Issue #64 - June/July 2011
Doug recently spoke before a group of tax professionals on “Alcoholism, Your Tax Clients and Tax Fraud.” He also recently spoke before a group of libertarians on alcoholism and power-seeking misbehaviors. Both talks pack a punch and are enhanced by PowerPoint presentations. Over the years, Doug has also given a number of talks before chemical dependency couselors. We welcome inquiries regarding speaking engagements for your groups.
Readers are also invited to check out the latest client letter at www.DougThorburn.com, where you will find a revolutionary view of Roth conversions and when to begin collecting Social Security. Doug has clients all over the country, so please don’t hesitate to inquire about his tax and financial services.
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story of the month along with runners up, persons under watch, enablers, disenablers and more
2. Review or Public Policy Recommendation 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!
Addiction Report Archives here
© 2011 by Doug Thorburn
The blog is open to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
An alcoholic, a child of an alcoholic, and a fool: Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Anthony Weiner
Although alcoholism explains most misbehaviors, it doesn’t explain them all. The more severe and the greater number of misbehaviors, the higher the likelihood alcoholism is involved directly or indirectly; the fewer and less severe the misbehaviors, the lower the likelihood. Three recent cases involving politicians may offer some evidence that the degree of vileness of misbehaviors, including sexual ones, depends at least in part on whether the connection to alcoholism is direct, indirect or non-existent.
Early in my research when I learned that about half of compulsive gamblers are alcoholics, I hypothesized the same is probably true of the sexually compulsive. As I wrote in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages, there is hardly a more effective non-violent way to wield power over others than via sexual exploitation. Therefore, it makes sense that more addicts than non-addicts engage in serial adultery and Don Juanism; the testimony of recovering addicts supports this theme. As the number of conquests increases, so too does the likelihood of alcoholism.
Along the same lines, I have found that as sexually-oriented behaviors worsen, the more likely an addict is involved. Rape is the most heinous act of a sexual nature and, as is true of other felonious behaviors, the odds of its commission by a non-addict are near-zero. Hence, assuming the veracity of the accusations by a New York maid, alcoholism is the best explanation for her attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and the person who was likely to have become the next president of France. In addition, I believe the odds of alcoholism increase when behaviors worsen over time, which they have apparently done. In a letter to a law firm, Piroska Nagy, an IMF staff economist whom Strauss-Kahn pursued until she agreed to an affair in 2008, wrote “Despite my long professional life, I was unprepared for the advances of the managing director of the IMF…[and] I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.” She added that Strauss-Kahn was “a man with a problem that may make him ill-equipped to lead an institution where women work under his command.” In the meantime, the media treated him like a hero for giving vast sums of other people’s (read: taxpayers’) money to bankrupt and corrupt countries like Greece, which is another efficient way by which to wield power capriciously, the near-exclusive domain of alcoholics.
I also hypothesized that many if not most of the non-addicted half of compulsive gamblers and the sexually compulsive comprise children of alcoholics, who compensate in their own ways for psychological, emotional and intellectual abandonment by an alcoholic parent. The compensation can take productive form, as in overachievement, but also destructive form, as in groping, adultery and the use of prostitutes for sex, but which in the aggregate are not as awful as those committed by alcoholics. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is seemingly not alcoholic, was raised by one. In a June 2003 interview he said that his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, “smacked us around. In general, the drinking and physical abuse were high.” According to Wendy Leigh of London’s Daily Mail, Arnold’s mother was “terrorized by his father, an alcoholic,” which could explain Arnold’s apparent contemptuous, crude and sadistic attitude towards women, as well as fathering a child with his maid, Mildred Patricia Baena, right under the nose (and, according to reports, in the bed) of his wife, Maria Shriver. “Those who knew [his dad] say he routinely drank two litres of wine in an evening. 'Very often he drank so much that he didn't know where he was,' recalled a colleague. Arnold, his mother, and elder brother, Meinhard Schwarzenegger, were the victims of Gustav's drink-induced rage.” (Meinhard inherited their father’s alcoholism and died from injuries sustained in a wreck while driving under the influence in 1971, a year before Gustav’s death.) Leigh’s accounts of Schwarzenegger’s transgressions are so disgusting it’s difficult to distinguish Arnold's misbehaviors from those of an alcoholic. However, as far as we know, he’s never committed rape.
There are some for whom alcoholism, direct or indirect, may not explain atrocious behaviors. It’s apparent that Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) is a non-addict and I can find nothing to suggest a parent is an addict (although it wouldn’t be shocking). To have sent explicit photos of himself, some lewd, to at least half a dozen women via Twitter, is unusual. To do so after having married Hillary Clinton’s bodyguard, Huma Abedin, less than a year before, is appalling. To do this when subject to blackmail as a United States Congressman is frightening. That this surfaced at the same time his wife announced she is pregnant with their first child is horribly sad. To do all of this while stone-cold sober is extraordinary. However unlikely, it can happen. Substance addiction only explains about 80% of humanity’s ills, woes and dysfunctions. We can only shake our heads at the other 20%, dumbfounded.
Most addicts, once clean and sober, commit few if any immoral or felonious behaviors. Children of alcoholics, when properly treated for severe codependency learn that the alcoholic parent acted horribly because of damage to the human part of the brain, the neo-cortex. This awareness makes it easier to overcome character defects and adopt healthier ways. Those who are neither addicts nor children of addicts would seem to me to be much more difficult to treat. With alcoholism and codependency, at least we know where to begin. With neither, I have no idea. It almost makes one long for alcoholism.
Runner-up for top story of the month:
Amy Winehouse, once again proving that alcoholics don’t go into rehab willingly: in her latest travels to rehab, a “friend” reported that Amy downed a small bottle of Smirnoff enroute. Nor did it “take,” as she checked herself out within the week, went back on tour and was booed and jeered off stage in Belgrade after she stumbled onto the stage an hour late and mumbled through her songs. Part of her tour has been cancelled; we can only hope for her sake the rest of it will be cancelled as well and she heads back to rehab and stays longer.
In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine suggests there may be some truth in something those who have read my books would predict: “Many [Club Fed and other white collar] prisoners suddenly discover, post-conviction, that they had a drinking problem….” I would add that those who don’t figure this out might benefit from greater introspection. In the spirit of The Economist’s discovery, a couple of recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the behavior itself.
MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz, who took a week-long unpaid leave of absence after calling a talk show host on the other side of the political spectrum, Laura Ingraham, a slut. While he apologized for his slur, this is not the first time Schultz has exhibited behavioral indications of alcoholism. In 2010, he had what was reported as a “meltdown” in the network’s newsroom, shouting at staff, “I’m going to torch this [bleep]ing place,” apparently furious over the network for running election-night promos that didn’t include him. One MSNBC staffer commented, “It was like Mel Gibson had entered the newsroom.” When he was told by the NBC and MSNBC brass that if he did anything like it again he’d be fired, he reportedly broke down and cried. As detailed in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, extreme nastiness, verbal outbursts, an “it’s all about me” attitude, others drawing parallels to known alcoholics and hyperbolic emotional states are each in themselves terrific indicators of hidden alcoholism. Cumulatively, they are compelling.
Actor Doug Hutchison, 51, marrying aspiring country singer Courtney Alexis Stodden, 16. I’ve observed over the years that the wider the age differences in spouses, the greater the likelihood of addiction in one or both. Anything much over 15 years should get our attention; a difference of 35 years, except for Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith marrying J. Howard Marshall (who was 62 years her senior), is about as wide a difference as we ever see. Why would this be a clue to alcoholism? The older spouse, usually the man, gets to say “Look at the young hot babe I snatched!” and the younger one, generally the woman, says “Look at the successful, powerful, wealthy older man I landed!” Both are ego-inflating, which is the reason we can’t pinpoint one or the other as the addict but must look at both. In this case we should also look at the parents of the 16-year-old, since one of them had to approve of the marriage. I personally know of at least two non-addicted couples with a nearly 30-year spread, but have seen numerous others with large age differences involving alcoholism. (Hutchison played Percy Wetmore in “The Green Mile” and also appeared in “24” and “Lost.”)
Enablers of the month:
56% of the constituents of Anthony Weiner’s 9th New York Congressional District, who said they would have re-elected him despite what at the time seemed pretty good evidence that he sent sexually explicit messages and photos to at least six women who were not his wife and putting himself into a position in which he could easily be blackmailed and, therefore, corrupted. My hunch is after his resignation, a large plurality if not majority still would vote for his re-election. Consider the former mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry, who was elected to a fourth term after being convicted of cocaine possession (and there’s much more on Barry at Wikipedia, which is a classic case of a highly successful poly-drug addict gaming the political system).
Many French citizens, who claim the accusation of attempted rape of a hotel maid by International Monetary Fund head and would-be French president Dominique Strauss-Kahn is none of the public’s business. He’s a public official; therefore, his private life is the public’s business insofar as he engages in criminal activity, is accused of doing so, or does anything for which he could potentially be blackmailed.
Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman, who posted $11,000 bail for actor Nicolas Cage after a “heavily intoxicated” Cage was arrested in the French Quarter in New Orleans (where you have to engage in some pretty outlandish behaviors to get arrested). Cage and his wife were arguing over where their rental home was located (imagine that!). After pulling her by the arm and striking a number of vehicles (apparently with his fist), Cage was arrested on charges of domestic battery, disturbing the peace and public drunkenness. Chapman claimed he rescued Cage because he is a huge fan. Duane, you idiot. As a recovering addict you should know that if you want to help him you need to stop “helping.”
Quotes of the month:
“Inside Trader At Nasdaq Had Drug-Abuse Record”—Headline of a June 10, 2011 story in The Wall Street Journal on Donald Johnson, who pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of insider trading, raking in $750,000 in illegal gains while working at Nasdaq’s market intelligence desk. No surprise to those who know that where misbehaviors of either the blue or white collar variety are evident, alcohol or other-drug addiction will usually be found, Mr. Johnson was discharged from the U.S. Army Reserves in 1986 for stealing narcotics and using them while stationed in an Army hospital. Within a year, at a private hospital, he faked medical records 73 times in less than a month to get drugs for his own use and subsequently had his nursing license revoked.
In the same story in describing his illegal conduct, Donald Johnson told people close to him, “There was ‘no good reason’ for the illegal trades;” after all, his job paid $300,000 per year. There may be no good reason, but the explanation that he relapsed and he was doing what addicts do—inflating his ego by flouting rules as if he were invincible and seeing what he could get away with—will suffice.
“The teen says he’s sorry for what happened. He told a judge he was under the influence of alcohol and doesn’t remember much of it.” So explained a 17-year-old Ohio teen after leading authorities on a 50-mile three-county chase in a stolen dump truck, during which he struck numerous other vehicles, including police cars. While many may not believe him, the addiction-aware know better: he may well have been in a blackout, during which time events don’t enter the memory banks, leaving nothing to remember. By pure dumb luck, there were no deaths to not remember.
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, where possible, proactively intervene.
Movies and docudramas are often based on real-life alcoholics and their antics or tragic outcomes
Television and movies are often based on real-life stories. If we didn’t know the background, we’d often smirk and mutter “yeah, right, like this could really happen.” Yet crazy stuff does happen, frequently due to alcoholism-fueled egomania. Truth is often stranger than fiction only because alcoholism is so pervasive and alcoholics have an impact way out of proportion to their numbers. In that vein, here are several movie ideas we expect to see sooner or later based on "believe it or not" events happening now.
The Barefoot Bandit
Culminating in a guilty plea, no doubt heading to theaters soon is the story of Colton Harris-Moore, aka the “Barefoot Bandit,” who left a trail of stolen planes, boats and cars in several states and countries as he evaded authorities for more than two years while a teenager. Incredibly, he flew across the country without a pilot’s license, maneuvered a stolen boat from his native Washington across the Canadian maritime border and made off with numerous pickups and SUVs stolen from garages, airports and driveways. Before the series of chases, he was already breaking into neighbors’ homes, sheds and convenience stores, stealing hot dogs and Gatorade before slipping into various backwoods hideouts. As mentioned in “enabler of the month” in the November-December 2009 issue of TAR, criminal though he is he may not be the addict. More likely it’s his mother, Pam Kohler, who was “proud” of her son’s “achievements.” In the meantime, Colton apologized to his victims when he was sentenced to six years in prison. If Leonardo DiCaprio plays Colton, we expect the movie to deserve a five star rating.
The Would-Be Financial Guru
A TV-news magazine could serialize the extraordinary story of former New York Mets star and “Mad Money” Jim Cramer’s would-be stock-picking protégé Lenny Dykstra, who has graced these pages as one of those “under watch” in the February 2006 issue and “runner-up” for Top Story in the August-September 2009 and April-May 2011 issue. First, a 1991 DUI almost derailed his baseball career. Later, he created a post-MLB career business empire worth over $50 million that imploded within the span of two years. During this time he purchased hockey great Wayne Gretsky's Thousand Oaks, California mansion at the peak of the real estate bubble for $18.5 million, the foreclosure of which quickly followed. Dykstra has now been charged with nearly two dozen felony counts relating to a scheme in which he tried to get loans to buy high-end luxury cars using a phony business and stolen identity. With the help of his accountant Robert Hymers, 27 and friend Christopher Gavanis, 30, Dykstra faked pay stubs and income information for the imaginary company, all via the magic of laser printing. Oh, and he was also charged with possession of cocaine and Ecstasy. To think that only last month he was charged with embezzling property from his bankruptcy estate. There’s got to be a movie in there, somewhere, but since we don’t know the ending a TV news magazine will have to do for now. Will Ferrell might give a four star performance playing Dykstra in the eventual movie.
The Anthrax Killer
David Willman has just published The Mirage Man, about Army scientist and anthrax killer Bruce Ivins. Ivins’ true story can be found in the Top Story and the several entrees under “enablers of the month” of the August 2008 issue of TAR, which is one of the greatest stories of up-to-then undiagnosed (yet to us obvious) alcoholism ever told in these pages. Unfortunately, Willman doesn’t mention the underlying addiction in his The Los Angeles Times story on Ivins, printed a week before publication of the book (the article relates some details of his obsessions and “bizarre vendettas,” but incredibly nothing about their root cause—alcoholism). Still, the story will make a great movie some day, but immeasurably better if Ivins’ alcoholism is accurately portrayed. If Chris Cooper ("Breach", "American Beauty") plays Ivins, the eventual movie will probably deserve at least four stars.
Tot Mom: Party While Your Toddler is Missing (oh, and Dead)
The story of Casey Anthony has already permeated the news magazines, relegating it in the future to a made-for-TV movie (probably, several of them). Still, the story is fascinating from the point of view of not just its grotesque attributes, but also the lengths to which an addict will go to inflate his or her ego and the sense of invincibility an addict may feel. Casey Anthony’s daughter Caylee was reported missing on July 15, 2008 a month after her disappearance, not by Casey who had reportedly spent the month partying, but by Casey’s mother. During the preceding month, whenever the grandparents asked about Caylee, Casey told them she was too busy for a visit or that Caylee was with a nanny at theme parks, or at the beach.
In fact, she appears to have been in the trunk of Casey’s car for much if not most of that month (but we’ll let the jury decide).
Casey was arrested on July 16 and charged with giving false statements, child neglect and obstruction. She was released on August 21 on bail but incredibly, while being watched closely (and obviously suspected of harming her daughter) her sense of invincibility was so great during this time she apparently forged checks and used a friend’s credit cards without her permission and was re-arrested on August 29. That same sense of invincibility and “nothing is my fault-ever!” attitude apparently took over, as on September 2 she was offered limited immunity on charges of her daughter’s disappearance and didn’t take it. She was quickly released and re-arrested on September 15 on yet new charges of theft, and again released.
Casey Anthony was finally arrested on charges of first-degree murder on October 14, 2008 and has spent the time since in prison awaiting trial. As I wrote in the November-December 2008 TAR, “The story of Casey Anthony’s hard partying after her child’s disappearance is likely a tragic example of the truism that there is no way to predict how seemingly bizarre the behaviors of a practicing addict will become, or when.” It’s also an example of trailblazing as a result of addiction, even if she’s only indirectly (and disgustingly) responsible: the trial is apparently breaking new ground regarding scientific evidence on human decomposition due to the likelihood of the toddler’s decomposing in the trunk of Casey’s car, where evidence of chloroform was found along with chemical compounds “consistent with a decompositional event.” While any future movie (or mini-series) will obviously not focus on such cutting edge science, perhaps some good will come of it if Casey Anthony is portrayed as the addict she is. It should easily get four or five stars if Lindsay Lohan plays Anthony.
Daughter from hell
I have been a good mother to my 40-year-old daughter. Despite this, about a year ago she accused her 42-year-old brother, with whom I am very close, of having molested her when they were children. She tried to turn me against him, perhaps out of jealousy. Since I do not believe there was any abuse, ever, I refused.
She has had many problems since her father died, including depression and the commission of many mistakes. She has turned her children against me because I won’t take her side. Now she trashes me to anyone who will listen and is trying to turn the rest of the family against me. When I tried to talk to her reasonably about a week ago, she tore me to shreds in front of her kids. What should I do?
Other columnists might suggest that your daughter’s depression, poor judgment and anger can be traced to her having been molested as a child and accuse you of not being a good mother. They might tell you to at least stand by her side, even if you can’t “take her side.” They’d give you the 24-hour hotline number for an incest network.
While it’s possible that such molestation occurred, it’s much more likely the accusations are the confabulated thinking of an alcoholic. Making demands as she has done, turning everyone against you, trashing you to others, depression and serial poor judgment are all manifestations of alcoholism. False accusations and other methods of stealing reputations have been used by addicts from time immemorial in a bid to wield power over others more worthy than themselves. To ignore this possibility (and I think, based on the behaviors described, compelling likelihood) perpetuates the extraordinary damage such accusations cause and is, therefore, a travesty of justice.
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, June 2, 2011.)
“The most important thing is to find out why she’s been drinking. It’s very likely that her drinking is a cry for help.”
So wrote Stephanie Anderson Ladd, a licensed Marriage Family Therapist (MFT), responding to a letter in her column from a worried mother who found that her 14-year-old daughter has been drinking after school.
As is all-too-typical of MFTs, Ms. Ladd doesn’t grasp the fundamental idea of alcoholism: that the biochemistry of the addict impels the addict to drink. They do not drink heavily and end up as addicts; they process the drug alcoholically, which allows them to drink heavily. Any excuse will do.
Because alcoholism causes “euphoric recall,” which makes those with alcoholism view all they do through self-favoring lenses, they develop a Godlike sense of self. This is difficult for non-addicts to understand, since they can’t experience this feeling. However, this is the reason they drink—they feel like they’re God—which is far from any cry for “help.”
Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
“AT LEAST HER SMILE'S BRIGHT: Should you brush after drinking? Cherie Margaret Davis, 65, seems to have thought so. After a bout of drinking, Davis put the car she was drivingin Marlborough, New Zealand, on cruise control and, at 100 kph (62 mph), ‘got out her toothbrush and started brushing her teeth,’ a police spokesman said. The car veered left, she steered right, and woman and car made the abrupt acquaintance of a rock bank — hard enough that she was treated in a hospital. Her blood alcohol level measured .135 percent. Davis had been banned from driving after a drunk-driving incident less than two months earlier, in which she had collided with another car and kept driving. (Marlborough Express) ...And I'll bet she still had terrible breath.”
While we won’t smell the breath when on the road, we can see the behaviors. The more erratic or animated the movements, eating, using a non-hands-free cell phone, fiddling with radio (or TV!) controls, putting on make-up, brushing one’s hair—or brushing one’s teeth—the greater the likelihood of DUI. When I spot excessive or odd movements inside a vehicle and I’m able to watch for more than 10 or 20 seconds, very often I end up seeing reckless or inconsiderate road behaviors. When I can safely do so, I also report the license plate and color of the vehicle. I always tell the 911 operator that I suspect DUI, which increases the odds law enforcers will actually test for alcohol and other drugs.
(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2011 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it: www.ThisIsTrue.com.)
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