May 2005 / Issue No. 10

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, you we bring you several sections, including:

1. Top Story of the month
2. Movie or Book 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

There is something for everyone!

Could addiction be at the root of giving the finger to Wendy’s?

ImageTop Story: Employees, shareholders and franchisees suffer financial abuse, costing millions. Was it precipitated by addiction?

When Anna Ayala, 39, first accused Wendy's of serving her a finger in a bowl of chili, it didn't dawn on too many that she might be giving Wendy's the finger in a style only an addict could conjure up. As evidenced from the decline in sales at a number of Wendy's restaurants in the San Jose area where the incident occurred, many people believed her tale. Judy Johnson, the addict who accused the Buckey family of heinous - and on their face, impossible - crimes against children at the McMartin pre-school in anhattan Beach, California in the late 1980s, at one point had 98% of Los Angeles County residents convinced that the charges were true. Ayala, too, was a good liar.

Fortunately, Wendy's was able to quickly rule out the loss of a finger by an employee or subcontractor in their chili-making process. Too, the finger didn't appear to have been cooked in chili. So, police turned to Ms. Ayala and uncovered a pattern of litigation over the past decade. After her daughter allegedly got sick eating at El Pollo Loco, she sued and purportedly received a $30,000 settlement. She also sued a former employer for sexual harassment and an auto dealer over a car. When authorities arrested her for larceny in the Wendy's case, she was also charged with grand theft in an unrelated incident occurring in 2002 for allegedly selling an elderly woman a mobile home Ayala didn't own.

While bringing a lawsuit doesn't require alcohol or other drug addiction, the fact that, observably, most lawsuits include an addict on one side or the other greatly increases the odds of addiction in someone bringing multiple suits. It's not dissimilar to tailgating: many non-addicts have tailgated on occasion, but because DUIs (most of whom are addicts) do so far more often, the odds of DUI in any one tailgater are about 50%. If we could test the hypothesis, similar probabilities might be found in those bringing lawsuits. This is particularly true for one involving a false accusation, which is an especially helpful clue to addiction (# 16 in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics).

When journalist Joe Vazquez ( showed up by invitation to interview Ayala at her home, she said she didn't want to discuss it. "Besides, she said she was taking medication for her headaches. But then she just kept talking." She is reported to have ended almost every sentence with, "...and now I'm really angry." Ayala claims her family was treated like "terrorists," adding that her daughter Genesis, who was wearing a sling during the interview, was injured when police searched the house. In an eery similarity to Michael Jackson's hyperbolic accusation that police strong-armed him when he was arrested, according to Ayala, officers "grabbed [Genesis] with such force...slammed her into the cement. Handcuffed us all as if we were dogs or animals or I don't know what the hell."

Shortly after Vazquez left, the Associated Press issued a report on Ayala's history of litigation. Hoping to get her response to the story, he called her. She snapped, "Joe, who?! I didn't meet anybody from CBS today!" When Joe reminded her he had just left her house, she remembered, but then said she was on medications again and didn't want to talk.

As awful a person as Anna Ayala appears to be, we give her the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the medications she is using are doing a lot more than treating her headaches and that she uses them addictively, i.e., in doses far beyond the level prescribed. Such use may be responsible for behaviors that have caused countless others far worse pain, particularly financial, than that caused by a mere "headache."

Runners-up for top story of the month: Another busy month. American Idol judge and pop singer Paula Abdul, accused of seducing contestant Corey Clark (creating a rather nasty conflict of interest), pleading no contest to a fender-bender hit-and-run that occurred in December (which she seems to have tried to cover up), most recently seen slurring her words on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Twenty-two-year-old Las Vegas real estate investor and "Apprentice" contestant "I never lose in life" Christopher Shelton, labeled a "hothead" by Donald Trump, arrested for disorderly conduct after yelling and cursing in a hotel lobby when the hotel's nightclub wouldn't let him in without a cover charge. "American Pie" star Chris Klein, 26, arrested for DUI with a Blood Alcohol Level of .20 per cent (which requires the consumption of 12 shots of 80-proof liquor, two bottles of wine or two six-packs of beer in the space of three hours for a 200-pound person). Ex-Savage Grace guitarist and founding member Christian Logue, 43, charged with practicing medicine without a license at his Ventura Center for Healing in Tarzana, California while calling himself Dr. Richard Santee, who treated up to 20 patients per week for cancer and diabetes; police seized military-style weapons, thousands of rounds of high-powered rifle ammunition and hand grenades at his apartment, along with stolen and forged Social Security cards, driver's licenses and bank cards. Jeffrey Doyle Robertson, father of a high school football player, previously barred from football games after "shoving and verbally abusing" coaches, who shot and wounded the team's coach. The unnamed mother of the Michael Jackson accuser, on the witness stand sparring with defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau Jr., repeatedly referring to Jackson aides Dieter Weisner and Ronald Konitzer as "the Germans," claiming a J.C. Penney Co. guard who accused her of shoplifting knocked her down so hard she did "bellyflops" on her body and her breasts fell our of her bra, who she says then squeezed one of her nipples 10 to 25 times, trying to "humiliate me, just like he's trying to do at this moment," referring to Mesereau. (Hyperbole is a terrific clue to alcoholism.) Actress Jane Fonda, who hasn't had a drink in 15 months (I long hypothesized that the best explanation for her vilification of U.S. soldiers and support for the North Vietnamese was alcoholism). Christopher Bernard, who pleaded guilty to murdering his sister and her two toddlers, whose drugs of choice were Oxycontin and cocaine, telling the courtroom, "I take full responsibility for my actions. If my mind was not polluted by drugs, today would be a different day." Pat O’Brien, host of the TV celebrity news show "The Insider," checking himself into rehab and graduating, sober; his publicist Ken Sunshine responded to reporters asking for confirmation of unusual sexual escapades that he would not "dignify this garbage with a comment." (He should confirm it to help Pat remember what can happen when he drinks.) Actor Joaquin Phoenix, 30, brother of River Phoenix who died from his addiction in 1993, checking himself into rehab. Debralee Scott, who played Hotsy Totsy on "Welcome Back, Kotter," dead from cirrhosis of the liver.

Under watch: Leaders of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association union at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County, California, who hung a rat trap on a prison bulletin board in protest over a captain's "ratting on" three employees for using excessive force on an inmate (the "code of silence" is alive and well). New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, publicly airing charges of fraud by former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, not only before charges have been brought, but also before the investigation is even finished (reminiscent of alcoholic Senator Joe McCarthy's false accusations in an era of McCarthyism). (By the way, any improper accounting would have inflated AIG's reserves by all of 1-3%, which is often considered "de minimus," or irrelevant, by accountants.) The brilliant yet "socially retarded" physics student William Cottrell, sentenced to eight years in prison for playing a part in the fire bombing of over 100 Hummers and SUVs in August 2003 in the West Covina, California area; he may have played codependent-dupe to the more likely addicts Tyler Johnson and Michie Oe, who authorities believe have fled the country. Cheryl Rogers suing Merck, blaming Vioxx for a fatal heart attack her husband suffered; Merck says the empty packages of Vioxx presented by Rogers at a deposition left the factory six months after her husband's death and pointed out that the 96 pills that Rogers claims were given to her husband by the doctor as a "sample" far exceeds the amount physicians typically give away. (Merck is now combing patients' histories for evidence that "unhealthy habits" and not the anti-inflammatory pills caused heart problems. And by the way, these anti-inflammatories were being studied for their role in cancer prevention; the studies have come to a halt because of recent reports linking the drugs to increased cardiovascular risk. This could become yet another classic example of hidden addiction changing the course of history.) Kristopher Schwoch, 23, who allegedly used star-studded photos of himself to lend legitimacy to his purported charity, the StarCare Foundation, to sell bogus tickets to various Hollywood events at $500 to $5,000 each, charged with five counts of felony burglary. Barry Billcliff, 26, and Timothy Crebase, 24, who were recently interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America" regarding their amazing luck in finding a cache of antique cash worth more than $100,000 in the back yard of Crebase's house; arrested two days later for receiving stolen property and conspiracy, accused of having found the money in the rafters of someone else’s barn, the roof of which Crebase replaced a few weeks before. Detroit Free Press sports columnist Mitch Albom, who wrote a column about a Michigan State University basketball game before it was played, providing details of two alums who are now pro-ball players sitting in the stands "in their MSU clothing, [rooting for] their alma mater;" the alums didn't show up (Albom is known for his Jekyll-Hyde personality, venom and temper tantrums). Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton, seen drinking "heavily" after Ian Klaus put his humanitarian work ahead of his love life with her. (That she has been seen “obviously” drunk suggests the possibility of low tolerance, an indication of non-addictive, even if abusive drinking; however, if “heavily” means a .30 per cent Blood Alcohol Level, even most alcoholics would appear drunk.)

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 behaviors). 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, which has made these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism and consequential bad behaviors is simple: stop protecting the addict.

Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator

ImageMovie Review: "Falling Down:" unexplained craziness - unless we assume alcoholism

Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring Michael Douglas as "D-FENS," Barbara Hershey as his ex-wife, Tuesday Weld as his mother and Robert Duvall in a wonderful role as the endearing Detective Prendergast.

"Falling Down" is a very amusing black comedy, with Michael Douglas playing a recently fired defense worker known by his license plate moniker, D-FENS. Stuck in a monumental traffic jam, D-FENS angrily abandons his car and begins walking to his destination: his ex-wife's home, to give his little girl a birthday gift.

Along the way, he smashes up a Korean shopowner's store, stands up to gang members in a style we mere mortals have only dreamed, kills a Nazi, shoots up a phone booth and terrorizes employees and patrons at a fast-food restaurant. His ex-wife, played by Barbara Hershey, who knows he is coming over despite a restraining order, tells a cop she wants police protection. While he has never before become violent, he has "a horrendous temper" and she knows he might be capable of far worse. Still, in response to the cop's query (who at least knows enough to ask), she says he rarely drinks and doesn't use drugs. Yet, as with Anna Ayala, crazy, out-of-control behaviors are inexplicable unless we assume alcohol or other drug addiction.

One reviewer claims that the point of the movie is to make a statement about society and that we should stand up for ourselves, albeit in more constructive and non-violent ways. And while we should, only an alcoholic is likely to go over the top the way D-FENS does, even though he is mostly reacting to behavioral manifestations of addiction in others. While healthy people may harbor fantasies of doing crazy things in response to idiotic rules and the rude behaviors of others, the neo-cortex, the human part of the brain responsible for restraining the impulses of the lower brain centers, usually prevents them from being acted out.

Another reviewer blames the recession that resulted in his layoff (the early '90s was an era of massive layoffs in the defense industry, to which D-FENS had devoted his life), but a layoff alone cannot account for insanity. While some may ask whether the fault is his for allowing himself to be driven over the edge or society's for pushing him there, addictionologists know that the odds of unrestrained violence are remote without damage to the frontal lobes of the brain, most commonly caused by alcoholism.

In my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, I mention that another dark comedy, "War of the Roses," would have been one of the greatest alcoholic movies ever if it had portrayed either main character (one of whom happens to be played by Michael Douglas) as drinking heavily. While recovering addicts know the movie has addiction written all over it, most non-addicts think it's just about a psychotic couple whose love inexplicably turns to hatred over the course of a 17-year marriage. Similarly, "Falling Down" portrays a man with behavioral indications of an out-of-control limbic system (the pre-human, emotional brain), the normal cause of which is alcoholism. If we assume he hid his addiction well (as many do, even from their spouses), the movie makes sense, as does "War of the Roses" and, even, the behaviors of a woman who plants a finger in a bowl of chili, puts it in her mouth and spits it out, all so she can sue a restaurant she falsely accuses.

Image Dear Doug: Our 18-year old has become a different person from the one we know and love

Dear Doug:

Our 18-year-old daughter has been lying, sneaking out at night and smoking dope. She swears and yells at me and calls me names. While she was once a straight-A student, if she graduates it will be due to my helping her with schoolwork.

We tried taking away privileges. When that didn't work, we tried easing up. That didn't work either. We have even let her take the consequences of her bad behaviors. She seems immune from pain.

We are thinking of kicking her out, but are afraid that will further alienate her and make her even more dependent on her fellow addicts. Please help us.

Signed, Exasperated Parents

. . . . . .

Dear Exasperated,

Other columnists might suggest that turning your back on your daughter at this point should be a last resort. However, giving her a hand will only prolong the agony of what is likely an addiction not only to dope, but also to alcohol and other drugs.

Sober addicts tell us that until every enabler stopped protecting them from consequences, there was no incentive to get clean. Only when the protection stopped did they make a decision to "try" sobriety. The pain from consequences must exceed the perceived pleasure from use, a comparison that varies tremendously from addict to addict and something we as sober individuals cannot measure. Therefore, the best option for a speedy end is to increase the level of pain wherever possible. You claim to have let her feel the consequences of her misbehaviors, yet you help her with homework and provide a home at which she no doubt violates countless ground rules. It's time to let nature take its course.

On the other side of the coin, thoughtful codependents who have gone through this process inform us that it was only when they finally "gave up" that the addict cleaned up. We are not God and, therefore, cannot know the level of pain required. Keeping in mind that you are dealing with a person whose emotional growth stopped the day addiction was triggered and who has a damaged neo-cortex, the human part of the brain responsible for reason and logic, she needs to experience any and all non-life threatening consequences that increase pain. You should stop helping with her schoolwork, inform her that continued use and poor behaviors will not be tolerated in your home, try to have her arrested for DUI and record with audiocassette and videotape any misbehaviors you observe, which you will use in an intervention with a qualified interventionist. You may not "raise" her bottom, but you will certainly hasten it.

(Source for story idea: Annie's Mailbox, April 29, 2005.)

Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month: Song lyrics inspired the crime.

"Nearly a decade ago, three San Luis Obispo [California] youths pleaded guilty to killing a 15-year-old girl, saying [heavy metal rock band] Slayer’s songs incited them to commit the crime."

So said the report on the conviction of Alfonso Ignacio Morales for murdering four members of a Whittier, California family, a daughter of which had spurned his romantic advances. The day of the killing, Morales was wearing a Slayer T-shirt. The report says the motive behind the massacre may never be known.

Readers of my books know that the odds of alcohol or other drug addiction in a convicted felon are at least 80%. While mass or serial murderers about whom biographies have been written can almost always be identified by the careful reader as alcoholics, there is often little in all-too-brief newspaper reports offering confirming evidence of alcoholism. However, the likelihood is at least 80% that the motive behind the crime is egomania rooted in this disease. This is especially true when one of the victims has said "no," anathema to the practicing egomaniac.

The musical tastes of Charles Whitman, who gunned down dozens of people from a bell tower in Texas in 1966 were never mentioned. Odds are, his musical preferences were country/western, which have never been blamed for craziness, sexual deviancy or murder, even though the lyrics often reference alcohol or heavy drinking. Nor were Ted Bundy's music preferences ever aired, although we can exclude heavy metal: it hadn't yet been invented. We didn't even have rock'n'roll to blame for the murderous legacies of the greatest mass murderers ever, Hitler and Stalin. Nazis are said to have killed Jews while listening to Bach and Beethoven. While a particular style of music is not a common thread to atrocities, addiction or having been coerced by addicts is (one doesn't need to think hard to imagine the fate of those who said "no" to the alcoholic Stalin or amphetamine addict Hitler).

Also of interest to the addictionologist is Slayer's motive for writing lyrics purportedly inciting violence and death. Edgar Allen Poe, author of the most macabre books of the 19th century, had the disease of alcoholism. Horror novelist Stephen King, now reportedly sober, was a practicing alcoholic through most of his writing career. The idea can be applied to other creative fields: the behaviors of Jack Nicholson, who has played parts of which Poe and King would be proud, are best explained by alcoholism. Artist Charles Bragg, whose work is a stand-out among the bizarre, is reportedly a recovering alcoholic. Addiction and the bizarre are birds of a feather. Therefore, odds are huge that the members of Slayer were practicing alcoholics during their heyday. Thomas Bright, who worked for Metallica as well as other heavy metal bands in the '80s, in an interview with Paul Vee ( reports on an amazing quantity of alcohol-induced sexual deviancy, adding there was "lots of drinking," and "drugs and cocaine are thrown at you." He says, "I saw ego inflation like you couldn't believe...Talk about ego trips." Ego inflation is the hallmark of early-stage alcoholism.

As Frank Zappa said, "There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we'd all love one another." Religion could be the cause of most of the world's violence, yet most members of every religion are peaceful and non-violent. Instead, the thread common to most initiators of violence is alcohol or other drug addiction. An addict can be exposed to Bach or Slayer and commit heinous acts. When the neo-cortex fails to restrain the impulses of the basal ganglia, the reptilian part of the brain responsible for impulsive behavior and survival, or the limbic system, the pre-human brain that controls the emotional response, anything is possible. Most music fans, as religious adherents, are non-violent. If they harbor violent thoughts, they typically don’t act out on those feelings. Generally, only those with a damaged neo-cortex - particularly early-stage alcohol or other drug addicts - do so.

Amazing Antics: Stories of Alcoholism-Driven Behaviors

Addicts commit the most brazen crimes

"HOUSE ARREST: For nearly three months, people noticed two men dismantling a vacant house in Lindale, Texas. Even the local cops. "We wondered why it was taking so long, rather than just bulldoze it," says Smith County Constable Dennis Taylor. No one thought anything of it since it was right next to two commercial construction projects. But then Taylor got a report of a stolen house. "I said, 'Is it a trailer house, ma'am?"' Taylor says. "She said, 'No, it's a brick house.' I said, 'What?" He quickly put one and one together and arrested the two, Brandon Parmer, 29, and Darrell Maxfield, 44, who confessed to selling the parts to buy drugs. Jesse Vega, 36, was also arrested, allegedly for buying the pieces and giving them men methamphetamine for their work. (Tyler Morning Telegraph) ...They were on speed and it still took them three months?"

Planting a finger in a bowl of hot chili and slowly dismantling a house are brazen acts of recklessness that few but practicing addicts would ever even think of, much less dare to attempt. Such risk-taking defies logic, because the lower brain centers ride roughshod over the neo-cortex, the seat of reason and logic. The need to wield power over others takes countless forms, including "watch what I can get away with." When discovering new continents, the addict serves mankind. More often than not, however, the deeds are destructive acts with negative social benefits. Unless, of course, the house was destined for the trash bin: at least these addicts, unlike many, recycled.

(Story passed along by Randy Cassingham, author of “This is True.” For more alcoholic antics deserving of Darwin Awards, see for free subscriptions.)


To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at

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Doug's new book, Alcoholism Myths and Realities, is available pre-publication to
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"Every policymaker in America needs to read your book exposing the myths of chemical addiction...Excellent book."
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"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."
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