October 2009 / Issue No. 51

In an effort to increase readership, we would appreciate your forwarding this entire issue to family, friends and associates, along with a suggestion that they subscribe.

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

1. Top Story of the month
2. Review of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.

There is something for everyone!

My blog is now reopened to your comments. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.

By the way, call us (800-482-9424) for deals on books you won’t be able to refuse. (They are also available, of course, at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com.) They make a terrific gift to teens and anyone thinking about becoming professionally or romantically involved with someone else! (including other drivers, landlords, tenants, employers, employees, neighbors...)

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There’s an addict behind almost every crime, especially heinous ones. Phillip Garrido, who kidnapped and raped 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard, is no different from the rest. The only question is whether he was a dry or active drunk.

Phillip Craig Garrido
, 58, a registered sex offender and parolee, was recently arrested for having abducted 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991 and holding her in captivity ever since. While their Antioch, California neighbors knew something was “off” about him, they saw only an overgrown backyard filled with sheds and tents and never detected the wailing or screaming one might expect of an abductee. Instead, they occasionally heard children, who “sounded normal.” The neighbors had no idea that Dugard gave birth to these children while in captivity and that Garrido, who raped her repeatedly, was the father. Incredibly, the parole officers who regularly visited Garrido never searched anywhere other than inside the house. When a neighbor called 911 in 2006 reporting that people were living in the backyard and Garrido was “psychotic and had a sexual addiction,” the responding deputy, who was never told that Garrido was on parole, didn’t even enter the house. When members of a multi-agency task force paid a surprise visit to Garrido’s home in 2008 as part of a sex offender compliance check, they searched every room, but didn’t step foot in the “vast, tree-cloaked” backyard.

The Garrido case is all the more remarkable considering he was on parole for kidnapping in 1976, for which he served only 11 years of a combined 50-year sentence for kidnapping and five years-to-life for sexual assault. But we enter the world of the truly bizarre with his wife, Nancy Garrido, 54, whom he met and married while in prison over two decades ago. She is accused of pulling the young screaming Dugard into their Ford Granada 18 years ago; she was with him while parole officers paid visits to their home; she was married to him while he sexually assaulted Dugard and fathered her children and helped “raise” them (if one can call it that).

At his 1977 federal trial, Garrido testified he took four hits of LSD after seizing a 25-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe parking lot, after which he repeatedly raped her in a Reno, Nevada storage unit in November, 1976, which was described by a Reno police detective as a “sex palace,” with a bed, various sex aids, stage lights and wine.. Garrido admitted to “copious” use of LSD, along with cocaine, marijuana, hashish and “other drugs” from as early as 1968.

I’ve long suspected that addiction triggers all sorts of what appear to be personality disorders, which usually dissipate quickly in early sobriety. A study cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse found that 70% of addicts in recovery who had been diagnosed with personality disorders could not be so diagnosed after two or three months of sobriety. On the other hand, methamphetamine can trigger schizophrenia, from which the afflicted sometimes never recover. Garrido was known to neighborhood kids as “Creepy Phil,” and was reported to ramble nonsensically, which can be a symptom of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, he was dismissed as “kind of nutty,” but no longer dangerous.

After being behind bars only a short time after his earlier arrest, he wrote a letter to the judge in which he blamed drugs for his “downfall”. There are unconfirmed reports of recent heroin use. It would be shocking to find that the Garridos were not on something. On the other hand, his early addiction may simply have triggered one or more personality disorders from which he never recovered. If he was not recently using drugs, he obviously never went through the 12-step program, every step of which is designed to deflate the ego, which tells the addict “I am God.” He still thought he was God, whether using or not.

Nancy reportedly has a history of drug addiction as well. She was fired from one job after failing a random drug test. One co-worker said she heard from “mutual friends she took a lot of pills, smoked weed and used heroin.” If she used, he probably did as well.

Addiction can often be found where not even suspected by observing relatively innocuous misbehaviors, such as the belittling of others. Since the Garridos’ behaviors are beyond monstrous, addiction is highly probable even if we don’t get the satisfaction of absolute proof.


Runners-up for top story of the month:

Celebrity disc jockey Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein, 36, found dead with eight undigested OxyContin pills in his stomach and a ninth in his mouth, along with cocaine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), Ativan, Klonopin, Xanax, Benadryl and Levamisole (a drug use to cut cocaine) in his system. Goldstein was famous for spinning records for as much as $25,000 for a three-hour set at some of the world’s most exclusive parties, including private events for Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Stiller. Throughout his early 20s he struggled with drugs and his weight, reaching 300 pounds before getting sober and undergoing gastric by-pass surgery. After surviving a fiery Learjet crash barely a year ago on the runway of a South Carolina airport, which claimed the lives of two other passengers and left him with second- and third-degree burns, he decided to devote his life to helping other addicts recover. A month ago he told reporters, “There’s no reason why I should have lived or why I lived and they didn’t. I’m alive and I’m here and I have another chance. So I have to do something better with my life this time.” Goldstein was recently working on an MTV show, “Gone Too Far,” in which he helped concerned families stage interventions. He told reporters the show provided a “terrifying” reminder of his own addiction. Indeed.

Representative Henry “Hank” Johnson, whose idiotic remarks regarding Joe Wilson yelling "You lie!" at Obama during a Congressional speech with the implication that we're all racists can be viewed here. As I watched, it suddenly dawned on me: Johnson appears to be under the influence.
Since I am not an expert at identifying someone under the influence based strictly on physical clues, I queried a prominent retired LAPD Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) police officer. DREs can often determine which drugs and how much are in someone’s system simply by observing the person. He responded:
 "He definitely appears to be under the influence of a drug or drugs. The basis for this opinion includes his rambling non-sensical speech, stumbling over words, new word 'insticated' (sic) and white visible around the eyes until he blinks, which are prolonged.  He smacks his lips, indicating dryness and there is a flat affect (his demeanor wasn’t at all animated and he spoke in somewhat of a monotone).  A number of drugs could be on board.  I suspect a stimulant that might be wearing off and depressants, such as Valium, are likely."

It fits right in with the idea that since addiction can cause confabulated thinking, where such thinking appears we need to look for addiction. Consider this when listening to demagoguery or pablum. You just might find an explanation for what seems inexplicable to the rational-minded. But no, I cannot explain former President Jimmy Carter.

In a Vanity Fair tell-all, Levi Johnston, estranged father of Sarah Palin’s grandchild Tripp, writes that Sarah’s husband Todd Palin often brought up divorce to the former Vice-Presidential candidate in screaming matches—and that he hid his drinking from Sarah. While one addict accusing another of one of the classic behavioral attributes of alcoholism—hiding the booze—is not something we’d normally rely upon, when published in a magazine of the stature of a Vanity Fair, the odds of its veracity are high. In the last TAR’s “co-dependent of the month,” I wrote in regards to Sarah’s resigning as Alaska’s governor: “When something doesn’t make sense, addictionologists know that addiction likely lurks just beneath the surface.” I then identified as likely addicts Daughter Bristol, Bristol’s estranged boyfriend (Levi), and Levi’s mother Sherry. It didn’t dawn on me that the person closest to Sarah could also be an addict. As I wrote too, “Addiction sheds light on the behaviors of many politicians. The behaviors of many non-addicted politicians could be explained by an addict or two nearby.” Very nearby, with multiple addicts enabling each other is the best explanation of all.

Former major league pitcher Matt Keough, 54, also known for his role in “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” charged with felony DUI. It’s his second felony count of DUI within 10 years, making him eligible for three years behind bars. With a blood alcohol level of .30 per cent, he was driving his car at 1:25 pm (yes, in the middle of the afternoon) when he ran a stop sign. He was previously arrested for violating probation, which required that he not consume any alcohol (he was consuming alcohol). Since this is going to be a continuing problem, Matt, you might ask the judge for an ankle bracelet after your prison stint, so you can stay away from all bars.

Buford O. Furrow, Jr., renouncing his white-supremacist views and expressing “deep remorse” on the tenth anniversary of having murdered a Filipino postman and wounded five Jewish people at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California (one mile from my office). At his sentencing in 2001 he blamed mental illness for his actions. In a letter to The Daily News, he wrote, “About 5 years ago I threw away my racist books, literature, etc. and took up a new leaf.” Furrow didn’t say what caused the change, nor did The Daily News speculate.

Maybe he got sober.

Shooting victims and relatives expressed surprise and speculated about his motives.

Maybe he was an addict who got sober and wants to do what little he can to pay amends.

Others said the focus shouldn’t be on him; it should remain on what he did and how such crimes can be prevented.

Maybe if we focus on getting racists sober, we’ll prevent many of these crimes.

Myth # 65 in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society’s Most Destructive Disease is “He’s no alcoholic; he’s just a racist.” As pointed out in the text, statistics about alcoholism are hard to come by when practicing addicts don’t identify themselves as such. However, anecdotally, there are practically zero incidents of racism in modern society in which substance addiction is absent. If able to dig deep enough, you’ll usually find it.

While Buford Furrow doesn’t say he got sober and The Daily News failed to mention addictive use of alcohol or any other drug, or even that he ever used, the addictionologist would immediately suspect that addiction explains (but does not excuse) Buford’s life and the tragedy that unfolded. Addictive use of drugs is rarely mentioned in media reports. It took five days, 13 articles and 28 paragraphs into the last piece before finding that anthrax killer Bruce E. Ivins had been in rehab twice the year before his suicide (read about it in the August 2008 TAR top story). While proof of use in the case of Buford Furrow is similarly elusive, in October 1998 he was reportedly suicidal and on a drinking binge when arrested for threatening hospital workers with a knife. Where drinking coexists with violence, there is almost no question about the diagnosis and, therefore, the cure.

Rapper Kanye West, who leaped on stage (notably, with sunglasses on in a theater), ripped the microphone from the hands of the winner of the Best Female Video category in the MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift, and declared that his friend Beyonce should have won. What could possibly have caused West to go berserk? How about: he was seen on the red carpet before his outburst swigging cognac from a half-full bottle, which reportedly started out full. West made a rambling apology to Swift the next night on “The Jay Leno Show,” and told Leno he’s been working hard and hopes to take some time off soon and figure out what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. Message to Kanye: your mother died from complications of surgery. The surgeon was Dr. Jan Adams, who has a couple of DUI arrests on his record, as well as at least three malpractice lawsuits, which could be related to his likely alcoholism. Your mother may have died because Dr.. Adams performed a procedure that more sober-minded doctors refused to do. In your mother’s memory, how about trying sobriety? Addicts often say they had to get sober for themselves. Nonsense. Addicts often get sober for others. You can do this for your mother, Kanye.

Under watch:

Five actresses from the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,”
arrested in Georgia for dangling from the side of a bridge and exposing their breasts to passing motorists. A Sheriff’s deputy spokeswoman (we’ll pass on the obvious jokes about “under watch” and “spokeswoman,” not “spokesman”) said that “one girl was holding another girl’s ankles and hanging her over the bridge like she was going to drop her.” Nina Dobrev, 20, Sara Canning, 22, Kayla Ewell, 24, Krystal Vayda, 23 and Candice Accola, 22, were arrested along with cameraman Tyler Shields, whose footage confirmed (to the spokeswoman) several dozen drivers’ accounts of the escapades. The idea that none of the above may have been sober is supported by the fact that Canning later hung up on a reporter, Accola referred calls to a publicist who could not be reached and the others did not return phone calls from reporters. (If they’d been sober and this was a publicity stunt, I strongly suspect they wouldn’t have hesitated to speak out publicly.) But only the future history of these young lives will confirm or disprove our suspicions. We hope they live long enough for there to be a future history.

Raymond Clark lll, 24, charged with murder in the killing of graduate student Annie Le, also 24. He may suffer from some disease or disorder that would put the murders in the possible 10-20% of horrific behaviors rooted in something other than alcoholism—but still, Mr. Clark should remain under watch until alcoholism, with or without any other disorder, is disproven.

Alcoholic victims of the month:

Residents of the motor city, Detroit, Michigan
, who suffer with the likes of Renee Jason Beavers, 33, arrested with a 24-ounce can of beer between her legs on charges of auto theft and driving without a valid license—for the 45th time; and Ahmed Malik, 31, arrested for having an improper license plate—the latest in his transgressions that include 52 license suspensions and 18 warrants for his arrest.

Enablers of the month:

Marsha Polk-Townsend
, who described her brother Brownie Polk, 46, as not being “a violent guy” after causing a disturbance at a liquor-store and confronting police with a hatchet. After ignoring “numerous” commands to drop the weapon, he held the hatchet over his head and advanced on the officer, who shot him several times, killing him. While Polk-Townsend disputes the story, a security camera recorded the entire incident and corroborates the officer’s account. Polk-Townsend claims, “He would never charge at police with a hatchet.” No, Ms. Polk-Townsend, the brother you knew would never do that. Meet Mr. Hyde, who would.

An un-named resident of Malibu Colony, referring to Cheronda Guyton, who was responsible for Wells Fargo Bank’s foreclosed commercial properties division while “house-sitting” a $12 million Malibu Colony home without the bank’s permission, commenting: “It’s shocking what she did. I really question her judgment. How many other bank executives would make a decision like that?” Answer: as many as are alcoholics. By the way, although a resident said that the parties she had “weren’t excessive,” they were reported to be “lavish.”

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson rejected a request by Indiana money manager Marcus Schrenker, 38, for a shorter sentence than the four years he was given for crashing a rented single-engine Piper Malibu and parachuting to safety in an elaborate scheme to fake his own death. Vinson explained that he agreed with an unnamed prison psychiatrist who diagnosed Schrenker as a narcissist who lacked empathy. While this may be true, Vinson and the psychiatrist may be unaware that a “lifelong pattern of lies and manipulation,” as U.S. Attorney Tiffany Eggers described Schrenker’s behavior, is a clue to underlying alcoholism. They could be unaware that a lifestyle marked by daredevil flying, luxury cars and a 10,000 square foot home in an upscale neighborhood outside of Indianapolis known as “Cocktail Cove,” where affluent boaters often socialize, is not inconsistent with alcoholism. They may not know that fancy toys purchased with ill-gotten gains, for which the person is under indictment on 11 felony counts of fraudulent security sales and other securities violations (including forgetting to inform annuitants they faced high fees and commissions by switching to annuities he sold to them), is a terrific behavioral clue to alcoholism. They may never have learned that alcoholism almost always comes first when someone admits his “life was out of control and he didn’t know what he was doing.” On the other hand, perhaps they do know this but think an admission provides an excuse and supports a shorter prison sentence. No, it doesn’t. Alcoholism is an explanation, never an excuse. On the other hand, they wouldn’t be the first to fail to realize that unchecked alcoholism is the reason the courts are so clogged.

Disenabler of the month:

Frank Canale
, 83, and his daughter, who were on their way to a wedding when Canale’s car was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver. Canale, realizing the man was under the influence and fearing he “could kill someone,” called 911 and followed the culprit for 15 miles from New York into the man’s Danbury, Connecticut driveway, where Canale remained until police arrived. By the time they finished filing police reports in two states, the wedding was over.

Quotes of the month:

“I have never had anyone call me or e-mail me to say they wished they wouldn’t have given someone an ultimatum. But I have a couple of dozen times had some[one] contact me to tell me that they wish they wouldn’t have backed down or waited, because now the person is dead.” So said interventionist Jeff Van-Vonderen matter-of-factly in a newspaper article on whether traditional intervention, in which the addict is given an ultimatum, might have worked on Michael Jackson. This pretty much puts to rest the idea that ultimatums should not be given and that they should, instead, be offered at every opportunity.

“My father was not a bad man. He was a very sick man….He was kind of a testament to what drugs and alcohol—in huge quantities—can do to a person’s priorities.” So said “One Day at a Time” star Mackenzie Phillips, regarding Mackenzie’s admission that her father, Mamas and Papas rock icon John Phillips, raped her when she was 19 and carried on an incestuous relationship for much of the next ten years. More accurately, it’s a testament to what addiction, which allows the person to consume alcohol and other drugs in huge quantities, can do to an otherwise good person’s morality. Kudos to you, Mackenzie: while not perfectly elucidated, you just might enlighten the uninformed that addiction comes first.

“Pain will make a strong man grow. Loss will make you reflect..” So said the first three-strikes lifer in the nation to be pardoned, Stevan Dozier, 47, reflecting on his new-found freedom outside of Walla Walla State Penitentiary after Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed his appeal for clemency. Dozier, who joined drug recovery programs while in prison, got a job and began paying restitution to his victims because “it seemed like the right thing to do.” He remarried his former wife while in prison and now works for the Sea of Stars Foundation helping at-risk youths. He says he has nothing bad to say about those who sent him to prison, even though he fed his crack addiction mainly by snatching women’s purses—hardly a reason to be put away for life. He figures he deserved it and asks why get mad? “I try not to have arguments with my wife. No. I do the dishes. I take the trash out. I open the door when she gets in the car. I take pride when I do things like that, because my wife waited [for] me.” Dozier somehow got it, big-time.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy
, dead from brain cancer at 77. Kennedy’s life was filled with the conflicts, inconsistencies and enigmas that are rarely explained by anything other than alcoholism. Although he reportedly sobered up in the 1990s, to the end he continued to manipulate the system wherever he could and maintain he was not drunk the night he left a party in 1969 and drove his chauffeur’s limousine off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island into Poucha Pond, leaving Mary Jo Kopechne to drown. However, the facts belie the claim: he swam to shore and walked back to the party, past several houses and a fire station. (Kopechne had scratched the upholstered floor above her head in the upside-down car and is believe to have remained alive for as many as five hours before dying.) As for manipulation, something recovering alcoholics readily admit to having done when using, Kennedy on his death-bed pleaded with Massachusetts lawmakers to allow a temporary gubernatorial appointment of a successor to his Senate seat until a special election to replace him could take place. This is the same Kennedy who orchestrated the 2004 law that required a special election, designed to prevent then Republican Governor Mitt Romney from naming a replacement for Massachusetts’ other Senator, John Kerry, who was running for President. Recovering alcoholics are supposed to work a program that requires honesty in all one’s affairs. One might question whether such manipulation, for whatever “noble” purpose, violates that idea.

Kennedy was certainly guilty of misbehaving in ways typical of alcoholics on numerous occasions. He was known around Washington, DC as a public drunk, loud, boisterous and disrespectful to ladies. A self-proclaimed lifelong Democrat who owned a nightclub told me that he considered Kennedy a “pig,” having had to toss him out of the club for misbehaving. He was thrown out of Harvard twice, once for cheating on a test and another time for paying a classmate to cheat for him. While attending law school at the University of Virginia, he was cited for reckless driving four times, including once when clocked at 90 mph in a residential neighborhood with his headlights off after dark (which, as pointed out in
Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence, is a virtual certain indication of DUI). After Kennedy launched a viciously unfair attack on the Senate floor against President Reagan’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Robert Bork, observers widely agreed that “there was not a line in that speech that was accurate.” His lies about Bork, as is often all-too-true of the many lies of alcoholics, did their job, because the lies of addicts are often more believable than truths told by non-addicts.

Despite his never having come clean about the Kopechne and other alcoholism-fueled episodes, Kennedy was known to work across party lines in a way that many Republicans felt other Democrats couldn’t. While he never shrank from political combat and (from the point of view of this libertarian) engaged in lifelong demagoguery, Sen. John McCain told CNN that “he had this unique capability to sit people down at a table together…and really negotiate, which means concessions.” He developed what is reported as “warm friendships” with Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, and others. In the 1970s, he took up the cause of transportation deregulation, arguing that competition among businesses would benefit their customers and, ultimately, consumers. (It’s amazing to me that he never applied the principal of competition and deregulation to health care, but I digress.) Agree with him or not, he has left a lasting impression on the United States, with more than 550 of his bills signed into law during 47 years in the Senate. Sometimes, alcoholism is the only explanation for a life torn in many directions.. Ted Kennedy’s life is a prime example.

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.

Public Policy Recommendation of the Month

A bill that would prohibit credit checks for most California job applicants is on the governor’s desk. Many think a credit check uncovering poor credit is unfair to honest hard-working people who have had a streak of bad luck. Many prospects, who might be perfectly decent employees, find it more difficult to get a job. Pulling credit reports discriminates against the young and immigrants who haven’t yet built any credit. Divorce and identity theft can contribute to a low credit score, which can make getting a job more difficult.

However, the damages from errant employees far outweigh these concerns. Destructive employees are usually alcohol and other-drug addicts. Employers already have very little protection against them and, after they are hired, they can be difficult to fire without risking a lawsuit.

Supporters of the legislation suggest that work history should be the main factor in deciding whether or not to hire. While that should be considered in hiring a new employee, the problem is getting such a history, when many if not most employers are afraid of saying anything negative about a former employee over fear of being sued for defamation of character.

Before I grasped the idea of alcoholism, I suffered with two alcoholic employees. They both turned into employees from hell. I have no doubt that had I looked at their credit reports, I would never have hired at least one of them. After she unsuccessfully tried to collect unemployment benefits on my account, I never heard from her again. The other had a prospective employer in a distant city call me long after she left. Due to concern over lawsuits, I learned I could answer only one question: “Would you hire her again?” After I suggested the question to the employer I responded, “Not in a million years.” Since I learned about alcoholism, I have not suffered with any alcoholic employees except for a recovering one, who lasted five weeks. I think she relapsed and I quickly found a way to terminate her without risking a lawsuit.

However, most employers don’t have the benefit of understanding alcoholism. One of the few things they can do is run a credit check. While not every instance of poor credit is due to direct alcoholism, many cases are. Often, while the prospect isn’t alcoholic, a close person is. I’ve detected alcoholism in a spouse on a number of occasions in which an employer was having difficulties with an employee. Recall from some of the stories in Drunks, Drugs & Debits that the non-alcoholic spouse can act as badly or bizarrely as the addicted one. I’ve found this to be especially true in employment. Think about Sarah Palin quitting her job as Governor of Alaska in the middle of her term with no rational explanation.

From this libertarian’s perspective, prohibiting credit checks is yet another infringement on the employer’s right and the right of contract (two adults should be allowed to agree to whatever they want so long as it doesn’t step on the rights of others), and will likely further chill hiring in a state that doesn’t need any further chilling. As the California Chamber of Commerce points out, a credit report can be an excellent clue to “an applicant’s personal responsibility and organizational skills.” While applicants who would have access to “large” (however defined) amounts of cash, valuables or confidential information would be exempt from this prohibition, as would be those applying for managerial and law enforcement positions, others would not be, which is on its face discriminatory in favor of some employers. Worse, it will have the unintended consequence of protecting many alcoholics who might otherwise be outed, further enabling them. It will reduce the odds that the addict will experience pain from consequences, which is essential to inspire in the addict a need to get clean and sober. Bills such as this, however well-intentioned they may be, should never become law.

Image Veteran finds good jobs and gets fired...What might explain that?

Dear Doug:

My significant other, Allen, has no trouble finding good jobs. Then he gets depressed, drinks too much and gets fired, or decides the job isn’t right and quits. He spends his money wantonly and often gets evicted for non-payment of rent, ending up on my doorstep. I think Allen, who is a veteran and eligible for Social Security, needs more help than I can give him. What should I do?



. . . . .

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might tell you that Allen needs professional help to learn why he sabotages his jobs and spends his rent money. They’d suggest that he head straight to his local VA for assistance and that you accept the fact you can’t change him.

What rot.

The idea that Allen suffers from the only disease that makes those nearby, including yourself, suffer to an even greater degree, explains everything you describe. It would explain the fact that he has no trouble getting good jobs (yes, he’s moving towards late-stage alcoholism, but he can still exude alcoholic charm when he needs to). It would explain his depression (alcohol is a depressant). It would explain involuntary layoffs (once he becomes employed, he acts badly on the job some of the time). It would explain quitting perfectly good jobs (his inflated ego tells him he’s too good for the job and he’ll have no trouble finding another). It would explain his profligate spending (his alcoholism impels him to appear well-off to others). It would explain blowing his rent money (he suffers from distortions of perception). He ends up on your doorstep (he knows that his enablers will always be there to bail him out).

It’s a very simple formula: if a theory explains everything, then that theory is likely true. Alcoholism explains Allen’s behaviors; therefore, Allen probably has alcoholism (since you say he drinks heavily, the odds are nearly 100%). If true, this is his primary disease, which means it must be treated before anything else. If you want to help, offer to drive him to an AA meeting. If he’s not ready, tell him to leave until he is and that you care about him too much to continue enabling.

(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, September 2, 2009.)

“The biggest risk factor for fraud is a CEO with a truly oversized ego.”

So found an academic review of 15 Canadian corporate fraud cases between 1995 and 2005, which pointed out that a list of common warning signs of potential fraud is missing this most important item, which includes being “lauded by the media or by analysts.” According to Janet McFarland in Toronto’s The Globe and Mall, Michel Magnan, one of the report’s authors, argues that “generous doses of external praise can lead an egotistical executive to [result in] an exaggerated sense of self-confidence that leads CEOs to believe they can do whatever they want and get away with it.” Magnan, a business professor at Concordia University, seemed surprised that the companies and executives were “quite present in the media….because you’d think fraudsters would like to hide or do things covertly….”

It’s no surprise to the addictionologist. While some might be more covert, alcoholic egomania generally fuels a grandiosity that can take form in a public display of prowess, as if to say, “Look what I can get away with.” They relish the idea of sticking it in people’s faces because doing so further inflates the ego.

The idea that an oversized ego fuels fraud is only half of the story. The missing half is that the oversized ego is more often than not fueled by alcoholism..

Prof. Magnum pointed out that the research could be useful for regulators and auditors, who are taught to rely on a “fraud triangle” of factors in detecting malfeasance. These include incentives such as a large share ownership or stock option grants, situations where the share price appears overvalued (which increases pressure to meet inflated expectations), and weak corporate governance. However, the study found these factors are present in what McFarland wrote is a “large proportion of companies in general and do not sufficiently narrow down a reasonable pool of dangerous situations.” In fact, good governance could help CEOs get away with fraud by creating a “cloak of responsibility around CEOs.”

Understanding the role of alcoholism is difficult because it crosses such a broad range of disciplines that many figure it couldn’t possibly be the explanation for so many varied problems. It’s the elephant in the room and should be obvious, but isn’t. It obviously explains most deviant psychology and psychological issues, but psychologists and psychiatrists usually don’t see it. It’s obviously the initial instigator behind most incidents worthy of study by historians, but historians have never noticed. Alcoholism explains most bizarre and destructive behaviors of the subjects of biographies, but biographers are usually completely ignorant of the disease. The effect of unchecked alcoholism is obvious in many newsworthy current events, but journalists omit mention of it or understate its significance. It’s obviously at the root of the vast majority of incidents with which the criminal justice system must deal, but law enforcement rarely treats it or, if they attempt to do so, it’s half-heartedly. Addiction is obviously at the root of most crime, a fact that investigators could use to narrow the focus of their efforts—if they looked to addicts rather than non-addicts as likely culprits, they could save tremendous resources. This is true for serial and mass murderers and is true, as well, for CEOs who commit fraud.

Mini-myth of the month:

“He was incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, of having such a relationship with his own child.”

So said John Phillips’ third wife, Genevieve Waite, in response to the claim by stepdaughter Mackenzie Phillips that John raped her when she was 19 and carried on an incestuous affair with her for much of the next 10 years. Sorry Ms. Waite, but addicts are capable of anything. That includes things that make the rest of us recoil.

She also said, “John was a good man who had the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction.” You’d think, then, that she’d know better. We need to remember one thing when dealing with practicing addicts: we cannot predict how destructive their behaviors might become, when and in what sick form.

Story from “This is True” by Randy Cassingham, with his “tagline:”

“NICE DOGGIE: Pat Yoes, a spokesman for the St. Charles Parish, La., Sheriff's Office, says he doesn't know where Terron D. Ingram, 38, got the alligator, or what he was planning to do with it. But deputies saw Ingram riding a bicycle down the street with the 3-foot-long animal resting on his shoulders. When deputies stopped him, he ran -- leaving both his bicycle and his leathery friend behind. The gator was caught and released into a nearby marsh; Ingram was caught and housed in the jail, charged with resisting arrest, cruelty to animals, and possession of drug paraphernalia. (New Orleans Times-Picayune) ...Yeah, it's no surprise to me that the drugs were all gone by that point.”

Randy, again, gets it. Those who live on the edge and engage in ultra-risky behaviors are more often addicts than not.

Consider motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel. After he died, I asked the question, “Was Evel an alcoholic?” Alcoholism often explains the inexplicable. In its obituary, The Economist asked why any sane man would continue his attempts at sailing over cars and canyons despite crashing numerous times and breaking dozens of bones. The answer, buried in the story, was that he kept the liquor flowing—which makes sense only to those who know that one of the manifestations of alcoholism-induced egomania is a desire to take extraordinary risks in a bid to further inflate the ego.

Defying convention is one form of risk-taking behavior. While not everyone who crosses such boundaries is an addict, doing so increases the odds that the alert observer will find one. Whenever a story of human interaction with an exotic animal makes the news, we should begin digging. The more exotic the creature, the greater are the odds of finding addiction. In stories of alligators, tigers and the like, an addict is likely involved at least 80% of the time.

This is even truer if the animal is being abused. Reports of dog fighting suggest that nearly everyone involved is an addict. My veterinarian, who understands addiction better than most, thinks my estimate that nearly 100% of animal abuse is perpetrated by addicts is dead-on.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2009 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)


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

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