped serving alcoholwhich some city officials have “pinpointed as the main cause of the fighting.” Of course, we know it’s not the boozeit’s just a few of the people on the boozebut giving up the alcohol is probably a good idea. The non-alcoholics really won’t care, and the addicts, well, maybe they’ll abstain for an evening or take their kids elsewhere, so that Chuck E. Cheese will again become the safe environment for which it is known.
Enabler of the month:
Rolling Stone Magazine, which I favorably reviewed (“Review of the Month”) in last month’s issue, for failing to identify Britney Spears’ alcoholism even once in “Britney Returns,” in their December 11, 2008 issue. The article mentions the “erratic behavior that led to her losing custody” of her children, her seven tattoos, her two psychiatric hospitalizations in January 2008, her “personal ordeals,” and a statement by her parents, Jamie and Lynne, describing Britney as “an adult child in the throes of a mental-health crisis.” The only mention of alcohol or other-drug addiction in the entire piece is a reference to Lynne’s description in her recent memoir, Through the Storm, of Jamie’s alcoholism as leading to “knock-down, drag-out fights” during Britney’s childhood and his nights out drinking.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
Pinup queen Bettie Page, dead at 85. Page was famous for the some 20,000 photographs taken by amateur shutterbugs from 1949 to 1957 and for being one of the first centerfolds in a nascent Playboy Magazine (winking under a Santa Claus cap in the January 1955 issue). According to Page, her father, an auto mechanic, “molested all three of his daughters.” There are several clues in her life story suggestive of the idea that she inherited her father’s exceedingly likely alcoholism. First, at 37, she abruptly stopped posing and immersed herself in Bible studies, soon serving as a counselor for the Billy Graham Crusade. She was married and divorced three times and, after divorcing her third husband at age 58, plunged into a depression marked by violent mood swings and culminating in an attack against her landlady with a knife. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, she pled innocent by reason of insanity and was sentenced to 10 years in a California mental institution.
A system I proposed in Drunks, Drugs & Debits requires that we increase or decrease the odds of alcoholism based on observable behaviors. In the United States, the overall odds of alcoholism are about 10%. Since the odds in someone molesting his daughters are 80% and the likelihood of inheriting alcoholism is roughly 40%, we can instantly up the odds to, say, 30%. We can probably increase the odds by another 10-20% based on the fact that few non-addicted women pose in the nude for years before suddenly immersing themselves in religion. We don’t have statistics on thrice-divorced people, but the odds of alcoholism in someone divorced four times are about 85%. I figure before we even get to the depression, mood swings, attack and mental diagnosis, we can safely ascribe a 60-80% probability of alcoholism.
Alcoholism often mimics personality disorders and alcoholics are often misdiagnosed as having such disorders. One recovering alcoholic, whose story is recounted in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, was psychiatrist Martha Morrison, who was variously diagnosed with paranoia, schizophrenia, narcissism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis and catatonia. Another was actress Francis Farmer, who was tragically committed to an insane asylum and given a lobotomy before dying at age 57. She was diagnosed with mostly the same disorders, despite being drunk at work and experiencing repeated arrests for drunken brawls and drunk driving. To the best of my knowledge, none of the professionals treating either of these women diagnosed alcoholism.
When Page was released in 1992, she found that her early lack of inhibition had earned her cult-like status. Although we may never get absolute confirmation, the fact that Page acted in ways that were reckless given the era, as well as crazed, points to alcoholism as by far the best explanation for the seeming contradictions in her 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: “Reversal of Fortune”
“Reversal of Fortune” is billed as the true story of the appeal of Claus von Bulow’s conviction for murdering his rich, socialite wife, Sunny von Bulow. This is as accurate as saying that Al Pacino’s portrayal of Lt. Col. Frank Slade in “Scent of a Woman” was a story about a blind man. Just as “Scent” was a story about an addict (and the greatest portrayal ever of one on the big screen), so is “Reversal,” particularly if we understand that the events would likely never have occurred without Sunny’s addiction.
Many reviewers suggest that Sunny was selfish, yet vulnerable. More accurately, she was an addict and, therefore, selfish. Self-centeredness, along with a belief that one is above everyone and everything else, is a manifestation of addiction.
The movie portrays a codependent Claus (Jeremy Irons) and an addicted Sunny (Glenn Close), who either took or was given a dose of insulin that resulted in blood levels 14 times higher than normal, a level at which death often occurs but which instead put her in a coma for the rest of her life. Claus, accused of attempted murder, was represented by Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver), who wrote the book on which the movie was based.
Dershowitz, in planning the defense, said the “older children will deny that Sunny had a problem with drugs or alcohol.” Yet, drugs prescribed for Claus, including Valium, were frequently taken by Sunny. Author Truman Capote, a known addict, taught her how to inject drugs. Locals described Sunny “taking pills, getting drunk and falling down…smearing lipstick all over her face.” She was considered “lovely, until she drank.” Claus said, “Two drinks and she became nasty.” A comatose Sunny, narrating the film, admitted, “It’s true that I took up to 24 laxatives daily, popped aspirin like M and M’s, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, had a problem with alcohol, took Valium and Seconal frequently and consumed large quantities of sweets despite my medical condition.”
After about a dozen alcohol-laced eggnogs at Christmas (“she never touched alcohol except on social occasions to overcome her shyness”), Sunny asked for a Scotch and soda. Afterward, she and Claus argued over his work (“you need to work because of your ego”) as she continued to drink and pop pills. “Hasn’t my mother given us enough money?” she’d ask of Claus, who responded simply that he wanted a career. “You marry me for my money then demand to work…you are the prince of perversion. Are you trying to destroy our whole family?” At one point we see Sunny in a rage demanding, “Where are they? Did you take them?” “Certainly not,” Claus respondsthen quizzically, “Take what?” “My pills, you moron…Valium, Seconal…you took them, didn’t you?” to which Claus responded, “I’ve long since stopped interfering.” Complain…blame…accuse…belittle…twist realityall marks of an addict.
The codependent response to addiction can conceivably be murder, but there’s no way to know for sure. She may have simply overdosed as might have Marilyn Monroe; she might have been overdosed as Marilyn Monroe might have been. The movie leaves it to the viewer to decide. To those of us with an understanding of addiction, there’s little doubt that because we can never know for sure, an acquittal was the only appropriate outcome.
Will she “find her way back” because of a stable family life?
I am 19, have wonderful parents and a 15-year-old sister from hell. She disobeys, lies, sneaks out and is flunking classes. Oh, and she does drugs.
My parents have tried grounding her to no avail. Even though they stopped giving her money out of fear she will buy drugs, she manages to procure them from her friends. After having been called by police to pick her up after being caught in a church parking lot drinking, my parents seem to be giving up. They have not punished her. No one in my family of seven seems to know what to do now that a million little punishments have failed.
. . . . .
Other columnists might tell you it’s hard to get through to someone who seems determined to rebel and mess up her life. They would suggest that her apparent stable family life will help her find her way back. They might suggest finding help and support by contacting Because I Love You at www.bily.org.
While it is important to maintain a stable family life in the face of your sister’s behaviors, such stability will no more help her “find her way back” than it prevented her from engaging in those behaviors in the first place. She is an addict. Possessing the biochemistry necessary for addiction makes stability, stature, intelligence, money and upbringing irrelevant to her recovery. If you think she’s too young to be an addict, consider actress Drew Barrymore who admits she drank addictively at the ripe age of eight. The last suggestion, however, is excellent (I will be speaking at the Northridge “Because I Love You” group on January 27, 2009). They might even suggest, as I would, that your sister needs a full-on intervention and 90-day (minimum) program at a residential rehabilitation facility such as www.teenchallenge.com.
(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, November 29, 2008.)
“Do you really think that a prominent local member of the communityhimself in the medical professiondeliberately tried to cause harm to these cyclists?”
So asked a blogger, “Elishane,” on August 1, 2008 on Steve Hymon’s Los Angeles Times “Bottleneck Blog” in regards to Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson, 59, pleading not guilty to charges that he intentionally slammed on his brakes, causing two cyclists to crash into his car on Mandeville Canyon Road in Brentwood, California on July 4. Thompson admitted he stopped his red Infiniti, already reportedly well-known to cyclists in the area as one to watch out for, in front of the cyclists to “teach them a lesson.” He faces felony counts for the July 4 incident and another misdemeanor count in a similar incident in March. The July incident resulted in one cyclist being flung through the rear window and the other to the pavement, resulting in serious injuries to both.
In Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence, I drew an analogy between road rage, for which the link between alcohol/other drugs and problems have not been closely studied, and disruptive airline passengers, for which a link was quantified in a NASA study. Roughly 43% of airline passengers whose disruptive behaviors led to pilot errors had been consuming alcohol “excessively.” Another 8% were on prescription drugs, 9% were smoking in lavatories, 15% were fighting over the use of prohibited electronic devices and 5% were bomb or hijack threats. Since there was, as I have shown there and elsewhere, a high likelihood that virtually all of these potentially destructive incidents involved an addict (intoxicated at the time or not), at least 80% of such events are likely precipitated by addicts. Why would road rage be any different from its in-the-sky equivalent?
Several of the responders on the blog wrote that Thompson deliberately tried to harm cyclists. However, no one suggested that the best explanation for such allegedly felonious behavior is alcoholism. The closest I came was finding one anonymous poster who said, “I worked with Chris Thompson in the emergency room in Montebello, for about four years. He is extremely narcissistic, a rageholic.” Another said he didn’t “want to post this guy’s personal information etc. (It has been redacted from most websites).” As is all-too-normal in the case of non-celebrity professionals, this sort of knee-jerk need to redact makes it practically impossible to confirm alcoholism, where we really need to: in people who may affect our lives profoundly, rather than in those who simply entertain us.
“AND THEN, WHAT TO MY WONDERING EYES SHOULD APPEAR? A holiday gathering in Del Paso Heights, Calif., was interrupted when an apparently drunk neighbor crashed the party. As guests were milling around the front lawn, Donald Kercell, 49, allegedly pulled a knife and threatened the guests. When he allegedly started slashing people's clothing, a guest decided to fight back with the only weapon at hand: a 2-ft candy cane Christmas decoration from the lawn, which he used to beat Kercell down. After the intruder was subdued, police arrived and charged him with assault with a deadly weapon. Police ruled the candy man acted in self-defense and no charges are pending against him. (Sacramento Bee) ...Sure Kercell faces felony charges, but that's nothing compared to what Santa will do to him.”
Hopefully, Santa will withhold all gifts until he decides to try sobriety. In the meantime, the guest might offer him some real candy cane for his early recovery, when alcoholics suffer their greatest craving for sweets.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2008 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)
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'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
Buy your copy of Alcoholism Myths and Realities for only $14.95 or get the whole collection PLUS a two-hour audio cassette from Galt Publishing for just $49.95 plus tax and shipping. That's a $72.75 value for only $49.95.
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.
Click here o purchase any of the above Thorburn books
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