Issue #66 - September 2011
With the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I felt it would be appropriate to review the state of knowledge regarding terrorism and addiction, which you’ll find in the “Review of the Month.” Because of its timeliness, this supercedes what could easily have been a “Public Policy Recommendation of the Month,” which the careful reader will see embedded in a number of stories below. On the other hand, the ideas are intricately intertwined.
You also may find the upcoming Wealth Creation Strategies piece on fraudulent financial come-ons of interest, which will be posted by the end of the month. Please keep in mind Doug has clients in 25 states; with modern communications, you can become a client too.
|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.
The London Riots: Feral Humans,*
Resentment of Enablers and Alcoholism
Alcoholics experience distortions of perception and memory. One of these distortions, “euphoric recall,” causes practicing alcoholics to view everything they do or say through self-favoring lenses, which leads to a God-like sense of self. As explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, this is the root cause of alcoholic egomania, which manifests in a compulsion to wield power over others.
This key distortion also reveals itself in the act of blaming others for one’s problems. After all, if everything you do is good and right and nothing bad or wrong, how can you be to blame for anything that you perceive to be inequitable in your life? It’s certainly not your fault—it’s the fault of your spouse, or the kids, or your boss, or the other driver, or the dog, or even society. This explains much if not most of what journalist and commentator John Stossel has identified as “the blame game,” in which some segments of society—the supposedly downtrodden—blame others for their problems. Such blame can take form in racism or classism, in which other classes of people are viewed as the cause of your problems or those of your group or race. Other classes include the so-called “rich.” While this includes those who stole their wealth either directly or by corruption, in free societies this is rare. More often, they are extraordinary achievers and producers, producing more for others and, compared with that production, consuming less than the rest of us over the course of their lives (which those who inherit wealth must also do in order to maintain that wealth).
Euphoric recall makes logical analysis and weighing of equity and justice difficult if not impossible. Therefore, alcoholics may be incapable of distinguishing between those who earn their wealth honestly and are wonderfully productive (think: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) vs. those who steal their wealth or way to the top (think: Muammar Gaddafi and other alcoholic despots at the opposite end of the spectrum). They end up feeling indignation toward others as a result of real or imagined grievances, including a perception of having been treated unfairly or denied something, including unearned wealth. This is called “resentment,” yet another negative end-result of euphoric recall. It’s especially negative when directed at productive members of society, which may be the reason recovering alcoholics tell us resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else: subconsciously, at least, they know such resentment is incredibly wrong, especially when acted upon.
Resentment causes some alcoholics to attempt to destroy those against whom they hold grudges. This, combined with alcoholic egomania and the consequential compulsion to wield power over others, results in all manner of criminal behaviors, ranging from false accusations and murder to theft and the commission of mayhem, including the recent London riots.
Who other than an alcoholic or seriously sick codependent would demand that if you want to prevent social unrest the masses must be given more unearned benefits (i.e., property taken from someone who earned it and given to someone who didn’t)? The problem is that when dealing with alcoholics, who commit by far the vast majority of criminal acts, we deal with people who have the emotional mind of a child. What sort of a reaction do you think you’d get after giving an ice cream cone to a 5-year-old* and, after letting him take a few licks, you take it away? By giving adults unearned benefits we insure they remain immature, poor and unwilling to make attempts at reaching their full potential. We protect from consequences and the protected become dependent on us for continuing that protection. This is classic enabling, in which the enabler, perversely, controls the enabled—at least until they turn against their enablers because that feeling of resentment, whether conscious or subconscious, eventually deteriorates into unethical and criminal behaviors. This is where feral humans come from, especially when combined with alcoholism.
If you need some evidence for the idea that the riots were fueled by alcoholism, take a look at the 3rd “Quote of the month,” below and consider the fact that Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, reported that 75% of those arrested on charges relating to rioting have prior records (which means, for the uninitiated, at least 80% of that 75% had already provided us with proof of their alcoholism). Here’s a particularly illuminating example of one of (no doubt) thousands of conversations that took place during the riots that inextricably links alcoholism to the “blame”-filled mindset:
Reporter: So, you’re drinking a bottle of rose wine at half past nine in the morning?
Girls: Yeah, free alcohol (laughs).
Reporter: Have you been drinking all night?
Girls: Yeah (more laughs). Like…it’s the governments fault…yeah…I don’t know who it is. Conservatives…yeah conservatives…that’s the point of the riot is showing the police that we can do whatever we want. That’s right. And now we have.
Reporter: But these are local people. Why is it targeting local people and your own people?
Girls: It’s the rich people, the people that have got businesses and that’s why all of this has happened…because of the rich people. We’re just showing the rich people that we can do what we want.
British socialism has taught people they have a claim to the property of others, euphemistically referred to as “entitlements.” They’ve learned they can suck at the teat of those who produce, without returning anything of value. They have become parasites because their hosts have allowed it. And now they riot over the perceived injustice of having some of those unearned products of theft taken away. Even if some alcoholics may disagree, this set of beliefs is more consistent with alcoholism than the idea you have the right to the fruits of your labor, ideas and expertise.
In Drunks, Drugs & Debits I likened enablers and alcoholics to hosts and parasites, similar to the hero in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, who suggested to producers that they stop playing host to parasite (and whom after I named my publishing arm). It’s time we recognize the parasites for what they are: generally alcohol and other-drug addicts with the emotional capacity of five-year-olds. If we really want to help them grow up, we need to stop protecting them from the consequences of their own actions. This means we need to stop the enabling, both public and private.
* With thanks to Peter Pappas and his terrific blog for the wonderful term “feral humans” and the ice cream cone analogy.
Thorburn Addiction Report Archives
Runner-up for top story of the month:
San Diego motorcycle officer David Hall, a 14-year veteran, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 41. Hall was off duty in February when he (allegedly) struck another car and fled the scene. The married father of three was later arrested and, while on paid administrative leave awaiting trial, ordered by a judge to attend AA meetings. There can be little doubt that officer Hall’s suicide was preceded by dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law—or his employer—could have intervened, but either didn’t or didn’t do so adequately. “Adequately,” once someone has proven to society he can’t safely drink or use, requires court-monitored ankle bracelets for the detection of alcohol and regular and random testing for other drugs, including addictive use of legal pharmaceuticals, with failure leading to certain jail time. Such coerced abstinence is obviously overdue: several other officers in the same department have recently been accused of serious misconduct, including spousal abuse, stalking, excessive force and rape. This tragic suicide, following the death of Thomas Kelly at the hands of six Fullerton police officers (which is an ongoing investigation; see the top story in the last issue of TAR), provides yet another reason why law enforcers should be regularly screened for addiction: for their own safety as well as that of others. Ironically, Hall had served on specialized narcotics and parole apprehension teams before becoming a motorcycle cop. The addictionologist would wonder about the goings-on that might have caused him to be transferred from such teams and ask, “Just what did the San Diego Police Department know, and when?
Alcoholic victims of the month:
A number of airline passengers who have recently been on the receiving end of a too-desperate need to pee, which may include those on an Air France flight when actor Gerard Depardieu took a pee in the aisle (see “Enablers of the month,” below). They also include an 11-year-old girl who was with her father, a Stage 4 cancer patient, and her sister on their way to visit her grandmother for the first time since her father’s diagnosis, who was on the receiving end of 18-year-old would-be Olympian skier Robert Vietze’s need to go potty. In a possibly life-saving act of disenabling, Vietze reportedly has been kicked off the U.S. Ski Team.
Co-dependents of the month:
Non-addicted British citizens who, according to Theodore Dalrymple (aka physician Anthony Daniels), even before the recent riots “would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters.” Dalrymple says in his own little town drunk young people often go on rampages, which no one dares try to stop.
Enablers of the month:
British taxpayers, who provide an education costing $80,000, a guaranteed income, “free” medical care, “free” housing, “free” food and everything from cell phones to flat-screen TVs to those who, because they are “fed up with being broke,” riot—as if the needs of some bestow a right to the property that others took time, ingenuity and expertise to buy or produce.
Left-wing former mayor of London Ken Livingstone who, within hours of the start of the London riots, said the unrest was “the fault of the government,” citing a 9% cut in central government grants to Tottenham, where the rioting began. It’s odd, then, that the rioters didn’t mention this as they looted high-end luxury goods shops.
Possibly actor Gerard Depardieu’s traveling companion actor Edouard Baer, who claimed that Depardieu, despite peeing in the aisle before an Air France take-off, was “stoned-cold sober” and has prostate problems. I say “possibly,” because Depardieu was reportedly very apologetic and offered to clean up the mess, which resulted in a two-hour delay for the Air France flight. However, another passenger reported Depardieu as being “visibly drunk” and was reportedly quite loud and animated in announcing his need to go potty. Depardieu, 62, has a history of drunken antics, including a 2009 incident in which he smashed a car windshield with his bare fist and a 1990 conviction for DUI. Mr. Baer and Mr. Depardieu will have to confirm or disconfirm, but please don’t bother until a decade or two has passed: if you were drunk, Mr. Depardieu, it will take a period of sobriety to come clean.
The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has decreed that Section 8 tenants and other renters who are evicted because they committed domestic violence may sue for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act giving, as James Bovard wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “troublesome [read: alcoholic] tenants a federal trump card to play against landlords who seek to preserve the peace and protect other renters.” On a related note, the Indianapolis Housing Authority has linked 80% of criminal homicides in Marion County, Indiana to individuals fraudulently obtaining federal assistance “in either the public housing program or the Section 8 program administered by the agency.” It also noted one unnamed attorney who allegedly “operated a law practice from a Section 8 home for eight years, providing shelter to unauthorized occupants who were linked to 10 homicides, 431 police calls and 394 criminal arrests during that time period.”
Fairhaven, MA police for failing to charge Joseph Morra for drunk and disorderly conduct for behaviors occurring in the Seaport Inn and Marina parking lot. Instead, he was charged with assault and battery on a disabled person, intimidation of a witness, impersonating a police officer and malicious destruction of property valued at over $250 after having taken up two handicapped parking spaces without a handicapped placard or license plate. He was also charged with improperly displaying a badge to a parking-spot-obstructed, handicapped citizen who was trying to take pictures of the offending vehicle, uttering expletives and shoving the same victim. Morra slapped the cell phone from the victim’s hand as the victim tried to take pictures of Morra (destroying the cell phone) and, while officers were speaking with the victim, returned to the scene and yelled at them to get the victim off the property, using profane and derogatory language. A failure to zero in on the underlying cause of all of these behaviors won’t help Mr. Morra make a decision to ever get clean and sober, since it’s (obviously) the victim’s fault. Perhaps this failure has something to do with the fact that Mr. Morra is an elected member of the Fairhaven Planning Board and a constable appointed by the New Bedford City Council, but I merely hypothesize.
Disenablers of the month:
Conroe, Texas resident Tracy Allen, who spotted Gliddon William Davis, 73, driving erratically two years ago, somehow stopped him and tried to take his keys and, after he fled reported him, resulting in a 55-year sentence for Mr. Davis. A jury took less than three hours to find Davis guilty of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon and render the effective life sentence. The surprising result may have had something to do with the fact that Mr. Davis had previously been convicted of two counts of attempted rape, one assault with intent to commit rape, several other unspecified felonies and seven previous DUIs. Now, wouldn’t it have been so much cheaper and better for society, not to mention Mr. Davis, if Mr. Davis had been simply fitted with an ankle bracelet after his 1st conviction (ok, maybe his 5th—after ankle bracelets were invented) and sent back to jail every time he registered a .01 through his skin?
The former Mrs. Chad Petersen of Iowa City, Iowa, who agreed to let her ex-husband, Chad Petersen, 44, watch their two children, age 4 and 6, in her home while she was away for a weekend, only to find him drunk and passed out on the living room-kitchen area floor upon her return while the children ran around unsupervised. There were hazardous cleaning supplies and three pairs of sharp scissors within reach of the kids, one of whom was naked and the other of whom was wearing only underwear. After taking several minutes to wake Mr. Petersen up, she suggested he take a taxi home. After he refused to leave and became verbally abusive saying, “I’m going to kill you,” she took her children to a neighbor’s house and called the police. Alright, so it’s a weak disenabler—after all, no doubt knowing he’s a drunk she never should have let him watch their kids in the first place. Some people just take longer to come to their senses than others. The fact that she reported him at all must have been scary, since he’s obviously a danger to others.
Quotes of the month:
“At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas.”
So said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), who oversaw the development of a new definition of addiction requiring a four-year process involving more than 80 experts. This, about a decade after one singular amateur refined his redefinition of alcoholism as “A genetic predisposition to biochemically process the drug alcohol in such as a way as to cause that person to act badly some of the time.” Oh, that amateur must have forgotten to explicate where “acting badly” might be relevant: in social, moral and criminal ways. So, it took two decades of advances in neuroscience to convince ASAM that addiction should be redefined by how it affects the brain and for someone to finally say, “Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.” Hmm, I think that amateur said it—much more than a decade ago, in Drunks, Drugs & Debits.
“This young man is a quality young man.”
So said the former Rhode Island House Speaker John Harwood, now acting as the attorney for Clayton Hardon, 22, following Hardon’s release on a DUI charge. Hardon is a volunteer firefighter who was off-duty when he (allegedly) stole a “special hazards” truck while under the influence, took it on a joyride and crashed into a tree, which is the only object that prevented the truck from smashing through a home and possibly killing its occupants. Mr. Harwood, we’ll see how high a quality of a young man Mr. Hardon is when he decides to plead guilty to the crime (assuming he committed these acts).
“At first it seemed as if the [London] riots were almost random with no basis in class or race. As the perpetrators have come to court, a different picture has emerged. Of those charged, 60% had a previous criminal record, and 25% belonged to gangs….The truth is, it’s not their fault. They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have…children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement….Freud was right. The precondition of civilization is the ability to defer the gratification of the instinct.”
So wrote the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, in The Wall Street Journal (August 20-21, 2011, “Reversing the Decay of London Undone”). While he mentioned that “crime is rampant [and] so are drugs,” he failed to connect the dots between the “wishful thinking,” the inability to defer gratification and alcoholism. The ideas are fueled by alcoholically-induced distortions of perception, which can result in logic being turned inside out. The inability to defer gratification is a result of alcoholism-caused damage to the neo-cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for controlling the impulses of the lower (pre-human) brain centers. Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver thought violent revolution was the solution to perceived inequities until he got sober, after which he gradually figured out that practically everything he had believed when he was drinking was wrong. When sober, recovering alcoholics almost never retain a belief that violence is a solution, almost always come to think of responsibility as a prerequisite to liberty and self-esteem, and become far more “civilized.” If we really want to reduce violence, improve the lot of the “poor” and increase the odds that instinct gratification will be delayed, those charged with a criminal act should be required to become and remain abstinent as a condition of release and parole.
There are some things you just can't make up (if it were fiction nobody would believe you):
New Jersey physician Dr. Sylvia S. Lee, who faces felony charges for having stabbed her 13-year-old adopted daughter with a screwdriver at least 100 times for failing to wash her dog’s clothes and towels in the correct order. For those of you doggie-clothes owners who want to avoid being repeatedly stabbed for doing it wrong, doggie clothes are washed first.
What would you do...:
If you’re sitting in your nephew’s front yard drinking beer together and you give him $6 to go buy more beer, and he pedals off on his bicycle in the summer heat while you wait and it takes too long, you would:
1. Call your nephew to make sure he hasn’t been involved in an accident,
2. Call the police to see if there are any reports of an accident involving a bicyclist between your place and the beer place, or
3. Smash a brand new soon-to-be installed toilet against his front door and, after shattering it hurl porcelain chunks at the door and then rip electrical wires out of the meter box and smash the plastic piping of the front yard water well onto the asphalt street?
Congratulations if you selected option #3, which was the preferred choice of 60-year-old Kenneth Charles Stuck of Pasco County, Florida. It’s not the first antic for which Mr. Stuck is guilty: more than two years ago he was trying to punch passing cars on a U.S. Highway, apparently when he was on his way to buy more beer. Gone unreported, which is unfortunate for those of us who enjoy reading non-fiction reports of alcoholics doing what they do best, are the likely thousand-plus other antics that have occurred over the drinking career of Mr. Stuck, as well as nearly every other 60-year-old person having the disease of alcoholism.
If you’re a cop and sitting with a friend at the Colorado National Golf Club clubhouse bar in Erie, Colorado, and you’re watching a Rockies baseball game on TV, when two other men pick up the remote and change the channel to the final College World Series Championship game, do you:
1. Quietly and calmly discuss who has the right to decide on which game to watch and try to reach an amicable decision,
2. Report what could be a violation of your rights, since you were first, to the clubhouse manager and hope they can set the other two straight,
3. If that doesn’t bring some sense of justice to the other two, call the police department and ask that a fellow on-duty officer be dispatched to the scene, or
4. Allow a heated exchange of words to quickly escalate to a physical confrontation in which you and your friend punch at least one of the other men in the face?
Congratulations if you selected option #4, which is exactly what 37-year-old Kevin Carlile, a five-year veteran of the Denver Police Department and Christopher Douglas, 39, did to the other two men. Imagine this, too: all four men had been “drinking,” which is most frequently a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically.” Carlile has been taken off his usual patrol duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Nine other officers have been fired for cause from the Denver P.D. since March, which suggests a lot of alcoholism on the force. Now, wouldn’t it be so much easier if cops were simply screened for alcoholism and treated appropriately?
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
The Rev. Zachery Tims, Jr., who founded a ministry of 8,000 Floridians and became well-known due to frequent television appearances, found dead in a Manhattan hotel room at age 42 with what appeared to have been illegal drugs (“a white powdery substance”) in his pocket. He chronicled his teenage drug addiction in a 2006 memoir after, according to Rev. Randolph Bracy, catapulting “a church that started in a hotel room [10 years earlier] into a megachurch.” In 2009 after admitting to an extramarital affair he and his wife of 15 years divorced. It was “unclear” what brought Mr. Tims to Manhattan a week earlier. Inexplicable goings-on when associated with recovering addicts almost always suggests relapse, as would even one extramarital affair.
Jani Lane, the former lead singer of the metal rock band Warrant, found dead in a Woodland Hills, CA hotel room at age 47. Lane embodied the “excesses” of the 1980s “hair metal” rock bands, joining Warrant in 1984 and writing several hit songs. He had an on-again off-again relationship with the band. In recent years he appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” made news for a DUI and, in 2003, for being admitted to rehab due to alcohol- and drug-related “exhaustion.”
And so long too to Dan Peek, founding member of the band America, which was responsible for some of my favorite melodies of the 1970s including “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair,” dead at age 60 from unknown causes. We may never know for sure, but the “unknown cause” will likely prove not to be an overdose, as Peek admitted to Goldmine magazine last year, “I was a spectrum drug abuser, alcoholic, you name it” and he was found dead in bed by his wife, with whom he appears to have had a stable marriage. Peek was probably sober since leaving the group in 1977.
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.
Ten Years After 9-11: Sadly, Hardly Anyone has Connected the Dots Linking Terrorism to Substance Addiction
Ten years ago, my wife and I were about to fly from Cusco to Lima, Peru on an early morning flight after an extraordinary stay at the fabulous El Monasterio Hotel before and after visiting the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. It was the final leg of our three-week visit to South America, where we skied Portillo, Chile and Bariloche, Argentina, stayed at the International Hotel in Santiago, Chile (and fell in love with the country) and did the fabulous Andean “Lake Crossing” from Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile. We were due in Lima late morning, where we were to catch a 1a.m. flight to LAX via Lan Chile (now LAN Airlines). We were told, however, that our plane, arriving from the jungles of Iquitos, Peru, was late because a “bird had flown into the windshield, shattering it” and it would take a bit to fix. By about 9a.m. we were really wondering whether we’d get out of a city which, at 10,000 feet in elevation, you apparently can’t safely fly out of after noon.
Unfortunately, it was the wrong day to try to leave Peru and a really bad day to have gotten out of Cusco, which we both loved.
At about 10a.m. we were beginning to hear rumors of the United States coming under attack. By the time we got into Lima, it was becoming apparent we were not getting out quickly. And Lima is not a city the ordinary traveler wants to be stuck in for several days.
From our hotel room, we watched the tragedy of 9-11 unfold, collapsing buildings and more (quite a bit more on the Spanish CNN than, apparently, on the U.S. version). When we arrived at LAX three days later (Lan Chile was among the first airliners allowed back in the states), we could feel it was a different world.
About six weeks later I called into a late-night radio show, “Mr. KABC” (hosted by Marc Germain), which had an unusual format: the caller was never screened and could ask Mr. KABC anything. I asked what he thought the mindset of your typical terrorist might be, to which he gave me his analysis. After I held my tongue for five minutes or so, he stopped and I asked, “Would you like to hear my theory?” He responded “sure,” and I gave him a quick synopsis of alcohol- and other-drug addicted egomania as the root cause for much in the way of misbehaviors ranging from the mundane to horrific, including terrorism. Doug McIntyre, who hosted the “Red Eye Radio Show” from midnight to 5a.m. was just walking in and yelled out, “He’s right! Put him on with me. I want to talk to him!”
McIntyre told me he thought I was absolutely right in hypothesizing that most terrorist acts are rooted in alcoholic egomania. Along the way, he invited me onto his show and I learned why he so quickly picked up on the idea: at the time he had six years or so of sobriety.
I thought he wouldn’t be the last to publicly acknowledge that I might be on to something. Unfortunately, when confronted with the possibility that alcoholism is the cause of most misbehaviors, those affected often ignore the evidence for years, until reaching a breaking point, as Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson in “The Closer” did (purposely wearing blinders before finally telling her recovering alcoholic FBI husband Agent Fritz Howard “Tell me everything I don’t want to know”). It’s the subject that, present company excepted, no one wants to read or hear about, even though it explains at least 80% of the bad- to horrific acts we see or hear about every day.
I wrote a piece (still posted on the web site) laying out the idea that the best explanation for behaviors resulting from a mindset like that of Osama bin Laden was brain damage from substance addiction. I pointed out that many despots from our past, from Josef Stalin to Mao Zedong, were alcohol/other-drug addicts, as have been most serial and mass murderers. At the time, I would have told you I’m sure not every mass murderer in U.S. history was an addict—I often said Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh might not be—only later discovering he was an amphetamine addict. In nearly every case for which we are able to dig deep enough, gold-standard proof of addiction in those exhibiting terrorist-like behaviors is eventually found. I also shared what I had found on the hijackers: three were at a bar the night before where two drank “heavily”; another had two DUIs; the father of a fifth told reporters his son was not a “drinker,” while an uncle said his nephew “enjoyed” alcohol (which is very likely a euphemism for “drank alcoholically”); and the 12 other hijackers referred to as the “muscle” were reported as indulging “often” in liquor. I pointed out that religious proscriptions have never kept an addict from imbibing and increase the odds of addiction in those who do.
I also gave a list of the sort of behaviors and mindsets that we can readily observe in addicts, including habitual blaming of others for their own problems (or their group’s problems), an inflated ego resulting in a sense of being equal to God, a sense of invincibility evident in reckless behaviors, the capricious wielding of power over others and dangerous non-substance compulsions such as religious fanaticism. All of these fit the profile of the terrorist.
In the ten years that followed, I investigated other terrorists, read much and wrote a number of top stories on the subject (including issues #3, 4, 13, 24, 28, 42 and 53 on the web site here). In 2005 The Economist magazine pointed out that terrorists often have “grown apart from family; some might have drifted into petty crime, or an unIslamic taste for alcohol and women,” but didn’t point out that “petty crime” is as certain an indication of alcoholism as is the “taste” for it. The piece also pointed out that young alienated Muslims may turn to drink, drugs and petty crime before seeing radical Islam as a solution. It failed to mention that abstinent alcoholics, because they have done nothing to deflate the massive ego, become dry drunks and are, in the right circumstances, capable of as much mayhem as when they were drinking.
Although I already knew that some of the most horrific people who ever lived were alcoholics (Ivan the Terrible comes to mind), I found subtle but compelling indications of addiction in others. One was Robespierre, who is thought by many to have been a teetotaler. However, I stumbled onto a book that reported, “At meals, he eats the same fare as his hosts and shares with them an inferior wine. When dinner is over, he drinks coffee, then stays in the house for an hour to receive visitors, after which he commonly goes out….He returns home at a remarkably late hour. He often works past midnight…[and he] never returns before midnight. Where he is, at such times, no one knows.” It’s reminiscent of FBI agent Robert Hanssen’s late-night drives to a park where, if even half-accurately portrayed in the movie “Breach,” he was likely secretly drinking for years while by day selling more secrets to the Soviets than any traitor, ever.
There were many more terrorists who, with the exception of Niyazov, below, I’ve never written about but easily could have, whether so-called “heads of state” or the more common variety. They include:
1. Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan (“He thinks he’s the Messiah” and is a binge drinker known for drinking a quart and a half of vodka in a single day, but he “never loses control”).
2. Saparmurad Niyazov of Turkmenistan, who developed a personality cult so extreme his picture was on everything from all money to a corner of every TV screen, in whom alcoholism was privately confirmed by a diplomat.
3. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, known as the “Butcher of the Balkans,” who “drank heavily.”
4. Warren Kimbro, an ex-Black Panther who, after fatally shooting another Black Panther because party members thought was an FBI informant, went to prison and rehabilitated himself off of drugs, later leading a nonprofit devoted to helping ex-cons reenter society (his conduct was so exemplary he was pardoned after serving only 4 ½ years of a “life” sentence).
5. Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” who rarely left her apartment except at night, when she’d “go drinking and get into fights.”
6. David Headley, who federal authorities claimed was a terrorist accused of helping coordinate the 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai in which more than 160 people were killed, known by friends to be “a ladies’ man” and known by his father to “have a Koran under one arm and a bottle of Dom Perignon under the other.” He also spent a month in drug rehab in 1994.
As I wrote in the Top Story of issue #13, “Tantalizing Clues to Alcoholism in Suicide Bombers,” “It’s [often] impossible to obtain direct evidence and, therefore, proof of addiction in people who are far removed from the public spotlight.” It’s also difficult at best to prove those in the spotlight, whose secrets are protected by enablers, are alcoholics. I have been unable to get gold-standard proof of addiction in Liberia’s Charles Taylor, whose drugged-up fighters in the Sierra Leone were notorious for ‘wide awake” amputations, but the behaviors and the fact that his alleged fighters were “drugged-up” are compelling. I can’t find proof of addiction in Cambodia’s Pol Pot, but the behaviors were so similar to those of Ivan the Terrible it’s almost unimaginable that he wasn’t drinking or using addictively as Ivan did. The same is true of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, but as I said about Timothy McVeigh, perhaps he is the exception. On the other hand, his style and that of the others in whom I haven’t yet been able to prove alcoholism seem similar to that of terrorist Che Guevara, who according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa in The Che Guevara Myth, “tried to impose a kind of sharia, regulating relations between men and women, the use of alcohol, and informal gambling—a puritanism that did not exactly characterize his own way of life.” If Muslim extremists act similarly, they impose their Puritanism on others but not themselves, behaviors for which recovering alcoholics have a saying: one finger out, three fingers back. In other words, do as I say and not as I do, because I am above the law—and more powerful than God.
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My 48-year-old sister is divorced and broke. She blew through an inheritance years ago. She’s been fired from several jobs, lost her home to foreclosure and is now continuously facing eviction. She’s a defendant in a lawsuit which, if she loses, could result in significant time behind bars.
She is always begging for money for food and dog food (she’s a breeder and says her dogs are her “life’s work”). She makes me feel guilty and has threatened suicide if I don’t help her. Our other sister cut her off after giving her more than $10,000 on top of the $12,000 or so I have given her over the years. I always seem to cave and have promised my husband time and again this will be the last time I “help” her. But how do I cut her off when I know she doesn’t have money for food, rent and utilities? Her unemployment and food stamps are simply not enough.
Concerned about sister
Other columnists might point out that your sister won’t change as long as you keep rescuing her. They might suggest that despite what could be mental health issues tell her you love her but will no longer contribute money, which only serves to keep her right where she is.
Other columnists would be missing the crux of the problem.
Yes, there are obviously mental health issues. However, the crucial question is this: is the primary problem a mental disorder or alcoholism? Since the latter is ten times more common, let’s go with the odds.
Your sister exhibits numerous behavioral indications of alcoholism detailed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, which revolve around serial poor judgment, not only regarding finances but also her personal (divorce) and professional (job firings) life. The trouble is she has been repeatedly bailed out by you, the other sister and hapless taxpayers.
You must stop the enabling. As other columnists might suggest, tell your sister you love her but the private money stops now. However, you should go much further in linking the problems to her likely substance addiction by setting up an intervention with a qualified interventionist. You should educate yourself about alcoholism, along with anyone else who might succumb to her pleas. Only when you get the “feel” for alcoholism (which Drunks, Drugs & Debits is designed to provide) will you no longer be tempted to help her in a way that is guaranteed to prolong the problem and likely end in tragedy.
You might also write to your legislator and tell him or her that public money, whether from unemployment or food stamps, only serves to enable and exacerbate your sister’s almost certain alcoholism. You could suggest that random and regular screening for alcohol and other-drug addiction be required for all recipients of state aid. This would go further in coercing the abstinence required for sobriety to occur among down-and-out alcoholics, including your sister, than any other public policy tool. Good luck.
(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, August 9 2011.)
“Deputies don’t make stuff up, the hope is, and we contend they did not fabricate anything."
So said Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore in defending Deputies Samuel Orozco and Scott Giles, who claimed a couple, Erick Hosey and his girlfriend Shatwan Smith, resisted arrest and had rock cocaine in their car. Orozco’s past on-duty behaviors were scrutinized during a subsequent trial in which L.A. County was ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution to the couple for “ruining their lives.” Witnesses told of run-ins with Orozco, including one in which he used the N-word against a local resident and another who said she’d been roughed up and subsequently acquitted after being booked for an unnamed offense. Sorry, Mr. Whitmore, but alcoholics not only make things up but—let’s be blunt, shall we?—they lie and they may lie frequently, whether they are Deputies, teachers, lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, CEOs, politicians or, well, anyone. While we can’t be sure that either officer Orozco or officer Giles has the disease of alcoholism, they—and every other officer in the department—should be regularly screened for behavioral indications of having the disease. If they screen positive, they need to be treated accordingly.
Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”
“OBLIVIOT OF THE WEEK #896: ‘I guess he thought it was a big joke,’ said attorney Daniel L. Castillo about his client, Rick Ehlert, 45. Ehlert is ‘not denying he did it,’ Castillo says, but what he did shouldn't be considered a crime. He says Ehlert was drunk on a cruise ship headed for Tampa, Fla., when he broke into the control room and dropped the moving ship's anchor, and then tossed a life buoy overboard -- at 5:25 a.m. The captain stopped the ship and assembled all passengers and crew on deck for a head count. No one was missing. ‘Everybody was mad at him,’ Castillo said, but ‘where's the crime?’ The crime, federal prosecutors say, is attempting to damage the ship -- a statute that was strengthened after transportation-related terrorist attacks. Dropping anchor on a moving ship could damage it enough to cause it to sink. The 719-foot MS Ryndam holds 1,260 passengers and 580 crew, and all were put in grave danger. Prosecutors are only calling for probation, but Castillo is trying to get him off anyway, noting ‘an alcohol-induced reckless act does not necessarily equate to a violation of federal criminal statutes.’ Also, Castillo added, ‘He's got a lot of money.’ (RC/Tampa Tribune)...Oh, well, if he's got money, then by all means: let him commit ‘alcohol-induced reckless acts’ with impunity.”
Overachievement and the wealth that often results is one of the great problems of alcoholism. Money is the biggest enabler because it increases the odds of protection in many ways, all of which revolve around the fact that enablers enhance their own income, status and power by ensuring the addict doesn’t experience consequences for poor behaviors. These enablers range from spouses who share in the booty, employees who are paid so long as the secret isn’t outed and attorneys who enable by defending the addicted from the legal consequences of criminal misbehaviors.
Rick Ehlert almost assuredly has been involved in dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened but either didn’t or did so reluctantly and poorly without long-term effect. This time, tragedy was averted. Next time he, along with who knows how many victims, might not be so lucky. Even the prosecutors are going way too easy on him—especially if they are doing nothing to coerce abstinence. Ehlert has proven to society he cannot safely use psychotropic drugs, including alcohol. Society has a right to proscribe use by Mr. Ehlert and should do so, without shame, guilt or hesitation.
(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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