Drunks, Drugs & Debits
How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse


Review by Midwest Book Review

Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse is a unique contribution to the growing library of social issues literature focusing on the problems of alcoholism and drug abuse. Author Doug Thorburn reveals how entire fortunes can be lost due to becoming involved with addicts; why non-addicts must uncompromisingly disenable and refuse persons suspected of addiction; sixty behaviors, signs and symptoms of addiction; actions to take when separating our financial life from that of an addict with whom we are already involved with personally, familialy, or professionally; and much, much more. Because of the pervasive extent of addiction and its disastrous consequences in virtually every community in the country, Drunks, Drugs & Debits is a very high priority acquisition for community library collections and must reading for anyone fearing that they are detrimentally involved with an addicted person. •••

Review by Randy Cassingham
Author, This Is True

One of the cool things about being a writer is I know a lot of other writers, and I can help them celebrate when their new books come out. But my long-time friend Doug Thorburn didn't start out as a writer: he's a top-notch tax preparer (an "Enrolled Agent"), a certified financial planner, and got so interested in personality theories that he became certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Then he had a mind-bending couple of years with a significant other who was an addict, and it opened his eyes to just how big an impact addicts have on others around them. Not just on a personal level, but on a financial level -- his area of professional expertise. He set out to learn how his financial services clients are affected by addicts around them, but was dismayed to find that while there were plenty of books written for doctors and other professionals, and plenty of pamphlets written for "beginners", there was very little in between: good, solid, detailed information written for lay people with concrete advice on What To Do. So, combining all of his interests and experiences, he wrote the book he wished he had before his disastrous love affair -- which I witnessed.

Drunks, Drugs and Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse is just off the press, and I'm reading it now. It's incredible. I not only see the "reasons why" behind the behavior of many people I know, but also the "reasons why" behind the behaviors of people I know with family members addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Thorburn provides some powerful tools to help you detect addicts around you, avoid the havoc they wreak, and understand some of the reasons why alcohol (in particular) is such a powerful drug -- and why some people in such destructive behavior because of it.

While he was researching and writing the book, Thorburn sent drafts around to many financial and substance abuse experts. The reactions were amazing: his unique approach was praised to an unbelievable extent. For instance, addiction expert Dr. Forrest Tennant didn't think the book was just an excellent book on addition, but indeed "One of the most important books that's ever been written." Now THAT'S an endorsement!

If you've ever wanted to know WHY someone near you did some inexplicably stupid or mean thing to you, or you want to understand the impact that an alcoholic family member has had on your life, or you want to protect yourself financially from someone you may not even suspect is an addict (be it a family member, a spouse, a co-worker, a business partner, or a complete stranger) -- and in language you can understand -- you've GOT to read this book. You will find that "you know a LOT more addicts than you think.

Review by Audrey DeLaMarte
Published in The Phoenix and Steps to Recovery

We need to protect ourselves [from the practicing alcoholic]. The first step is to learn to recognize…the signs, symptoms, and questions to ask [about] a suspected addict, which is only one of dozens of helpful tools in this book. The author, a financial planner and “enrolled agent” (licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service) has created an entirely fresh look at a specific effect of addiction and provides tools to avoid it and repair the damage if any has already been done. Outstanding!! •••

Review by Lindsay Freese, MEd, MAC, LAD
Associate professor of Human Service at the New Hampshire Community Technical College in Concord, NH; Past president of the New Hampshire Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor Association. Published in the January/February 2002 issue of Counselor: The Magazine for Addiction Professionals.

As I read Doug Thorburn’s book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, I was struck that this book is really about missed opportunities. Those living and working with addiction miss opportunities to help them by enabling their behaviors and misunderstanding what is unfolding in front of them. Media misses the opportunity, particularly in books and movies, to portray the disease as it truly is, more frequently depicting alcoholism and addiction as something else, or ignoring it all together. Politicians bypass the opportunity to formulate approaches influencing drug demand while throwing money at an endless supply, which appears unstoppable, and the dependent ones miss their whole process while assertively supporting the above misrepresentation of their malady. This book’s main focus is intended to address addiction and financial abuse, but it’s a primer of excellent information that any politician, human service worker, or medical provider would do well to read.

Many of the concepts presented in this book are not new and my sense is that seasoned clinicians may find the information repetitive. The author’s intention, however, is to aim at an audience who will no doubt find new insight here. The author is a tax accountant and financial planner, not an addiction counselor. It certainly makes sense that he writes about finances and addiction, although I feel that he may be limiting his readership by creating this niche.

His presentation of these issues also applies to the broad range of those affected by dependency. The author makes frequent chatty references to personal experiences with addicted others, perhaps a few too many, and shares things people have told me about addicts and alcoholics, but his anecdotes present concepts that are very sound, his suggestions are credible, and he has done his homework.

He starts out discussing the concept of “bottoming out,” stating that his book “was expressly written not only to enlighten others how to identify likely addicts, but also to guide in helping the addict [hit bottom] far earlier than he otherwise might.” He argues at great length about the prevalence of dependent people in the readers’ lives and endlessly describes the horrors one may experience if having the misfortune to connect with one. He also takes on treatment failures illustrating what works and what doesn’t. He states that, “many professionals try to treat the symptoms of the disease, emotional problems, family problems, school problems, rather than the disease itself” going on to suggest that “this is like treating an AIDS patient for weight loss.” He takes issue with public policy, and also urges that the word “abuse” be discarded. He believes that “abuse implies voluntary, willful action, yet it is used to describe much of what is actually addiction grounded in one’s biological make-up. Addiction is not voluntary.” Bravo!

Thorburn does an excellent job of presenting clear signs and symptoms in a variety of ways for the non-addict to identify addictions. He cleverly organizes them in diagnostic styles and checklists that may help significant others clarify and identify dependency. One is The Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator.

The author states, “we may be able to determine an addict’s temperament by observing the survival games they play,” thus providing an opportunity to predict the sorts of crisis and intervention needed for them to hit their bottom. He also feels that it is important to comprehend and predict deeper levels of the addiction process, which in turn will guide the interventionist in their approach toward helping the addict.

He introduces the reader to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which, via a series of questions, categorizes one’s personality and temperament into types. When further defined these types offer additional insight into both the addicted and those around them and also are seen as helpful in matching temperament to treatment and recovery. He says, “The style used to work the program (such as A.A.) must be consistent with one’s personal values and core needs, which vary with temperament.”

As a financial advisor his strong point in the book is his analysis and suggestions regarding the financial abuse of others by the addict. These are areas that have not generally entered into this discussion, and his presentations of them are valuable.

The most interesting part of this book may be a section that introduces notable addicted people (such as Adolph Hitler) and how he feels their compulsions influenced the course of events in history. He gives wonderful examples about the plots of books and movies and how addiction issues were treated (or not) in them. I suspect the reader will be heading off to the video and bookstore to stock up.

For the uninitiated it’s a valuable reference with useful suggestions and tools that could possibly make a big difference in lives affected by another’s addiction. For the professional it’s a good psychoeducational reference for use by their clients. This book warrants checking out. •••


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