June 2010 / Issue No. 55

For those who read my comment in the last issue about lacking inspiration, well...I got inspired.

June 2010

Viewing the news through the lens of alcohol and other-drug addiction

It's good to be back in full swing following "tax season". We hope you enjoy this issue. You may wish to take the opportunity to look at our books at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com for gift-giving ideas. We’re proud of the fact that 39 of 51 collective reviews at Amazon.com give the books five-star ratings (and you are welcome to add to those reviews!).

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month 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!

© Doug Thorburn. All rights reserved.

The 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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Most accidents require an alcoholic. This includes great and tragic ones, including oil gushers.

Accidents are unplanned, unexpected and adverse events. Absent the whims of nature, arguably well over half of these events involve alcoholism. In Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, a study of automobile plant employees is cited that reported an 82 percent reduction in accidents a year after treating its employees for alcoholism. Other studies are cited showing that at least one of the participants in 70 to 90 percent of snowmobile, workplace and incendiary accidents is under the influence at the time of the incident, which is an almost certain indicator of alcoholism. On pages 66-67 of How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages I show that the percent of on-the-road accidents involving at least one person under the influence is closer to 60 percent rather than the oft-quoted statistic of 40 percent. Absent road hazards, 80 percent of automobile accidents probably involve at least one addict.

While accidents occur due to a loss of coordination, passing out or other physical failing resulting from intoxication, they may happen even more frequently due to a Supreme Being complex, a sense of invincibility often resulting in unnecessary recklessness and a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude. Since these are the key behavioral and attitudinal indications of early-stage alcoholism, where the clues are observed alcohol or other-drug addiction must be suspected.

The last major oil spill in U.S. waters clearly involved alcoholism. At the time of the Exxon Valdez incident on March 24, 1989 Captain Joseph Hazelwood’s driver’s license was under suspension as a result of a DUI arrest in September, 1988. This was at least the third time in four years that his license had been suspended or revoked. While Hazelwood was later acquitted of charges of intoxication at the time the ship struck Bligh Reef, which resulted in at least 10 million gallons of crude spilling into Prince William Sound, his blood alcohol level (BAL) was .061 ten hours after the incident. While a court of law ruled that the blood samples were mishandled, with normal assimilation the BAL would have been roughly .21 percent at the time of the incident. This is consistent with a report contending that he was, at the time, below decks sleeping off a bender, leaving his third mate in charge.

Unmentioned by the press, the current mess may involve alcoholism as well. There was a “skirmish” between key representatives of the various companies involved with the drilling on the Deepwater Horizon rig less than 11 hours before the blowout, which resulted in an uncontrolled release of oil and gas and an explosion, killing 11 workers and spoiling a large swath of the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean’s crew leaders, including the rig operator’s top manager Jimmy W. Harrell, the primary driller Dewey Revette and tool pusher Miles Randall Ezell all reportedly “strongly objected” to a decision by British Petroleum’s top representative, believed to be Donald Vidrine, over how to start removing heavy drilling fluid prior to temporarily sealing up the well. Since BP was in charge of the operation, the BP rep prevailed.

“My way or the highway” is a common attitudinal variation of the Supreme Being complex. In addition, Vidrine was supposed to testify on the disagreement on May 27 before the U.S. Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service, which jointly regulate offshore drilling. He dropped out, citing an “undisclosed” medical issue. The onset of “sudden medical issues” is common in alcoholics. Another top BP official, Robert Kaluza, declined to testify asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But there’s more. As so often happens, this tragedy may be a result, at least indirectly, of multiple addicts. An Interior Department report alleges that staff members of the Minerals Management Service accepted gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography. It reports a “deeply disturbing” culture of ethical failure and cronyism between government and industry. Two employees have admitted to using illegal drugs and an inspector admitted using crystal meth and said he might have been under the influence the next day. Anyone who understands crystal meth knows that the odds of this being a one-time occurrence are remote.

Not all disagreements or serious medical issues involve addiction. Not all incidents of poor judgment, crony capitalism and corruption or accidents, even disastrous ones, involve alcoholism. However, the alert and addiction-aware observer will find that any one of these is often the first clue to hidden alcoholism. When all five of these indicators exist, addiction is almost a certainty.


Runners-up for top story of the month:

Tiger Woods, who has reportedly blamed cheating on his drug addiction which, he says, impaired his judgment. This is one of those classic instances where almost everyone is looking in the wrong place: his obvious sexual compulsions. Since alcohol and other-drug addiction most often provides the springboard for compulsive behaviors, especially of the destructive variety, they are eyeing only a symptom (and probably one of many that go unreported). It’s also said that a full-time outpatient therapist now monitors Tiger to keep him from taking drugs and cheating. Most people still think he is merely a “sex addict” and that once this is treated everything will be fine. Memo to Tiger: no, it won’t be, unless you stay clean and sober.

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, 40, the subject of the April-May 2008 TAR top story (well worth re-reading), sentenced to up to five years in prison for violating the terms of his probation after pleading guilty to lying under oath and obstruction of justice in 2008. His latest violation is, as were misbehaviors cited in the above-mentioned classic story, consistent with a diagnosis of alcoholism: he fell behind in payments for restitution to the city of Detroit and told the court he was able to pay only $6 per month on his—are you ready?—six-figure salary from a sales job at Compuware, a software company.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, 40, the top financial officer for Los Angeles, who checked into rehab days after an arrest for suspicion of DUI. He was driving home in a city-owned car from a charity roast, which was also reportedly a fundraiser, for L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley. Clue to alcoholism: using a city car on unofficial business. Bigger clue: financial disarray. Clue to other alcoholics nearby: it’s tough for only one guy to run a city into the ground.

Former San Bernardino County Supervisor Bill Postmus, 39, arrested on suspicion of accepting $100,000 in bribes paid by a developer to vote in support of a settlement between it and the county, funneled into a campaign account and personal meals and entertainment. Perhaps the “entertainment” part was used to buy the methamphetamine authorities say they found in his home a year earlier and again when he was arrested for corruption.

Minnesota businessman Thomas J. Petters, 52, (one of the subjects of the white collar criminals top story in the May 2009 TAR) sentenced to 50 years in federal prison for orchestrating a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme. To lure so many investors and capital into a fraudulent scheme, one must be smooth, suave, charming and great at lying or misleading others. Petters’ mantra was, to “build connections or relationships, you can’t survive without trust.” This is true, and he was obviously expert at building that trust. However, one might think the implication is that “trust” means “mutually profitable relationships.” In the case of an addict, one would think wrongly.

Insurance broker James R. Halstead, who pleaded guilty to promising victims returns of 25% to 35% over three to four months and then using new investors’ deposits to pay the earlier investors (aka, running a Ponzi scheme). Clue to alcoholism: committing a felony. Bigger clue: he spent the loot lavishly, including $353,000 on a Ferrari and Porsche. Final nail: he spent $1million on a house in Henderson, NV where Halstead, who is 63, is alleged to have spent tens of thousands of dollars partying (euphemism for “plenty of alcohol”) with friends.

University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely, accused of killing fellow student Yeardley Love, 22, a women’s lacrosse player. A local who has for two decades known the Huguely family, which has owned a large building supply company in the D.C. area for generations, described George as “terrifically polite, full of life, very friendly….All the news makes George to be [a] monster. That isn’t him. Some other spirit must have taken over him.” Clue to the idea that the spirit was the sort commonly found in 80-proof bottles: he (admittedly) shook Ms. Love violently, banging her head repeatedly against a wall. Bigger clue: Love’s friends said Huguely had a temper and “may” have “abused” alcohol. Final nail: when Huguely was convicted in 2009 of public intoxication and resisting arrest in 2008, the arresting officer felt so threatened she used a stun gun on Huguely. Oh, and he didn’t remember that incident, or reportedly several alcohol-fueled fights he had with Love. And more: he’d been drinking all day before killing her. “May” have “abused” alcohol? Because friends and family didn’t grasp the meaning of his drinking—that this was a completely different and potentially lethal person when using—no one intervened and tragedy happened.

And speaking of lacrosse, Crystal Gayle Mangum, 33, the woman who four years ago falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape, arrested for assaulting her boyfriend, setting his clothes on fire in a bathtub, threatening to stab him and then resisting arrest. (This sort of insanity is a good indicator that meth is on board.)

Would-be terrorist “Jihad Jane” Colleen LaRose, 47, who had a burning desire to “kill or die trying” and boasted it was “an honor & great pleasure to die or kill for” jihad, arrested for soliciting funds for terrorist organizations. While some former neighbors were “shocked” by the allegations, one referred to her as a “crazy lady.” The latter mentioned in an interview that she rarely left her apartment except at night, “when she would go drinking and get into fights.” Still, other neighbors insisted that although they knew she was crazy, “we never knew she was dangerous.” Repeat after me: we cannot predict how dangerous an alcoholic may become, the form it will take, or when….we cannot predict how dangerous an alcoholic may become, the form it will take, or when….

And speaking of lacrosse, Crystal Gayle Mangum, 33, the woman who four years ago falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of rape, arrested for assaulting her boyfriend, setting his clothes on fire in a bathtub, threatening to stab him and then resisting arrest. (This sort of insanity is a good indicator that meth is on board.)

Would-be terrorist “Jihad Jane” Colleen LaRose, 47, who had a burning desire to “kill or die trying” and boasted it was “an honor & great pleasure to die or kill for” jihad, arrested for soliciting funds for terrorist organizations. While some former neighbors were “shocked” by the allegations, one referred to her as a “crazy lady.” The latter mentioned in an interview that she rarely left her apartment except at night, “when she would go drinking and get into fights.” Still, other neighbors insisted that although they knew she was crazy, “we never knew she was dangerous.” Repeat after me: we cannot predict how dangerous an alcoholic may become, the form it will take, or when….we cannot predict how dangerous an alcoholic may become, the form it will take, or when….

And speaking of unusual forms that addiction can take, self-taught computer hacker Albert Gonzalez, 28, sentenced to 20 years for selling data stolen from millions of credit-card holders and costing businesses hundreds of millions of dollars, largely Heartland Payment Systems, Inc. and TJX. Gonzalez’s attorney Martin Weinberg explained that Gonzalez was unable to stop himself from committing the crimes because of drug “abuse,” an Internet addiction and symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. Prosecutors, who said the case was the largest and most costly computer crime in U.S. history, called Gonzalez a “calculating businessman” and claimed he threw himself a $75,000 birthday party, once lamented having to count more than $340,000 by hand, took in $2.8 million from hacking and buried $1.1 million in his parent’s back yard.

Keith Gough, a 2005 British lottery winner, dead from a heart attack at age 58, destitute. A relative explained it was “a combination of carelessness, naivety and generosity” that led to his blowing the entire $17 million in less than five years. The relative failed to identify the “parties—lots of parties,” as a clue to another fatal disease, which no doubt was the root cause of his lavish spending.

Congressman Hank Johnson (Dem., GA) worried about the impact of troops stationed on Guam, a long and narrow island. “My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,” Johnson said during a House Armed Services Committee meeting, with a totally straight face. The video, here, is priceless.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine suggests there may be some truth in something those who have read my books would predict: “Many [Club Fed and other white collar] prisoners suddenly discover, post-conviction, that they had a drinking problem….” I would add that those who don’t figure this out might benefit from greater introspection. In the spirit of The Economist’s discovery, recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the behavior itself.

Melissa Huckaby, 29, pleading guilty to the 2009 slaying of her daughter’s 8-year-old playmate Sandra Cantu in Tracy, California, in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table and dropping charges of rape. She had previously been charged with drugging a 7-year-old girl, along with a 37-year-old man whom police believe she had been dating. She had gone through a divorce and, just four years out of high school, bankruptcy. Despite the fact that she had accused her ex-husband John Huckaby of child abduction, domestic violence and alcohol abuse, he was stunned and told the press that while she battled “depression,” she “was not a violent person.” In addition to murder, she was arrested twice for petty theft and was suspected of two arson fires set eight days apart at the house where she lived in 2007. While she could simply be nuts, the fact that she drugged two people suggests she knows drugs as an addict would know them and, well, she committed murder and possibly other crimes—which puts the odds of addiction at well over 80%.

Alberto Vilar, 69, former patron of the arts and investment adviser, co-founder of Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc., sentenced to nine years in prison for bilking investors out of millions of dollars. The wheels of justice grind slowly: in the July 2005 TAR (“under watch”), I wrote: “Vilar, who spent big, lived high, made grandiose promises of bestowing charitable gifts and whose firm once managed $7 billion, reportedly now has no money and owes the Internal Revenue Service $24 million. The week he was arrested, he had boasted he was planning to take a close friend to Paris for his birthday and dine in London on the way back with Prince Charles. While blaming a series of back surgeries that left him bedridden for missing charitable pledges to hospitals, universities and opera houses, he admitted to taking 16 different medications for dislocations in his back.” His recent comment? “I deeply regret any inconvenience our 14,000 clients may have suffered. Fortunately, there are only five victims. I’m 95% confident they will be paid and not suffer a loss.” He still exhibits confabulated thinking and shows no remorse. The problem with pharmaceutical drug addicts is they can stay on their drugs legally, even while in prison.

Co-dependents of the month:

The British medical journal The Lancet, which fully retracted a study it published in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield linking measles-mumps-rubella vaccines to autism. The Lancet stuck to its story through 2004, when it found that Wakefield had been paid to conduct his study on children who were clients of a lawyer representing them in a lawsuit against the vaccine manufacturer, at which point it offered a partial retraction. The Lancet decision to fully retract came after British medical regulatory authorities confirmed years of allegations that Wakefield had lied about his patients and funding and had shown a “callous disregard” for the children by subjecting them to invasive and unnecessary procedures. I have long suspected that junk science is generally rooted in alcoholism, but as is all-too-common among professionals, including scientists, this cannot yet be proven: journalists don’t “out” them as they do celebrities and professional athletes. Yet, the mindset of a person making false claims in science is probably similar to one making false accusations, which due to its ego-inflating potential has often proved to be rooted in alcoholism. (Those interested in an alternative idea about the causes of autism may wish to check out Vitamin D Council.)

Enablers of the month:

Orange County, California sheriff’s deputies, who allowed fellow Deputy Allan James Waters, 36, to keep driving his Mercedes-Benz after one accident—only to be called to another incident 30 minutes later in which he injured another driver. This time, they arrested him for DUI. Message to cops: you don’t do anyone favors by offering “professional courtesies”. As is true throughout the field of alcoholism, helping only hurts and, sometimes, kills.

Singer Whitney Houston’s sister-in-law Pat Houston, who told reporters, “Whitney is doing fine. Some people have said cruel things, but she’s happy just to have rested in [London’s Dorchester] hotel” after a hospital stay with an “upper respiratory infection” and “allergies.” A month earlier she was seen “partying” with ex-husband Bobby Brown, with whom she used to smoke crack cocaine. One anonymous close person admits, “She’s exhibiting the telltale signs of an addict. One day she’s upbeat and even-keeled, and the next day she’s a mess—sweating, shaking, disoriented and mumbling incoherently.” Memo to Pat: if you care about your sister-in-law, please get honest and dispense with the idea that identifying active addiction is in any way “cruel.” It’s the most caring and loving thing you can do for the person short of conspiring in an intervention.

Similarly, the publicist for “Heroes” star Hayden Panettiere, 20, who denied the actress drank and caused a commotion at a party in which she was reported by one party guest to be “a complete drunken mess,” in part because she was sobbing uncontrollably on her hands and knees on top of a pool table with “her boobs hanging out of her dress.” Protecting the addict will kill her, Ms. Publicist. If the report is true, you might want to risk getting fired by doing what you can to get her sober, rather than thinking only about your paycheck.

Recovering addict of the month:

Baseball great Darryl Strawberry, 48, who reportedly asked to be fired by Donald Trump because, as one of the celeb’s on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” he was afraid he’d give in to temptation and relapse. According to one insider “there was a lot of alcohol flowing all of the time” once the cameras stopped rolling. Anyone with an understanding of addiction who watches reality TV should not be surprised. Good for you, Darryl, even if your “official” explanation was that you missed your family.

Disenablers of the month:

An unnamed Detroit high school girl who refused to get into a car with her 53-year-old mother, who was arrested shortly after for a third offense DUI with a BAL of .28 per cent, driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana; an unnamed Winnepeg 14-year-old boy who stabbed his 31-year-old mother in an apparent effort to keep her from drinking and driving after taking her keys (alright, that’s going too far—just report her next time, kid); and Judge Marsha N. Revel, who ordered actress Lindsay Lohan, 23, to wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet and undergo weekly random other-drug testing. We need more Judge Marsha’s, who may actually save a life.

Headline of the month:

“U.S. will pay $2.6 million to train Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly on the job.”

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Actor Dennis Hopper
, dead from complications of advanced prostate cancer at age 74. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, Hopper was one of “Hollywood’s most notorious drug addicts for 20 years.” For a period in the 1970s he was ostracized by Hollywood for being a “difficult” actor. No wonder: for the last five years before he stopped drinking and drugging in the mid-‘80s, his addiction had grown to “doing half a gallon of rum with a fifth of rum on the side, 28 beers and 3 grams of cocaine a day—and that wasn’t getting high, that was just to keep going.” He was married five times, including to Michelle Phillips for two weeks and, more recently, Victoria Duffy, whom he called “insane, inhuman and volatile.” He was reportedly good friends with James Dean during his brief life and appeared with him in the mid-‘50s films “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant,” after which he hung out with Elvis Presley and actor Nick Adams for a period of time. He got his big break directing and starring in the 1969 classic “Easy Rider,” which was plagued with creative differences and personal acrimony between him and Peter Fonda. Three decades later, he accused actor Rip Torn of pulling a knife on him during pre-production, which resulted in a defamation lawsuit by Torn, who claimed Hopper had pulled it on him. After losing, Hopper appealed and lost again, paying Torn a total of $950,000 in punitive damages. Among my favorite roles, Hopper played the villain in the Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock movie “Speed” and the villain Victor Drazen in the first season of “24.” Hopper apparently stayed sober until recently, when he began using marijuana to ease nausea and pain from the cancer. When someone tells me about an addict in his life, “Oh, (s)he’ll never get sober,” I’ll think of you, Dennis and tell them about the miracle of your recovery.

And so long to the “brilliant but sometimes erratic” Los Angeles Dodgers baseball great Willie Davis, dead at age 69 from apparently natural causes. Described as having “million-dollar legs and a 10-cent head” in 1996 by Buzzie Bavasi, the Dodgers’ general manager during their early years in Los Angeles, Davis would have been more aptly described as alternating between greatness (he stole 20 bases or more over 11 consecutive seasons) and apparent stupidity due to his having the disease of alcoholism. Bavasi made his comments after Davis was arrested in 1996, samurai sword and set of throwing knives in hand, at his parents’ home for allegedly threatening to kill them and burn their house down unless they gave him $5,000.

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.

Those convicted of hit-and-run should be treated as if they were under the influence for purposes of sentencing.

Since motorists committing hit and runs are almost always under the influence, I’ve long thought they should be treated as DUIs in the criminal justice system. Now someone is working toward that goal, albeit with different wording: defendants convicted of hit-and-run would face the same prison terms as drunk drivers who cause accidents.

USC student Adriana Bachan, 18, was killed by a DUI in the early hours of March 29, 2009. Claudia Cabrera, 31, had been drinking at a party earlier in the evening. Her driver’s license was already suspended and a lawsuit was pending in connection with a previous collision. Bachan was in a crosswalk with her friend, Marcus Garfinkle, now 20, when they were hit, sending Garfinkle into the windshield. While Bachan lay motionless on the ground, the car stopped, the passenger, Cabrera’s husband Josue Luna, 34, jumped out, dragged Garfinkle off the vehicle and dumped him on the sidewalk. He got back into the car and Cabrera took off.

Cabrera, a pre-school teacher with five children, denied being under the influence and claimed she didn’t come forth because she was “afraid.” Because police found her much later, they couldn’t prove she was under the influence at the time of the incident and could give only the maximum sentence possible for hit-and-run: eight years for Cabrera and seven for Luna. Cabrera would have been eligible for a sentence of 15-years-to-life had she been convicted of DUI manslaughter.

Bachan’s mother, Carmen Bachan, is determined to insure that her daughter’s life has meaning. “I’ll never see my Adriana graduate. I’ll never see my Adriana get married, have children. I don’t want anyone [else] to go through this.” We should all support Carmen Bachan’s quest to have those convicted of hit-and-run treated as if they were under the influence at the time of the incident, because they almost assuredly were.

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Image Dear Doug

There are so many possibilities this month: the verbally (and sometimes physically) abusive foul-mouthed mother whose third husband appears to have no idea about her past….the woman who divorced her husband over two years ago and who, despite the fact that he belittles and trashes her and is “manic-depressive,” she lets stay in her home because he claims to be broke after gambling it all away and she would feel guilty about forcing him out….the sister who complains that her parents enable her recently graduated unemployed 27-year-old brother who told her “the magic bill-paying fairies” take care of his expenses while he plays video games and “gets high”….the woman who worries that her sister, who “may have a mental disorder,” is physically abusing her husband by slapping, biting and punching him and is concerned over the safety of their two young children….the woman who worries that her husband, who was recently diagnosed with “Post-Traumatic Stress disorder”, isn’t healthy because he blows his lid when her kids don’t properly tie the trash bag or leave a few drops of water on the sink after washing their hands….the mother-in-law who called everyone she knew one evening to tell them how fat her daughter-in-law is, repeatedly using the term “big as a house,” and who now can’t understand why she refuses to visit. But there is a winner.

Tenant from hell

+ + + + +

Dear Doug:

I am trying to evict a toxic tenant, who shares custody of three young children, the oldest of whom is 11. I’ve been told by other tenants that she frequently leaves the 11-year-old in charge of the siblings, which include a severely autistic 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, to go out and party. While she claims her ex-husband is the devil and tells stories to back up her claim, police who’ve been called say they had never met a “true” sociopath until they met her. I know how to contact the ex-husband and am thinking about informing him of the stories she tells. Should I? What if she’s telling the truth about him? I would never forgive myself if something were to happen to her children.


Victim of financial abuse, but concerned about the children

. . . .

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest you discuss the woman’s criminal mothering with police to see if anything can be done for the children. They might also tell you do not contact the ex-, but instead involve child protective services, which can help protect the children from both parents if necessary.

This is not bad advice. However, such columnists don’t fully explain why the children might need protection from both parents. Here’s why: she leaves the kids alone to go out and “party,” which is a euphemism for “get drunk and high;” she is, therefore, clearly an addict. We have to figure we know nothing about the ex-husband, since she is probably confabulating stories. However, many of the most horrific fights, including those surrounding a divorce, involve multiple addicts. Since he might also be an addict, we cannot predict how destructive either parent might become, what form it might take, or when. While you should do everything you can to advocate for the children, you should also protect yourself and make sure you do not become more of a target than you already are as the landlady.

(Source for story ideas: “Ask Amy,” February 2, January 7, March 9 and February 23; “Annie’s Mailbox,” March 7 and March 14; and the winner, Ask Amy, February 3.)

“Middle-schoolers who are forbidden to watch R-rated movies are less likely to start drinking than peers whose parents are more lenient about such films.”

So found researchers at Dartmouth Medical School, reporting that among those whose parents let them watch R-rated movies “all the time,” almost a quarter had drank without their parents’ knowledge. Only 3% had tried a drink among those “never allowed” to watch R-rated movies. While the researchers controlled for parenting style, there was nothing said about the parents’ level of alcohol use and alcoholism.

Aligning cause and effect between movies and drinking ignores the fact that the less disciplined a child, the greater the likelihood that a parent is an alcohol or other-drug addict (“out of control children” is clue # 10 in the chapter “Poor Judgment” in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). Since the odds of a child inheriting the biochemistry of addiction from an addicted parent are some four times the odds of inheriting addiction from a non-addicted parent, the same child is far more likely to be allowed to do things children of “normal” parents are not. This includes watching R-rated movies and TV shows, listening to the “wrong” kind of music, playing R-rated video games and having sex at an earlier age. They also have greater access to the drug than children of non-alcoholics, since the hooch is more likely readily available at home. So, they begin drinking earlier. The R-rated films have nothing to do with cause; they are a coinciding indicator of early drinking and likely early onset of alcoholism.

It was quite a challenge to select this month’s antic. It could have been Elsa Benson, 53, who likes to call 911 on non-emergencies (“my husband won’t eat his supper”) when she gets drunk (30 calls in one recent six-month period); Gregory J. Oras, 37, who called 911 three times saying he was being attacked and who, when officers arrived finding no signs of a fight, asked that the nice officers give him a ride to a local bar (he was instead driven to a place with other kinds of bars); or Lorraine Bulloch who, during an argument with her brother over the fact that he brought home the wrong brand of beer, threw a knife that missed him and instead struck a 3-year-old girl. But none of these top this one, which we crown the winner of this month’s Antic-of-the-Month award and for which any comments will only spoil the moment:

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

“SMOOTH MOVE: Florida Highway Patrol troopers investigating a crash on Cudjoe Key determined the cause: as she drove, a 37-year-old woman was shaving her ...uh... "bikini area" while her ex-husband, in the passenger seat, was steering. After rear-ending another vehicle, they drove another half-mile, and her ex allegedly switched seats with her. As for the unusual distraction, ‘She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit,’ said Trooper Gary Dunick. ‘If I wasn't there, I wouldn't have believed it.’ The day before the crash, driver Megan Mariah Barnes was convicted of drunk driving (not her first offense), and driving with a suspended license. Her license was revoked for five years, and she was ordered to turn in her car for impound. After the crash, Barnes was arrested and charged with hit and run, reckless driving, driving without insurance, and driving with a revoked license. Her ex-husband was not charged. (Key West Citizen) ...Since once the trooper heard the story, he could understand why he wasn't watching the road.”

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2010 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission.)


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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."
— Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic Magazine and columnist, Scientific American

Buy your copy of Alcoholism Myths and Realities for only $14.95 or get the whole collection PLUS a two-hour audio cassette from Galt Publishing for just $49.95 plus tax and shipping. That's a $72.75 value for only $49.95.

To order online, click the following link (be sure to put "TAR SPECIAL" in the comments section of the order form.) Orders can also be placed by phone: 800-482-9424 OR fax: 818-363-3111.
If you wish to pay by check, send the appropriate payment with your shipping information and the words "TAR SPECIAL" in the "memo" section of your check to: PO Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327.

Click here o purchase any of the above Thorburn books

Click here to test someone you know for behaviorial indications of addiction.

Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"

Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation


The Thorburn Addiction Report is a free newsletter published by Galt Publishing and PrevenTragedy.com. Subscibe by visiting our web site at www.PrevenTragedy.com.

The Thorburn Addiction Report is available to newspapers as a regular feature column.
Inquiries are invited.

Copyright Doug Thorburn All Rights Reserved.

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send your email to report@preventragedy.com or write to
Doug Thorburn, P.O. Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327-7777