Issue # 80 - Summer/Fall 2015

Viewing the new through the lens of alochol and other-drug addiction

Sorry it’s been so long since our last issue, which accounts for a lengthy one. It also accounts for a few somewhat “dated,” but timeless pieces. Our Top Story argues that pre-trial convictions, especially by those who are not supposed to make accusations and which cause immeasurable pain for both direct and indirect victims of accusations, are often explained by substance addiction in the accuser. Please read on, enjoy and pass around!


Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2015 by Doug Thorburn

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

All four books are available on Amazon, and the two e-books are available in multiple formats on Amazon and IPG.

The Media and Prosecutors Convict Six Baltimore Cops Before Trial. Odds of Addiction: High—and it’s Not the Accused.

Most addiction authorities believe it takes a decade for the typical spouse to begin to suspect alcoholism in the other spouse. Yet, alcoholism is triggered during the first heavy drinking episode—average age, 13—which means the spouse was likely an addict long before marriage. How could such a disease go unidentified for so long among people so close? The best explanation is that early- to middle-stage alcoholics are usually “functional,” can be extraordinary successful—and don’t look like what most think of as a “drunk.” As a result, alcoholics and prescription pill-poppers frequently use for decades, sporadically ruining relationships and destroying lives without anyone the wiser. Those who suspect alcoholism often don’t understand its relevance, have no idea they are enabling and don’t grasp the idea that it explains most everything, both positive and negative, about the life of the person who should be under scrutiny. They haven’t a clue that most “misbehaviors” fuel alcoholic egomania, often masterfully executed by wielding power over others capriciously. The exercise of such power may be relatively innocuous, such as belittling others and using vulgarities, or may be devastating, including murder and character assassination via false accusations.

The type of destructive behaviors an addict exerts is related to their underlying personality, the particular drug or drugs of choice, circumstances and environment. In particular, if an especially malevolent addict is not in a position to use violence, he or she may resort to the false accusation as a means to inflate the ego. As James Graham, in his classic The Secret History of Alcoholism, puts it:

“…The repertoire of available attack devices is determined by the social environment in which [the alcoholic] functions. Some alcoholics will physically attack others, but violence involves obvious risks—especially for a politician. False accusations not only involve minimal risk, but also give the alcoholic the satisfaction of demeaning the target of his attacks. There is also a bonus: he can feel superior to everyone who believes his lies.”

Graham describes the life and misbehaviors of Senator Joseph McCarthy; his infamous false accusations (surrounding kernels of truth, a method perfected by accomplished liars) were both a clue to and a result of his obvious alcoholism. Graham points out alcoholic prosecutors can do even more damage:

“If the alcoholic is a District Attorney, he may use his power to prosecute persons he knows are innocent. And if he does, his victims might suffer even more than those attacked by McCarthy. An alcoholic District Attorney has at his command something McCarthy never acquired: the prosecutorial power of a state.”

Graham describes the 1916 framing of two labor leaders, Thomas Mooney and Warren Billings, for a bomb blast that killed ten spectators during a Preparedness Day parade, by District Attorney Charles M. Fickert:

“He suppressed evidence, used false witnesses, and suborned perjury. And he was certainly an alcoholic. Years after the frame-up, Fickert was a derelict: out of work, divorced (rare in those years) on a charge of intemperance, a poorly-dressed public drunkard.”

Mooney and Billings spent 23 years in prison, “pardoned only after their alcoholic-engineered frame-up had become ‘America’s Dreyfus case,’ an international embarrassment.”

Graham also describes the case of the 1910s case of New York District Attorney Charles Whitman, who granted immunity to four felonious gamblers in return for false testimony against Police Lt. Charles Becker. Becker was accused of persuading a group of gambling house owners to hire killers to murder Henry Rosenthal, the owner of a competing New York gambling house. Whitman arranged for “ample time, and lots of rehearsals, to get their testimony down pat,” in which they swore Becker induced them to hire the gunmen. Despite a Court of Appeals overturning Becker’s conviction partly on the basis that, in their opinion, “three of the four gambler-witnesses [were] ‘indisputably…guilty of the murder…’”, a second trial found Becker guilty and sentenced him to death. Billy Sulzer, the Governor of New York at the time of the murder, was convinced of Becker’s innocence. Unfortunately, by the time Becker landed on death row, Charles Whitman had become Governor—the only person with the power to grant clemency. (Becker’s execution is considered by many to be the most bungled in the history of Sing Sing due to his massive size.)

Graham concludes his chapter on false accusers:

“Thousands of government officials, including prosecutors and other law enforcement officials, have the power to harm innocents. Because the disease is seldom diagnosed while in its highly dangerous early and middle stages, it is certain that large numbers of them are alcoholics.”

Few are in a better position to inflate the ego by making false accusations “stick” than law enforcers, especially prosecutors. Because journalists, like biographers and historians, have no clue to alcoholic symptoms and alcoholics often excel at hiding their use, they don’t know the relevance of addiction.

I’ve explained why addicts are likely instigators of riots in my books and in several previous issues of TAR available here, here and here. Riots are even more likely to occur where prosecutors make false or exaggerated statements involving murder, inciting rage in supporters of alleged victims. Trayvon Martin was, at 17, a budding young addict and, as a result, dangerous; because of defamatory statements made against his killer by (among others) the prosecutor, George Zimmerman’s exoneration on murder charges were followed by riots.

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, who somehow managed to avoid a Grand Jury in bringing charges against Zimmerman, has been accused by lawyer, author and political commentator Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz of filing a perjurious pre-trial affidavit that excluded critical exculpatory evidence. After the trial, Dershowitz excoriated Corey: “She was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I’ve seen in 50 years of litigating cases,” adding she should be disbarred for multiple violations of her oath of office. (A scathing piece on Corey, filled to the brim with alcoholic indicators can be found here.)

Freddie Gray
, 25, who was killed in a police transport van on the way to jail after being arrested in Baltimore, Maryland for possessing an allegedly illegal switchblade, had been involved in 20 criminal court cases (see “Runners-Up” below). These included several charges of drug possession, which in my work provides absolute proof of addiction (heavy drinking and/or any use of illegal drugs + behaviors harmful to others = substance addiction). The riots following Gray’s death were aggravated if not incited by the prosecutor, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby, 35. She brought murder charges against six police officers before a Grand Jury could even convene, arguing that a critical factor in Freddie Gray’s death was their failure to put a seat belt on him. Prof. Dershowitz likened Mosby’s behaviors with Corey’s, concluding “The mayor and state attorney have made it virtually impossible for these defendants to get a fair trial.” Prosecutors are supposed to be impartial; the accused, under English (as opposed to Napoleonic) Law are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The American Spectator points out that “criminalizing debatable acts of omission [the failure to put on a seat belt] is the mark not of an impartial prosecutor but a politicized one.” I suggest the misbehavior is an indication of addiction, even if deeply hidden. And as regular readers know, because substance addiction is a genetic disorder that causes misbehaviors, it should be viewed as the lesser moral failing than acting this way without benefit of bio-chemistry.

In issue # 57 of the Thorburn Addiction Report, I cited a 1987 article by Steven Waldman entitled, “Governing under the Influence; Washington alcoholics: their aides protect them, the media shields them.” Waldman reported numerous instances in which politicians in important positions were shielded, their alcoholism kept secret. They included the chairmen of the House Ways and Means committee, Armed Services Committee, the Agriculture Committee, the Finance Committee, a majority leader, a speaker of the House and a former vice-presidential running mate. Waldman accurately observed, “the more important a public official is, the less likely he will be forced to confront his problem drinking.” Marianne E. Brickley, recovering alcoholic and ex-wife of Michigan’s GOP Lt. Gov. James Brickley similarly said, “the higher the person’s social status the more that person is protected by others.” I expanded on this: the higher the social, business, financial or political status of the addict, the more enablers have to lose if the secret leaks out because enablers have their own positions of power, prestige, income and wealth tied to the alcoholic. Therefore, a key role of staff is to cover up for the boss.

In describing what is, to the addictionologist, obvious marks of alcoholism, journalists, biographers and historians almost always fail to even mention the possibility. In addition, staffers, employees, co-workers, family members and friends enable by covering up actual addictive use. Alcoholics often surround themselves with other alcoholics, ensuring that everyone has “something” on everyone else, further helping to impose a code of silence. This is the reason some organizations have a culture of graft and corruption.

As a result of the unawareness of biographers, historians and journalists, addiction may not be proven in public figures for decades, if ever. Countless biographies describe behaviors and levels of drinking that are best described as alcoholism, yet hardly any biographers ever identify it as such.* This includes figures much more public and destructive than any of the recent prosecutors who have made accusations with incomplete evidence—all of whom should be strongly suspected of alcoholism.

* A classic case is the esteemed historian Paul Johnson’s discussion of Karl Marx’s alcoholic behaviors in Ten Intellectuals, and his utter failure to identify Marx’s behaviors as rooted in obvious alcoholism.

In a similar instance, one of journalistic malfeasance, only the 13th article I read on Bruce Ivins, the 2001 anthrax killer, mentioned the fact he had been in rehab twice the year of his suicide. Incredibly, it was in the 28th paragraph and didn’t state he was, therefore, an alcoholic (the story is worth a re-read: issue # 42 of TAR).

Click here to buy any of Doug Thorburn's books on addiction!

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Freddie Gray, 25, dead from a spinal injury in a police van while being transported to jail, which spurred rioting and looting in Baltimore, Maryland. Gray apparently had a history of participating in “crash-for-cash” schemes in which people hurt themselves and blame others so they can collect sometimes large settlements. Attorneys for the six police officers charged in Gray’s death accuse prosecutors, including Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, of steering investigators away from such allegations—information that would obviously help their defense. Apparently, Assistant States’ Attorney Janice Bledsoe told police investigators, who wanted to follow up on the evidence, “not to do the defense attorneys’ jobs for them.” Sorry, Ms. Bledsoe and Ms. Mosby, prosecutors are required to share any exculpatory evidence with defense attorneys—that’s why we are not North Korea. Bledsoe previously represented Gray in 2012 in a guilty plea for cocaine possession; Gray had been involved in 20 criminal cases, five of which were pending when he died. If he had been coerced into abstinence, he would probably be alive today, the riots would not have occurred, the criminal justice system would be busy with other pressing matters and six police officers wouldn’t be at risk of having their careers ruined and serving time in prison.

Richard W. Matt
, 49, and David Sweat, 35, escapees from upstate New York Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison; the pair were on the lam for several weeks before law enforcement finally tracked them down. In 1997, Matt abducted and tortured his 72-year-old boss and, after breaking his neck, cut up his body and threw the parts in the Niagara River. He fled to Mexico, committed at least one other murder and was incarcerated there. After several escape attempts, Mexico returned him to the U.S. In 2002, Sweat shot a Sheriff’s Deputy 22 times; when that didn’t kill him, he ran the officer over with his car. Prison seamstress Joyce Mitchell, 51, “caught up in a fantasy” of running away with lifers, snuck the pair tools to facilitate escape. There’s no word on whether booze was on her menu. After a three-week manhunt, Matt was tracked down to a cabin he had burglarized near the prison. He was shot and killed while resisting arrest. Police found an empty bottle of rum and a half-drunk bottle of grape-flavored gin at the cabin. Both Matt and the cabin reeked of booze; his blood alcohol content at death was .18 per cent (for which a 200-pound person would have to consume 24 ounces of 80-proof liquor over four hours, a feat non-addicts are usually incapable of). Sweat was recaptured two days later. The larger story is one that may never be known or told in full: the men escaped because of corruption at the prison, fueled by a possible drug trade and alcoholism among prison staffers.

Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez
, 24, who murdered four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, arrested for a DUI after a late-night party earlier in the year. One DUI does not prove alcoholism, especially in a 24-year-old, but in my opinion is powerful evidence in a devoted Muslim, a religion that prohibits drinking. Abdulazeez graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2012 with a degree in engineering, completed several internships and then took a job in 2013 at a nuclear power plant in Ohio; he was fired for failing a drug test after ten days. Even though the failure was over marijuana (a relatively benign drug, which is the least likely of drugs to cause the user to harm others), with the use of it the odds of addiction to alcohol are substantially increased. While a user can test positive for marijuana for as long as two months after use, a blood alcohol content of .18 per cent will be undetectable after 12 hours. In 2009, Abdulazeez’s mother, Rasmia, alleged that his father, Youssuf Abdulazeez, physically and sexually assaulted her and had on occasion beaten their children. Domestic violence gives us 80-90% odds of alcoholism in the perpetrator; a child of a parent with alcoholism is four times more likely to inherit the disease than a child of a non-alcoholic. But there is even more evidence: Abdulazeez Jr. reportedly consumed sleeping pills, opioids and painkillers in addition to the marijuana and alcohol. U.S. officials say they have not found a “clear motive” for the attack, but no motive is necessary where substance addiction is evident. Abdulazeez was an addict, whose alcoholic egomania and need to wield power took form in these tragic shootings.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, several recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the alleged crimes.

Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, who murdered reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, on live television. Because journalists and others don’t understand its relevance (“he’s crazy,” “he’s a mental case,” “he has issues”) and, therefore, don’t look for it, we don’t yet have absolute proof of substance addiction. However, we should get it sooner or later, likely buried in the last paragraph of an article about him. Flanagan, who killed himself after being chased by officers, was a poster child for alcoholic behavioral clues: he murdered two innocent people; he did so in public (“watch what I can do!” “look at my power!” says the egomaniac); he made numerous false accusations of racism (both racism and false accusations of racism are nearly always rooted in alcoholism); he sued former employers over purported racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying (his EEOC claim was dismissed because none of his allegations could be corroborated; lawsuits, especially scurrilous ones, are brought by addicts way out of proportion to their numbers); he was “a difficult person for a lot of people to work with”; he was described as “always looking out for people to say things he could take offense to”; he had to be escorted out of the building by local police on his last day at the TV station where he last held a regular job; he threw his cat’s feces from the balcony of his apartment, police found his door smeared with cat feces and the apartment was soaked in cat urine (the throwing of feces is common to amphetamine addicts and animal abuse is the near-exclusive domain of substance addicts); he was fired from another TV station in 2000 after threatening fellow employees; he was fired because of “bizarre behavior;” he used profanity on the job; his refrigerator was “plastered with pictures of himself in dated modeling photos and headshots” (narcissism is usually a symptom of alcoholism); he had a propensity for engaging in irrational rages, including a recent YouTube video in which he argued with a man who berated him for driving “like a lunatic at more than 100mph”. The Thorburn Substance Addiction Indicator or TSARI, as well as my book How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, includes such alcoholic behavioral clues as others having to walk on eggshells around the person under scrutiny, “intense mood swings,” making false accusations, other signs of a “massive over-inflated ego,” “severe problems at work and/or home” due to the person’s behavior, blaming others for one’s circumstances, frequent belligerence or nastiness and repeatedly engaging in “verbal or physical abuse.” If Flanagan wasn’t an addict, he would be among the vilest non-addicts ever.

DeKalb County, Georgia, where after years of scandal and allegations of widespread corruption, special investigators hired to root it out have alleged that employees frequently take bribes, drive drunk and spend taxpayer dollars on personal items like liquor, candy, flower arrangements and Caribbean cruises. The special investigators, Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde, say “the misconduct starts at the top and has infected nearly every department we have looked at.” Interim DeKalb “CEO” (mayor) Lee May, who hired the investigators, rejects the assertion that the county in general is rotten and says most government employees are honest. The problem with these types of organizations—especially governmental ones, where those acting badly don’t easily get kicked out—is that addicts at the top tend to hire other addicts. As mentioned in this month’s Top Story, addicts are much more likely than non-addicts to protect each other’s secrets; they generally all have something to hide. Thus far, suspended DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was sentenced to 18 months for attempted extortion and perjury, former Commissioner Elaine Boyer is serving a 14-month sentence for defrauding taxpayers of more than $100,000, and former DeKalb construction chief Pat Reid and her architect-husband Tony Pope were convicted of racketeering over manipulating school construction contracts. And in a classic case of protecting their own, an unnamed government employee was arrested for DUI, avoided disciplinary action by resigning and was rehired just days after pleading guilty. I suspect many other governmental entities need investigators like Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde. To start with, I’d suggest Baltimore City, home to Marilyn Mosby as well as Florida’s Fourth Judicial Court, home to Angela Corey.

Marianna Seachrist, 41, charged with aggravated stalking. Deputies, hearing low-bass noises coming from the condo above Peggy Westby’s unit and no one responding from inside the condo or showing up to open the door, rammed it. They discovered three low-frequency speakers mounted to a board and placed face-down on the floor in the living room, weighted down by dumbbells and cinder blocks. The speakers were “daisy-chained together” to an amplifier, which was wired to a Blackberry tablet that played a “workout mp3,” producing a bass-clicking sound that vibrated the room—set up so that someone with a smartphone could operate the system remotely.

The story gets even more bizarre. Frank Macnamara asks several intriguing questions on his youtube page:

[I] “looked up the ‘victim’ Peggy Westby. Everything on the Internet says she lives on Tarawood Drive in Bay Hill. The house shown in the video is not in Bay Hill. She apparently lives there with her husband. Why does she say she's living in a condo when she owns a nice, expensive house (homesteaded) with her husband? Something fishy's going on here….Her daughter, Katherine Westby, claims to live at 7544 Bay Port Road, which matches the building shown in the video. It's listed on the affidavit charging her with DUI. Her son, Alexander Westby, was also charged with DUI, and was on probation for car theft….There has got to be more to this.”

So, Katherine Westby appears to live with her son in a condo owned by her mother, downstairs from Marianna Seachrist. This is likely a case of addict v. addict.

An unnamed 20-something college graduate retail worker, claiming credit for adult toys tossed on Portland, Oregon power lines. In a recent interview with Vice, she says she is “nowhere near done. It had to be done. I have no idea why, but it had to [be done].” We have an idea, but one that is as yet unconfirmed.

Some things you just can't make up:

Daniel Collins, 36, admitted he was shooting at street lights because, as he put it, he’s an extraterrestrial trying to protect the planet from other aliens. It’s unclear how the street lights were attracting extraterrestrials, but there’s no accounting for drug-induced “trips.” He was charged with endangering safety with a firearm and possession of—surprise!—drug paraphernalia.

Co-addicts of the month:

Around midnight, Alexandria Mauer, 24, was driving around naked while eating a slice of pizza; her passenger, Kenneth Gillespie, 33, was also naked and holding a can of beer between his feet. Mauer was arrested for DUI and, in an all-too-common act of enabling, she was bailed out at 2 a.m. by a family member, long before sobering up. She was spotted, fully clothed but obviously still drunk at 3 a.m., wandering on a road. Police reported she had gotten into an argument with her driver (perhaps the family member who picked her up) and jumped out of the car. She was again arrested, this time for disorderly conduct and intoxication. Gillespie—on probation for drug possession—was arrested for disorderly conduct and intoxication, open container and public indecency, and peed in the back of the police cruiser on his way to the station. If his blood alcohol content was .24 per cent at midnight (which it could easily have been given the behaviors), it would have dropped to .105 per cent at his 9 a.m. release (BAL decreases on average at .015 per cent per hour)—still legally drunk. If we hope to up the odds of “miraculous insight,” “a need to find God” and “a need to try sobriety,” the system would better serve the rest of us by requiring drunks to blow a zero before release. In the long run, we’d end up with fewer drunks driving naked, acting badly, ruining relationships and destroying lives, and there’d be many more alcoholics in recovery.

In a twofer, Erik Polite, 35, clocked at 106 mph, was pulled over. When he stopped, he exchanged seats with passenger Leeshawn Baker, 34, who put the car in gear, allowing police to get a “twofer.” Polite’s blood alcohol content was .19 per cent and Baker’s was .25 per cent, the latter of which requires 24 ounces of 80-proof liquor for a 200-pound person over a period of less than five hours. Both were charged with DUI, gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle and drug possession.


Really bad wedding of the month:

It all started after a woman confronted Mandi L. Groh, 32, over allowing her 14-year-old son to drink beer at a wedding reception. Groh punched the woman in the face, a brawl ensued and police were called. Groh tried to drive off with her son and pre-teen daughter, but police stopped her and saw the boy was obviously drunk. He was taken to a local hospital, where his blood alcohol content was found to be .16 per cent. Groh’s husband, Jesse Groh, 38, was questioned about his untucked dress shirt covered in blood; police found three large folding knives on his person. The Groh’s were arrested on numerous charges, including corruption of minors and public drunkenness. They were not the only ones getting into trouble at the wedding: the unnamed bride was treated for alcohol poisoning and dehydration. The groom, Nicholas Papoutsis, 31, challenged officers to a fight. Police tried “reasoning” with him, suggesting he didn’t really want to be arrested on his wedding night, but reason doesn’t apply to alcoholics and other brain-damaged individuals. He, along with six people in all at the reception, were arrested.


“Invincible” addicts of the month:

Devon Staples, 22, killed while celebrating 4th of July, after combining fireworks with alcohol in a small town in Maine. Friends tried to discourage him from launching a mortar from his head, but Devon was buzzed. His brother, Cody, was a few feet away and said his brother was “not the kind of person who would do something stupid.” His mother Kathleen says her son thought the mortar was a dud. How could she know it “would” be a dud? She’s calling for tougher controls over the newly legalized fireworks (they were illegal in Maine from 1949 until 2012), with “safety training” at the forefront. Sorry Kathleen, but all the safety training in the world goes out the window once alcohol and other drug addiction is involved. This can be true even for non-addicts (it’s clearly possible this was a one-time awful event; Devon may not have had addiction). However, another similar incident in Michigan surely involved alcoholism: Scott Jeffers, 47, who was holding a mortar-type firework over his head. It exploded, killing him instantly.

Nor do alcohol and guns mix; when they do, the odds are nearly 100% alcohol is being consumed by a person with alcoholism. Charles Cooper, 49, removed the magazine from his pistol and wondered whether there was still a round in the chamber. He decided to test this by pointing the gun to his head and pulling the trigger, with the tragic results we have grown to expect. Cooper had, of course, been drinking and his death will no doubt be ruled “accidental.” As is likely the case with Scott Jeffers, the true cause of death is almost assuredly “addiction;” this is yet another death out of millions for which the underlying true cause is not correctly identified.

Chutzpah of the month:

Herbert Kyles, 25, found passed out behind the wheel of his car in the middle of an intersection, engine running, who told officers he consumed “two beers” but it was okay because “I’m not driving.” He was so drunk he couldn’t complete field sobriety tests and blew a .22 on a Breathalyzer at the police station. He apparently misspoke; he meant “two six packs.”


Concocted story of the month:

Matthew B. Smith, 36, had been in the rest room at a Circle K Shell gas station for about 30 minutes. A police officer needed to use the facilities, found the door locked, and was advised by a customer that Smith was in the restroom because he was “having problems with his butt.” By the time Smith exited, other officers had arrived; they noticed that Smith had droopy eyes, slurred speech and a white powdery substance on his nose and in his nostrils. Smith apparently volunteered that he “had stuff stuck in his butt;” when officers asked what stuff, Smith removed a fishing bobber, screw driver and tire plug kit from his pockets and told officers those objects had been up his butt. Officers searched the restroom and found a white powdery substance on the toilet, along with an empty pen tube, which can be used to ingest drugs. Smith, sans ID, gave officers two different birthdates and three different Social Security numbers as they tried to identify him. Searching him they found 22 pills and a small plastic baggie containing that white powdery substance; finally, Smith admitted to transporting drugs inside his body.


Lucky drunks of the month:

Aaron Collins, 38, run over by a freight train while sleeping in the middle of railroad tracks. The Pan Am freight train conductor spotted Collins, but was unable to stop until the first two engines of a mile long train passed over him. Separated, the front section was moved forward to free Collins—uninjured but drunk.

Philip Maschek, 50, found shirtless and unconscious on the floor of an air traffic control tower after a pilot made repeated radio attempts at getting cleared for take-off. The arrest report states “Maschek interrupted multiple [sobriety] tests by not following proper instructions,” raised his voice and screamed obscenities at officers and, when he was led out of the tower tried to climb back in. Maschek was lucky—he won’t be tried for manslaughter because, apparently, no one was trying to land.


Surviving addict of the month:

Jessica D. Barnes, 24, hospitalized in serious condition with a head injury, charged with DUI, failure to control her vehicle and not wearing a seat belt. After crashing into a utility pole, her car wound up on train tracks; she ignored an oncoming train’s horn and, ejected at impact, flew 30 feet into a gravel pit. Emergency responders might have been surprised to see she was alive, but can you imagine the look on their faces when she (allegedly) told them, “Don’t bother me, I’m drunk”? The addictionologist would have replied, “If we didn’t bother the injured because they are drunk or high, 80% of single-person accident victims would die.”


Enablers of the month:

Dewey Calhoun Green’s attorney, who said he was sober when he rear-ended Janice Pitts’ SUV with his truck. When Pitts, 53, got out of her car to check the damage, Green pinned her against his truck, backed up and then drove forward over Pitts, killing her as her daughter and 4-year-old grandson watched. Green, 24, the grandson of a former Birmingham, Alabama mayor, is “suspected” by investigators of being under the influence at the time of the incident. An addict under the influence best explains this tragedy, Mr. Attorney. His eyes in this picture suggest alcohol, even if it’s the sort of horrific crime in which methamphetamine addicts are more likely to engage. While the crime occurred a year ago, the trial just ended with a guilty verdict and life in prison. Take a look at how he looks when not drinking or using. Looks like a typical nice guy. There were no doubt dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened, but didn’t, allowing the progression of addiction to end in tragedy.

California Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D), who hired two special services assistants to work in the Sergeant-at-Arms Office to provide ground transportation for California state Senate members at a cost of more than $5,000 per month. A senate spokesman would only say, “We’re not going to provide comment, because it’s a security issue.” So just what was this “ground transportation” and how could it be a “security issue”? Someone who turned down the job opened up: he would be working shifts from 11pm to 6 or 7am, whenever the legislature was in session. Okay, except the legislature doesn’t work in the middle of the night. The explanation: he was told he would give senators rides “if they were drinking too much. Just pick them up and take them home.” Senators were given plastic cards for “Sacramento 24 hr transportation,” the phone number for the Senate’s Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Debbie Manning, and instructions to call her “in an emergency.” A service like this suggests a large number of alcoholics in the state Senate, which would explain the idiotic laws California keeps passing (like the recent job-killing sick pay law). I imagine the state Assembly consists of a large number of alkies as well. Due to public outcry, the service was terminated. Maybe now they’ll stop promulgating laws that could either put Uber out of business or force it to raise its prices so much we may as well call a taxi.


Naked addict of the month:

Abigail Ralph, 26, driving while high on LSD, ran off the road, flipped over into an embankment, exited the vehicle, took her clothes off and was observed running around naked in a field where children from a Christian youth camp were playing softball. After bystanders detained and clothed her, California Highway Patrol officer Shane Borba reported “she was very nice and almost loving one moment, and then almost completely violent the next, [experiencing] rapid emotional shifts to the extreme….” He also said, “She wasn’t even aware she was in a collision.”


Nearly naked addict of the month:

Ryan Duff, 24, high on drugs, wearing nothing but his underwear—and “yelling at kids” while driving his ice cream truck on his usual route playing the ice cream truck jingle we all learned to come running to as kids. Lovely.


Abusers of the month:

Wanda Sue Larson, a supervisor with the Department of Social Services in Union County, North Carolina, and her boyfriend Dorian Harper, an emergency room nurse, pleaded guilty to numerous counts of child abuse and were sentenced up to 17 months and 10 ½ years in prison, respectively. The abuse ended in late 2013 when police discovered a boy, then 11, in handcuffs, chained to the front porch of their house with a dead chicken hung from his neck. Police entered a “roach-infested house covered with urine and animal feces” and found four other children, ages 7 to 14, all legally adopted by the couple. At the sentencing, Larson expressed remorse and blamed most of the abuse on Harper; the boy, however, says Larson encouraged it. Despite this and the horrific nature of their crimes, Larson was released after a nine-day stint in jail. The boy, now 13, wants everyone to know she didn’t serve enough time and is going public over the early release. Concerned he might run into her at a neighborhood store, he says “I want her to be in jail longer.” There is no word that the court required her to abstain from using alcohol and other drugs, the addictive use of which is a virtual given; Ms. Larson will likely, as a result, find more victims.


Recovering addict of the month:

Former NBA four-time All-Star Vin Baker, admitting he is now working at a Starbucks as a barista after squandering $100 million in earnings due to a series of “financial missteps” stemming from his alcoholism. He thanks Starbucks CEO and chairman Howard Shultz, who owned the Seattle SuperSonics when Baker played for them, for what he termed an “excellent” opportunity to train to manage one of the chains’ stores. Baker says, ‘I had a great talent and lost it…..I’m 43 and I have four kids. I have to pick up the pieces.” Gratitude and accepting responsibility should help Baker become an increasingly productive and, hopefully, non-relapsing recovering alcoholic. His story is well worth a read, either here or here.


Addict v. addict of the month:

Tony Flournoy, 52, crashed into the back of Marice Thomas’s minivan. Flournoy sped away.

Flournoy picked the wrong guy to commit hit-and-run on.

Thomas, 68, with two women and a 6-year-old girl in the van, began chasing Flournoy on city streets at speeds up to 80 mph. One of the women begged Thomas to slow down, but he refused. He finally caught up to Flournoy and rammed Flournoy’s Buick at least six times; the final impact flipped the car and paralyzed Flournoy. Both men had felonies; Thomas was jailed on charges of aggravated battery with bodily harm and neglect of a child.


“Experiment” of the month:

Police Lt. Christopher Bartley, 41, of the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, arrested on charges of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine inside a “highly secured government research facility.” After an explosion ripped through a NIST lab, a blast shield went flying 25 feet. Bartley, 41, was “conducting an experiment;” it’s unclear what sort of government experiment involves refilling a butane lighter, with pseudoephedrine and a meth recipe nearby. Attorney Steven Van Grack expects Bartley to plead guilty and, because his client has an “immaculate background,” is hopeful he will avoid prison time. Hey, Van Grack: by the time someone gets around to manufacturing methamphetamine—and in a government lab no less—he’s likely done some other really bad stuff. Odds are you simply haven’t looked deeply enough, or you are a defense attorney of the “enabler-in-fact” variety.


Researcher of the month:

USC Coach Steve Sarkisian, 41, whose word-slurring and expletive-filled rant during an important booster event (“Salute to Troy”) tipped us off to his addiction. His take: he will seek treatment to find out “if” he has a drinking “problem.” When asked by reporters whether he had such a problem, he said, “I don’t believe so. But through…the University I’m going to find that out.” Sarkisian, who is going through a divorce, admitted he mixed “other drugs” with the alcohol but refused to divulge what those other drugs are. If they are psychotropic drugs, Mr. Sarkisian, we can save you the research: anyone who mixes such drugs with alcohol, especially in a public setting, has the disease of alcoholism; this is almost certainly true even if you only drank to excess at such an event.


Bad moms of the month:

Cynthia Ann Marie Gatewood, 26, carrying her 3-month-old child with a single arm down the aisles of a Kroger when observers flagged down several patrolmen. The officers noted the child’s head was unsupported and swinging around, while the stroller was filled with merchandise. Officers noted Gatewood was “fidgety” with rapid and slurred speech. She nearly lost her balance several times with the baby in her arms. One of the patrolmen finally took the baby, fearing it would be hurt. He found the infant’s diaper and clothing soaked with urine. Gatewood also had an unrelated 4-year-old boy in her care. The boy wore only a pair of shorts and lacked underwear or a shirt; he was shivering. While this would be more than enough for the addiction aware, for the officers the coup de grace likely occurred when Kroger employees told the officers they saw Gatewood make the boy pee and poop in the middle of the store. Surprisingly, Gatewood admitted she’d taken two strips of Suboxone (used to treat opiate addiction); unsurprisingly, officers found a baggie of crystal meth in her purse. She was arrested and received an additional charge for being non-compliant during her arrest. There is no report on why she was allowed to keep a 3-month-old child, nor why she was caring for a 4-year-old boy, but we might suspect that the boy’s parents are as deep in their addiction as she is.

April R. King, 35, wanted to visit her local bar to get drunk, but a Breathalyzer interlock device was installed in her car pursuant to the terms of her previous DUI probation. What could she do? What any drunk would do: leave the motor running—with her two children, aged 2 and 4, in the running car—and go get drunk. When officers arrived the 4-year-old, in an obvious attempt to “protect” his mother (and), grabbed the Breathalyzer and blew into it. She was arrested and charged with child neglect. (We can surmise two possibilities as to why the kid may be the youngest enabler ever: one, he might have seen her arrested previously after blowing and figured if he blew she wouldn’t be arrested; two, she normally didn’t leave the motor running and the kid would blow, allowing his mother to start the car.)


False accusation of the month:

After accusing a Sonic employee of spitting in his drink, Officer Chris Ray Moreno, 22, stood by as his fellow police officers executed a search warrant, shutting down the restaurant for two hours. After checking security cameras, officers found no evidence of wrong-doing by the employee. Saliva was found in the drink, but when investigators told Moreno they needed a DNA sample, Moreno admitted he spit in his own drink to set up the employee, who he didn’t like.

You won’t believe what happened next.

Knowing he would be fired and, apparently, forgetting to clean out his patrol car, Moreno turned in the car and equipment and resigned. When officers opened the trunk, they found a treasure trove of contraband: methamphetamine, 19 syringes, three meth pipes, three marijuana pipes and several other stolen items he had kept from past cases.


Bad law enforcer of the month:

Stacey Staniland, 29, an NYPD police officer who quit the force after her third arrest in six months. She was first arrested for burglarizing her boyfriend’s mother’s home and hocking the stolen jewelry at a pawn shop; several months later, she was arrested on drug charges while on duty. Recently she crashed her unregistered motorcycle; when she removed her ID from her backpack, a fellow officer spotted drug paraphernalia—a silver spoon and a syringe. A search turned up non-prescribed clonazepam, a benzodiazepine in the same class of psychotropic drugs as Valium.


Bad law enforcement of the month:

The NYPD (or police union), for allowing “bad law enforcer of the month” Stacey Staniland to remain on the job after her first arrest. This is a classic case of beauty being enabled; the trouble is, she could be enabled to her death.


Bad lawmakers of the month:

Maryland Delegate Ariana B. Kelly (D), 38, enraged when she discovered that her ex-husband’s fiancée was in his home when she dropped her children off in accordance with their custody sharing arrangement. Apparently wanting to gain access to the residence, she repeatedly rang the doorbell and banged on the door. Her ex-husband, Barak Sanford, asked her to leave; when she didn’t, he recorded the incident on his cellphone. He played the cellphone video for officers. It shows Kelly ringing the doorbell “numerous times,” exposing her breasts in the direction of Sanford’s cellphone camera and then “with one breast in each hand [shaking] them up and down.” An officer told Kelly she could be arrested for indecent exposure and asked her to leave; Kelly replied, “Arrest me then,” and extended her wrists toward the officer. Kelly is a member of a legislative task force studying maternal mental health issues, about which she seems to have some interesting insight. County prosecutors dropped the indecent exposure and trespassing charges against her, saying it was a matter better suited for family court. Addictionologists might suggest it’s a matter better suited for AA.

Lord John Sewel, 69, stepping down from his post as Deputy Speaker of the British House of Lords. After stripping naked in front of a pair of £200 per night prostitutes, he told them he wanted to “be led astray.” And he was, snorting three lines of cocaine over a 45 minute session. At one point one of the girls said, “You are such a party animal!” and Sewel replied, “I know. Disgusting, isn’t it?” Sewel was chairman of the Lords’ Privileges and Conduct Committee, the body that upholds standards of behavior among peers. This sort of behavior may explain many of the laws promulgated by the British government, as it tells its citizens how to live their lives and spend their money.


Euphemism of the month:

City Manager Eric Hansen, sending out a memo to city councilors in which he described an incident as “awkward.” The incident involved “prostitution type activity” at a room in a Super 8 Motel. When officers reported that a “white male” left the room, detectives approached and identified the male as Mason, Ohio city councilman Richard Cox. After Cox denied prostitution, he told officers there was a woman in the room who did not speak English and he was there only to check on her for a friend. When police knocked a woman in a mini skirt with cash hanging out of her pockets opened the door. Hence, “awkward.” Cox has since resigned his post.


Retrospective enabler of the month:

When Ann Rule died (see “sometimes it takes an addict,” below), one of the media stories recounted her “twisted friendship” with serial killer Ted Bundy. In the early 1970s, Rule volunteered at a suicide crisis hotline one night a week—along with Bundy, with whom she became infatuated. She only vaguely suspected him of being the serial murderer police were looking for and continued to be his friend, even after he was arrested for kidnapping in 1975, four years after they met, a time during which he had started his rape and murder spree in which at least 36 women became victim to his alcoholic charm. After the arrest she had lunch with him while he was out on bail and bought him a carafe of Chablis (just what you give an alcoholic). “When this is all over,” Bundy told Rule, “I’ll take you out to lunch.” Even after she learned he was a prime suspect in a number of murders, in early 1976 she “hung out” with him and talked for hours. Years later, she finally admitted, “People like Ted can fool you completely….his mask was perfect.” Unless you know of the heavy drinking—and you should have suspected, Ann, watching him down that bottle of Chablis—charm alone is a terrific clue to alcoholism.


Retrospective unaware prosecutor of the month:

Ted Bundy was a complex man who somewhere along the line went wrong,” a prosecutor of one his crimes said when Bundy was executed in 1989. “He probably could have done anything in life he set his mind to do, but something happened to him and we still don’t know what it was.” Yet, the woman who survived the kidnapping referred to above told police her abductor “smelled of liquor.” An acquaintance told interviewers, “When Ted drank, he often got drunk.” Bundy admitted to interviewers he would “down two or three quick beers before going on a shoplifting spree.” As James Graham points out, alcoholics usually understate their intake and likely had a lot more than “just two or three,” as they tell cops. There are numerous reports of repeated instances of heavy drinking; he told the authors of The Only Living Witness: A True Account of Homicidal Insanity that he drank before each murder. Bundy was drunk during a prison interview (yes, inmates can get their hands on alcohol and other drugs; his wife, Carole Boone, whom he married while on death row, smuggled him vodka and pills until she was caught) and he was once seen ingesting 800 milligrams of Valium (a normal dose wouldn’t exceed 10 milligrams four times per day). Mr. Prosecutor, you had enough information then to know what went wrong.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Author Ann Rule, dead from congestive heart failure at 83. While she was not an addict, she wrote about them in several dozen biographical “true crime” books, including one that many consider a classic, The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy. Yet, she never understood alcoholic egomania as the best explanation for the misbehaviors she repeatedly described when writing about subjects who were nearly all alcohol or other-drug addicts. She not only failed to identify her subjects as such; she apparently thought it irrelevant. In a series of emails nearly a decade ago I asked whether there was more drinking and using than she divulged by Allen Blackthorne, the subject of Every Breath You Take: a True Story of Obsession, Revenge and Murder; she brushed me off and told me to simply “keep reading.” (My review is in issue # 6 of TAR, which was reposted on amazon. Your “helpful” vote would be appreciated.) Because every action in an addict’s life must be viewed through the lens of alcoholism, she is yet another biographer who failed to understand the subject of their biographies.

This failure made her last years (and likely earlier than publicly known) miserable. Only a few months before she died, her sons Michael Rule and Andrew Rule, each of whom receive about $25,000 monthly salary from her corporation, were both charged with stealing more than $100,000 from Rule. In a classic case of elder abuse and the sort of financial abuse that could have been included in my book Drunks, Drugs and Debits, Michael, 51, is accused of writing checks totaling more than $103,000 from Rule’s bank account. Andrew, 54, is accused of fraudulently convincing his mother to give him more than $23,000.

The King County, Washington prosecutor’s office noted she had been in declining health since October 2013 stemming from a broken hip; she was “on oxygen at all times,” suffering from “extreme confusion” and “vulnerable to undo influence.” Authorities were made aware of the thefts by her son-in-law, Glen Scorr, who “suspected his mother-in-law was being financially exploited by her two sons.”

Aside from being charged with crimes in which it appears there is guilt, there are numerous behavioral clues to addiction in the sons. Michael “forged her signature on checks” and verbally abused Rule, yelling at his mother “demanding money as she cowered in her wheelchair.” He often went “into rages, where he throws things across the room and sweeps a counter clean with his arm.” Andrew was “aggressive” in trying to get money from his mother in 2014 (what, $25,000 per month isn’t enough?!). He reportedly threatened suicide and screamed obscenities at her. Rule was granted an order of protection against Andrew in January 2015; he violated the order in March. While in custody, Andrew admitted to officers he “battled drug and gambling addictions for years and that he used the money provided to him by his mother on gambling and strip clubs.” So no, the $25,000 per month wasn’t enough; for an addict, no amount of money is ever enough.

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.

Alcoholism needs to be stopped at the get-go. Unimpeded, it leads to some very dangerous drugs.

I’ve long argued that “dangerous” drugs are considered dangerous because, with few exceptions, addicts are the only ones to try them. Because addicts can become cross-addicted to other drugs, their behaviors may become more horrific than if they drank only alcohol. Methamphetamine is one such drug; alpha-PVP, or “flakka,” is another.

Flakka is yet another synthetic drug created by chemists that can make users paranoid and violent, with nearly super-human strength. Users describe it as better than crack cocaine; one 25-year-old woman told authorities she stayed awake for nine straight days, rarely ate or drank, felt like a “stench clung to her body” and she “never could get clean enough,” and yet still craved it. “You can’t stop,” she said. The drug, especially popular in southern Florida, has become “troublesome” for law enforcement.

Normal people would never try such a drug. Only an addict, with their sense of invincibility, would say “I can handle it! I’ll be able to stop any time I want!” No, they can’t and they won’t.

As chemists concoct ever more dangerous drugs, the main message I’ve been sharing for a decade and a half—we need to identify and treat substance addiction early on using misbehaviors as clues—has become increasingly important. Because families, especially mothers, so often refuse to stop enabling, I’ve concluded the most important task for law enforcement and, especially, the judiciary, is to coerce abstinence. Addicts provide the opportunity for society to do so when they have harmed others. In nearly every case, judges can and should offer a choice: sobriety or imprisonment.

And in case it hasn’t dawned on my dear readers: among the perps cops have to deal with are flakka users. I couldn’t be a cop in today’s world: I know the acts of which users are capable. I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot to kill.

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Grandpa teases, berates and stomps off. He even bites.

Dear Doug:

My husband, Joe, criticizes our 5-year-old grandson. When the child cries or asks him to stop, Joe continues to berate and finally stomps off. Our grandson no longer wants to be with Joe. This isn’t new: he did this with our own children, once biting our daughter on her arm when she was 10. He got mad at her for crying. I’m afraid telling Joe how his grandson feels will only make things worse, and he is due here for a week-long visit soon. What should I do?


Wife of child abuser


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would correctly tell you Joe’s behavior is inexcusable and unacceptable. They would say you have clearly either accepted or not done enough to stop it. They might suggest that you discuss it with him by telling him the effect it has on others, asking him if he really wants his grandson to be so afraid he doesn’t even want to be with him, and you should let him know you won’t allow contact if he can’t act appropriately around children.

There’s no point discussing; you are not dealing with a rational person. I would simply ask: how long as Joe been drinking addictively? (You don’t need to answer; it’s rhetorical. He’s been doing so for decades.) It’s time for Joe to be given a choice of sobriety or no contact with his grandson. Because sobriety is a process, behaviors don’t instantly improve and relapse is common, you will need to keep a close eye on him for years.

(Source for story idea: “Ask Amy,” July 16, 2015.)

“The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think”

So reads a headline in the Huffington Post by Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. While Hari correctly argues for an end to the failed war on drugs, he incorrectly identifies the cause of addiction as a loss of “human connection,” which he bases on experiments that give rats a choice: drugs or bonding with their friends. “Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love….The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live—constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.”

Hari, like so many, confuses cause and effect—the effect of cutting off ties with others isn’t drug addiction; rather, the effect of drug addiction is to cut off ties with other humans. Addicts cannot love others while having a love affair with drugs. If a lack of human connection was the cause, try to explain Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, O.J. Simpson, or any number of other well-known alcoholics, including those listed here (note: not updated since the early 2000s). The cause, Mr. Hari, is in one’s genes (even if for rats it may be otherwise). If you don’t believe it and you do not have the disease of alcoholism, just try drinking addictively. You’ll do a face plant when your blood alcohol content is at a point where alcoholics are barely getting started.

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

“There He Was, Minding His Own Business: David Penski, 30, was going down a Billings, Mont., street in broad daylight while standing on a home’s deck when he was killed in a freak accident. Wait... what? The deck, which had been removed from a mobile home, was being towed [dragged] down the street by William Bodie Flynt, 36. The deck was not on a trailer, and did not have wheels. The two men, both from Arizona, had ‘found’ it, and Penski apparently decided to ride it. After about 200 feet, the deck hit a curb and Penski was thrown off; he was helicoptered to a hospital, but died later that night. After the crash, Flynt allegedly cut the deck loose and took off, but returned to the scene an hour later. He was arrested on multiple charges, including criminal endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident involving death or serious injury, driving without proof of insurance, and driving under the influence (fourth or subsequent offense). He was held on $75,000 bond, and if convicted faces at least 13 months, and up to 5 years, in prison on the DUI charge alone. (RC/Billings Gazette) ...Maybe they can install the deck outside his cell window.

 While I don’t usually include stories deserving a Darwin Award, this was too instructive to pass up. Sober people don’t drag decks, drive drunk, leave the scene of a crime or drive without proof of insurance, any one of which behaviors indicates alcoholism even without the fourth offense for DUI. Who doubts that William Bodie Flynt’s daredevil drinking buddy David Penski was also an alcoholic? Sober people, aged 30, typically don’t engage in such stupid pranks as to surf a deck, with or without wheels.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2015 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

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

In a world gone mad, where politicians and their enablers lie almost unceasingly and words no longer have any meaning, you might think stories (and especially the Top Story) might be about one or more of the liars who tell us how to live our lives and spend our money (or would like to do so). However, while pathological lying is usually excellent evidence of substance addiction, it doesn’t always prove out—there are, after all, some just plain bad people—which is why we prefer to have excellent proof of addictive use before writing about addictive misbehaviors. The challenge is, as journalist Steven Waldman asserted (cited in TAR # 57’s Top Story, “Governing Under the Influence”), Washington alcoholics’ “aides protect them, the media shields them [and] reporters usually fail to cover the drinking problems….” While I would love to get the goods on some of the pathological liars for whom the evidence of addiction is in the lying itself, proof is too often elusive.

Hence, a potpourri of subjects in whom addiction is all-but certain, but who are not at the top of the food chain.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2015 by Doug Thorburn

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

All four books are available on Amazon, and the two e-books are available in multiple formats on Amazon and IPG.

Addiction-Fueled Muslim Extremism Takes Form in Violent Crimes:
The Culture of Rape in Rotherham, England

Over the years, I’ve provided evidence that atrocities committed by anyone, including radical jihadi Muslims, are likely fueled by alcohol and other-drug addiction or serious co-dependency. In these virtual pages and my books I’ve shown that despots and cult leaders alike are nearly always substance addicts. Additionally, addicts are great salesmen who can frequently convince others into acting unethically and criminally; non-addicted children and young adults, under their hypnotic-like control, are also capable of monstrous misbehaviors. This is especially true of those abused as children. It’s also true of those who previously used drugs addictively but didn’t combine abstinence with the ego deflation required for true sobriety.

Without ego deflation, the behaviors of would-be recovering addicts can be just as awful as during active addiction. Often, one dangerous compulsion flips to another, perpetuating unethical and criminal behaviors albeit in different form. Misbehaviors, whether in active or inactive addicts, take countless forms: sometimes, it’s emotional abuse, other times, mass murder. Some addicts (whether active or inactive, but not sober) make false accusations; others commit grand theft. In some cultures, misbehaviors are more likely to take form as organized crime; in others, rape. Evidence shows that in some Muslim countries addiction takes form in greater levels of violence against women and girls. In some cases this takes form in the grooming of underage girls, in which emotional bonds are created in anticipation of violating the young girls. If authorities stand by and do nothing, ego inflation is always fueled and atrocities worsen as their number increases.

You wouldn’t expect rape of hundreds of underage girls to be tolerated, let alone swept under the rug, in England. But that’s what’s been happening in the sleepy city of Rotherham since the late 1990s—and only recently has the extent of these violent crimes come to light.

Jayne Senior, a “bored stay-at-home mother” started a youth organization for young-to-teen girls in 1999 in her home town of Rotherham, England. Many girls in her charge told stories of being befriended by Muslim British-Pakistani men in parks, arcades and fast-food establishments. The men picked them up in fancy cars, bought them cellphone cards and other gifts—and plied them with alcohol. The men eventually raped and sometimes prostituted the young girls. Although Senior began collecting details and reporting the crimes to regional police almost immediately, from 1999 to 2013 almost 1,700 girls, ages 12-15, reported abuse—with only five men convicted and three other arrests for which no charges have been brought. No one else has been charged or convicted over a 17-year period. And only recently has the widespread reports of abuse and cover-up received real scrutiny.

Separately, in response to several years of reported drug problems, Rotherham police hired a narcotics analyst in 2002 to map the growing regional drug trade. Not surprisingly, analyst Angie Heal found links between Senior’s child sex victims’ database and British-Pakistani gangs running the town’s crack-cocaine trade. She reported and updated those links to her superiors every six months, but quit the force in 2006 because authorities weren’t acting to staunch the drug trade and were ignoring the sex abuse altogether. Before leaving, she concluded: “Drugs gangs who were a clear danger to public safety were also a danger to young girls.”

Why would there be a connection between the drug trade and sex abuse? Usually, drug sellers are also users and addicts themselves, even if among the more functional ones. Addiction causes an inflated ego, compelling the addict to wield power over others; one way to wield such power is through the commission of crimes. Roughly 80-90% of criminal acts are committed by addicts, and such crimes often involve coerced sex. Environment, circumstances and culture can coalesce and result in addiction taking form in the rape of young girls. This may be the reason a 2013 World Health Organization study found the prevalence of intimate partner violence and non-sexual partner violence higher in Muslim countries than elsewhere—culture and addiction combined to fuel these crimes.

In the meantime, the culture of authority in Rotherham was such that the crimes continued and few offenders have been brought to justice. When national media began to get wind of what was happening, professor and former social worker Alexis Jay was asked by the City Council to examine the allegations. Her 2014 inquiry concluded that police, town leaders and senior managers underplayed the seriousness of the drug and sex abuse problems, “dismissed the girls as unworthy of their protection,” turned a blind eye and snubbed an advocate (Senior) they considered a gadfly. Jay determined officials viewed Senior as a “pesky outsider on a misguided crusade….[and] criticized her as lacking the academic credentials to identify abuse,” something I have shown can be a detriment to recognizing the reality of addiction and of addiction as the root cause of a multitude of other problems. The report, however, brought some much-needed light to these horrors and several authorities have recently resigned their posts, including the Rotherham police commissioner, the child-protective services head and the town-council chief. Since addiction causes impaired judgment, these three, Shaun Wright, Joyce Thacker and Roger Stone respectively, are “under watch”—their incredibly poor judgment in failing to act against the abusers suggests possible addiction or some or all of them.

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Runners-up for top story of the month:

While addiction is usually the root cause of the horrific behaviors of despots and cult leaders, proof is often elusive. Historians, biographers and journalists don’t have a clue; hence, they usually say nothing or, if they do, a comment proving addictive use is buried on page 160 of a book or the 28th paragraph of one article out of a dozen. However, James Traub, in his review in The Wall Street Journal of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, tells us what we need to know early on. ISIS “traces its origin” to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a “semi-literate but very charismatic Jordanian thug.” Traub quotes the authors: “his first stint in prison was for drug possession and sexual assault;” he “bootlegged alcohol” and, according to Traub, he may have been a pimp. When he refused allegiance to Osama bin Laden (who I argue here was likely addicted to a variety of drugs) he splintered off to create his own sect of anti-Shiite Islam. Helping achieve this was his “long career of crime [that] had introduced him to a highly differentiated violent underworld.”

Traub provides another clue that much violence in Islam has its roots in substance addiction: “Many of the European ‘lone wolves’ who carry out attacks at home in the name of either ISIS or al Qaeda are, like the young Zarqawi, bored and alienated young men with giant chips on their shoulders who find in Islam a rationale for their violence.” I have long suggested that terms like manic, madman, unchecked emotions, mentally ill and “alienated” really mean “addicted.” That addiction has a crucial role in terrorism is consistent with the idea in the top story above, as well: religion alone doesn’t cause serious misbehaviors. Terrorism usually requires distorted perceptions and impaired judgment manifesting as egomania, caused by the introduction of chemicals—like alcohol and other psychotropic drugs—to the brain.

In what many are calling an act of terrorism, Dylann Storm Roof murdered nine parishioners in an Emanuel AME Church during a bible study. His actions are blamed on everything from “this is the face of evil” to “he watches things like Fox News,” from “mental illness” to “racism,” from “someone who wanted to inflict harm [having] no trouble getting their hands on a gun” to “he was motivated by hate,” from “Confederate flags” to “right wing media,” from “there’s a sickness in our country” to “public discourse…is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can…trigger people who are less than stable.” Yet, none of these “explanations” get to the root of what happened: “Roof is a pill popping druggie who experienced impaired judgment and distorted perceptions, which caused egomania, impelling in him a need to wield power over others, which he did in his own particularly horrific style.” Or, more simply: “Roof is a substance addict—and this is the sort of act addicts, almost exclusively, are capable of committing.” To pare it down even further: “Roof is an addict—no other explanation needed.” Everything else is a distraction.

Inanimate objects such as guns and drugs (or flags) are not to blame; the person on the drug with a gun is, for which the best defense is another person with a gun. It never ceases to amaze: conservatives oppose decriminalization of drugs, while leftists want to criminalize guns. How about acknowledging we cannot keep drugs or guns out of the hands of addicts and, instead, narrow the scope of the failed war on drugs to those who cause problems for others? If we do this, we can weed out the Dylann Storm Roof’s of the world, which will go far in preventing these senseless tragedies.

Alcoholic victims of the month:

Airbnb and Mark and Star King, who thought they were renting their Calgary home for the weekend to four adults attending a family wedding. Instead, a party bus brought at least 100 partiers, the aftermath of which was described by police as a “drug-induced orgy.” Neighbors contacted the Kings on Monday morning, asking if everything “was all right,” explaining police had responded to noise complaints at their home multiple times over the weekend. The Kings arrived home late Monday and, when they were finally allowed to enter (the Airbnb agreement confirmed the renters were legal tenants and the Canadian “Residential Tenancies Act” prevented entry until the rental period was up), they were “almost knocked over by the fumes” of liquor and marijuana. Bras, underwear, garbage, dirty dishes, old food, cigarettes and joints were strewn all over most open surfaces, including barbeque sauce found on the ceiling; garbage cans were full of condoms and wrappers; and “body fluids” were found throughout. Airbnb, which has a $1-million host damage guarantee and offered cleaning services and accommodations for the Kings while clean-up ensues, has banned the guest and “will offer its full assistance to law enforcement in [the pending] investigation.”


Misdiagnosis of the month:

William Hahne, 57, a former chemical engineer, pleaded guilty on charges of sending mail laced with synthetic hallucinogen NBOMe, which has an effect similar to LSD, to pals in the Joseph V. Conte Jail in Pompano Beach, Florida. Hahne’s lawyer, Glenn Kritzer, in asking for a lenient sentence, explained his client has “a long history of mental illness, including psychosis, [which] contributed to his track record of drug-related arrests.” Kritzer has cause and effect reversed: his drug addiction likely caused or triggered any psychosis.


Nearly-correct diagnosis of the month:

The same William Hahne told U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas, “I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you I will never do this again.” The judge, to his credit, asked whether Hahne used those words when he was sentenced to four years in 2004 for manufacturing drugs in a “sophisticated lab” in his home, an arrest that got him fired from his county job. The judge “weighed Hahne’s history of mental illness and his criminal history” to determine the sentence; he ordered Hahne to “receive treatment for his mental health and substance abuse problems” while in prison. Not bad, Judge Dimitrouleas, but Hahne has proven to society he cannot safely use drugs. Therefore, you have the right to do what you can to get him and keep him sober: proscribe use for Hahne as part of his sentence and as a condition of parole.


Some things you just can't make up:

Jonathan Restrepo, 25, jumped out of his girlfriend’s car into traffic and, according to a witness, ran “around like a monkey with his tongue out, waving his arms in the air, jumping on top of cars,” the last of which didn’t stop. Restrepo reportedly scrambled around the roof on his knees, looking through the window at what was reportedly a terrified driver. After police were finally able to stop the car, Restrepo jumped off and explained someone was after him, admitting he was using crystal meth, the drug that we addictionologists know most frequently causes addicts to engage in the most insane behaviors. In case you can’t visualize this, here’s the full video.

Chutzpah of the month:

Whitehouse, Texas Police Chief Craig Shelton, who intended to text only Officer Shawn Johnson with a threat against Johnson’s job—but instead group texted the message to most of the police force. Johnson allegedly beat “the [expletive] out of” Shelton for making sexual advances towards his soon-to-be ex-wife Jessica, from whom he is amicably separated.

It all began with City Manager Kevin Huckabee, Chief Shelton and a third unnamed person “consuming alcohol” early one evening and getting “lit up.” The group decided to see Jessica Johnson’s new apartment, where she had moved the week before; she assumed a friendly visit was intended, with her ex included. An intoxicated Shelton drove the threesome to Jessica’s, in uniform, in his city vehicle. Shortly after arriving, Shelton slipped into another room and texted Jessica he wanted to talk privately about her ex; after luring her away from the others he made sexual advances and inappropriately touched her. After an indeterminate time, he came to his senses, stopped, apologized and the trio left separately. Jessica called her ex, who came to her apartment; shortly after, Shelton inexplicably returned, which is when Johnson beat “the [expletive] out of” Shelton, resulting in a “sizeable law enforcement presence seen by neighbors….” In the aftermath, Shelton texted Johnson with a threat against his job; the text instead went to nearly the entire police force. Johnson was suspended, two other officers were suspended for reporting the night’s events to other law enforcement agencies, City Manager Huckabee suspended Shelton and then suspended himself pending action from the City Council.


Enablers of the year:

Guardian angels,” comprising several “high ranking” deputies and a lawyer or two, who have bailed Clayton County, Georgia sheriff Victor Hill out of trouble on multiple occasions. Since February, Hill has twice veered from his lane and struck other vehicles, once driving so erratically that a witness thought he was having a seizure. One of the side-swiped victims, who twice described him as so “wobbly” he might be “intoxicated,” was asked by a trooper, “Do you know who that is?” The woman had no idea but was told, “We got to keep this down. That is Victor Hill.” The troopers in both instances determined Hill was “not drunk.”

Most recently Hill was trying to teach his lady friend, real estate agent Gwenevere McCord, how to protect herself while holding open houses (when female real estate agents can be sitting ducks), at an impromptu session at an open house she was holding—where prospects could (and did) walk in. Instead, he shot her in the abdomen. According to Ray Saxon, director of basic training at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, using a live round during a training is a “flagrant violation of common sense” and is not considered “accidental,” even if “unintentional.” Hill’s colleagues insisted that Hill is “extremely careful and methodical during training, removing the magazine from the gun and checking the chamber repeatedly before proceeding with exercises.” Then why was this time different? We might consider his recent two accidents as a clue, but also his demand for, according to “former” member of his “inner circle” Jonathan Newton, “cult-like loyalty. If you deviate from that, you will be dealt with, and not favorably.” Odds heavily favor addiction.

By the way you may remember the name Victor Hill. In 2004 he decided the time was right to run for Sheriff after only a two-year stint as a “popular” Georgia state legislator (most legislators agree it takes six to eight years to understand the nuances of the office); he won. He made national news on his first day as Sheriff, January 3, 2005, when he summoned 27 mostly white employees to the jail and took their guns and badges. Snipers “stood guard on the jail’s roof” as those fired were “were escorted out.” They quickly filed a lawsuit against the County claiming they were fired because of their race or because they supported Hill’s opponent in the 2004 sheriff’s race. Seven additional workers later joined in the lawsuit, claiming wrongful treatment by Sheriff Hill. Clayton County Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell immediately ruled the employees “were fired without cause.” They returned to work about two weeks later and settled out of court in 2007 for $6.5 million in taxpayer funds.

Enablers of the decade:

U.K. Upper Tribunal Judge Jonathan Perkins, who allowed an immigrant criminal, convicted of more than 70 offences, to remain in the country because the criminal is an alcoholic. The Libyan man, 53, identified only by the initials “HU,” argued he would face physical punishment and imprisonment if he was extradited to Libya, where alcohol consumption is “illegal” although widespread. The Judge said HU has a “right to family life” in Britain and added he could not “take the high moral ground” and simply suggest that HU give up drinking. He explained HU has tried to deal with alcohol dependency for many years and has obviously been unable to: “The claimant’s history [of] addiction is such that he cannot abstain from consuming alcohol when alcohol is available.” Returning him to Libya would, Perkins ruled, “expose him to ill-treatment [and] interfere disproportionately with his private and family life.” What about the rights of others not to be victims of his crimes? What about the fact that HU’s alcoholism, because his love affair is with the bottle, prevents him from having any meaningful “family life?” At least the Home Office, the U.K. immigration authority, hasn’t given up. After this second attempt to deport him, they are appealing the decision, again. Who knows: with appropriate consequences, even in such an “impossible” case, HU might get sober.


Disenablers of the month:

Officials in Broward County, Florida, who fired veteran prosecutor David Weigel after learning he deliberately failed to file over 293 cases involving county ordinance and traffic violations, including 177 DUIs. We might suspect Weigel was only trying to hide his own cases or those of his fellow alkies.

English singer-songwriter Paul Weller’s wife Hannah Andrews, who gave Paul a credible ultimatum. Weller explained why he got sober: “I got bored with [alcohol and other drugs]. You know the cliché of feeling sick and tired of feeling sick and tired?....It got to the point where I just wanted to stop doing that, so I did….And the drinking—which I loved—became too much for me as well. It helped that another influence was my misses: she said I had to make a decision. It was either her or the bottle.” So, after saying he “just” got sober, the addictionologist might observe he didn’t just get sober; he got sober because of a credible threat of consequences. As story after story recounted in Drunks, Drugs & Debits shows, only when there are severe consequences or the credible threat of same do addicts ever tire of feeling “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.” See how this works? Weller who started out with The Jam as lead guitarist and vocalist in the late ‘70s, has been sober since 2010 not because he “realized the drink was killing him,” as so many journalists say, but because of the ultimatum he received from someone he loves.

The 16-year-old daughter of Melissa Holloway, 39, who offered to drive her 12-year-old sister with their drunk mother to the store to get an outfit for the younger daughter’s sixth-grade graduation, despite not having a license to drive. When the daughter got in the driver’s seat, Holloway grabbed her and tried to pull her out; when that didn’t work, Holloway began hitting her daughter and the daughter fought back, telling deputies arriving on the scene it was in self-defense. Deputies correctly arrested mom.


Bad mom of the month:

Kana Querta, 25, who caused an accident and fled the scene. Querta was observed speeding, making unsafe lane changes and running red lights—all with an unrestrained child in the front seat, while police pursued. Once caught, she exhibited slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and a “strong odor of alcohol.” Querta was arrested on multiple charges of child endangerment, failure to stop at a collision—and aggravated DUI.


Bad parents of the month:

Chad Mudd and Joey Mudd, arrested for providing unique rewards for their 13- and 14-year-old daughters attending school and doing their chores: the kids could smoke pot and snort cocaine with the parents. Joey, 34, smoked pot with the daughters at least five times and Chad, 36, snorted cocaine with the two girls and one of their boyfriends. Worse: apparently the pediatrician’s office where Joey works doesn’t drug test. The parents are facing several counts of child abuse. There is no report on what creative incentives they will come up with next.


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.

A Variety of Popular TV Shows Portray Alcoholism Accurately

Several popular TV shows fail to show addictive use of drugs in the portrayal of criminal perpetrators, including “Criminal Minds” and most episodes of the “Law and Order” spin-offs. While nearly all felons are alcohol or other-drug addicts, many shows lead the uninitiated to believe that any old Dick or Jane could have committed the awful crime(s) depicted. This is so wrong it can ruin an otherwise excellent show for the addiction aware.

Conversely, it’s a pleasure watching television in which the root cause of misbehaviors is identified as addiction; even a brief moment depicting the addiction may be all that’s needed to make sense of the characters and events. Several shows are doing a bang-up job of accurately portraying the addict: “Tyrant” (FX), “Mom” (CBS) and “Aquarius” (NBC). And, the recent “Kaitlyn” Bachelorette season (ABC) does so unwittingly.

In what may be too realistic for some, in “Tyrant,” created and directed by Gideon Raff (“Homeland”), Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed (Adam Rayner) and his American family reluctantly return to his home country, the fictional middle-East Abbudin, for his nephew’s wedding. His father, who rules Abbudin in semi-despotic fashion, dies during the wedding week and the “brutal and unstable” older brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), takes the reins of power. Barry, in classic Idealist (for Keirseyan Temperament enthusiasts; iNtuitive Feeler in Myers-Briggs terms) fashion, tries to influence his brother to be a munificent ruler but slowly comes to realize his brother is capable of atrocities. Early on, after showing enough alcoholic consumption required to prove addiction, we addictionologists know what Jamal is capable of—and he has not disappointed. Barhom’s portrayal as an erratic alcoholic despot is perfect, while Rayner’s portrayal of an Idealist is among the best I’ve ever seen.

“Mom,” produced by Chuck Lorre of “Two and a Half Men” fame, follows the travails of two recovering addicts, Bonnie and Christy Plunkett, a mom and daughter duo played by Allison Janney and Anna Faris. How Lorre is able to fill scenes with so much comedy is as much a testament to his writers (and he is often one of them) as to Faris, who ranks among the greats of comedy and comedic timing. The portrayal of two very different recovering addicts is also second-to-none for those aware that there are as many styles of addiction and recovery as there are addicts on the planet. Bonnie’s relapse in season 2 is perfect in every way, from the simplest of triggers to the inability of her closest AA friends to see what is all too obvious to the addiction aware. (The late David Keirsey admonished, “observe behaviors” to determine Temperament; I simply applied the idea to alcoholism.)

“Aquarius” stars David Duchovny as Sam Hodiak, an LAPD detective, investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl who, he comes to find, has succumbed to the charms of a young Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony of “Game of Thrones” fame). While there is little shown (so far) to suggest Manson is the full-on substance addict his behaviors indicate, Hodiak is a recovering alcoholic whose past included beating up his estranged alcoholic wife. In one of the early episodes Hodiak’s relapse takes shape in don Juan-ism, lying and having others, including female detective Charmain Tully (Claire Holt), lie about a cop shooting. This prompts a classic exchange, where Tully tells Hodiak, “My father is an unreliable, morally ambiguous, charming drunk.” Hodiak asks, “So?” to which Tully responds, “You know what you smell like to me? Home cooking.” Indeed. Wherever we observe charm in conjunction with moral ambiguity and unreliability, addiction should be suspected; we’ll usually find it.

“Aquarius” also reminds us that the current anti-police mentality is not the first time in U.S. history honest citizens have had to stand by in horror as good cops are attacked. The “anti-pig” attitude of the late ‘60s was breathtaking in scope. The lead hippies of the generation were, no doubt, mostly (if not all) alcohol and other-drug addicts; the “liberal” leftists/statists leading the fray today are no doubt the same, as they give excuse after excuse for addicts committing crimes (see: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown) and convince codependent followers that cops are the bad guys.

The “Bachelorette” follows one woman (this season Kaitlyn Bristowe), as she tries to find “true love” by dating a group of single men. The season started out with a bang, as Ryan M. (the “junkyard specialist”) got so stinking drunk the first night he was “asked” to leave. He engaged in classic alcoholic behavior: belittling others, frequently a great clue to addiction even if nothing else is observable. “The place is dead anyway,” he snivels, when he is the only one jumping into the pool in his underwear. When Shawn E. arrives in his “hot tub” car (a convertible with welded doors, filled with water), Ryan does it again: “[Your] car sucks.” When Shawn suggests they talk inside, Ryan responds, “No we won’t. You suck. Now I’m the bad guy?” In typical narcissistic alcoholic fashion he says, referring to the other guys, “They really love me.” I’ve long suggested videos of alcoholics acting badly may be part and parcel of the most effective interventions; it will delight the addictionologist in me if he shows up on the “men tell all” episode near the end with a story of “trying sobriety.”

Since 10% of us consist of alcohol/other-drug addicts, we know there are likely at least one or two additional drunks among the 25. We would not be disappointed. Kupah (“entrepreneur”) was almost assuredly under the influence when he was thrown off the show the 2nd week, which would explain his truly bizarre and erratic behaviors that night. I’d suggest Tony the “healer,” (who seemed to me—how to put it—“off”), JJ the manipulative “former” investment banker and JJ’s now former friend Clint, the architectural engineer with whom JJ had a fabulously weird bromance, belong in the “under watch” category. I’d also look to software sales executive Nick’s behaviors, which are attention-seeking, both this season and last (“Andi’s” season) as suggestive of substance addiction. If nothing else, he’s simply creepy (and what Kaitlyn sees in him is beyond me).

The naiveté of the other bachelors towards Ryan M’s obvious alcoholism was stunning, even if normal. Tanner said (paraphrasing), “The whole situation with the cameras and two bachelorettes got the best of him and he let the alcohol take over.” He tried to talk some sense into Ryan and said, “I think Ryan’s having some fun; he likes to drink.” Brady (who also left the first night, but only because he went after rejected bachelorette Britt) said, “There’s a certain gentleman who’s enjoying himself quite a bit tonight.” Corey said, “I don’t know how much he drank before he got here, but he’s the guy.” Jonathan: “Alcohol takes over some people and kind of gets in the way and only amplifies your actual personality.” Commenting about Kaitlyn’s warning to Ryan, “Hey Ryan, don’t touch my ass again,” Clint commented, “It’s just immature.” Yes, but it’s rooted in alcoholism, without which the immaturity would be much less likely. Alcoholism doesn’t amplify the personality—it changes the personality, and Ryan is “enjoying” himself only as an alcoholic can when that amped up. He likes to drink because it makes him feel like he’s God; he didn’t let alcohol take over because everything got the best of him—it took over because his biochemistry processes the drug in a way that causes him to act like God.

Oddly, JJ was the only guy who got it right: while implying at first he could “fix” Ryan, he told him, “The bar says they have another drink for you.” After asking, “I’m just curious, why are you taking your shirt off?” he spelled it out: “I think you’re a drunk and an alcoholic.”

(For Myers-Briggs/Keirseyan Temperament enthusiasts, I suspect Kaitlyn is an ENFP—the most effervescent of Idealists—likely with an Artisan parent (or two). Her verbiage commonly includes perfectly Idealist lines including, “All I want to be is true to myself.” Words others use to describe her include “genuine,” which is a trait and undying need of Idealists. Host Chris Harrison told Kaitlyn, “When I told you [that] you were the Bachelorette, the first thing you did was you went to Brit,” who was the competing Bachelorette for the first night only; this shows an Idealist’s measure of caring and concern. While many of the date activities she chooses suggest she is an Artisan—and she’s a dance instructor, a typically Artisan occupation—Idealists often look and act like other types. This is especially true as a result of trying to please parents with Temperaments different from their own; Idealists are so good at emulating them, I’ve seen questions to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator answered as their parents would have responded.)

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Other columnist thinks explosive boyfriend can learn to control his fuse. Think again.

Dear Doug:

My boyfriend of ten years, with whom I’ve been living for two, has always struggled with depression, anxiety and anger. He occasionally explodes and throws things and punches or kicks inanimate objects.

I know this is serious, especially after he recently threw a potted plant across the room when I “disturbed his process” while he was making dinner. After this outburst, he set an appointment with a therapist and promises he will stop drinking. Still, while family and friends agree that underneath he’s a good guy, they tell me to leave him.

I don’t want to give up on him, especially now that he’s seeking treatment. Am I an idiot for not walking away?


Wants to stay


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest that you focus on you rather than trying to save him. However, now that your boyfriend is seeking help, they’d tell you to visit the therapist together and ask the therapist whether it would be better to live apart while he works on his “issues.” Such other columnists miss the underlying problem.

The promise to “stop drinking” is key. If drinking can be connected to the awful misbehaviors some of the time, drinking must be assumed to be the root cause of all the other issues. Every story of recovery includes an ultimatum, a credible threat of consequences. If you want a future with this man, who is no doubt a wonderful guy deep down as everyone says, you must provide that ultimatum. Note that it may or may not work, and certainly won’t if he doesn’t think you will follow through. You must tell him he needs not a therapist, but AA or another treatment for alcoholism (AA is by far the cheapest). If you stay with him, tell him up front you reserve the right to test his blood alcohol level at any time (breathalyzers run an inexpensive $25 or so) and do random other-drug tests using test kits any pharmacy can provide (at about $30 each). Should he fail, for any reason whatsoever, you leave. That doesn’t mean the relationship ends, however. After being with him for ten years, this could be a process in which he slowly realizes you will no longer enable. Hopefully, his love for you will prove greater than his love for the drug, as was the case for Paul Weller, whose classic story is briefly recounted above, under “disenabler of the month.”

(Source for story idea: “Dear Abby,” April 20, 2015.)

TV Show "Tyrant" and Addiction

Wikipedia reports numerous misunderstandings and myths of the FX show reviewed above, “Tyrant,” accounting for the “mixed reviews” the show has received. According to Wiki, Rotten Tomatoes (giving season one a score of only 6.2 out of 10) says the show “thrives as a biting family drama…” but never mentions the reason how or why it’s a “biting drama” or a political one as well.

Wiki posits the main problem with the series is Adam Rayner’s (younger brother Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed, the iNtuitive Feeler, or “Idealist”) “lackluster” performance and lack of charisma. But of course: he’s not a “larger than life” alcoholic, without which charisma often is non-existent. Blindsided both by events and his brother’s misbehaviors, he’s stunned—and with that, at least initially, comes paralysis. The evolution from this to taking action is gradual, but expected for someone who doesn’t grasp the fundamentals of substance addiction (nearly everyone). It takes time for the uninitiated to realize the extent of problems addiction causes, especially among blood relatives.

The rave reviews the show does receive are for the wrong reasons. Ashraf Barhom, playing older brother Jamal Al-Fayeed, is praised for bringing a “smoldering intensity to the role and practically drips with testosterone,” but the critics don’t mention the alcoholic egomania driving his intensity and testosterone. The criticism the show received for his rape of his son’s bride-to-be says that it serves only to add “edge” and “atmosphere.” No it’s not; the rape is meant to show that as an addict, Jamal is capable of anything. One critic complains the scenes “leave a bad taste in the mouth.” Indeed: that’s precisely what alcoholic misbehaviors are supposed to do.

If the critics understood addiction, this magnificent portrayal of an alcoholic dictator would scare them in its realism.

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

Dance Fever: A woman called for sheriff’s deputies in Naples, Fla. When they arrived, she told them she had been in a bar, ‘dancing with Jim Carey in the Batman costume,’ and wanted them to ask the bartender why he threw her out. Deputies told Rachael Austin, 40, that she was too drunk to drive; the bartender at Jack’s Bait Shack reportedly said Austin had been ‘harassing the men at the bar,’ so deputies told her that they were going to enforce the ouster. Austin allegedly flicked a lit cigarette at a deputy, hitting him, and started fighting them, screaming that she was ‘mafia and married to [a] man in the FBI from New York.’ Deputies were not intimidated by either claim, and charged Austin with battery against a law enforcement officer, and resisting arrest. (RC/Naples News) ...Warning: chemical-induced confidence may not work in the sober world.”

“Chemically-induced confidence” is part and parcel of an inordinately large sense of self-importance, or inflated ego. Flicking a cigarette at a sheriff’s deputy, fighting them, letting them know how important she is (“married to a man in the FBI from New York” as opposed to a scumbag in Perris, California) are examples, any one of which would have indicated alcoholism. Of course, so is “harassing the men at the bar,” hallucinating or lying about dancing with “Jim Carey in the Batman costume” and being kicked out of a bar. (How many women are kicked out of bars?!) Rachael Austin is a classic case of someone in need of recovery before tragedy happens.

Read more on this amazing story here.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2015 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

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

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2014 by Doug Thorburn

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

All four books are available on Amazon, and the two e-books are available in multiple formats on IPG.

Cults are Usually Led by Addicts and are Capable of Great Atrocities. This Includes ISIS.

The more precise the generally recognized meaning of a word, the more useful it is. The physical sciences have done well in providing such meaning to words, while most social sciences have lagged far behind. When everyone ascribes different meanings to words, rational discourse is impossible and social progress is difficult.

“Cult” is one of those ill-defined words. The most useful part of the common definition is “excessive devotion directed at a particular figure or object.” I suggest that since the devotion to those figures is quasi-religious, such excess includes that directed at ideas. I would add that cult leaders are so venerated their minions are willing to engage in extreme acts without question if that is the leader’s wish.

This is true of both religious and political cults. Those often identified as religious cults include the Ku Klux Klan, David Koresh’s Branch Davidians, Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.* Such religious cults include those on both the perceived right and left wings of the political spectrum, but usually authoritarian on the Nolan Chart. Those perceived as political cultists also come from all sides. They include Ayn Rand, who while libertarian in her political beliefs demanded followers adhere to strict ideological purity without question, as well as Marlene Dixon, who headed up the socialist Democratic Workers Party.

Except for possibly Koresh, all of these cult leaders were well-known addicts. Many (if not most) of the top brass in the Klan were alcoholics, Jim Jones was an alcohol and amphetamine addict and Hubbard used a potpourri of drugs. Rand’s favorite was amphetamine and Dixon’s alcohol. David Koresh never knew his biological father which, because his father wasn’t dead, is near proof of alcoholism in one or both parents. His mother cohabitated with a violent drunk until he was 4 years old, when she placed him with her mother for three years. The creation of a cult seems to nearly always require addiction in the cult leader, or at least serious and un-treated codependency—living with and, therefore, being subject to psychological, emotional and often physical abuse by an alcohol or other-drug addict for an extended period.

Part of the commonly accepted definition is that cults are “relatively small.” When we eliminate this unnecessary size restriction, we allow the inclusion of large groups expressing excessive devotion and willing to engage in extreme acts. We can then include as cult leaders those who create a “cult of personality” as heads of state. These include North Korea’s rulers Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, Saparmurat Niyazov, Che Guevara, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, Idi Amin and Mao Zedong. All were alcohol or other-drug addicts.** The fact that addiction can’t be proven in some cultish heads of state, including Hugo Chavez, Castro and Pol Pot, doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

Based on this understanding, “cult” might include Muslims who argue that Mohamed would support radical jihadism, an especially vile form of terrorism.

On numerous occasions, I have pointed to the likelihood that terrorism is nearly always rooted in substance addiction. In my article on terrorism, I argue for addiction in Osama bin Laden. Yasser Arafat’s amphetamine addiction was the main topic in the very early TAR # 4. The role of amphetamines and other drugs in suicide bombers was discussed in TAR # 13, in which I concluded, “If I am right, Islamic terrorism is motivated by an addiction-driven need for domination and control, which is no different from that of the street thug or in-home terrorist.” I connected the dots between severe parental drug addiction or addiction in the jihadist before he or she converts to radical Islam in TAR # 24 (which, if you link to nothing else, is worth re-reading). The possible role of Khat in fueling terrorism is hypothesized in TAR # 53. The mindset of the granddaddy of all political terrorists, Karl Marx, is best explained by his obvious alcoholism, for which the case is made in the review of the month in TAR # 68. Finally, the brothers Tsarnaev—the Boston marathon bombers—are shown as likely addicts in TAR # 73.

The fact that terrorism is an indication of addiction in the cult leader doesn’t mean every minion is one. By no means were the 900 men, women and children who followed Jim Jones to Jonestown, Guyana and then committed suicide, all addicts. However, Jones was one, which gave him a need to control others, which helped him to sell dangerous ideas to those who were susceptible. These, no doubt, included many who were deeply affected by extremely abusive alcohol and other-drug addicts, as well as others who themselves were such addicts for periods of time.

On a different scale, not every German was an addict, but Adolf Hitler was. I doubt there were more than a relatively few barbiturate addicts among the Chinese, but Mao Zedong was one. Similarly, not every person in the territory now controlled by ISIS who wants to live under Sharia is an addict, but based on the fact that addiction can be proven in nearly every despot in recent history (and even many long ago, in whom addiction is much more difficult to prove), the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS and cult leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably heavily using one or more substances addictively.

The behaviors of his minions include the hacking of limbs and beheading of innocents—whose heads are then put on display (the skeptical may wish to Google “ISIS beheadings”). They include stoning women to death for committing adultery. They include engaging in slave trade. And, they include using chemical weapons such as white phosphorus which, by burning from the inside out once the chemical enters the bloodstream, leads to a tortured death. While there is no direct evidence of addiction, the extreme violence, hatred and other behaviors suggest addiction in at least their leader.

Such barbarians would certainly be capable of mass murder on a much larger scale—they even proclaim that is their intention. Hitler would have launched nuclear warheads if he had the capability. Russian friends tell me Stalin, who had access to nukes before he died, didn’t launch them only because he didn’t have the means of delivery. Given the fact that followers are often reduced to non-thinking automatons or, as in the case of North Korea, families are threatened with certain death, they would certainly carry out an order to launch such weapons or, for lack of technological capability, smuggle them into the United States.

If there is a high likelihood an addicted despot—usually if not always, a cult leader—has access to weapons of mass destruction, such a leader and his followers need to be taken out. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs and Debits, we cannot predict how destructive an alcohol or other-drug addict may become, or when. Recovering addicts admit they were, when using, capable of anything—which means, anything. If a cult gains access to WMD, there is little doubt it will use them. Recent articles have pointed to the presence of WMD in Iraq (albeit, older, less stable ones). If ISIS is able to access and use these weapons, do not doubt that many will die. In a world in which non-proliferation of WMD could become a pleasant memory, ISIS must be eliminated. Even otherwise non-interventionist libertarians—who believe the purpose of government is to protect us from thugs, foreign and domestic—should support this.

* After complaining about being paid a penny per word for his science fiction writing, Hubbard famously told a 1948 science fiction convention, “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” He proved this after founding Scientology in 1952.

** While there is little mention anywhere of use of substances by most of these, I have seen what I consider adequate proof of addictive use by all of them.

Click here to buy any of Doug Thorburn's books on addiction!


Runner-up for top story of the month:

From swimming in the Olympics to swimming in booze, the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, 29, arrested on charges of driving under the influence at excessive speed (84 mph in a 45 mph zone). This comes a decade after he was first arrested for DUI. “I recognize the seriousness of this mistake,” Phelps said at the time. “I’ve learned from this mistake….” This recent incident proves that, unfortunately, he hasn’t and he can’t. A second DUI increases the odds of alcoholism to near-certain; he will need to deflate his ego to get sober, which is not something that can be learned. In the meantime, the Michael Phelps Foundation focuses on growing the sport of swimming and, ironically, promoting healthier lifestyles. (Tip of the hat to Glenn H. for the find and clever intro.)

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, a recent story follows for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Michael Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, allegedly involved in a violent brawl with her dead son’s grandmother, Pearlie Gordon and cousin Tony Petty, over the sale of Michael Brown merchandise near where Brown was shot and killed on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. McSpadden is reported to have yelled at Gordon and Petty, “You can’t sell this s%$&!” to which one of the relatives responded (paraphrasing), “Prove that you own the patent!” Someone with McSpadden then hit Petty in the face with a metal pipe or pole. Violence is nearly always associated with alcohol or other-drug addiction. However, as I’ve learned in the case of married couples with serious marital problems, I can only say that someone is an addict—I just don’t know which of them. In the case of Michael Brown’s family, it could be one, several or all of them.

Nurse Kaci Hickox, 33, defying quarantine orders, threatening legal action and going about her life as if there is no danger of infecting others after returning from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Before you say, “But she’s a hero, she can’t be an addict!” Yes, she can. So were WWII heroes Louis Zamperini, Ira Hayes and Audie Murphy. The most decorated hero of the Viet Nam War, Joe R. Hooper, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin (who was on a bender until two days before lifting off to become the first man on the moon) are also well-known heroes with alcoholism. An indignant Hickox claimed her rights were violated and the treatment was “inhumane,” after New Jersey quarantined her in a tent with no shower. She left for Maine after only two or three days. Hickox objects that she has no symptoms and all tests have been negative. However, the same was true for Thomas Duncan, who later died of the disease, and Dr. Craig Spencer, who exhibited no symptoms until he woke up one morning with a 100.3 degree fever after spending the previous night on subways, in bowling alleys and in Uber taxis. Ms. Hickox—you were a hero in Sierra Leone, but your actions could have put lives in danger in the U.S. Your arrogance, haughtiness and self-centered behavior indicate alcoholism. This would explain, but not excuse, your behaviors. If you do not have alcoholism, then you are arrogant and self-centered without benefit of chemistry—and that’s much worse.

Gavrilo Princip, one of six assassins recruited by Danilo Ilic. Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, leading to the start of WWI just over 100 years ago. The commission of murder nearly always requires substance addiction, but proof eludes in this case. The idea that there is “no neat explanation” for the Great War, as so many historians believe, may be wrong. Alcoholism is often the best explanation for all manner of tragedy, and WWI is no exception.

Codependent of the month:

Angela Reynolds, 40, arrested on charges of first degree domestic violence after hitting her husband, John Reynolds, 44, and then running him over with her car “several times.” According to a police department investigator, “She was upset with him for being intoxicated.” A neighbor added, “They were always having domestic disputes.” Where there’s domestic violence, there’s usually an addict; which one is hard to know. I have identified a spouse as an alcoholic seven times only to discover I pegged the wrong one (I finally gave up trying). We can be pretty certain of the husband, but can’t really be sure about the wife. If she’s not an addict, his behaviors may have made her act like one; that serious a codependent is truly frightening.

Alcoholic retrospective of the month:

“I began to think vodka was my drink at last. It didn’t taste like anything, but it went straight down into my stomach like a sword swallowers’ sword and made me feel powerful and godlike.” So wrote poet Sylvia Plath in her semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. I suggest she understood an alcoholic’s brain because she was afflicted with the disease herself. I stumbled on to Plath on a list of “other artists” who, according to Maria Puente writing for USA Today, followed the same tragic path as did Robin Williams. Her list “includes painters, poets, writers, musicians and designers: Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain, Alexander McQueen to name just a few of the famous creative who suffered from depression and committed suicide.” Depression is often rooted in alcohol or other-drug addiction; where suicide occurs, the underlying cause is usually substance addiction. Puente, unfortunately, appears to have no clue.

I already knew Van Gogh, Hemmingway, Woolf and Cobain to be addicts; I quickly added a fifth to my list, fashion designer Alexander McQueen. But what about Plath?

In “20 Distinguished Writers and Their Drink of Choice,” we learn that “Anne Sexton and her fellow writer Sylvia Plath met in a poetry class, and the pair would skip off to the Ritz-Carlton afterwards for a few rounds of apparently dry martinis. They welcomed other students and patrons into their fold as well, one of whom later became Sexton’s illicit lover behind her husband’s back. [Sexton] apparently loved throwing caution to the wind by illegally parking in the hotel’s loading zone before pumping her system full of booze.” Anne Sexton was clearly alcoholic; because addicts hang out with other alcoholics and a sense of power and God-likeness are nearly the exclusive domain of addicts, Plath almost assuredly was as well.

Alcoholic side dish of the month:

Allen Trammell, 29, arrested for selling crack cocaine in a McDonald’s parking lot in Radnor Township, Philadelphia, PA; he was between food preparation shifts. Radnor police Lt. Andy Block quipped it gives “a new definition of what may be considered a Happy Meal.” Except for the victims of the addicts who purchased those drugs.


Alcoholic scam of the month:

Eric McLean Slighton, 53, arrested on suspicion of public drunkenness after allegedly posing as an airport security screener for the Transportation Security Administration at San Francisco International Airport. Slighton, an apparent partner with a private equity firm in Singapore and, before that, managing director of Barclays Capital in Hong Kong and Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong, steered two women into private screening booths used to pat down passengers. While the first woman wasn’t noticed, the second caught the attention of real screeners (male screeners are prohibited from taking women into the booths without a female screener present). In case you wonder why Slighton isn’t being charged with impersonating a federal agent or false imprisonment, the women quickly boarded their flights and couldn’t be found to testify. On the other hand, why wouldn’t the screeners’ testimony be enough? Perhaps because the TSA is rather embarrassed about the breach, as outsiders wonder who’s screening the screeners.

Child alkies of the month:

In a case showing that addicts hang out together and that addiction can be triggered when very young, a 13-year-old was arrested for DUI with five other juveniles—all 14 or younger—in her mother’s car. The 13-year-old was driving without headlights when pulled over at 11:45 p.m. There is nothing in the record showing that the theft—or her daughter’s disappearance—had been reported, suggesting either the mother may have been asleep and had no idea, or that she is afflicted with (and makes the rest of us suffer from) the same malady as her daughter. One of the juveniles was reported as a runaway by his mother earlier that evening, another had an “active apprehension request” from the Department of Human Services and a third had an active temporary physical custody order on him. It’s possible the other five are children of alcoholics, but it’s also possible that some of them have already triggered the disease.


Grown-up child alkie of the month:

Former child star Amanda Bynes, 28, getting her second DUI and, again, put under the conservatorship of her mother. In the space of two years, she’s made a mess of her life. Two years ago, she sideswiped a police car and was charged with DUI; separately, she was charged with two hit and run incidents. In another incident, a DUI charge was dropped only because she pled out to reckless driving; after that, she was cited for driving with a suspended license. Off the road, she was arrested for criminal possession of marijuana, tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment for throwing a bong out the window of her 36th floor Manhattan apartment (she claimed it was a vase). Two days later she accused the arresting officer of sexual harassment. In Thousand Oaks, California, she allegedly started a fire in the driveway of a stranger’s house. Aside from her latest DUI, she accused her father of repeated sexual abuse when she was a child, only to retract her statement two days later, tweeting, “The microchip in my brain made me say those things but he’s the one that ordered them to microchip me.” That got her a psychiatric hold and now everyone thinks she’s crazy. How about starting with, “Let’s get her sober and make her stay that way?” and watch the crazy behavior dissipate. Please, someone coerce abstinence, lest my prediction comes true that she slips into a “let’s have multiple plastic surgeries” stage of addiction, where addicts can go overboard.


Codependent journalists of the month:

Journalists, informing readers that Amanda Bynes has a mental illness, when they should instead point to her behaviors and suggest she has the disease of addiction. They are welcome to say she may have or, more likely, may have triggered a mental disorder, but we cannot know this until she is clean and sober for at least several years.


Alcoholic passengers of the month:

Two women, Lilia Ratmanski, 25, and Milana Muzikante, 26, who went to the lavatory and consumed a “significant quantity of their duty-free alcohol purchase,” lit a cigarette, got into a physical altercation with each other and made a “threat against the aircraft” on a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Cuba. NORAD scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets to escort the flight back to Toronto. Assuming the women won’t be able to shoulder the cost of fuel, salaries and inconvenience to Sunwing, NORAD and the passengers, the costs alcoholics impose on the rest of us are incredible.


Alcoholic hero-villain of the month:

NYPD Officer Eugene Donnelly, 27, pleading innocent to having allegedly battered a 30-year-old woman after going out on the town celebrating receipt of a Police Combat Cross—the department’s second highest honor—for stopping a gunman while he was off-duty. The four-year veteran crashed at a friend’s and, at some point, wandered out of the residence wearing only his briefs. He wound up in another apartment in the same building and encountered the woman, who had never seen him before. He allegedly punched her twenty to thirty times, at one point saying, “I’m a good guy, but sometimes I’m a bad guy.” He may as well have said, “Sometimes I’m Dr. Jekyll, and sometimes I’m Mr. Hyde.”


Alcoholic sportsman of the month:

Abdiel Toribio, 42, was observed driving a vehicle with long-expired (2007) tags and pulled over. When he couldn’t find paperwork proving the vehicle belonged to him, the officer, a sheriff’s deputy, let it be known he was going to make an arrest. Toribio was going to have none of that and drove off—with the deputy partly inside the vehicle. After slowly pulling himself into the car, the deputy convinced Toribio, who had numerous priors, to stop and face new charges, including resisting an officer with violence and driving while license is suspended or revoked for DUI. Toribio is a horse jockey with career earnings of nearly $27 million in purse money and close to 10,000 starts, so he too could be considered a hero—and a villain.


Alcoholic untruth of the month:

Lawrence Goetzman, 30, rolled his SUV on an interstate ramp and, landing right-side up on its tires, drove away. Officers found a debris field of broken glass, clothes, tools and paperwork on the ramp, along with skid marks and red paint from a vehicle on the road. When officers tracked him down at the hospital, with a laceration under his left eye and blood all over his face and clothes, he greeted them with, “Oh, (expletive).” Goetzman told police he had fallen down the stairs at his house and hit some bricks. Police charged him with DUI, driving without a valid license and failure to maintain control of his vehicle. He also qualified for the next category:


DUI of the month:

Elias Velez-Morales, 24, who was, among other charges, arrested for DUI, while “dancing” on the seat of an International 354 tractor on a city street near Vero Beach, Florida. He registered a .24 percent blood alcohol level. He not only reeked of alcohol, but also of urine because he peed on himself and, in an apparent attempt to dry out, had his pants down when he was arrested. There are plenty of partially clothed alkies, but a partially clothed DUI is rare.


Alcoholic blackout of the month:

Daniel Suba, 36, waking up to find a neighbor’s televisions, electronics and jewelry in his apartment but no recollection of how it got there. He remembers drinking and pill-popping the night before. He’ll also remember—hopefully for the rest of his life—charges of grand theft and burglary, and perhaps connect the dots between the “night before” and the jail in which he will hopefully spend a few months.


Alcoholic law enforcement malfeasance of the month:

Aaron S. Jansen, 29, clocking in at 90 mph on Interstate 70, igniting a police pursuit. After evading spikes, Jansen drove into a soybean field, where he drove in circles for 40 minutes as law enforcers set up a perimeter, blocking all exits. Along the way, Jansen threw blankets, CDs and other items from the car and, at one point, slowed to about 5 mph, climbed out and “surfed” the car’s roof. Wearing a cowboy hat, boots and a woman’s dress, he yelled bible verses, made faces and flashed peace signs at officers. Jansen finally surrendered to deputy sheriffs and was charged with fleeing and eluding, obstruction, reckless driving and speeding. If you wonder why this is law enforcement malfeasance, consider what’s missing from the list of charges.


Alcoholic law enforcer of the month:

Nora Longoria, an elected judge of Texas’s 13th court of appeals, producing her badge after being pulled over for speeding. Smelling alcohol and observing slurred speech, the officer gave her sobriety tests; she failed. After being placed under arrest, she told the officer, “You are going to ruin my life. I worked hard for 25 years to be where I am today.” Longoria, 49, refused to be handcuffed or get into the police car, complying only after being threatened with additional charges of resisting arrest. Longoria adjudicates both criminal and civil cases. Because alcoholics have poor judgment, Texas residents will be well served if Longoria steps down or at least steps aside for a few years while she works on her sobriety. Message to Ms. Longoria: the officer wasn’t out to ruin your life—he was out to save it.


Polite alcoholic criminal of the month:

Mark Williams, 37, arrested for trying to rob one business, robbing the clerk at another business, running (literally—on foot) from a hit-and-run car crash and then breaking into four homes, all in the space of less than 40 minutes. He apologized to the neighbors at the fourth home, where he had surrendered, for being high and for interrupting their night.


Alcoholic chutzpah of the month:

Ria Buford, 32, charged with public drunkenness, robbery of a motor vehicle and disorderly conduct, when she helped herself into an unmarked police car after the driver had stepped out. An officer in the passenger’s seat tried to push her out while telling her they were cops; another in the back seat yelled at her to exit the vehicle. Ms. Buford (and this where “chutzpah” comes in) informed the officers she would drive the car to her car. One of the officers got out and raced around to the other side, trying to pull Ms. Buford out, when an unidentified man grabbed the officer’s shirt and yelled not to touch Ms. Buford. After a couple of knee strikes to his back area from another officer, the two were arrested. Surprisingly (not), the arresting officer wrote that Ms. Buford had “an overwhelming odor of alcoholic beverage emanating from her person.” The man was charged with public drunkenness, aggravated assault and resisting arrest.


Alcoholic medical analysis of the month:

The Medical Board of California explaining that Jason Lane, M.D. showed up at work with a .39 percent blood alcohol level, because he was “self-medicating” to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The board overlooked the fact that Lane’s obviously alcoholic bio-chemistry allows him to drink to a point where non-addicts would be comatose and possibly dead. Alcoholics “self-medicate” because they can; PTSD coincides with heavy drinking because the afflicted can drink heavily. Therefore, Lane showed up at work with a .39 percent BAL because he’s an alcoholic.

Wouldn’t it be so much better if he was given a chance to clean up his act and be regularly and randomly tested prior to his likely ruining countless relationships and, possibly, botching procedures and making faulty diagnoses? Instead, Lane was fired and could lose his medical license. This seems to have created enough pain to inspire in Lane a real need to get and stay sober: after detoxing in the hospital, he checked himself into a week-long program where—surprise, surprise!—he was diagnosed with alcohol dependence. After that program ended, he checked himself into a 30-day treatment center and followed that up with a six-week outpatient program, regularly attending AA meetings. Keep it up, Dr. Lane. You now have a shot at getting a real life and really helping people.


What follows is a slew of alcoholic “relatives of the month,” showing that family has nothing to do with the prevention of alcoholism and alcoholic misbehaviors.

Alcoholic dads of the month:

Mark Allen Hughes, 35, catching his 15-year-old son drinking alcohol and deciding to teach him a lesson: he gave his son multiple shots of vodka. The learning experience landed the son in the hospital, on a ventilator. Hughes has been charged with aggravated child abuse. Regular readers wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Hughes has a record of arrests on charges such as DUI, public intoxication and evading arrest. However, even you might be shocked that he has had 18 such arrests; he’s simply teaching what he knows best.

Charles James, 36, “flipping out” while doing drugs with his 14-year-old daughter in a hotel room. He was reportedly glassy-eyed and incoherent. Just what were you teaching your daughter in the hotel room, Mr. James?

Joshua Delong, 28, charged with child neglect after leaving his three children, ages 5, 7 and 8, in his car for four hours, with the windows up and the key in the ignition, while he drank beer at a bar. A witness reported the kids were honking and one said, “Daddy does this all the time.” Delong told police he left his children in his mother’s care and that his wife dropped them off at the bar without his knowledge; the mother and wife deny his claims. The kids may be learning the connection between drinking for hours, child abuse and lying.

Vontrell Hines, 25, arrested for child endangerment after shoving and then running from officers after being pulled over—leaving behind his 10-month-old daughter and 15 bags of marijuana in his car. Before you say, “See Doug? Pot can make people act really badly!” let me suggest the possibility he was using other drugs. While not crystal clear, among the charges was “being under the influence of drugs.” The daughter was, unfortunately, too young to learn a lesson.


Alcoholic aunt of the month:

Djuna M. Tansmore, 48, accused of abandoning her 1-year-old niece in a bid to avoid arrest for alleged theft of laundry detergent and Miracle Whip from a Walmart. When confronted by the store’s loss prevention officer, she struggled to remove the child from a cart (the toddler was buckled in) and ran off without the tyke. Tansmore was also charged with—are you ready?—use and possession of drug paraphernalia.


Alcoholic uncle of the month:

Clarence W. Hairston, 58, arrested for DUI, endangering the welfare of children and numerous other counts after taking his two nephews out for a joy ride. While his 8-year old nephew steered the vehicle while on his lap, a 9-year-old jumped around the back seat unrestrained; Hairston held a 25-ounce can of beer and an empty 25-ounce beer can was found in the center console. An officer had noticed the car moving erratically, stopping in the middle of the road, then accelerating and then braking, before striking a parked car. When the car stopped, Hairston got out, beer in hand. The cop observed, “He’s pretty drunk.”


Codependent mom of the month:

The mother of the kids who Clarence W. Hairston had in his car. Mom told officers that while she was aware Hairston was intoxicated, she would never have let him take the kids for a drive and “definitely” wouldn’t let the children drive. But she’d let him—an obviously known drunk—watch her children?


Alcoholic parents of the month:

Michael Pierce, 41, and his wife Melanie Pierce, 34, arrested after passing out from a heroin overdose in their car in a restaurant parking lot, with their 4-year-old and 11-month-old sons in the back seat.


Alcoholic grandma of the month:

Cynthia Ann Watson, 51, arrested after allegedly putting methamphetamine in tea that was later ingested by her 2-year-old granddaughter. The toddler’s mother told responding deputies that her child hadn’t fallen asleep since being put to bed the previous evening. The 2-year-old “was talking rapidly, scratching her skin, could not sit still and was very agitated.” Thinking there could be a medical issue officers took her to the hospital, where they found meth in the little girl’s system.

Alcoholic son of the month:

Dwight Ridgeway McGinnis, Jr., 67, charged with vulnerable adult neglect after leaving his 98-year-old mother in his truck inside the parking garage of a casino; she is confined to a wheelchair and unable to care for herself. She was found at 6:30 p.m., it was 81 degrees, one window was partially down, the only evidence of food or drink was an empty soda can and the truck had been parked for nearly five hours. McGinnis’ drinking wasn’t mentioned in any reports, probably because no one realizes it’s the best explanation for his “not-giving-a-damn-about-anyone-else” behavior.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

John Anthony Walker, Soviet spy, dead in federal prison at age 77 of causes related to diabetes and throat cancer. Walker specialized in communications during his time as a United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer; this expertise allowed him to create a spy ring that deciphered more than one million encrypted American messages, likely resulting in more damage to the U.S. military than any spy ring in history. Even more shocking was that close family and a friend made up the spy ring: his son Michael, his older brother Arthur and best friend, Jerry Whitworth. This spying allowed the Soviets to track every U.S. submarine 24/7, which then U. S. Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, admitted would have resulted in huge losses of American lives in the event of war.

At age 17, Walker was arrested on charges of burglary. The court offered him a choice between jail and the military, and he chose the latter. Thirteen years later, in 1968, he became distraught over financial difficulties and walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. with classified Navy communications documents. He negotiated payments and a weekly salary for spying. North Korean forces seized the USS Pueblo one month later, likely at the behest of the Soviets, who wanted to study equipment described in the documents (although there is some debate over whether the seizure was coincidental, I would suggest such events rarely simply coincide).

The U.S. government missed a number of opportunities to identify Walker as a spy. Sailors working alongside Walker weren’t suspicious of his swanky apartment, sports car and sail boat because they figured he was moonlighting as a pimp. “Traitor” never entered their minds. Walker and his wife Barbara divorced in 1976. By 1980, she had become an obvious drunk and didn’t want her son to become involved in what she finally realized was a spy ring. She tried several times to contact the Boston office of the FBI, but either hung up or was too drunk to speak. In 1984, she drunkenly confessed that Walker was a spy for the Soviet Union. The FBI figured she was simply a drunk, bitter woman and turned the report over to the Navy Investigative Service (now known as NCIS, Naval Criminal Investigative Service). When the NIS began asking how Walker could afford luxury vehicles and three residences, they broke the case wide open.

While we can’t be as certain of Walker’s addiction as we can in the case of Robert Hanssen (see the movie review of “Breach" in issue # 31 of TAR), there is plenty of evidence for his affliction:

  1. He was a spy. In his magnificent The Secret History of Alcoholism, James Graham devoted an entire chapter to spies and other heroes, as well as traitors and other anti-heroes, many of whom have been addicts.
  2. Walker’s actions demonstrate his mindset as invincible and God-like, which are signal symptoms of alcoholism. Anyone without that mindset simply wouldn’t be able to take the risks required to sell secrets to the enemy.
  3. He mocked the armed services; when asked how he had managed to access so much classified information, he responded, “Kmart has better security than the Navy.”
  4. He was a great liar. He lied not only to his employer, but also family and friends, including his best friend, Whitworth, telling him the stolen data would be used to help America’s ally, Israel.
  5. His marriage to Barbara was marked by physical abuse. The fact that his spouse was an alcoholic could explain this, but long-term physical abuse in such cases would be highly unusual. It’s much more likely that he was also an alcoholic, albeit a far more high-functioning one than his wife. Walker inflated his ego by wielding power over a superpower, the United States, thereby staving off late-stage addiction.
  6. He verbally abused his three daughters and urged one to abort his unborn grandson so she could enlist and spy for him. Verbal abuse goes hand-in-hand with alcoholism.
  7. While his wife cheated with Walker’s older brother, he cheated with women half his age. Serial Don Juan-ism is common among alcoholics, especially with much younger women.
  8. His excuse in grooming son Michael to take over the “family business” was that Michael was too inept to succeed at anything without fatherly help. Belittling is another classic behavioral indication of addiction.

The last seven of these are classic behavioral clues to addiction, elucidated in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics.

In opposition to the hypothesis that addiction explained his behaviors, Walker never got sober in prison. His self-serving autobiography claimed, among other delusions, that giving secrets to the Soviets helped to end the Cold War by convincing the Kremlin that it could never match our military superiority, causing them to simply give up. Since sobriety requires both abstinence and ego-deflation, it’s possible he never got truly sober. Many convicts, even those who stop drinking and using, never deflate the ego.

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.

The Case for Drug Decriminalization

I’ve long been a proponent of decriminalization of all drugs. To an addict, a psychotropic drug is a psychotropic drug; addicts can nearly always fall back on any available substitute. Make one drug illegal and either the addict will find a way to get his hands on it, or find another drug. When the U.S. tried prohibition of the drug alcohol in the early 20th century, the results included monstrous black markets, corrupt cops and no reduction in use by addicts. Current prohibitions do the same, and as before it allows really bad people—nearly always alcohol and other-drug addicts—to become obscenely wealthy; illegality results in immense mark-ups. Worse, due to civil forfeiture laws that didn’t exist during the earlier prohibition, criminalizing drugs creates perverse incentives among law enforcers: they enrich themselves by taking property without due process.

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State (and soon, due to recent election results, Oregon, Alaska and D.C.) is resulting in unintended consequences. However, while creating some bad results, they are arguably not as negative as those caused by criminalization. Still, bad side effects can be reduced by allowing business-owners, landlords and others to discriminate against pot users.

I generally wouldn’t knowingly hire, otherwise do business with or rent to an alcohol or other-drug addict. This includes those addicted to marijuana. We addictionologists have a unique tool to ferret out such addicts before or shortly after hiring someone: behavioral indications (see How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). However, if we err it can be catastrophic to our pocketbook and sanity, and we can make mistakes because some addicts can make themselves appear normal for extended periods. Although I can often pick up likely addiction within minutes of meeting someone, I’ve missed a few after knowing them for years. Worse, non-addictionologists have no such tools. Therefore, employers need to be able to test and give employees who test positive one chance. This is especially crucial for employers of law enforcement personnel and other government employees. Landlords need to be given similar rights. Although this may result in occasional errors, such tough love would create far more sober addicts in the long run, which will be a net good for everyone.

Statistics cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits reported that the prevalence of workplace injury among “users” and “those under the influence” (aka “addicts”) is monstrously greater than among non-addicts. While pot users may not engage in the reckless risks that alcoholics take, they may instead make stupid errors. Behaviors vary, just as they do with other drugs. Potheads may not work as hard as they would when sober. Some may be less focused, while others (especially long-term users) may suffer short-term memory loss. Their judgment may be impaired.

A correspondent from Washington State writes that he is seeing the effects of legalized pot in the workplace after only ten months of decriminalization. He’s watching co-workers getting, as he puts it, “dumber.”

Assembly-line workers are missing key steps and incorrectly installing parts. In one case, black boxes produced by an airplane supply company weren’t properly sealed before being put into a test chamber, where they were to undergo a leak test. Electronics costing $100,000 were ruined.

In Colorado, reports are trickling out of poisoned dogs as a result of eating pot-laced food and children getting high by eating pot-filled candies. Obviously, to reduce the number of such horrible accidents, strict controls and stringent enforcement is essential. And, no-nonsense consequences for such foul-ups need to be imposed.

The good news out of Colorado so far is, contrary to the expectations of many who do not understand how addiction to pot creates vastly different behaviors than addiction to alcohol and certain other drugs (such as methamphetamine), violent crimes are down (click here for a complete six-months-in analysis and click here for a more critical discussion). I suspect this may be a result of many alcoholics moving towards weed, which leads to less violence than does booze in addicts (just as alcohol use by addicts leads to less crazy behavior than does methamphetamine use by addicts). When violence occurs, I suspect drugs other than pot are usually in the mix, in which case those other drugs may be causing the other-destructive misbehaviors. Further, very few deaths occur solely from marijuana use; most of the time, such deaths occur in conjunction with the use of other drugs. Compare reported overdoses from pot (so small I can’t even find reliable statistics; maybe a few hundred yearly if that from “real” marijuana, as opposed to the synthetic versions) with 16,007 deaths from prescription painkillers in 2012 (the latest year for which data are available) and an estimated 88,000 yearly deaths from alcohol for years 2006 through 2010. Self-destructive results from pot pale in comparison to those from the use of other drugs, both legal and illegal.

As regular readers know, we believe the drug (or, let’s say, gun) isn’t the cause of problems; it’s the person on the drug (or wielding the gun). The focus of the War on Drugs should be narrowed to creating certain consequences for those people exhibiting misbehaviors as a result of use. This is true for both guns and drugs.

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Sloshed mom

Dear Doug:

My husband and I are both well-educated, own a home and are ready to start a family. My mom is less than enthused, however. We were out enjoying some drinks with my folks when mom, who seems to have been a bit sloshed, told me she wished my older brother and his wife would have a child first, “No offense intended.” They’ve been trying for years and, due to the cost of fertility clinics, have decided to stop trying until my sister-in-law earns her degree.

I’m obsessing over my mom’s comment and fear discussing it, because she may not remember she said it. I think we’ll make great parents; I only wish my mom was on board with us.


Ready to be a mom


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might point out that those who drink heavily often make inappropriate remarks. They would suggest you ask what she really meant. Perhaps, they might surmise, she was thinking of your brother and sister-in-law and the pain they are experiencing because of their inability to conceive.

Nonsense. Your mother’s a drunk. She thinks of nobody but herself, her drink and when and where she’s going to get her next drink. Good intent should never be read into anything an alcoholic says or does.

Such columnists might also suggest that you let her know her comment was hurtful and to give her a chance to clarify her intent, adding “if she even remembers saying it.” That is tacit acknowledgment that your mother may have been in a blackout, during which time events will never be remembered. A blackout is so frightening, non-addicts never have more than one; they never again drink so much. Based on your observation that your mom may not remember saying what we know she said, she’s already had numerous blackouts, which is something only an alcoholic experiences.

Other columnists might even suggest you ask her to cut down her drinking “because memory lapses can be a symptom of a drinking problem.” No, she shouldn’t “cut down.” She needs to stop and never drink again because, dear mother-to-be, your mom has the disease of alcoholism and alcoholics cannot moderate their use over extended periods. And you do not want to have a baby whose grandma is a practicing alcoholic.

(Source for story idea: “Dear Abby,” August 3, 2014.)

Beethoven is one of those historical figures so famous that everything worth knowing about him has been known for a long time.”

So writes Edmund Morris in a review of Jan Swafford’s Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph in The Wall Street Journal (“The Mystery of Creativity: The madder Beethoven got, the more lucid his musical intelligence became,” August 2-3, 2014).The trouble with Morris’s observation is, knowing is not understanding.

He says Beethoven was “so unable to relate to other people’s feelings as to suggest a modern-day diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.” (For Myers-Briggs enthusiasts, this suggests he was either INFP or INTP.) “Nor did he ever really understand love….Hence the long list of occasions when Beethoven unfeelingly hurt those who loved him and whom he loved (or imagined he loved). Hence the stupid puns and incomprehensible jokes—not to mention the fits of paranoia—that make his letters read, on occasion, like the meanderings of a madman.” This suggests alcoholism. Finally, in the 17th paragraph, his “drinking too much” is mentioned, but without any mention of cause and effect.

Matt Goldstein's website, which is dedicated to the “art and culture of eating and drinking” (albeit moderately), gets it right in his article, “Beethoven: Classical Musical Genius, Alcoholic, Abusive, Paranoid.” Goldstein begins the piece by stating the single most important fact about this subject: Beethoven “was a drunken mess….[who] drank heavily….[and] showed the classic signs of alcoholism.” While pointing out he was famous for “legendary and pioneering classical music,” Goldstein quickly points out Beethoven “was very difficult to get along with socially. Mostly drunk, Beethoven was notoriously mean, abusive and suspicious of everyone. Beethoven hated all of his servants, thought most of them stole from him and thought some were even plotting against his life.” All of his business partners were out to steal his money. Friends and family were “abused and distrusted. An infamous womanizer, Beethoven also moved 71 times, indicative of an alcoholic.” Goldstein, as good an analyst as he is, doesn’t get everything: “Although an alcoholic, Beethoven is one of the most influential musicians of all time with an immeasurable impact upon the world.” With respect Mr. Goldstein, the correct word is not “although.” Beethoven was an alcoholic and, therefore, needed to wield power over others. The world, if not friends, family and business partners, got lucky: this need compelled him to both abuse others and to overachieve.

Biographers have long known that Beethoven was an alcoholic. They don’t get the fact that his musical genius—especially a need to continue to write music as he went deaf—is best attributable to this addiction. Knowing is not understanding. Only by understanding addiction can we understand the alcoholic subject of a biography.

And a bonus myth-of-the-month:

“Being Elvis comes with risks…. As a teenager, Sean began drinking and smoking pot.”

So wrote Bo Emerson, in “Requiem for a blues player” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in explaining why Sean Costello, a “child genius who grew into a mature artist” and whose “legacy lives on,” overdosed in 2008. No, Mr. Emerson, having the ability and notoriety of an Elvis Presley doesn’t carry risks; having alcoholic genes does. On tour, Costello could be a stay-up-all-night party animal. He’d been in rehab at least once. He was described as manic, staying up for three or four days. But mania rarely occurs without benefit of external injections of chemicals; he always did drugs. The toxicology report found his brain “swimming” in psychoactive chemicals, including cocaine and heroin.

While Emerson gets it partly right, acknowledging Costello began drinking at an early age, he fails to ascribe cause and effect. If psychotropic drug addiction isn’t the problem, addicts can’t get sober because there is nothing to get sober from and there’s no reason to stop using. Identify addiction as the cause of all the other problems and we’ll be right about 80-90% of the time. Once we know someone has the disease of addiction, they can be coerced into stopping the use and, only then, will they have a chance.

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

Vroom: It wasn’t such a big deal that Karen Marie Dilworth, 50, was having sex with the motorcycle in her Ormond Beach, Fla., garage. The problem was, the garage door was open, and the young boy outside, and various other neighbors, couldn’t help but to notice. Dilworth, who admitted to police she had been drinking, was arrested and charged with ‘lewd/lascivious exhibition by a person over 18 on a person under 16.’ She denied having sex with the motorcycle. Then what was she doing in the garage? Smoking, she said. (RC/Daytona Beach News-Journal) ...Smoking, ‘smoking afterward’ — big difference.

It’s not that drinking “loosens inhibitions” so much as “impels one to do things that sober people would never consider doing.” Many non-addicts think about doing things they never act out on, even when drinking. The difference is alcohol and other-drug addicts act out on some of those thoughts, some of the time. And conversely, when we see someone acting in a way that causes others harm, substance addiction must be hypothesized as the most likely explanation. The hypothesis will prove true at least 80% of the time.


And, because we’ve missed so many issues this year and, well, because this one’s too good to pass up, a BONUS alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month:

Calculate the Odds of this Catching up with Her: A student at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley, Ariz., complained a math teacher was drunk in her classroom. The principal and school police officer investigated, and Kathleen Jardine, 57, allegedly admitted she had been drinking the night before, that morning, and during lunch at school; her blood alcohol measured .205 percent, the Pinal County sheriff’s office reported. A half-empty, 750 ml bottle of vodka was found in her purse, along with an empty wine bottle. The night before, Jardine was arrested for drunk driving on her way home from school. It was about an hour after she left work, and her blood alcohol was .257 percent — high enough to classify the crime as a ‘Super Extreme DUI.’ Deputies found a half-empty bottle of peppermint schnapps in her car, and asked if she was drinking and driving. ‘I only drank it when I was stopped,’ she replied. During her field sobriety test, the math teacher was counting her steps out loud and suddenly stopped to ask the officer, ‘Did I run out of numbers?’ Jardine was fired three years ago from a previous job — teaching math at a high school in New Mexico — because students complained she was drunk in her classroom. She passed a background check before she was hired in Arizona. (RC/KTVK Phoenix) ...Maybe background checks should also include a quick Google search.

The trouble with a Google search is that not only are problems hidden deep in Google’s search engines, but also too often drinking is not seen as relevant and, therefore, goes unreported. A diagnosis of alcoholism in a teacher—and a .257 percent blood alcohol content qualifies—should result in automatic choice of dismissal or being subject to regular and random alcohol and other-drug tests for years, if not for the rest of a teaching career. With ankle bracelets and other technology behind it, this would result in far more sober teachers. And because this sort of excess is only the tip of the iceberg—there’s no question that for every Kathleen Jardine there are ten or twenty others hiding it—those who teach children should be subject to regular and random testing and occasional screening for substance addiction. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

(Stories and taglines from “This is True,” copyright 2014 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

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

The recent hiatus from the Thorburn Addiction Report was not due to a lack of stories—alcoholism is always in the news—but rather due to a dearth of twists and hidden gems in the stories that others overlook.

I also like to be thorough in reporting. I could have covered the death of Mickey Rooney; his story should be told alongside countless other child stars, many of whom became stars due to a parent’s alcoholism-fueled egomania and in whom a latent inherited alcoholism was later triggered. But that could require a book.

Additionally, I detest pathological lying. I would love to be able to prove that such lying is nearly always linked to substance addiction. Despite having spent an inordinate amount of time the last six months studying many of those currently making history—for better or worse—I cannot prove that Harry Reid or others like him are addicted to alcohol or pills. Not every misbehavior can be proven to be caused by substance addiction.

We never know what might pop up from the archives, suddenly becoming relevant due to current events. I have known since 2005 that an Iraqi defector, code name “Curveball,” triggered the Iraq war as only an alcoholic could. The story has become more relevant recently with the unfolding ISIS crisis, earning Top Story honors.

In future issues I will ask why many recovering alcoholics get the concept that protecting addicts from the consequences of their misbehaviors perpetuates addiction, but doing this for the poor somehow doesn’t perpetuate poverty. I will also show that the principles of AA are libertarian ones. The next issue will include a review of either Tyrant (FX) or a recent episode or two of Major Crimes (TNT) which, in the meantime, I’ll recommend as among the greatest portrayals of alcoholism on the small screen. And, while Major Crimes (a spin-off of the excellent The Closer) is really good, Tyrant is, simply, extraordinary television-making and story-telling.

Please read on, discover new ideas—and enjoy!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2014 by Doug Thorburn

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

All four books are available on Amazon, and the two e-books are available in multiple formats on IPG.

Iraq: How An Alcoholic Triggered a War, Which Led to a Quagmire

Whether alcoholics are directly or indirectly responsible for catastrophes, the lies they tell can lead to many forms of tragedy, especially when politics is involved. The 2003 Iraq war and current ISIS disaster in Iraq is a classic example of a series of catastrophic events initiated indirectly by one alcoholic.

Excluding natural causes, my work indicates that alcohol and other-drug addicts are responsible for some 80% of human misery. Considering that only 10% of the population is afflicted with substance addiction, the disease affects others way out of proportion to its prevalence. These problems include everything from auto accidents and domestic violence to war and genocide.

Confirming this 80% figure is difficult because of how the disease works. While statistics for road fatalities show the cause was a driver under the influence in only about a third of cases, many instances of addiction are missed. In some, the particular drug isn’t tested in perpetrator or apparent victim; both may have contributed to the incident. In others the addict was between using episodes, when behavior is often worse than while under the influence. Other cases involve accidents for which the precipitating event was an alcoholic driver who drove in a way that caused other, unrelated parties to crash. When natural causes are eliminated, the true cause of road fatalities in arguably 80% of instances is substance addiction.

Studies cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse show domestic violence crimes are nearly always rooted in alcoholism. Cases of pre-meditated murder, on the other hand, aren’t so clear-cut. Only about half can clearly be traced to an addict. This figure is misleading because in order to plan, keep a clear head and commit the crime the addict, who can exhibit extraordinary self-control over use during the early stages of the disease, may intentionally stop using for a period of time. This is probably less true for unplanned crimes of passion, which can be more frequently traced to an addict. Unfortunately, those investigating and writing about these violent crimes don’t understand the relevance of addiction and, as a result, don’t mention its likelihood. Ann Rule wrote an autobiographical-biographical true crime book about serial killer Ted Bundy, after working alongside him in a crisis hotline center. Rule never considered the possibility that Bundy might be an alcoholic; when I asked her if she thought it relevant, she blew me off. Anthrax killer Bruce Ivins (TAR # 42) could be identified as an addict in only one news article of a dozen I read after his suicide—in the 28th paragraph.

Other than my work, especially TAR, little has been written on the link between addiction and war—authorized murder on a massive scale. Yet it’s probable that those who precipitate international conflict are as likely to be substance addicts as those who commit domestic abuse. Non-addiction aware writers don’t understand cause and effect—that addiction is almost always the root cause of egomania, which can take form in a need to wield power over others, resulting in violence. Since most addicts don’t commit murder, even those journalists, biographers and historians who are addicts themselves don’t connect the dots between addiction and war.

Josef Stalin, arguably the worst murderer of all time, was not identified as an alcoholic by most of his biographers. However, James Graham demonstrates in The Secret History of Alcoholism that his behaviors were in fact fueled by alcoholic egomania. Most of Adolf Hitler’s biographers missed his addiction, even though a number of his closest confidants were outed as addicts; addicts often flock together. In their 1978 book, The Medical Casebook of Adolf Hitler, Leonard L. Heston and Renate Heston show his amphetamine use, which caused his Parkinson disease-like symptoms, to be the best explanation for his increasingly reckless and destructive behavior. Mao Tse-tung (aka Mao Zedong), who was responsible for the deaths of some 50-100 million Chinese, was outed as a barbiturate addict by his personal physician, Dr. Li Zhisui, in The Private Life of Chairman Mao.

Even when addictive drug use can’t be proved, horrendous misbehaviors indicate addiction. There is no direct proof that Pol Pot, who was responsible for the murder of about a third of his Cambodian countrymen, was an alcoholic; however, his horrific behaviors are consistent with the diagnosis. Proof exists of Che Guevarra’s alcoholism, but fortunately he never became head of state. On the other hand, he clearly influenced and was buddies with Fidel Castro, who was probably an amphetamine addict (try giving seven-hour speeches on just caffeine!). Castro, in turn, sent his henchmen to foment violent revolutions throughout Africa and Central and South America. Yasir Arafat, whose behaviors and pupil size in numerous pictures indicate amphetamine addiction (TAR # 4), acted similarly in the Middle East. A head of state inflicting massive pain on his own people or committing acts of aggression against others, or both, is most likely an undiagnosed addict. Such acts may also be committed by people who are not themselves addicts but instead profoundly influenced by addicts, even when well-intentioned.

Along these lines, I believe George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq was with the best of intentions. Because Saddam Hussein and his sons, Uday and Qusay, were alcoholics, if there was any chance they had access to WMD or if there was a chance they committed even a third of the killings ascribed to his regime, all three should have been taken out.* When the war wasn’t going well, Bush’s 2007-2008 “surge,” engineered by General David Petraeus (featured in TAR # 72), brought an extraordinary relative peace to Iraq; American fatalities were below accidents in the U.S. military for entire the year. Only when the U.S. pulled out in 2011 was the stage set for the intractable problems now faced.

Troops were never removed from Germany or Japan after WWII, nor were they removed from Korea after the Korean War. This arguably has helped keep the peace in these countries, so far, for more than 60 years. Brent Scowcroft, the national security advisor during the first four years of the George W. Bush administration who opposed our 2003 invasion of Iraq, wrote in 2008 that Iraq wouldn’t be ready to go on its own for quite a while and leaving prematurely would set the stage for the enormous problems the country is now facing.

It’s unfortunate that the war is now being reported as an unsupported farce that President Bush used to advance his own agenda. It’s important to look at the facts, as known pre-war:

  1. Saddam, a Sunni Muslim: (1) committed genocide against Kurds, Shiites and Marsh Arabs; (2) was responsible for the deaths of 1 million of his own people, or 40,000 per year for each year he ruled Iraq; (3) attacked four of his neighbor countries; (4) paid bounties for suicide bombers on the West Bank; and (5) harbored known global terrorists.

  2. Then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which supported regime change in Iraq, mainly because of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s WMD.

  3. In 2002, both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly (296-133 in the House and 77-23 in the Senate) to pass a resolution authorizing Saddam’s removal by force. Senators Joe Biden, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry gave impassioned speeches why we should depose Saddam. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi lectured on the dangers of Saddam’s stockpiles of WMD. The war was legally authorized by many who now feign ignorance or who conveniently “forget” their personal support for the war.**

  4. Along with 70% of Americans, both right-wing and left-wing journalists supported the war, from Fox News and George Will to Thomas Friedman and The New York Times.

In Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War, Los Angeles Times correspondent Bob Drogin shows that a single Iraqi defector, a chemical engineer code named “Curveball,” precipitated the 2003 Iraq invasion by inventing confabulated lies about weapons of mass destruction purportedly controlled by Saddam Hussein. U.S. President George W. Bush, a recovering poly-drug addict, spear-headed a war intended to take down the alcoholic Saddam. The great irony is Curveball is also an alcoholic.

In November 1999, Curveball found his way to Germany as an Iraqi defector seeking political asylum and hoping for “a huge house and…a gleaming Mercedes sedan with buttery soft leather seats” (already, a behavioral clue to Curveball’s addiction: grandiose expectations). Because German immigration granted asylum to only one in 25 applicants and everyone in Baghdad knew only those with good information were given red-carpet treatment, he offered valuable “secrets” of the Saddam regime. He told the German intelligence apparatus that Saddam had a secret program to churn out germ weapons.

Long before Curveball’s defection, the German intelligence agency BND and the American CIA learned to distrust each other. On one hand, the collapse of East Germany provided proof that Soviet bloc spies had “completely penetrated the upper echelons of West German intelligence.” On the other, “arrogant CIA experts patronized and insulted” the BND, with the CIA going so far as to set up a German station chief in Washington, DC for a fall from grace for supposedly passing out in a gay bar (which could have subjected him to blackmail), even though he was a notorious womanizer.

A former senior officer with the chief intelligence wing at the Pentagon that handled defectors, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), explained it’s difficult to “assess someone if you don’t see his face, his style, his mannerisms, what he’s saying, how he responds. All of that is very important in judging someone’s credibility.” However, the grudge the Germans held against the American intelligence services caused Curveball’s case officer to argue emphatically against letting his U.S. counterparts access to an important defector whom “he and his colleagues were perfectly capable of debriefing…without American help.”

Moreover, if a defector brought information that might reflect badly on Germany, the Germans’ reasons to refuse to allow others access were compounded. Curveball told his handlers that Saddam used German-manufactured equipment to build WMD. This was deeply embarrassing to Germans, who could suffer political ramifications if German companies, after building a poison gas factory for Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi and providing all sorts of components and expertise for Saddam before the Persian Gulf War in 1991, were again found to be providing anything that might be deemed similar to modern gas chambers. This could spell disaster to the intelligence experts working under the German national coordinator of intelligence, Ernst Uhrlau (who admitted to controlling underlings via tirades for which he became infamous and under whom, as a result, morale plummeted).

U.S. intelligence reluctantly came to accept the fact its agents would not be allowed to meet with Curveball and had to depend on the Germans.

Non-intelligence service German operatives with access to Curveball were simply scientists; they didn’t have a clue about reading people or how to properly interrogate. Curveball described a technically feasible system of mobile germ-brewing big-rigs, plausible for a regime bent on rebuilding a WMD program. There were many kernels of truth wrapped inside his confabulations. Gaps were explained away; he was a chemical engineer, not a microbiologist or weapons expert and couldn’t be expected to know everything.

Curveball supplied his German handlers with the answers they wanted. Translations from Arabic to German also caused intelligence bureaucrats to fill in gaps where something didn’t make perfect sense. In filling gaps, preconceived notions caused them to err on the side of “Saddam has WMD.” Translating to English increased the errors.

The Americans were impressed with the reports they read. Saddam had developed an extensive WMD program in the 1980s, which the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) destroyed after the 1991 war. It made sense that a megalomaniacal dictator would reconstruct what he could, when he could. Bioweapons were the perfect instrument because of their seemingly innocuous civilian applications, from medicine to pesticides. Spinning tales that others would believe was made still easier because “the Americans had failed to recruit a single Iraqi agent…who was close to Saddam’s illicit weapons programs.” By 1998, the U.S. had almost no human on-the-ground intelligence on Saddam or any WMD. The Americans were desperate to fill a void that Curveball was seen as being able to do.

Many intelligence operatives argued that Curveball’s “original information was so exquisitely detailed, so utterly persuasive, that it had to be true.” American intelligence sub-agencies seeking recognition reinforced this belief. Recognition can be important for bureaucrats, even when they are geeky scientists. A group called WINPAC, or Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, “was supposed to streamline CIA reporting and analysis of weapons-related threats.” The tiny staff of six specializing in microscopic germs and viruses was suddenly deemed important, which gave them credibility and allowed them to push reports up to higher levels.

Curveball’s clearly “erratic behavior,” along with later denials of some of the information he had supplied, suggested to the German operatives they should no longer trust him. But these same operatives know that “memories are fungible, constantly changing….Clarity of recall can evaporate or reformulate in unexpected ways. So they ignored his denials, his backsliding and memory lapses.” Although “his drinking worsened,” they did not think Curveball was an alcoholic; instead, they figured he might be suffering from depression.

Addiction experts, had there been any working in the intelligence services, would have judged Curveball’s claims non-credible. Curveball gradually became a “nervous wreck” and his behavior became increasingly unpredictable. He drove German intelligence crazy, was “mentally unstable” and “drank too much.” He vanished for days at a time, postponed appointments at the last minute and even failed to show up for questioning. He exhibited roller coaster-like “wild mood swings.” He smoked incessantly and signs of paranoia began setting in. He was irresponsible both with money and with his life. Yet, he could switch to fawning charm and a great smile to get what he wanted.

During his stint as an informant, one American was allowed to meet with Curveball. The Germans tried to verify a story in which he may have witnessed an accidental leak of anthrax. Because he would have been vaccinated, he could be tested for antibodies in his blood. German doctors found the lab results inconclusive and asked an American doctor, “Les,” to take a look. While Les, too, couldn’t prove or disprove the presence of such antibodies, he wondered whether Curveball might be an alcoholic. Les later told a colleague, “It was early in the morning, he was hung over and he smelled like booze,” and worried why Curveball would show up for an important medical test with a “blistering hangover” and bloodshot eyes, sallow and sweaty skin and disheveled clothes from (apparently) being out all night. Les’ observations and Curveball’s behaviors are consistent with a diagnosis of alcoholism; as described in many stories of alcoholics in both Drunks, Drugs & Debits and How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages, they are classic symptoms. Of course he was an alcoholic. Therefore, he should not have been trusted.

Aside from the fact that alcoholics, because of their need for control, can be great liars, why would those in both nations’ intelligence services—who frequently deal with liars—have believed him? Disbelief was suspended partly because other alcoholics—the German station chief and Uhrlau, the German national coordinator of intelligence—destroyed trust between U.S. and German agencies, preventing openness. In addition, “confirmation bias,” the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, helped conceal the truth ( Saddam previously had WMD and everyone knew he was a murderous despot. Why would he stop? Moreover, there was ample evidence of a British-trained microbiologist directing an Iraqi program to research anthrax and other deadly agents before the 1991 war. Dubbed “Dr. Germ,” she admitted Saddam had produced “horrific germ weapons,” which were ordered destroyed after 1991 rather than risk discovery. In the late ‘90s, the intelligence community assumed Saddam was again building germ weapons; all they needed was proof, which Curveball provided. The pieces of the puzzle all seemed to fit together, thanks to confirmation bias and an extremely convincing alcoholic, along with other alcoholics serving to stifle open communication. Without any obvious contradictions, the passage of time served only to cement this view.

When 9-11 happened, German intelligence was close to pulling the plug on Curveball. But the attacks gave more credence to Curveball’s confabulated claims. Despite strong doubts inside the CIA, the Bush White House linked Saddam to the direct attacks and al Qaeda terrorists in general. Bureaucrats and intelligence personnel looking for fame and recognition got in the way of sound analysis. Despite the fact that the Germans told the Americans they couldn’t validate Curveball’s stories and still wouldn’t give Americans access to him, WINPAC rediscovered the Curveball reports and latched onto his story of biological weapons. Drogin cited a skeptical intelligence chief’s analysis of WINPAC: “They figure the mobile weapons labs are their ticket to glory. They’re like a cult….It’s crazy.” And the chief of the European Division in the clandestine service, Tyler Drumheller, preferred to err on the side of caution, acknowledging sometimes even crazy guys turn out to be right. Besides, “the best liars always tell some truth.”

Despite concerns by many in German intelligence, they knew if they pulled the plug those at the very top would have to admit to a mistake. The skeptics would have walked the top guys off a cliff. The Germans could never admit Curveball wasn’t credible; if Curveball was found to be a liar after the Germans had spent a fortune debriefing and protecting him, someone in the German intelligence agency would be held accountable and agents—even top brass—would be fired. They felt forced to judge Curveball’s claims “credible.” This was further complicated by the fact that the U.S. publicly blamed the tragedy, “in part, on the ineptitude of German authorities. Three of the four 9/11 pilots, including Mohammed Atta, the ringleader, had lived up to nine years in Hamburg. They studied at technical colleges and formed an al Qaeda cell. Why didn’t the Germans stop them?”  The Germans didn’t want to be blamed again.

In short, Curveball’s snowball had grown to an avalanche. By the time Colin Powell gave his speech in February 2003 on the reasons for invading Iraq, nothing was going to stop the momentum. Rhetoric rose in intensity. The authors of the National Intelligence Estimate report (NIE), which “represents the best collective judgment of the entire intelligence community,” had been given “clear marching orders” to assume the U.S. was going to war. The report, which would normally take up to ten months of drafts and rewrites, took only 19 days to complete. The section on Saddam’s biological warfare program was derived almost entirely from Curveball’s information. The rivalry between intelligence sections served only to push us inexorably to the brink, even as doubts on the intelligence increased.

Alcoholics in power often directly cause war. Curveball demonstrates that addicts can also indirectly cause war—likely from their convincing lies. If Curveball hadn’t got the snowball rolling, the 2003 invasion of Iraq may never have occurred. And right or wrong, Iraq would not be in the mess exacerbated by, as Brent Scowcraft warned against, U.S. troops leaving prematurely. While President Obama is likely not an alcoholic—even if he is the child of an alcoholic father and alcoholic step-father (discussed in TAR # 43)—the addictionologist must wonder how many of his close advisers might be compounding alcoholic lies with alcoholic incompetence.

* I tend toward non-interventionism in foreign affairs, but I believe alcoholic despots who have access to WMD must be removed from power and, barring the complete meltdown of U.S. power that seems to be occurring, the U.S. is the only country on the planet that can remove such despots. I have no problem with allowing our citizens to help take out other despots overseas, ventures for which are currently a state-enforced monopoly. On the other hand, intervention in Iraq’s affairs was done badly. I wrote in my client letter at the time (pp. 7-8 of issue # 15 at, which is a terrific read) that if we were to give Iraqi citizens with diverse religious beliefs a stake in keeping the peace, the Iraqi oilfields should be privatized with equal ownership shares given to every Iraqi adult. Bush is a “big-government” conservative who, lacking an understanding of the role of private property in free markets, unfortunately didn’t do this.

** I wouldn’t be as pissed off about such lies and half-truths if I could prove addiction; among members of Congress, at least, it shows not every pathological liar is an addict and, therefore, addiction can’t explain every such misbehavior. However, there may be much more hidden addiction (House Speaker John Boehner is the most notable exception—his alcoholism is quite obvious) than 27 years ago, when Steven Waldman wrote his seminal piece, “Governing under the influence; Washington alcoholics: their aides protect them, the media shields them,” because of the public perception of alcoholism. Pills may have largely taken the place of booze. I would be shocked if there isn’t as much or more addiction among staffers.

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Runner-up for top story of the month:

Elliot Rodger, 22, who slaughtered six and wounded 13 before killing himself in a Xanax-fueled bloodbath on the streets of Goleta, near the University of California at Santa Barbara. Although reportedly diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism), he exhibited numerous signs of psychotropic drug addiction, albeit taking an odd form; by his own admission, he was a virgin and, therefore, didn’t engage in one of the most time-honored ways of wielding power over others: serial Don Juanism. On the other hand, since those with AS lack social skills and do not understand non-verbal cues, this isn’t entirely surprising. His 137-page manifesto exhibits extreme narcissism, twisted fantasies, weird obsessions, rage and confabulated thinking. In classic alcoholic fashion, he blames everyone but himself for his problems. This may have been the horrific result of doctor-enabled addiction, as Xanax is a highly-addictive benzodiazepine.

Codependents of the month:

Most of the people posting comments on a US Weekly report about U.S. Olympic gold medalist soccer player Hope Solo’s arrest on charges of domestic violence. Solo, 32, had well known anger management issues. While the odds of addiction ascribed to domestic violence are about as close to 100% as we can get, it’s remotely possible it could be ascribed to instability. Her father, a Viet Nam War veteran, was in and out of her life as a child and teenager, reconnecting with her only during her college years until his sudden death when she was 25. But, odds are odds: the best explanation for leaving her sister and nephew with “visible injuries” during what one cop called a “big party” and “out of control situation” is that she inherited her father’s addiction.

Typical comments include (with my thoughts in parentheses):

“It seems she has quite a temper. Probably needs anger management classes.” (No, she likely needs sobriety, which will allow her to control her temper.)

“Maybe she's on roids?” (While steroids have been accused of causing rage, this is rarely, if ever, observed unless combined with psychotropic drugs, including the drug alcohol.)

“White trash with money.” (Alcoholics often act like trash—regardless of skin color. And while money enables—it allows addicts to continue using without appropriate consequences for longer periods—money does not cause addiction.)

“Trash is trash and an Olympic medal does not change that. Tanya (sic) Harding went to the Olympics and she is still trash.” (Tonya Harding is an alcoholic. She was, no doubt, drinking when she conspired to have fellow Olympian Nancy Kerrigan attacked before the 1994 Olympic Games. She appears to be in recovery, and is actually quite amusing as a commentator on Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest… in which she frequently mocks drunks committing stupid acts.)

Sorting by “best comments,” I had to scroll down about 40 comments before finding one that finally nailed it (Suzanne, posting on about June 21, 2014): “I'm just guessing, but it might be time for her to stop drinking.” Considering Solo married former NFL player Jerramy Stevens, arrested for assaulting and injuring her the day before they married, we shouldn’t be surprised that she’s a double-double winner (addict and codependent). Stevens has been charged with DUI twice and convicted once, among numerous other alcoholism-related offenses. There’s little doubt they are birds of a feather.

Future watch:

Metal Flowers Media, which is seeking to cast teenagers ages 13 to 18 who like to “make their own rules and party like a rock star” in a series titled My Teen Life. Kristi Russell, president of the casting company, told AP “this series does not intend to exploit troubled teens, nor glamorize their lifestyle. In fact, the intent is quite the opposite.” They intend to cast teenage alcohol and other-drug addicts; time will tell if the comparison Russell drew with the TV show Intervention, in which addicts are confronted by loved ones and encouraged to seek treatment, is apt.

Enablers of the month:

An unnamed judge, sentencing businessman Shaun Goodman, 42, to a year of work release, not jail, and another judge, modifying Goodman’s conditions of release so he could fly from Olympia, WA to New Jersey to watch the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Goodman pleaded guilty to DUI and felony eluding in connection with a drunken chase at speeds reported by his terrified passenger, Henry Griffin, in excess of 100 mph through downtown Olympia. Goodman’s attorney, Paul Strophy, noted that Goodman owns a business and “employs individuals who rely on him to show up for work in order to make sure the business runs smoothly.” First, Goodman won’t show up after he kills or seriously maims someone or himself. Second, a business run by an alcoholic is not one that “runs smoothly.” This was his seventh DUI arrest and fifth DUI conviction. The judges should both be locked up with him and a bottle of vodka. I think one overnight would help them to understand the issues.

The unnamed wife of Khemraj Samlall, who defended her husband as “a great guy,” good husband and father, after Samlall came home drunk after a night out with friends. When she accused him of being a bad father for not spending more time with their two children, he allegedly threatened to kill her while pointing two knives at her. Their son then watched him fetch a red gas can from the backyard, bring it inside, throw fuel on her and their bed, take a lighter from his pocket and try to light the gasoline while winking at the boy. He later claimed he “accidentally” spilled the gasoline on his wife and his attempt to light it was “as a joke.”

Disenabler of the month:

Broward County Judge John “Jay” Hurley, who heard the case in which Khemraj Samlall was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, requiring a $1 million bond for his release, pending trial. The judges enabling Shaun Goodman could learn a thing or two from Judge Hurley.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Felix Dennis, dead of throat cancer at 67. Dennis was a British publisher who pioneered computer and hobbyist magazine publishing in the United Kingdom, and more recently published Maxim and The Week. The addictionologist in us would suggest his addiction caused him to take risks others wouldn’t and, in doing so successfully, become immensely wealthy (Dennis’ estimated worth at death: nearly $1.3 billion). He undoubtedly was a full-on addict. By his own admission, he blew $100 million in one decade on drugs, drink and women and had 14 mistresses on his personal payroll.

Every addict has their stories of craziness or pure dumb luck. In 1970, Dennis and two other editors invited twenty 14- to 18-year-old children to “guest” edit an issue of Oz, a British magazine. The kids included a sexually explicit Rupert the Bear cartoon strip, which resulted in all three editors’ arrests on morals charges, as well as the longest obscenity trial in UK history. The three were convicted on two offences, with Dennis receiving a more lenient sentence because he was, in the judge’s opinion, “much less intelligent” than the others and, therefore, less culpable. The convictions were later quashed on appeal.

This “much less intelligent” individual went on in the early ‘70s to found Kung-Fu Monthly after he saw kids queuing in Soho at 9 am to watch Bruce Lee films. He launched Computer Shopper, a pioneering magazine he eventually sold to Bill Ziff. He insisted on focusing on subscriptions as opposed to newsstand sales, insulating his magazines from the sharp declines that wreaked havoc on the newsstand-dependent rags. The bulk of his wealth was created by co-founding MicroWarehouse in 1987, which pioneered direct IT marketing via high quality catalogues. The company went public in 1992 and sold to a private investment group in 2000.

Of course, it’s entirely possible—and perverse—that Dennis may never have taken the risks that helped him to become immensely wealthy were he not an egomaniacal alcohol and other-drug addict. In addition, were he not an addict he may not have been able to tap into the emotional needs of others. Lucky addicts can get immensely wealthy and, in fact, may impel addicts to get wealthy. However, don’t get any ideas: the unlucky ones end up on the street, or dead.

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.

Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man who Caused a War, by Bob Drogin, is well worth reading by those who want to learn the details of the Curveball story recounted above in the Top Story. While complex because of the characters it’s well written and has a great index which, used properly, can help to reduce confusion. The index even references alcohol consumption under “Curveball.” While the author doesn’t explicitly state that Curveball was an alcoholic, he could have omitted the heavy drinking completely—kudos to Drogin for even mentioning it. My only complaint is one I have with nearly every biography or history: the story doesn’t begin with, “Curveball was an alcoholic. Hence, the insanity of everything that came next.”

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Loving grandmother so proud of her 3-year-old grandson!

Dear Doug:

I’ve been privileged to care for my 3-year-old grandson weekly since his birth. Because our family lives across the U.S. and appreciates updates on his growing up, I frequently post his pictures on Facebook. The trouble is, one family member responds by posting only negative remarks: his baby blanket is the wrong color, why can’t he be potty trained, his hair is funny looking. She is void of anything positive.

She finally annoyed me so much I deleted her comments from my page. This was a spur-of-the-moment reaction and probably rude. Has any etiquette evolved in regards to Facebook posts? Is there a positive way I could respond to her?


Proud Granny


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might wonder about someone making “disparaging remarks” about a 3-year-old on Facebook and suggest jealousy. I would suggest another possibility: a need to inflate one’s ego by belittling others, which is one of the great early indications of addiction.

Addicts must inflate their egos to perpetuate their addiction and stave off the late stages of the disease, when all they care about is access to their drug. They do this by wielding capricious power over others. One subtle variant is to belittle, as if to say “I’m better than you” and “I could do a better job than you at raising your kid!” It’s sick and barely explicable to the psychologically healthy among us, but she’s doing what addicts do.

Other columnists might point out you can either block her comments or block her access to pictures unless you specifically allow it. They would suggest you might call her and ask whether the two of you can fix the problem. But, those columnists don’t understand addiction. Don’t waste your time; you are almost assuredly dealing with an addict. Until she gets clean and sober, you cannot reason with her. Be forewarned: she may promise to stop—but until she’s sober, her promises are meaningless.

(Source for story idea: “Ask Amy,” June 24, 2014.)

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

That Throbbing Pain: John Martin Novak, 48, of Buhl, Idaho, said he needed sinus surgery to fix a snoring problem. He decided to do the surgery himself. ‘He described that he stuck two straws up his nose,’ the resulting police report says, ‘and was attempting to break his own nose using a door that he would open rapidly and impact his face.’ Novak reportedly told officers that he had been drinking for a week to get ready for the procedures. Police were brought in after he allegedly threatened his sister with a rifle. Officers called in paramedics, and Novak was hospitalized to bring his blood alcohol level down to safe levels — he was at 0.5 percent, which is getting close to lethal levels — and presumably to repair damage to his face. (RC/Magic Valley Times-News) ...The damage to his reputation, however, may be beyond repair.

Alcoholics experience confabulated thinking and reasoning, which often affects others adversely. This is one instance that affected the addict far more than others, but only initially. Consider the medical costs and who pays them. All of our insurance and tax rates increase because of idiotic medical waste created by the non-thinking of alcohol and other-drug addicts. I’ve estimated that, absent addict-related incidents, overall health care costs would run 25-50% less. The solution, requiring addicts to pay for their own care and fixes when addiction is the true cause of the injury, would do a lot to help addicts think before using and doing awful things, yet again.

By the way, lethal levels for the drug alcohol are much lower than for drugs like heroin.  A lethal dose for a heroin addict is 200+ times more than for a non-addict. While alcoholics can get up to a range of .5 to .8 percent blood alcohol level and still be awake, non-alcoholics may be comatose in the .2 to .3 percent range and dead at .35 percent. In that sense, at least, alcohol is by far the more dangerous drug.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2014 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

Mass and serial murders are blamed on many things: guns (despite the fact that many such murders are committed without guns), Prozac (even though many occurred prior to its invention) and heavy metal music (which doesn’t explain Hitler’s henchmen gassing Jews to the music of Beethoven) among them. Trevor Grant Thomas, at the often interesting American Thinker blog, debunks the myth that guns are to blame, pointing out that of the ten worst mass murderers in American history only three used guns as their primary means of killing (Seung-Hui Cho, Adam Lanza and George Hennard) and the four worst (Gary Ridgway, Andrew Philip Kehoe, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy) never used guns to kill. While Thomas doesn’t blame Prozac or heavy metal music, he blows it by blaming broken homes and sexual deviancy for creating most mass and serial murderers—not the underlying cause of these issues.

While broken homes and sexual deviancy are common in the lives of horrific murderers, Thomas confuses cause and effect and utterly fails to identify the commonality that likely causes most of them: alcohol or other-drug addiction in either the murderer or a parent. In fact, broken homes and sexual deviancy are two indicators of addiction—even if Jeffrey Dahmer’s adoptive parents remained married throughout. Substance addiction usually explains sexual promiscuity and other forms of what some might call “deviancy,” but unless a 22-year-old virgin could be called deviant, it doesn’t in the case of Elliot Rodger; but it appears he was on a Xanax-fueled murder spree (see “runner-up” in this issue). Cho, whose story is recounted in issue # 29 of TAR and who appears to have had a good family, may have simply been mentally ill. Lanza appears not to have been an addict, but his mother clearly was (“possible codependent of the month” in issue # 73 of TAR. Hennard, Ridgway, Bundy, Gacy and Dahmer were clearly psychotropic drug addicts. Kehoe almost certainly had this disease—cruelty to animals is a near-certain behavioral indication of addiction (check out Kehoe’s fascinating biography).

Thomas also mentions Juan Corona, who likely relapsed into known alcoholism before murdering 25 itinerant laborers in 1971, and Aaron Alexis, whose alcoholism-fueled shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard is recounted in issue # 75 of TAR.

If mass murders are to be minimized, the root cause of such murders—usually addiction—needs to be identified. Thomas, correctly debunking the myth that guns murder people, links sexual deviancy and bad families to horrific murders. While prevalent, they are not the common thread. Alcohol or other-drug addiction in the perpetrator is the most common cause—and where it doesn’t exist, it usually is found in a parent.

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

Alcohol and other-drug addiction explains so many newsworthy items, it’s hard to know where to begin, which stories to include and which ones are worthy of inclusion in TAR. There were several stories we deemed important enough to inspire us to make a last-ditch effort before we get really busy with Tax Season to write an issue worthy of our readers’ time. We hope you find it, as always, timely and stimulating!

BTW, How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics is now available as an e-book. It’s a great gift idea for those dealing with someone whose addiction is all-too-obvious to you but for whom family, friends or associates are blind.


Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2014 by Doug Thorburn

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

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North Korea has managed to out-Stalin good ol’ Uncle Joe, as Joseph Stalin was called by those who were blind to his atrocities. In running the most totalitarian state ever—rife with mass starvation, under-nourishment and devotion of an estimated 30-50% of GDP to weaponry—they have developed (or otherwise obtained) nuclear weapons. Worse yet, the man in charge of the country—and the nukes—is an alcoholic and, therefore, capable of anything. It’s no wonder the doomsday clock continues to run at 5 ‘til midnight.

So how does a totalitarian state pay for a nuclear program when its citizens are starving? In part, by drug trafficking. To sell drugs for export, government chemists became adept at producing high-quality drugs, especially methamphetamine. According to the U.S. State Department, production has recently shifted from drugs for export to drugs for internal use. North Koreans themselves have become some of the most voracious users of drugs, especially meth.

Meth, often called “ice” on the street, is the most dangerous of drugs, but not because it is addictive. Contrary to popular belief, meth is like any other psychoactive drug in its potential to create addicts—those predisposed to addiction become addicts, while those who are not can use it recreationally.* Rather, meth is more likely than other drugs to cause addicts to lose control and act crazy; the behaviors in which meth addicts engage are more erratic and destructive.

Even in its milder form, amphetamine, the drug can compel the addict to commit erratic and horrific behaviors. Suicide bombers are reportedly fed a cocktail of amphetamines and tranquilizers. The Japanese gave amphetamines to kamikaze pilots during WWII. Adolf Hitler became progressively more reckless after 1936, when he became addicted to amphetamines.

But amphetamine addiction doesn’t scratch the surface compared to meth addiction. I collect addict antics stories, categorizing what I call “non-famous addicts” as alkies, potheads, coke-heads, meth-heads or poly-drug addicts (the famous ones are generally categorized by occupation). Meth addict stories stand out as the craziest and most erratic. Recent stories include:
an addict trying to cook meth in a Walmart,
a mother murdering her own children,
roasting a raccoon in a big-city apartment,
sexually abusing a Chihuahua,
evading arrest in a high-speed pursuit while driving a semi-tanker gasoline truck,
a couple cooking meth in their bedroom on two different occasions, once while pregnant and once with their 7-month-old breathing in the fumes,
a meth-head tearing up a bar and then a girlfriend’s apartment where she lived with their two children (be sure to click on at least this story)
and…well, you get the idea.

The idea of an easily-available drug like this in North Korea is troubling. Further, North Korean escapees say there is little stigma to meth use in the totalitarian state. Reportedly, many North Koreans take it for colds or as an energy booster. In a country where food is scarce** and the drug plentiful, its appetite-suppressing qualities make it helpful in surviving. It’s offered to friends as casually as a cup of tea. One North Korean user said, “It is like drinking coffee when you’re sleepy, but ice is so much better.”

While there is currently no proof that the North Korean dictator is addicted to methamphetamine, several behavioral indicators suggest it is possible. First, Kim Jong Un, 31, is a known alcoholic. Second, those predisposed to alcoholism are almost always predisposed to other-drug addiction. Third, the drug is a pervasive, ubiquitous and accepted part of everyday life in North Korea. Fourth, Kim’s behaviors have become increasingly erratic which, because he is at an age when addicts are at their peak in terms of potential to be most dangerous to others, lends itself to the possibility he may have triggered meth addiction. Regardless, his recent behaviors alone are very troubling.

Already, Kim executed the second most powerful man in North Korea, his uncle (by marriage) Jang Song-thaek, followed by nearly every relative for the “crime” of sharing Jang’s blood-line, including women and children. Kim was reportedly “very drunk” when he ordered the execution of two aides close to his uncle; the addictionologist in us surmises he was also drunk when he ordered his family’s executions. Methamphetamine-induced paranoia may explain Kim’s need to eliminate the competition, although alcoholism-induced “paranoia” can (by itself) explain the executions. The alcoholic Stalin may have engaged in such purges feigning paranoia, his excuse to shed blood. Alcoholism is bad enough, but meth is much more virulent. With Kim, we may have Stalin’s alcoholism and Hitler’s amphetamine addiction wrapped into one.

Long ago, I was a non-interventionist libertarian, like Ron Paul.*** If I hadn’t realized that alcohol and other-drug addicts are capable of anything, I would still be in Paul’s camp (as I am on every other issue). However, a world in which alcoholics—and possibly methamphetamine addicts—have access to nuclear weapons is not safe. While interventions abroad should be narrowly focused and the exception to the rule, I would suggest the risk of taking out alcoholic despots is less than the risk of allowing them to remain in power. Kim Jong Un, an addict with nukes, would be a good start.

* Illegal drugs appear to be more addictive than other drugs because, generally, only alcoholics use them. They become brain-addicted almost instantly, which is not true of non-addicts. Physical addiction takes at a minimum months of heavy use, even for drugs like heroin. Decades of heavy use is required for alcoholics to go into the delirium tremens in withdrawal, while they are brain-addicted almost instantly.

** As Milton Friedman famously said, if you put a government in charge of the Sahara Desert we’d soon have a shortage of sand. The North Korean government controls nearly everything, including production and distribution of food; starvation and undernourishment is, therefore, rampant.

*** Paul is often incorrectly called an isolationist, which suggests a belief that both foreign trade and foreign wars should be avoided. Libertarians believe in free trade across borders, while non-interventionist libertarians believe in avoiding foreign entanglements unless attacked. Interventionist libertarians vary in the degree to which they would intervene; I would go only where alcoholic despots are believed to have access to WMD.

Runners-Up For Top Story of the Month:

Former NBA star and recent Kim Jong Un enabler Dennis Rodman, 52, reporting for rehab—again. Rather than recounting his story, which is fairly typical extreme for celebrity alkies, I’ll simply refer to his wikipedia page.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
, 44, nighttime comedian fodder, apologizing for his latest escapades while “hammered” in public. The nature of the escapades hardly matters—he’s been known to dance at city council meetings, puff on crack cocaine pipes, swear at aides, get “out of control” at parties and claim his car was stolen when in fact it was at home. While he acknowledged the need to “curb” his drinking, he has not acknowledged his poly-drug addiction. Hopefully he will. If he doesn’t—given his weight—sooner rather than later, he will die.

Justin Bieber
, 19, pop superstar to the under-16 crowd, self-destructing before the world. While it’s difficult to grow up in the spotlight, many young actors do so without problems—unless addiction is inherited. Only this explains an arrest for DUI with medical prescriptions and marijuana found in his system, drag racing at 3 a.m. in a 30-mile per hour zone and having his home searched on suspicion of egging a neighbor’s house. Hopefully rather than being sentenced to deportation, a wiser judge will require regular and random drug testing, along with an ankle bracelet for many, many years.


Quote of the month:

Peggy Noonan wrote in her “Declarations” column, “How Christie Ended Up in This Jam,” in the January 11-12, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

“Policy people are policy people—sometimes creative, almost always sober, grounded, mature. But political operatives get high on winning. They start to think nothing can touch them when they’re with a winner. They get full of themselves. And they think only winning counts, because winning is their job.”

Based on Ms. Noonan’s description, “political operative” is an occupation perfectly suited for alcoholics. Political operatives get high on winning—alcoholics use winning to inflate their egos. They think nothing can touch them—alcoholics think they are invincible. They are full of themselves—alcoholics develop an inordinately large sense of self-importance, ending up with hugely inflated egos. And for political operatives, only winning counts—alcoholics must win regardless of the cost to others.

I’ve long hypothesized that a large plurality of politicians are alcoholics. It’s even more probable their operatives are, since they can more easily hide their alcoholic drinking. And that explains much of the state of the country: it fuels their arrogance and the idea they know how to live our lives and spend our money better than we do.


Idiot comment of the month:

“It still isn’t clear exactly why she ended up Saturday at the house next door to her own.” So wrote a journalist reporting on Duluth college student Alyssa Jo Lommel surviving outside overnight in 17-degree-below zero temperatures in boots, jeans, a sweater and a medium-weight jacket. The 19-year-old sophomore had been out with friends playing a drinking game with cards and, near midnight, was driven to the front of her house by friends, who told police “she was buzzed but not intoxicated…talking and walking.” They drove away without watching her go inside. She was later found outside the unoccupied house next door. It’s quite clear why she ended up there: that she appeared only buzzed when she was so drunk as to get confused over which home was hers is virtual confirmation of alcoholism. And with cold so severe, that can be a death sentence.


Journalistic malfeasance of the month:

An unnamed journalist in The Economist, writing “Trouble in Little India: Nearly unbelievable: a full-scale riot in the obedient city-state” of Singapore, said: “Booze seems to have fuelled the affray, and as a stopgap a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Little India will apply this weekend. But alcohol alone would not have turned hundreds of usually peaceful workers into a belligerent mob.”

Oh? Show me a riot NOT fuelled by booze. Why would this riot be any different than the 1964 Watts riots (TAR # 74 “Codependent of the month”), the 2011 London riots (TAR # 66 Top Story) or the 1992 Rodney King-triggered riots (TAR # 70 Top Story)? Of course the riot would not have occurred without the alcoholic trigger.

Alcohol compelled alcoholics to wield power over others which, given the setting and circumstances, manifested as violence. This influenced others to engage in violence, which they ordinarily would never consider.

The idea applies not only to riots, but also to war and cults. Consider Jim Jones, an addict who got 900 men, women and children to commit suicide. Consider Adolf Hitler, who got a nation to wage war against Jews and everyone else. Consider Josef Stalin, who got his henchmen to steal food from Ukrainians, starving as many as 7 million. Not every follower of Jones, German or underling to Stalin was an alcohol or other-drug addict, but at least one was essential to get the ball rolling.


Reviewer malfeasance of the month:

Margaret Wente, in a The Globe and Mail review of Ann Dowsett Johnston’s Drink, repeats Johnston’s claim that she drank “moderately” for decades, without questioning her use of the term. Yet, she writes: “Both her parents had serious problems with alcohol. She did all the things people do before they quit for good. She made solemn vows to cut back. She kept drinking diaries. She went on the wagon for weeks at a time. She tried the geographical cure by moving to another city. Meanwhile, life threw her a bunch of wrenching challenges, both professional and personal.”

Where to begin? She was a “moderate” drinker for decades? Try again. “She made solemn vows to cut back,” which suggests immoderate drinking. “She kept drinking diaries,” which suggests the same. “She went on the wagon for weeks at a time,” suggesting her drinking must have caused problems or she wouldn’t have tried to stop. “She tried the geographical cure….” No, Ms. Wente, by her own testimony she was a full-on drunk the entire time. And by the way, if life’s “wrenching challenges” caused alcoholism, we’d all be drunks.


Naïve judge of the month:

Tarrant County, Texas District Judge Jean Boyd, who sentenced 16-year-old Ethan Couch to 10 years of probation, with a mandatory stint at a long-term “treatment” center, for striking and killing youth pastor Brian Jennings and three others, who were helping to change a flat tire in Burleson, TX. Couch had been driving his dad’s F-350 with seven passengers and had just stolen some beer at a Wal-Mart. Nine others were injured, including two of his passengers, one of whom suffered a severe brain injury and is no longer able to move or talk.

The victims’ families were understandably irate at the sentence, noting that the judge seems to have bought the defense’s case that Couch, whose blood alcohol content was .24 per cent (which would require about 11 shots of 80-proof liquor—the equivalent of nearly two bottles of wine—over four hours for a 140-pound person), fell victim to “affluenza,” described by a defense psychologist as “being unable to link his bad behavior with consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege” and “growing up in a house where the parents were preoccupied with arguments that led to a divorce.”

Couch couldn’t link bad behavior to consequences because his parents and the law didn’t mete out consequences severe enough to get his attention. His parents let him drive at age 13 and let him “slide” on a ticket for being found at age 15 in a parked pickup with a passed-out, undressed 14-year-old girl. And why did his parents fail to inflict consequences and why were they so “preoccupied”? Because they are likely alcoholics, too. Ethan's father was previously charged with criminal mischief, theft by check and assault, but charges were dropped; Ethan's mother was convicted of reckless driving, costing her $500 and six months of “community supervision.” If the parents are alcoholics, of course they were preoccupied—they have a love affair with a drug, which takes precedence over everything else. Unfortunately, the odds are high that Ethan’s parents passed their alcoholic genes to their son.

Assistant district attorney Richard Alpert predicted future tragedy in his closing arguments: “There can be no doubt that he will be in another courthouse one day blaming the lenient treatment he received here.” If previous judges had meted out appropriate sanctions to the parents for their indiscretions, this tragedy might never have occurred. Society had already earned the right to put an ankle bracelet on Ethan and to subject him to regular and random other-drug testing; if it had done so, four deaths and nine injuries would never have occurred.


Statistic of the month:

An estimated 80% of addicts trying heroin for the first time previously used prescription pain pills. This is due to a crackdown on prescription narcotics (synthetic opiates, or opioids), which has pushed addicts to seek alternatives (opiates, especially heroin); the demand for opiates has been happily met by suppliers who make the same high available for about one-sixth the price (one oxycodone pill good for one high sells on New York streets for about $30; for about the same price, addicts can get six glassine bags of heroin, which supplies six highs). When supply is constricted for one drug, the demand and supply increases for another. When the war on cocaine was at its height, methamphetamine supply and use exploded. Now, opioids are restricted and opiates take their place; in the meantime, the percentage of the population addicted to such drugs remains the same. It’s time to end the wars and instead stop the enabling. Rolling back HIPPA, which allows addicts privacy in medical affairs that serves only to kill them (see below), would be a start.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Don Everly, 74, dead from COPD brought on by a lifetime of smoking. He and his brother, Phil Everly, performed as The Everly Brothers while addicted to speed, alcohol and other drugs.  When a very drunk Don flubbed the lyrics to “Cathy’s Clown” at a concert in 1973, they split up and refused to talk to each other. A decade later they again began to perform together, despite a mutual hatred that was so vitriolic their contracts required separate dressing rooms and stage entrances.

While drunk and drugged, their extraordinary harmonies strongly influenced the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Bee Gees and the Hollies. The Beatles once referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers;” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, where they were one of the first ten artists inducted, Neil Young observed that every musical group he belonged to had tried and failed to copy the Everly Brothers’ harmonies. As part of the birth of rock and roll, they hold the record for the most Top-100 singles by any duo (35). Theirs was, however, a classic alcoholic tale of rocketing up and quickly flaming out; their successes of the late ‘50s and very early ‘60s were followed by decades of mediocrity.


Tennis star Steffi Graf’s father Peter Graf, 75, dead from pancreatic cancer after doing time in the mid-‘90s for tax fraud. Graf, a used-car salesman, placed a sawed-off tennis racket in his three-year-old daughter’s hands and rewarded her with ice cream when able to sustain long rallies on a family living room make-shift mini-tennis court. It quickly became obvious Steffi had natural talent and Peter, as many put it, over-guided her early career.

Peter was hard-driving, which helped Steffi win the German junior 18-and-under championship when she was only 13. She turned pro at 14 and nothing stopped her. The fact that observers noted she was “robotic” and nearly emotionless on the court was blamed by many on her father, who was also known for driving hard bargains on fees for tournament appearances. There’s little doubt the lack of emotion for which Steffi was known was a reaction to her father’s alcoholism, which compelled him to wield power by driving his daughter, along with “hard bargains.”

Steffi came to her father’s defense in numerous interviews, until 1995 when he was charged with tax evasion on Steffi’s taxes; he was subsequently found guilty for evading taxes on her earnings in what one legislator called “the biggest tax scandal ever in Germany involving a private individual.” Peter kept a low profile for the rest of his life—we might surmise he got sober—but his relationship with his daughter was irrevocably “strained.”

I’ve long said, the odds of a child becoming a star increase substantially if a parent is an alcoholic. This holds in Hollywood, on the field and on the court.


And so long too to Philip Seymour Hoffman, dead of a drug overdose at age 46 with at least 50 bags of heroin found in his apartment. It’s rumored his relapse was triggered by a prescribed drug (Oxycontin, Vicodin or other psychotropic drug). If the rumor proves true, and if there were no plans for rehab after any essential short-term treatment, the prescribing doctor should be charged with manslaughter. If Hoffman failed to inform the doctor that he had been sober nearly 24 years, the Congressmen who drafted HIPPA, which prevents medical personnel from actively obtaining medical information from those who know the patient, should be charged (ok, that’s overboard but you get the idea). Recovering addicts should never be given psychotropic prescription drugs unless there is no other course of action, and then only with planned rehab, because this is precisely the sort of tragedy that can easily occur. HIPPA needs to be relaxed so that doctors can ascertain whether their patient is an addict. Hoffman’s family has lost someone who was, no doubt, a wonderful father when sober and the world has lost a great actor (his roles included parts in Scent of a Woman, Capote, Boogie Nights, Doubt, Mission Impossible III and many more).

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. Instead, many do 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.

Skeptic Magazine: They Get a Lot of Things, but Oddly Not Alcoholism

Michael Shermer is the founder of the Skeptic Society and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic Magazine. Despite my disagreement with Shermer over anthropogenic “global warming” (I think the idea that puny little man could have any appreciable effect over something as grand as the climate is arrogant), the magazine is interesting, usually timely and very well-written.

Shermer provided what may be to this day the most glowing testimonial of Alcoholism Myths and Realities. Despite this, the magazine he edits and often writes for has recently published several pieces that completely miss the obvious connection between the subjects of the articles, the behaviors described and substance addiction.

One of these was an interview in Skeptic Magazine volume 18, number 2 (2013) with anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon largely regarding the subjects of his book Noble Savages, the Yanomamö (also spelled Yanomami) Indians of Brazil. Chagnon himself believes he was controversial in part because he was among the first anthropologists to challenge the myth that native peoples are pacifistic and altruistic. In the 1960s he lived among the Yanomamö and found they were incredibly violent, attributing their violence to competition over women. Chagnon describes the Yanomamö as snorting a variety of drugs, at least one of which causes strands of green snot to drip or hang from their nostrils, “strands so long that they drizzled from their chins down to their pectoral muscles and oozed lazily across their bellies….” Even though the drugs have hallucinogenic, analgesic and amphetamine-like properties, Chagnon does not implicate them in creating more violence than would occur absent the drugs, and Skeptic’s interviewer, Frank Miele, doesn’t broach the possibility. It doesn’t dawn on either one that the best explanation for the women’s non-violence is that the women generally don’t use and, according at least one source, are forbidden from using these drugs. And because not all of the males act out as badly as others (and those that don’t are probably eliminated from the gene pool early on), the best explanation for the level of violence they experience (roughly half of the men die by violence) is psychoactive drug use. Because their use arguably causes horrific behaviors, we refer to it as addiction.

In another case of being blind to addicts likely everywhere, in an article in the same issue of Skeptic (“Anthropology No More”), L. Kirk Hagen writes that Patrick Tierney, in his book Darkness in El Dorado, had falsely accused Chagnon of committing genocide in Amazonia by unleashing a deadly epidemic among the Yanomamö. Hagen explains: “That was just the most outrageous of Tierney’s innumerable fabrications” and cites medical historian Alice Dreger as persuasively arguing that the American Anthropological Association (AAA) had been complicit in the promulgation of Tierney’s falsehoods. False accusations are nearly always made by alcoholics, which suggests that Tierney and those complicit in the AAA could be addicts.

Harriet Hall, M.D., in Skeptic volume 17 number 3 (2012) writes about multiple personality delusions, focusing on the story of Sybil and the book by the same name, which caused popular awareness of what was at the time called multiple personality disorder (now referred to by the DSM, the psychologists’ bible of disorders, as dissociative identity disorder). Hall describes “Sybil” (Shirley Mason) “remembering” horrific abuse by her mother and, over time, “becoming” 16 personalities; detective work by Debbie Nathan in Sybil Exposed proved the stories were a complete fabrication. Hall describes Sybil’s psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia “Connie” Wilbur, as essentially a publicity whore; MPD made her famous and she became the “expert” on the subject. While Hall mentions the fact that Wilbur “heavily drugged Sybil with narcotics and other psychoactive medications,” “browbeat her patient into admitting things she initially denied” and developed “an inappropriate personal relationship with her patient,” she doesn’t suggest the most likely underlying motivation for having done so: alcoholism-fueled egomania. Hall concludes that the “MPD/repressed memory story is a good example of what happens when people fail to subject their ideas to scientific testing.” Recognizing alcoholics as the world’s greatest salespeople because of their an insatiable thirst to wield power over others, this is a classic case of a likely addict pulling the wool over the eyes of otherwise rational people (as previously suggested in the “Review of the Month” of issue # 67 of TAR).

The most egregious omission of alcohol and other-drug addiction as the best explanation for horrific behaviors is found in a Skeptic article about mass murders (volume 18 number 1 2013). Alcohol or other-drug addiction isn’t mentioned once, even when there is absolute proof of addiction. In “The Mass Murder Problem,” David Hill Shafer mentions that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh met Terry Nichols, who taught McVeigh how to make improvised explosive devices. He fails to mention the crucial fact that the third bomber, Michael Fortier, introduced McVeigh to crystal meth. Shafer discusses Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killing 15 and injuring 21 in the Columbine shooting, and Sung Hui Cho’s hope to “repeat Columbine” at Virginia Tech in 2007, without mentioning the fact of Harris’s addiction to vodka, whiskey and Luvox, or Cho’s numerous behavioral indications of substance addiction, described in TAR issue # 29.

According to Shafer, these mass murderers demonstrate “how specific, violent delusions are the defining feature of people who commit mass murder” (italics added). No, they are not; substance addiction is almost always the key feature, which in turn causes violent delusions in some addicts, compelling them to commit mass murder. Shafer points out that clicking on Wikipedia pages listing “rampage attacks” leads to biographies of attackers whose motivations are sometimes criminal, drug-related, political or unknown, but that these are the exceptions; “most people who commit mass murder have at least one major mental disorder.” He omits that most are proven alcohol and other-drug addicts even though, as pointed out in the TAR story on Cho, most journalists are unaware of the importance of identifying addiction in their subjects and many addicts hide their use even from close people, often for years.

Likewise, in the same issue, Michael Shermer himself omits discussion of the likelihood of alcoholism-fueled egomania and other-drug addiction fueled delusions as the trigger for mass shootings in his discussion of Adam Lanza, in “The Sandy Hook Effect.” While no drugs were found in Lanza’s system, his mother was clearly alcoholic and, as I point out in issue # 73 of TAR, if there’s no addiction in a murderer we’ll almost always find it close by. Additionally, Lanza, whose non-lethal behaviors alone indicate addiction, may have gotten sober only long enough to be more sure-footed when committing the atrocity.

Shermer points to research showing that “three of the most common characteristics of mass murderers are” psychopathy/mental illness, a feeling of victimization or ideological cause, and a “desire for fame and glory.” As I show in all of my books, what appears to be mental illness is nearly always in reality alcohol/other-drug addiction (or triggered by it). In addition, a feeling of victimization is usually a delusion caused by alcoholism—recovering alcoholics often tell how they “blamed everyone else for everything and anything.” This is especially true when the blaming of others leads to the commission of atrocities; a need for fame and glory regardless of the cost to others is almost always rooted in alcoholism-fueled egomania.

In his attempt to predict who might be pre-disposed to commit such violent acts, Shermer points out that millions of people could have the requisite gene complex—a set of genes that might be required for such violence—yet never act out on such tendencies. I suggest that without alcohol and other-drug addiction, they won’t. However, substance addiction catastrophically increases the odds of such horrific behaviors.

While it’s possible some mass murders are committed by non-addicts who are unaffected by addicts, based on dozens of reports of mass murders, I suggest this is exceedingly rare. Shermer points out we might be able to screen for a propensity to commit violence, but this would result in numerous false-positives. Since alcoholics commit 80-90% of felonies and, as a percentage of those committed, as many serious misdemeanors and unethical behaviors, we should start any screens with substance addiction, followed by additional testing. On the other hand, as I’ve often pointed out, we cannot predict how destructive a practicing addict may become or when; Bryn Hartmann murdered her husband comedian Phil Hartmann and then killed herself, shocking everyone who knew her. However, perhaps a good follow-up screen to a propensity to commit violence, after confirming addiction, may have been able to predict heightened risk in her case, as well as others.

President of homeowner’s association authorizes improper expenditures

Dear Doug,

I’m on the board of directors of my homeowners’ association. Receipts from our management company for which reimbursement was requested included a $20 bottle of tequila. I showed this to the board and told them there was no way should we pay for this. The president of the association joked, “Tequila is best with lime, so we should add a bit so they can buy some limes, too,” and authorized the reimbursement.

It’s not the first time the president has authorized questionable reimbursements. Looking at past records, I found authorized reimbursements of over-the-counter drugs, candy, cigarettes, party supplies and pet food.

The management company claims the board authorized all these purchases and, therefore, they must be proper. The president protects the company—nobody is answering any questions from me—and the board’s majority does nothing. Yet, there are no minutes, motions or votes that ever authorized such purchases. I’m livid, but what can one board member do about this ongoing theft?


Concerned over lawsuits by fellow homeowners

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might say that if there was ever a reason for non-board homeowners’ association members to regularly demand to see association files and minutes, this is it. They would point out the entire board is exposed to liability for inappropriate actions by the management company, president and other complicit board members. This is true even for something as seemingly inconsequential as a $20 purchase. Such columnists would suggest that you insist on an independent audit. The fiduciary duties to homeowners extend to everything spent, whether by employees, third party vendors or a management company.

Other columnists might add that the president appears to not “fully comprehend” his duties. Nonsense. Of course he understands; he, along with the owners or employees of the management company, are very likely alcoholics and, as such, are much more likely to spend other people’s money inappropriately. The fact that booze was improperly purchased with other people’s money increases the odds to a near certainty.

The insidious problem is you are dealing with probable alcoholics who are, therefore, capable of anything. By interfering with their criminal behaviors and, potentially, with their perceived right to drink, you are at great personal risk. You need to be on guard for violations of your property, including vandalism and theft, as well as physical harm. More disconcerting, the risk of harm extends to your family. Protect yourself and them in any way you can until this is dealt with and, if there are any threats or actions taken against any of you by the president or his minions, don’t hesitate to report it to proper authorities.

(Source for story idea: The Los Angeles Times, “Associations: Funds were misspent on tequila and pet food,” by Donie Vanitzian JD and Zachary Levine, Esquire, January 26, 2014.)

“The brothers' animosity may have derived from being forced to sing together during childhood.”

So wrote Ray Connolly about the Everly Brothers’ famous, nearly life-long feud in a The Daily Mail piece, “Why DID the Everly Brothers hate each other?”

Fighting, feuding and animosity go hand-in-hand with alcoholism. As kids, they may not have liked being forced to sing together, but if sober they would have grown up, grown out of their child-like attitudes and might have learned to love making beautiful harmonies together. Connolly is yet another unaware journalist with no understanding of the subjects of his piece. The brothers’ animosity derived from their substance addiction, from which nearly all irreconcilable animosity in its nastiest forms stems.

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

Gimme My Keys: Jennifer Grooms, 29, called police from a Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., restaurant. She complained that parking valets refused to give her car keys to her because they thought she was drunk. The responding officers agreed with the valets, but Grooms insisted she was OK to drive. She refused offers of a taxi or calling friends, and allegedly told the officer he was obligated to drive her home because she had left her two children there alone. Despite warnings, Grooms allegedly got into her car, daring the officers to arrest her, which they did. Once they got Grooms to the station, someone was dispatched to her apartment, where they found Grooms’ children, ages 6 and 10, who were alone while she was out drinking. She was charged with disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest without violence, escape, and two counts of child neglect. She was released the next morning, and unable to be reached for comment. (MS/South Florida Sun-Sentinel) ...Have you checked the bar?

Ordinary people might think Ms. Grooms would learn her lesson after such a harrowing experience. However, practicing alcoholics don’t learn in the same way or nearly as quickly as the rest of us. Due to damage to the frontal lobes of the brain they cannot link the “cause” of heavy drinking with the “effect” of bad behaviors, or even that the behaviors were awful. They don’t “learn” from past mistakes, but instead must suffer consequences so severe they are driven to consider “trying” sobriety. Often, they must be coerced into abstinence, making sobriety possible. Grooms may well have gone back to the bar—which, unfortunately, isn’t a joke.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2014 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:



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

PTSD and awful behaviors have been in the news frequently this year. However, journalists are failing to connect the dots between severe outcomes of PTSD and alcoholism. The Army isn’t getting it either; with their resources for study and research, it should know better. The overarching theme of this issue of TAR is awful behaviors are being misdiagnosed as having their roots in PTSD where the root cause is actually alcoholism. I think you will find the subject both timely and timeless.

Alcoholism in history is a secondary theme; I’ve long maintained that one cannot make sense of either current events or history without understanding the disease. In this issue we show the anti-communist “velvet” revolution and, for better or worse, abortion-on-demand might never have occurred without alcoholics.

I’ve also written an obituary on a great man, David Keirsey, who had a profound influence on my thinking and my life.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2013 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

Another Shooting Spree, Another Addict: Aaron Alexis Kills 13, Including Himself, at the Washington Navy Yard

Aaron Alexis, 34, who went on a shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard in September, was known by friends and neighbors as a personable guy who was rarely angry. He began attending a small Buddhist temple in 2010 and became a “model” tenant and employee of one of its members, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, owner of the Happy Bowl restaurant. Suthamtewakul reported Alexis paid his rent on time and was “always very quiet and smiling.” A pastor, Jason Williams, 37, who knew Alexis through the Happy Bowl, described him as “one of the most polite people I’ve ever met.”

However, several mental health “experts” say he exhibited textbook symptoms of schizophrenia; in August 2013 Alexis called authorities, telling them he was hearing voices and being followed by people using a “microwave machine” to disrupt his sleep. U.S. law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that he’d been suffering from “a host of serious mental issues, including paranoia and a sleep disorder.” His father told detectives investigating a prior incident in Seattle that his son had “anger management problems related to post-traumatic stress,” complained about alleged mistreatment by the Navy and claimed to be a victim of discrimination.

While some friends saw him drinking “heavily” and using profanity, he didn’t seem angry “very much.” Yet Alexis was arrested in 2004 for shooting out the tires of a vehicle in what was described as an anger-fueled “blackout.” As explained in Alcoholism Myths and Realities, “blackouts” are caused by alcoholism, which also frequently triggers “anger.” Therefore, since he was a known heavy drinker the odds that this was, in fact, an alcoholism-fueled blackout with concurrent alcoholism-fueled anger are overwhelming. Ten months later Alexis got drunk, leapt off some stairs at a nightclub and broke his ankle. He destroyed some furnishings at a nightclub in 2008, pleading out for disorderly conduct. He was arrested for discharging a firearm in 2010 in an apartment, where a neighbor, who was already living in fear of Alexis, ended up with a bullet hole in her floor and ceiling. Alexis, already an acquaintance of Suthamtewakul’s through the temple, complained about the “noise” the neighbor made; Suthamtewakul invited Alexis to become his tenant. In January 2011 Alexis received a general discharge from the Navy “after a series of misconduct issues,” after which he became a part-time employee of Suthamtewakul’s. These incidents leave little doubt that the correct diagnosis was substance addiction and that his paranoia, lack of sleep, blaming others for his problems and all of his misbehaviors were symptoms of alcoholism.

Multiple alcoholism authorities cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits point out that where heavy drinking and problems co-exist, the underlying causative problem is alcoholism. Even if he didn’t identify it as such, Suthamtewakul confirmed this diagnosis in describing his tenant and employee Alexis as a “hardcore drinker.”

Alcohol and other-drug addiction frequently mimics or triggers mental health disorders. Whether it is mimicked or triggered doesn’t matter; alcoholism usually comes first. Recovering addicts tell us they usually triggered their alcoholism during their first drinking episode, average age 13. Because they hide their use, observers cannot get cause and effect right when bipolar disorder or schizophrenia occur years later.

Alcoholism is often called the “hidden disease,” not only because addicts frequently hide their use, but also because enablers protect addicts by keeping their secret. In addition, most addicts are “functional” over most of their drinking careers and, therefore, in the eyes of close people could “never” be alcoholics. Additionally, alcoholism masquerades as a variety of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, sociopathy and bipolar disorder. One of these is post-traumatic stress, which Alexis’ father said he suffered from.

Post-traumatic stress used to be called shell-shock and, later, battle fatigue syndrome or combat stress reaction. The disorder (PTSD) is loosely defined as a severe anxiety disorder that may develop after a person is exposed to one or more traumatic events, such as sexual assault, serious injury or risk of death. As is typical in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM, the psychologists’ bible of personality disorders), PTSD lacks clear symptoms, but loosely requires “re-experiencing” bad situations, such as having nightmares, and avoidance or emotional detachment, including not doing things that were previously enjoyable or going to places that remind soldiers of combat. The description adds there “may also be…a strong urge to use alcohol or [other] drugs.”

Alexis’ father likely saw all of these symptoms, but the disorder didn’t have to take form in awful behaviors; these occurred only because the “strong urge to use” took form in actual use. Addictive use increases the odds of serious misbehaviors or other problems by an order of magnitude. This is implied by Captain (Ret.) Paul “Bud” Bucha, Medal of Honor recipient June 2010, who is quoted near the beginning of the Army’s report on alcohol and other-drug use and crime in Army 2020: Generating Health & Discipline in the Force: Ahead of the Strategic Reset Report 2012:

“Anybody that’s been to the gates of Hell has [post-traumatic stress]. It’s something you have to remind yourself of if you find yourself drinking too much, snapping at your kids, snapping at your wife. Go seek help. It took me 30 years to do so. Look for it now, and most important, stay sober.” (Emphasis added.)

Four “vignettes,” anecdotes of soldiers’ problems and substance use immediately following Bucha’s admonition, clearly indicate addictive use co-occurring with manslaughter, suicide and attempted suicide. Most of the rest of the anecdotes in Army 2020 either directly or indirectly indicate addictive use of alcohol and other drugs in connection with serious misbehaviors. Any of Alexis’ drunken episodes could have been included in these anecdotes.

Army 2020 found that “many health and disciplinary issues, ranging from post-traumatic stress (PTS) to illicit drug use to suicide are interrelated.” It proves that “crime generates more crime; misdemeanors are a precursor to more serious crimes….Misdemeanors and lower levels of risk taking behavior such as traffic offenses, for example, have proven to have serious and even fatal consequences.” Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence shows that seemingly minor traffic offenses are frequently symptomatic of a DUI and, today in the U.S., a DUI is a near-certain indicator of alcoholism. But Army 2020 doesn’t get cause and effect right, even though addictive alcohol and other-drug use is frequently included in Army 2020’s tragic stories and statistics. The story of Alexis is a microcosm of what is in this Report.

All sorts of problems in the military are blamed on PTSD, from sexual assaults, violence, murder and suicides to heavy drinking itself. Yet, nearly every story of PTSD in its more horrific manifestations reported in Army 2020 involves someone who drinks heavily or uses other drugs addictively. From countless stories of recovery—where observers don’t have a clue that afflicted people could have ever engaged in awful misbehaviors—we know that without active addiction there are nearly zero misbehaviors, much less serious ones.

I originally set out to integrate murder, sexual assaults, PTSD and substance addiction, using Army 2020 as the backdrop, hoping it would conclude that alcoholism is the usual cause of other problems, or that it exacerbates those problems. Army 2020 gets many things right (and it’s a goldmine of statistics and stories), yet its authors could not make this obvious leap. Until it does so and such a finding is acted upon by intervening in the progression of addiction, especially in service members who witness horrors overseas, there will be more Aaron Alexis-style mass murders and countless other tragedies.

Runners-up for Top Story of the Month:

According to Rorke Denver, a reserve Navy SEAL team lieutenant commander, former SEAL teammate and military sniper Chris Kyle, 38, worked “with other veterans, folks with PTSD, trying to help them get better.” Kyle was known to take such troubled veterans to gun ranges, shooting and hanging out for therapy. It was one of these, unemployed Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, 25, who shot and killed Kyle. While officials couldn’t confirm whether Routh suffered from PTSD, Denver fielded questions from civilians who “couldn’t understand why Kyle would have taken someone with PTSD to a shooting range.” Routh had been in mental hospitals twice during the year preceding the murder and told authorities he has PTSD. However, he was first taken to a mental hospital only after he threatened to kill his family and himself. His mother told police he had been drinking when she reported the threat; authorities found him walking nearby shirtless and shoeless and smelling of booze. In another incident, his mother reported a burglary involving Routh in her own home; among the stolen items were nine pill bottles.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in his 2009 book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, Kyle “hinted at the struggles he faced…mentally replaying the times he’d been shot, brooding over his mortality….” He took prescribed drugs to help him cope with the stress after his tours of duty were over. Kyle and Routh both may have suffered from PTSD. The difference between them was Kyle was not an alcoholic, while Routh clearly has this disease. Alcoholism exacerbated the destructive aspects of PTSD and unfortunately cost Kyle, who didn’t understand this risk, his life.


Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, previous chief of the Air Force sexual assault prevention branch, arrested on suspicion of “drunkenly” groping a woman outside a bar near the Pentagon. While charges of sexual battery were dropped, he still faces charges of assault and battery, which carries the same punishment but requires a lesser standard of proof. The fact is, if he was drunk and the trial proves he assaulted the woman, by my definition of alcoholism first proposed in Drunks, Drugs & Debits and refined in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics (a genetic disorder that causes afflicted people to biochemically process alcohol in such a way as to cause that person to act badly some of the time), Krusinski clearly has the disease of alcoholism. While that would not excuse his behavior, at least it would explain it.


In the “we cannot predict how destructive a practicing addict may become, or when” department, three youths (allegedly) murdered Christopher Lane, an Australian college athlete in Duncan, Oklahoma because they were “bored.” James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16, are charged with murder; Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, faces lesser counts. Edwards’ sister, Danielle Crudup, 20, watched him change for the worse: his “sweet demeanor” turned sour about six months before the tragedy, as he began unleashing a “vile stream of braggadocio, sexism and racism” over social media. “I don’t understand. God, I wish I could have just got to him. I tried to talk and talk and talk to him, and it just seemed like he wouldn’t listen.” Danielle, he triggered substance addiction about six months ago. He couldn’t listen.


Under Watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, a recent story follows for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Beanie Babies billionaire Ty Warner, 69, who reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to federal tax evasion in connection with undeclared Swiss financial accounts. He went to great lengths to conceal the accounts, including holding $94 million under another name. While unreported income totaled more than $3.1 million and unpaid tax on the account came to $885,000, Warner has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $53.6 million,* the largest publicly-reported civil penalty ever in the U.S. crackdown on undeclared offshore bank accounts. Warner also faces up to five years in prison and additional criminal tax fraud penalties.

Thinking that one is more powerful than the U.S. government is a symptom of alcoholism. Tax evasion in general, but especially on this scale, requires inordinate risk-taking in which typically only alcoholics engage (see TAR issue # 54 for examples). Warner also makes large philanthropic donations, which are not inconsistent with alcoholism (see TAR issue # 47 for an example). Alcoholism is often helpful in creating fortunes such as his: it fuels a willingness to take risks others won’t take. Consider Mel Gibson, whose fortune multiplied with the production of the very risky “Passion of the Christ,” and Ted Turner, who most observers thought was nuts in thinking an all-news television station (CNN) could ever make money.

In 1986 Warner mortgaged his home and invested his life savings to found Ty, Inc. He launched Beanie Babies in 1993 and later founded Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts, which owns the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, the Four Seasons Resort in Santa Barbara, California, the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, California and the Kona Village resort in Hawaii. Anyone this successful and wealthy (his estimated net worth is $2.5 billion) who goes out of his way to hide a mere $3.1 million in income from the U.S. Treasury almost certainly has distortions of perception, grandiosity and a feeling of omnipotence, all of which is nearly always rooted in alcoholism.

* The foreign account non-disclosure penalty is typically 50% of the highest balance in the account over the preceding six years; there were probably additional, smaller foreign financial accounts. While I don’t condone hiding income, the penalties even for “voluntary” compliance are draconian; see the Top Story in issue # 49 of Wealth Creation Strategies.


Codependents of the Month:

Danielle Crudup, whose brother James Francis Edwards Jr. was charged with the murder of the Australian college athlete in Duncan, Oklahoma, qualifies. However, so do most of the youths’ friends and relatives. Michael Dewayne Jones’ girlfriend’s mother said, “He seemed like nothing more than a regular kid.” Yet some friends feared he was using meth; his weight had recently plummeted. Chancey Allen Luna’s mother became so concerned he was using meth she purchased a drug-testing kit. Luna’s aunt and uncle, with whom he was living for a time, forced him out for smoking pot. Yet Luna, who had a history of fighting, “was raised with God and went to church when we went, four times a week,” according to his grandmother. After the murder and before they were apprehended, the boys headed to the town courthouse, where Edwards had to sign a probation agreement from a prior larceny case. According to the New York Times, he “stepped out of the car, calmly greeted his father, kissed a friend’s baby on the head and walked inside.” The problem with addicts is they nearly all act like Jekyll and Hyde, regardless of how young they may be—and it’s Dr. Jekyll who the family and friends knows and loves.


Studies of the Month:

Since PTSD is caused by traumatic events, especially those with a high risk of death, suicides among members of the military “should” be linked to combat. In a study published by the American Medical Association that at least partly debunks this idea and, therefore, the belief that PTSD causes suicides, data show 52% of troops who committed suicide while on active duty were never assigned to combat operations. A Los Angeles Times interview of relatives and friends of five service members who committed suicide found that none had ever been in combat, but four were involved in marriages or romantic relationships that were over or nearly so. Crumbling relationships are often rooted in alcohol or other-drug addiction, and nearly always so when involving someone facing disciplinary problems or legal trouble, as some of these service members were. But Army 2020 (cited in the Top Story) contradicts the idea that anything other than alcohol and other-drug addiction is the underlying cause of most suicides. It concludes that “alcohol abuse and illicit drug use [aka, alcoholism] places individuals at 8.5 and 10.1 times higher risk for suicide.” Yet researchers had “no clear reason why the suicide rate has been increasing.” How about alcoholism and, especially, as Army 2020 reports, massive increases in prescription drug use—which often is readily identifiable as addiction?


The National Academy of Sciences recently published a study that found drivers of fancy autos rank last in road manners. They are less likely to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk and more likely to cut in front of other drivers at a four-way stop. In a nod to my friend Bob M., who has long observed this, BMW drivers are the worst, according to one of the researchers, and Prius drivers were also more likely to commit “infractions.” Unintentionally confirming what the addiction-aware might suspect—that fancy autos and poor manners go hand-in-hand as clues to alcoholism-fueled egomania—the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported the worst culprits are 35-50 year old males driving blue BMWs on Fridays around 6p.m.—no doubt after beginning happy-hour weekend. I have long observed that Friday afternoons are the worst in terms of obvious DUIs, and much worse than Saturday evenings. Watch for fancy autos at the end of the work-week—they could be dangerous to your health and well-being.


Good Dad of the Month:

“I was a monster. I’m a better person now that I’ve got children.” So said Sir Elton John, revealing that being a father helped him overcome his “infamous” temper. No, Sir John, being a father helped keep you sober, which you’ve been for 23 years. Staying sober and improving on your sobriety by further deflating your ego turned you from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll and helped you consign your temper tantrums to a past, drunken life.


Bad Moms of the Month:

Lisa Rosales, 43, and Lisset Llauro, 39, for variations on a theme. Rosales blew a .18 percent* after police were summoned to the parking lot of Richards Middle School in Fraser, Michigan for blocking traffic and allegedly attacking another parent for asking her to move her car. She was going to pick up her 13-year-old daughter but was instead whisked away in handcuffs on charges of DUI and possession of a controlled substance.

Llauro was stopped by an officer in Miramar, Florida, who saw her run over plastic lane markers in the student pick-up line at Silver Lakes Elementary School. She appeared disoriented, reeked of alcohol, had slurred speech and (allegedly) failed sobriety tests. Judge John “Jay” Hurley sentenced her to random alcohol and other-drug testing and commented, “It looks like you’re picking up your kids while you’re impaired by something and that’s very concerning.”

The questions the addiction-aware might ponder are how many times did Llauro and Rosales pick up their kids while under the influence without being caught and how many others do this without ever being caught? Hint for the addiction unaware: a lot more than you’d care to believe. You may want to pick up a copy of Get Out of the Way: How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence to disabuse you of any misperceptions that these cases are outliers.

* A .18 percent reading requires the consumption of, for example, a bottle and a half of wine over six-hours for a 120-pound person, or two and a quarter bottles for a 200-pounder over the same period.


Bad Law Enforcer of the Month:

Ronald D. Combs, 59, a senior Gainesville, Florida city attorney, charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling, prowling and resisting arrest after a woman called police to report a prowler in her bedroom. When he saw she was awake, he fled, but not before she got a pretty good description to give officers, who tracked him running through back yards: he was wearing a skull cap, running shoes—and nothing else. He had to be subdued with a Taser. Ouch!


Enablers of the Month:

Montebello, California Mayor Christina Cortez, whose husband Ruben Guerrero, 44, was booked on suspicion of selling meth and narcotics near a school. After his arrest Cortez said she was disappointed and shocked. However, she shouldn’t be: there were three publicly-known clues to the idea that Guerrero was capable of anything. First, he was convicted of DUI in 1999. Second, arson investigators examined a “suspicious” fire last year that burned Cortez’s Chevy Suburban, which Cortez said was mostly driven by Guerrero. Third, Montebello Councilman Frank Gomez sought a restraining order against Guerrero, saying Guerrero had threatened him. For every public behavioral clue to substance addiction, there are likely dozens if not hundreds of hidden/non-public ones. Ms. Cortez, you saw plenty of other clues and should have been expecting anything of Mr.Guerrero.


According to the National Enquirer, an unnamed “well-heeled buddy” of O.J. Simpson reportedly intended to make the winning bid for Simpson’s former Florida home in an online foreclosure auction (it’s not yet clear who made the winning bid). The friend, who idolizes Simpson, said if he didn’t win the auction, he’d set Simpson up in an oceanfront condo he owns. While I don’t ordinarily cite a story unconfirmed by any other source, the Enquirer has had some amazing scoops. If this is correct, this is one of the greatest acts of enabling an addict ever. We’ll see if it pans out.


Retrospective Find of the Month:

Alcoholism authority George E. Vaillant brilliantly analogized what living with an alcoholic is like: “Outside of residence in a concentration camp, there are very few sustained human experiences that make one the recipient of as much sadism as does being a close family member of an alcoholic.” As sick as the family may appear in terms of observable behaviors (as I put it in Alcoholism Myths and Realities), some good can come of it, as Tony Robbins has proven.

Tony Robbins’ “Powertalk” audiotapes were an enormous aid in 1996 in helping me to recover from having lived with an alcoholic fiancée. At the time I figured Robbins was simply a brilliant iNtuitive Feeler, a personality type that excels at helping people become all they can. (For an explanation of the four Temperaments and 16 personality types see Keirsey's website.) When, in 2004, I tried to get an interview with Robbins I learned enough about his background to realize he was likely a child of a severe alcoholic. At the time, I could find nothing in the public domain that confirmed this.

Now there is—and by his own testimony. In the September 2013 Playboy interview, Robbins says, “I grew up in a family where both my parents were alcoholics and users of prescription drugs. At the age of 11 I’d go to the pharmacy and convince the pharmacist that my mom had lost her Valium, and he’d refill it.” She chased him out of their home with a knife when he was 17. After stumbling around for several years and reading all the self-help books he could get his hands on, he learned how to turn anger and rage into drive, “because just being angry wouldn’t have changed anything.”

I often say, “Thank God for the alcoholic in my life.” Without her I never would have viewed people’s misbehaviors, current events and history through the lens of alcoholism, which is to say I never could have understood people’s misbehaviors, current events and history. The experience drove me to develop models that turn inexplicable into explicable human misbehaviors, something only an iNtuitive Thinker, someone who thinks abstractly and who craves an understanding of the universe, could likely have done. I’ve a hunch Tony Robbins would echo the sentiment, because it drove him to develop tools, including changing one’s emotional state, only an iNtuitive Feeler could have done.


Retrospective Look of the Month:

I’ve never had such difficulty in writing a top story as the last issue’s piece on the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman controversy. Only afterward did I realize it was the only Top Story I’ve written that was in “real time;” along with grotesque omissions and outright lies by the media, this made research and coming to definite conclusions difficult at best. I found additional support for Martin’s addiction shortly after TAR went out: his corpse was found with skittles and watermelon juice. These are two of three ingredients for an intoxicating beverage; the third is Robitussin cough syrup containing codeine and/or promethazine. A non-prescription version contains Robitussin with dextromethorphan (DXM); both versions are commonly “abused” by teens. One of the known side effects of repeated “robotrippin’” is anger and a violent temperament. This homemade drug, called by various names including “purple drank,” ”lean” and “sizzurp,” is so powerful and causes so much agitation in its users, it’s known as “poor-man’s PCP.”* Between the likelihood of Martin’s addiction, use of “sizzurp” and the report that Martin was proficient in mixed-martial arts, he may have been capable of killing Zimmerman with his bare hands.

One web site speculates there was enough time between Zimmerman’s first call to 911 and the shooting for Martin to walk the round-trip to his dad’s home and back to take on Zimmerman. It presumes he walked home to ditch some marijuana cigars called “blunts” and that he came back, looking for a fight. If Martin was an addict, he was always looking to inflate his ego. One of numerous ways to do so is to beat the crap out of someone. Therefore, this is a very plausible hypothesis.

* I watched a video of a police officer shoot someone on PCP ten times before the man finally stopped coming at him.


Alcoholic Pig of the Month:

You might think this would be a segment on someone like Robert Rizzo, the former City Manager of Bell, California, who was brought up on charges of corruption several months after he was arrested for DUI with a blood alcohol content of .28 percent and who looked like this just after his arrest (and whose arrest on charges of corruption is chronicled).

However, this story is actually about the animal, one of which drank at least three six-packs of beer over several days in a remote area of Australia, ransacked a campsite and got into an altercation with a cow. Fionna Findley, an official with the government of Western Australia highway division Main Roads, told reporters her crews were not equipped to deal with feral pigs, especially when they are drunk. She should have added, stay away from drunk pigs, non-human or otherwise.


Euphemism of the Month:

Distraught,” as in: “A distraught man yelled ‘This is my beach! My Social Security number is 555-55-5555’” while driving erratically in a beach parking lot before plowing his car into the ocean. As his passenger bailed out of the car and fled into the bluffs on a beach near Long Beach, California, the driver bailed and swam out to sea. Lifeguards plucked him out of the surf and held him for police. The only question is which drug (or drugs) does that euphemism stand for? Is it, “A man high on meth yelled…” or “A drunk man high on PCP yelled…”?


Naïve Politician of the Month:

California Governor Jerry Brown, vetoing a bill that would have added repeated alcohol and other-drug offenses as reasons to deny gun ownership for ten years by those with two DUIs or other misdemeanor substance “abuse” convictions within any three-year span. Brown explained, “I am not persuaded that it is necessary to prohibit gun ownership on the basis of crimes that are non-felonies, non-violent and do not involve misuse of a firearm.” Brown appears completely unaware of the fact that a DUI is a near-certain indication of alcoholism and alcoholics are capable of anything, including using guns to commit mayhem. He also seems unaware of studies supporting this, showing that a gun owner with even one misdemeanor conviction, such as a DUI, is five times more likely to commit a violent crime with a firearm than an owner with no prior arrest record.

Army 2020 discussed extensively above cites The Army Substance Abuse Program (Army Regulation 600-85, which Army 2020 refers to as the Army’s Risk Reduction Program). The Program lists 21 factors that need monitoring to prevent an escalation into high-risk behavior that can “result in adverse health and disciplinary consequences.” Army 2020 points out that the majority of high-risk behavior is “criminal in nature.” The 21 factors listed in the Program include accidents involving more than $2,000 in damage, alcohol offenses of all sorts—including DUIs and public intoxication—and even traffic violations such as speeding and non-alcohol-related reckless driving. Interestingly, the factors also include financial problems and eviction notices, which the addictionologist in us would predict. Mr. Brown, you may wish to reconsider your veto.


Retrospective Disenabler of the Month:

Miss Kay, who was thrown out of their home for three months at one point during Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s hard-drinking days, after standing “by him when he was drinking and staying out all night.” Robertson came close to losing everything, including Miss Kay, who wanted a divorce. Phil “found God” and begged her to take him back—no doubt with a promise to get and stay sober. Without Miss Kay’s tough love, which even she didn’t immediately offer (as is so typical, this was, apparently, a last resort), Robertson likely never would have built his “Duck Commander” brand into a multi-million dollar enterprise and Duck Dynasty into the most popular reality television show ever, drawing 12 million viewers for the show’s Season 4 premiere in summer 2013.


Sometimes, It Takes an Addict:

Velvet Underground co-founder, front man and lead guitarist Lou Reed, dead from liver disease at age 71, six months after a liver transplant. His “dark vision” helped the 1960s rock band become one of the most influential of its time. Greg Harris, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said that Reed’s work “provided the framework for generations of artists;” many consider him the “grandfather of punk.”

There is little doubt from an addictionologist’s vantage point that he was already a full-on addict in his teens. According to biographer Victor Bockris, he threatened to throw the “mother of all moodies if everyone didn’t pay complete attention to him” as he “tyrannically” presided over their middle-class home. That’s classic alcoholism-rooted narcissism.

Although they dissolved in 1970, Velvet Underground’s four albums, plus two others released in the mid ‘80s, profoundly influenced world history: according to David Feith and Bari Weiss in the Wall Street Journal, “In the 1970s Czechoslovakia’s anti-Communist movement coalesced around a Velvet Underground-inspired rock group called the Plastic People of the Universe. The Communist government branded the rockers enemies of the state....Playwright Vaclav Havel documented [the band’s] trial and imprisonment in 1976, then published the ‘Charter 77’ human-rights manifesto and eventually led the Velvet Revolution against Communism in 1989.” Havel later acknowledged the name derived in part from Reed’s band. When they met in 1990, Havel asked Reed, “Do you know I am president because of you?” Now that’s influence.


And, an obituary for a great man and extraordinary influence on my life and ideas: David Keirsey, RIP

It’s unlikely anyone has had a greater influence on my life than David Keirsey. Not only did his work on personality type and temperament, primarily through his first book Please Understand Me (PUM), help make sense of other people’s behaviors, attitudes, abilities, interests, beliefs, preferences and core needs, which are frequently so dramatically different from mine, but a single comment he made to me personally was instrumental to my work in addiction. Without his almost off-the-cuff remark, I likely would never have developed the idea that behaviors are the key to identifying likely alcohol and other-drug addicts long before addictive use is confirmed.

My then-fiancée (the addict who inspired a need to understand addiction) and I met with him, with several members of his family, for a late snack after a talk he gave. At the time, I may or may not have suspected active addiction in the fiancée, but I certainly hadn’t confirmed it (as described in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, she hid her use well and the therapists with whom we counseled were clueless). She identified herself under the Myers-Briggs personality type paradigm as Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judger, or INTJ (that’s what I am; I hadn’t yet figured out that chemistry is unlikely if not impossible between those of the same type), then ENTJ (an Extroverted NTJ) and, after taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, INTP, an Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceptive. David observed her for a time, took me aside and suggested that I consider the possibility her innate type was Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceptive, or INFP.

At the time I was taken aback. I knew many are mistyped because they incorrectly answer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator questions (or those on Keirsey’s Temperament Sorter) in a style inconsistent with underlying innate type, often due to either stress or learned behaviors. I hadn’t considered the possibility that a student of Type and Temperament, as she was, would respond incorrectly—and I hadn’t yet figured out she was a full-on alcoholic or that stress-induced alcoholism dramatically increases the odds of an incorrect self-assessment. Keirsey summarized it succinctly: do not believe what Type a person says he or she is; instead, as he put it, “One must observe behaviors.”

After doing just that for nearly a year, I realized Keirsey was right. The best explanation for her behaviors, at least the healthy ones and her innate abilities, was clearly INFP.

I scored Introverted Sensing Thinking Judger, or ISTJ on Keirsey’s Temperament Sorter the first time I took it, likely because I was, at the time, under non-alcoholic-induced psychological stress. I consistently score INTP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator due to poorly constructed questions asked on the Judging/Perceptive (J/P) dichotomous scale.* I realized that if sober people could respond to questions inconsistent with innate personality type, alcoholics certainly would. Stress distorts how people answer questions about themselves; therefore, the results are distorted. Lying, cheating, stealing and manipulating require repeated violation of one’s values, which is intrinsically stressful; therefore, alcoholism always causes intense stress and the results will nearly always be off the mark. I realized that although an addict may relate to a description of his or her scored type, such self-assessment cannot be trusted.

My crucial insight from Keirsey’s observation was an extrapolation: the idea that “one must observe behaviors” to learn the truth not only could be, but must be applied to the identification of likely alcohol and other-drug addicts. In fact, because distortions of perceptions and memory make substance addicts incapable of self-assessment (a singular fact gleaned from a one-line comment in Vernon E. Johnson’s seminal work, I’ll Quit Tomorrow**), observing behaviors is much more helpful in spotting alcoholics than in identifying true personality type (which non-addicts, at least, get right more often than not in self-assessments). The hundreds of subtle and not-so-subtle misbehaviors I’ve found to be indicators of likely alcoholism might never have been uncovered had it not been for David’s remark.

Of course, I had to apply the idea. If I hadn’t already learned that my own type is unique, I might have figured everything I was thinking had already been done. But I learned from David that my personality type, one of 16, comprises only 1% of the population. Because Type and Temperament are so central to how we think, I understood how differently my thinking and the way I think about things is from 99% of the population. And I realized the odds that others of my type had experiences similar to mine were remote. Knowing and understanding my Type led me by baby steps to proceed into an area that was completely outside my prior fields of expertise, because I realized no one else was likely going to do it—and, after reading every book on alcoholism that I could get my hands on, found no one else had done it. ***

If all Keirsey had done was to lead me to the pivotal insight about alcoholism and the crucial one into my own Type, his influence would have been profound. There was, however, much more. As mentioned at the outset, PUM helped make sense of people through the logical grid of Type and Temperament. His work helped me in both my personal and professional life. I figured out what Types I am attracted to and could live with for a lifetime, which was instrumental in helping me find my wife, Marty. I began using it in communicating with prospective clients in ways that increased the odds they would become and remain clients (for example, by changing words and terms where I could in my client engagement agreement from “thinking” to “feeling” words). The value of Type and Temperament in screening for prospective employees is second only to the work in addiction that Keirsey made possible.

In his later years, Keirsey announced he wanted to write on madness, a subject that can be understood only in conjunction with an understanding of alcoholism. His student, Eve Delunas, wrote Survival Games Personalities Play, as if Type gone awry explained sick people. I connected the dots between “games” and personality disorders, nearly all of which are driven by alcoholism; the disorder takes shape as a function of one’s Type. This, too, was a key insight, on which much more work should be done. Ironically, Keirsey provided the essential tools by which to understand madness, even if he never grasped its roots.

Unfortunately, while Keirsey’s work, with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, is used extensively by corporations and government in team-building, it largely remains out of the mainstream. Many psychologists mock it as “pop” psychology, I believe because so many are inaccurately typed, making the tool appear little better than astrology. Used properly—which means confirming innate Type by knowledgeable experts in Type and Temperament—Keirsey’s ideas are unparalleled in helping one to understand healthy human behaviors and beliefs, as well as predict core underlying needs, preferences, natural abilities and interests. They are on par with understanding alcoholism in assessing appropriate matches for lifelong mates, partners, employees and employers. When the value of Type and Temperament is fully recognized, it will be used in devising appropriate educating styles and education foci from pre-kindergarten, which will help to make for ever-more fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, this will be left to future generations to figure out. Regardless, Keirsey’s memory will live on.

* I’ve analyzed the reason why the J/P questions are faulty in an unpublished essay.

** “It is impossible to find out the subject’s behavior by questioning the subject.”

*** Some authors described a relative few behavioral indications of alcoholism, but fell short of developing a comprehensive list.

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. Instead, many do 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.

Jeffrey Rosen reviews the book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade by Clarke D. Forsythe

Reading about historical figures and history through the lens of alcoholism is a mind-altering experience. History is radically transformed by alcoholics relative to what would otherwise be, without their influence. In nearly every field outside of science and mathematics, far more dramatic changes to history have been initiated by alcoholics than by non-addicts. A tiny sampling includes Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (assassin John Wilkes Booth was an alcoholic, as was Washington police officer John Parker, whose “need for a drink on the night of the assassination was so strong that he deserted his post outside the President’s box, left the theater, and went to a bar,” leaving Lincoln defenseless*) and John F. Kennedy’s Cuban missile crisis (few if any non-addicts would have taken risks the poly-drug addicted JFK took). Beethoven and John Lennon changed the history of music; Henry the 8th committed atrocities against wives and Josef Stalin committed unspeakable acts affecting millions of people; Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemmingway radically transformed art and literature. As first pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, one cannot make sense of history without understanding the distortions of perception and memory that lead to the egomania, reckless risk-taking and abusive behaviors rooted in early- to middle-stage alcoholism, frequently taking form in the actions of multiple players.

The case of Roe v. Wade is but one of these history-making events created by multiple alcoholics. The case was brought by an alcoholic, Norma McCorvey (whose legal pseudonym is Jane Roe), who falsely claimed she had been raped, signed an affidavit to that effect and then became completely uninvolved in the three years of trials leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision. (As an aside, she’s now a very sober and pro-life Ron Paul supporter.)

Forsythe, according to Jeffrey Rosen, set out to answer the question of why the Supreme Court ruled with such sweeping scope that, at the time, it “isolated the United States as one of approximately nine countries that allow abortion after 14 weeks and one of only four nations (with Canada, China, and North Korea) that allow abortion for any reason after fetal viability.” He explains that abortion was essentially made a constitutional right because, while Justice Harry Blackmun wanted the parties to reargue the abortion cases (Roe v. Wade and its lesser-known companion case Doe v. Bolton) the following year, Justice William O. Douglas “threatened to publish a scorching dissent unless Blackmun agreed to decide the cases without reargument.” Rosen suggests Blackmun agreed only because of Douglas’s “prolonged tantrum,” as James Simon referred to it in his book, The Center Holds. There is no mention in the review that Forsythe has any idea that two alcoholics effected an outcome with such scope. ** Yet the clue is in the very words Rosen cited: “prolonged tantrum.”

Infants engage in tantrums. Adults generally do not, but when they engage in some adult version usually they are attempting to wield power capriciously. Such wielding of power is symptomatic of alcoholism.

While it’s challenging at best to prove alcoholism in well-known political figures (for why this is true, see the Top Story of issue # 57 in TAR and, even, Supreme Court justices, plenty of evidence often can be found in their personal lives. In the case of William O. Douglas the evidence is breathtaking in its style. At age 55, after 30 years of marriage, he divorced his wife and married his mistress. At age 65 he divorced his second wife and, five days after the divorce was final, married a 23-year-old law student. At age 67 he divorced yet again and married a 22-year-old former cocktail waitress/college student. Lucy Barry Robe, in her magnificent Co-Starring Famous Women and Alcohol, found that as the number of divorces increase, so do the odds of alcoholism; after four divorces the likelihood climbs to at least 85%. Considering the misbehaviors that addiction causes, which adversely affects the marriages of every alcoholic, a contrary finding would be stunning. Anecdotally, I have found the larger the age difference between spouses, the higher the odds of addiction. When we consider the need of the addict to inflate his or her ego the explanation is, for the addictionologist, self-evident: marrying an older man, especially an extremely successful one, is very ego-gratifying to a younger woman; marrying a young woman, especially an attractive one, is quite ego-gratifying to an older man who can say to other men without speaking, “Look at my hot babe!” In addition, the older man can more easily control the younger, less experienced woman, something many if not most alcoholics would set out to do.

Various reports work to substantiate a diagnosis of alcoholism in Justice Douglas. He had a “massive” desk drawer that was difficult to open because it was “stuffed” with so many whiskey bottles. His two children resented him for, among other reasons, having received a “Father of the Year” award when he was, according to them, “a cold, harsh and uninvolved parent.” Resentment is common among alcoholics and, probably, equally as common among their unaware victims. A number of sources describe Douglas as a “deeply flawed character,” including Harvard Professor of Law Alan Dershowitz; his article includes numerous publicly-known power-seeking behaviors that, to the addiction-aware, strongly indicate alcoholism. Finally, in Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas (the title alone serves as a clue to alcoholism), Bruce Allen Murphy describes Douglas’ “dishonesty and mistreatment of family and employees, his womanizing, drinking, hypochondria, and his paranoia.”

The correct answer, then, as to why the Supreme Court ruled with such sweeping scope (Forsythe’s question, which Rosen repeated as central to his review) goes much deeper than the idea that Blackmun ceded to Douglas’ demand that the case not be reargued. Forsythe and Rosen got the “tantrum” but failed to get the “why” behind the tantrum, which is crucial if history is to be understood. The Supreme Court ruled with sweeping scope because an alcoholic decided that’s what he wanted and a majority of justices ceded to an alcoholic’s tantrum.

* James Graham, The Secret History of Alcoholism, p. 118.

** Forsythe points out that under a regime of states’ rights there would have been a continuation of dozens of experiments in various degrees of restrictions on abortion (a dozen or so would maintain abortion on demand, another dozen would prohibit abortion except to save the life of the mother and thirty states might place greater restrictions than allowed under Roe), and that the ruling massively increased the power of the federal government to the detriment of states’ rights. Consider the war on drugs to get an idea of how this decision has greatly reduced experimentation in other areas of governance.

Drug-addicted felon-dad

Dear Doug:

My four-year-old daughter’s father hasn’t been in our lives since she was born. Out of the blue, he sent her a birthday card and mentioned he might “pop in” to see her at some point. Since he didn’t bother to show up in court for our divorce hearing, he may not be aware that the decree stipulates “no contact.” I didn’t give her the card, but I wonder if this was wrong. By the way, he has a bad drug problem and has been in and out of prison.


Cares about her daughter


Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest that because of your daughter’s age, you should not show her the card. However, he is at least reaching out, which calls for a response. They’d tell you to send him a copy of the court order, tell him any communication must go through you and he’d better not “pop in.” Then such columnists would blow it: they’d say if he is truly motivated to have a relationship with your daughter, you should work out a way to do this.

No you shouldn’t.

If he was sober, he would have written to you and apologized for his misbehaviors. You must assume he is not sober and, therefore, a danger to both you and your daughter. You should contact the police to see if anything can be done other than your “no contact” order, which is the sort of order that’s frequently violated to the great detriment of those it’s supposed to protect. Do nothing to encourage him or let him think he’s got a shot at seeing you or your child any time soon. He must earn that right, which will require at least several years of sobriety.

By the way, the first sentence suggests, by itself, a near-certain indication of addiction: parents don’t become uninvolved in a child’s life without alcoholism.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, October 15, 2013.)

“[A good, good kid who had two recent DUIs] was an unlikely candidate to be caught up in the [lethal] rivalry.”

So wrote Ben Bolch and Richard Winton in a Los Angeles Times piece entitled “Giants-Dodgers rivalry turns ugly off the field again,” regarding a man, Jonathan Denver, in L.A. Dodgers attire being stabbed to death after a game in San Francisco after an altercation with Giants fans. While it’s possible Denver didn’t taunt the four Giants fans believed to have been involved in the killing, this may be yet again a case of addict v. addict, as often occurs in the criminal justice system. While friends and family all agreed Denver was “a good, good kid,” he was arrested twice this year for DUI. While the killing is horrific, it’s possible Denver said something or motioned in some way that he wouldn’t have if he’d been sober. A non-alcoholic would be an unlikely candidate to be caught up in lethal rivalry; an alcoholic is the perfect candidate.

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

Overdrawn on Intelligence: James Andrews, 43, tried to use the ATM at his bank in St. Petersburg, Fla. When the ATM said he had no money in his account, he went inside to find out why. After the teller said he had a negative balance, Andrews allegedly passed a note to the teller demanding $1,000. The teller handed over an undisclosed amount of money, and Andrews left. When police found the getaway car, they discovered it was owned by a friend who claimed he gave Andrews a ride to the bank, but didn’t know he had robbed it. Police were quickly able to track Andrews down and arrest him on charges of strong-arm robbery, and possession of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia. Andrews allegedly told police he needed the money to pay off a drug debt. (MS/Bay News 9) ...That last sentence explains everything before it.”

Randy, once again, gets it. If there is alcohol/other-drug addiction, nearly all the misbehaviors in which a person engages are symptoms of underlying addiction.

On a number of occasions, I’ve mentioned that stories of tragedy would do more to inform the unaware of the role of addiction in creating the tragedy if they began with, “John was an alcoholic. Here’s how his addiction ruined others’ lives….” This story, for example, “should” have read (with some made up “facts” for dramatic impact and because they would fit the profile): “James Andrews, 43, is an addict whose drug of choice is crack cocaine. His addiction is costly, worse since he often no sooner gets a job than he is fired and has an ex-girlfriend to whom he owes child support. In his yet latest gambit to steal funds for his drugs, he conned a ‘friend’ into giving him a ride to the bank and then, according to the friend, lending him the car (which doesn’t exactly comport with the story, but the friend could be an addict too and, well, try getting a story straight from two addicts). After trying to access funds via the ATM at his bank and finding he had no money in his account, he went into the bank, confirmed he had a negative balance and then demanded $1,000 from a bank teller. Police tracked him down after finding the ‘friend’s’ getaway car. After scaring the bejeezus out of a bank teller and God knows how many motorists, Andrews was charged with strong-arm robbery and possession of crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia.”

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2013 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

We hope you find the articles in this issue of TAR not only useful, but intriguing and mind-altering, without benefit of psychotropic drugs. If you like what you read, please pass the issue along in its entirety to friends, family and associates—and suggest they subscribe. Also, we could use some more current-dated reviews of the books on which the ideas in this Report are based; please check out all four books—along with a brand new—and marvelous—review by “Deb.” Thanks Deb, and anyone else who cares to share!

The Top Story in this issue is especially timely, with multiple references to “the madness of crowds.” Please read and enjoy!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2013 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

How Addicts Help Trigger Riots: the Case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

In the criminal justice system, both perpetrator and victim—and others, including supporters of one side or the other who are most adept at fomenting rage, which can lead to mob violence/riots*—are frequently addicts. The George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case is no exception. Let’s look at the odds of addiction in each of those involved in this case.

In 2005, George Zimmerman was charged with "resisting [an] officer with violence" and "battery of [a] law enforcement officer." The charges were reduced and waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Around the same time, he was accused of domestic violence and fired as a private bouncer for being too “hot-tempered.” Because nearly all cases of domestic violence are committed by alcoholics and a reduction in charges was predicated on his attendance at an “alcohol education program,” there’s virtually no question of Zimmerman’s alcoholism. However, the absence of subsequent reports of trouble suggest Zimmerman may be clean and sober since the mid-2000s.

On the other hand, one of the key accusations against Zimmerman, racism, indicates very high odds of active alcohol or other-drug addiction even without other “trouble.” Alcoholics are much more likely to lie than are non-addicts. Therefore, to determine the veracity of Zimmerman’s story, it would be helpful to determine whether he is, in fact, racist.

An NBC edit of the 911 call made by Zimmerman made him out to be racist, suggesting that Zimmerman, a Hispanic, was not only profiling but looking for battle. The NBC version of the audio quoted Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” However, the actual recording (released later) sets a radically different tone: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” The 911 operator responds, “Okay. And this guy, is he white black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman responds, “He looks black.”

Two years earlier Zimmerman came to the defense of a black homeless man (Sherman Ware) who was beaten by the white son of a cop. He tried to get the black community to do something about the fact the cop’s son wasn’t charged, even though the attack was caught on videotape. He publicly accused the police department of corruption, saying the agency covered up the beating. (And, despite this, many in the media not only accuse him of racism, but also that he was “in the pocket“ of local law enforcement.)

Zimmerman’s actions comprise evidence he was neither a racist nor a practicing alcoholic, and certainly not under the influence at the time of the shooting. ** Therefore, although Zimmerman shows some indications he could be a bit of a dry drunk *** (he initially tracked Martin in an arguably aggressive manner), the addiction-aware would be inclined to believe Zimmerman’s story and support acquittal.

On the other hand, there are several clues suggesting high odds that Trayvon Martin was an active substance addict and, therefore, may have acted as Zimmerman has claimed. Behavioral evidence of Martin’s addiction includes:

  1. While he looks terrific in some pictures, he arguably has “thuggish” looks in others. Check out the photos, where you’ll find the 13- and 17-year old Martin (along with an image of the back of Zimmerman’s head before it was cleaned up at the scene). Those who think that just a few bad pictures shouldn’t count when there are so many good ones might consider the pictures of Erin Brockovich linked in the “Retrospective look of the month,” below.
  2. He was kicked out of school for graffiti.
  3. He was caught with what a school security staffer described as a “burglary tool” and a bag full of women’s jewelry (very likely stolen—take a look here; if half of the assertions made in this article are true, the media has really sold the country a bridge to nowhere).
  4. He was on suspension from school at the time of the shooting, after officials found him with a “marijuana pipe” and a baggie with drug residue.
  5. A metabolite of THC (THC is the active component of marijuana) was found in Martin’s system.
  6. Alkies tend to hang out with alkies and druggies tend to hang out with druggies, and the evidence is overwhelming that witness # 8, his friend Rachel Jeantel, has the disease of alcohol and other-drug addiction. She admitted to drinking and driving and needing “a lot of drinks” in her now-deleted Twitter posts, in which it’s apparent her life revolves around alcohol and “getting high.” A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) friend concurred with my opinion that she appeared high as a kite when she gave her court-room testimony (possibly Xanax or another sedative, and possibly a narcotic pain reliever such as Oxycodone). She also was caught in several lies.

While Martin was no doubt a good, even a great kid when sober, if he had triggered alcohol or other-drug addiction, by definition he acted badly at least some of the time. Since the argument that he was an active addict is convincing, it’s entirely plausible that Zimmerman is telling the truth when he claims he feared for his life and the shooting was in self-defense.

There is also compelling evidence of alcoholism in many media personnel. Someone at NBC engaged in selective editing in a blatant attempt to falsely imply racism and to foment rage. As pointed out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, attempts to unduly enrage, especially by making false accusations, are nearly always associated with addicts. Therefore, this strongly suggests that particular someone at NBC has alcoholism.

The media have seriously questioned whether a neighborhood watch is appropriate in a gated community where there have been eight felony thefts during the twelve months leading up to the shooting. Instead, they mock the idea, calling gated communities “problematic” and “racist,” and the police that try to protect citizens from thugs “prejudiced” and engaged in profiling. And the media, quick to accuse Zimmerman of racism, failed to publicize his efforts to help the black, homeless man referenced above.

The media’s portrayal of Martin as an innocent-looking 13-year-old even convinced President Barack Obama, who famously said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Perhaps he hadn’t yet seen Martin as the 17-year-old he’d become. False portrayals suggest alcoholism, at least in those who first posted a picture of a cute-looking 13-year-old if not those who continued to perpetuate such a fraud. Incredibly, the media continues to use the picture of the 13-year-old Martin.

Addicts are cunning, brilliant liars who tell very believable tall tales; their lies are often more convincing than the truths of the sober. Those in the media who have lied via half-truths, false innuendos and false accusations qualify as such—especially if they had access to the facts, which they most certainly did.

There are multiple addicts surrounding this case. I don’t know whether addiction in subjects of a trial can help to precipitate a need for addicts in crowds to cause riots; however, it’s interesting that at least two major riots were indirectly started by the actions of addicts (the 1964 Watts riots, discussed below under “codependent of the month,” and the 1992 L.A. riots, indirectly started by Rodney King, the topic of the Top Story in issue # 70 of TAR). Addicts often set off chains of events that other addicts can use to inflame others. To comprehend why riots are possible in the event George Zimmerman is acquitted, one must understand mobs and mob mentality—the alcoholic mindset. As I wrote in an article entitled, “How do Alcoholics Get Away with Financially Abusing Others?” in my tax and financial letter, Wealth Creation Strategies # 31, Winter 2007-2008:

“Addicts suffer damage to the frontal lobes of the brain, the seat of reason and logic. The lower brain centers, responsible for survival, instinctual actions and reactions, emotions and herding, are undamaged. We might hypothesize that this allows the primitive brain to override the restraints of the logical brain, allowing alcoholics to better connect with others at an emotional level. This should be helpful to a con-man when attempting to tap the primal instincts, including greed, and bilk the mark.”

This ability to connect with others at an emotional level is also helpful to those attempting to wield power capriciously by inciting others to commit acts of violence.

The leaders of mobs are able to connect with followers at an emotional level because they are nearly always alcoholics. This does not require all followers to be afflicted with this disease; by no means are all members of mobs addicts. Not all of the Nazis doing the amphetamine-addicted Hitler’s bidding, or even the henchmen working for the alcoholic Stalin, were alcoholics, but many in key positions were. Because of a need to “belong” (third most important in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs), many sober people willingly follow alcoholics, who connect at that emotional level referred to in the quote (they can, by their own testimony, sell refrigerators to Eskimos).

Such leaders are superb at inflaming rage. Already, the New Black Panther Party offered a bounty for Zimmerman’s “capture.” Thousands marched through the streets of Sanford, Florida, where the shooting occurred, demanding “justice,” by which they presumably mean that Zimmerman should be presumed guilty before trial. Zimmerman was in such fear for his life he went into hiding for a period of time after the shooting. The idea that someone is guilty before his trial, especially when the facts are so murky, smacks of mob mentality and hints at the possibility that mob violence could follow if the alcoholic—er, mob—doesn’t get what it wants—Zimmerman’s head on a stick.

* Note that no one suggests any possibility of riots if Zimmerman is found guilty. While violence wouldn’t surprise a Socionomics-aware addictionologist, we may get lucky—even if George Zimmerman is acquitted on charges of murdering Trayvon Martin—but only because the social mood has not declined sufficiently. (Civil unrest is much more likely closer to the bottom of the next downturn in social mood.) On the other hand, you never know.

I’ve long observed that human-caused destruction in all its forms, from theft and fraud to rape, murder and war, is nearly always initiated by alcohol and other-drug addicts. Addiction in supporters of those initiating especially destructive events can turn the severity of these incidents into catastrophes far worse than they would otherwise be, and more quickly. Such “madness of crowds,” found throughout history from the Crusades and Salem Witch Trials to the Holocaust, may manifest as mob violence.

** Immediately after the shooting, Sanford, Florida police found a very compliant Zimmerman. The police report stated:

“While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered with grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.”

Blogger Karl Denninger, who has studied this case from the start, asks, “If Zimmerman was the aggressor how did he get injured on the back of his head with sufficient force to cause bleeding? Further, if he was on top of Martin how did Zimmerman’s shirt get grass stains on the back?” He goes on to ask, “Exactly how many times will you consent to having your head slammed on concrete by someone who knocks you down and then gets on top of you before you conclude that you have the right to defend yourself, including through the use of deadly force? Is that threshold reached before or after your skull is cracked open like a coconut and your brains are splattered all over the sidewalk?” He points out that if Zimmerman was mounted by Martin and his face was pounded and head slammed into concrete, the shooting was justified. Presumably because these facts were apparent, the DA initially declined to prosecute and brought the case only because political pressure compelled her to do so.

*** The misbehaviors of dry drunks are rarely (if ever) as awful as those of practicing alcoholics.

Runner-up for top story of the month:

Aaron Hernandez, 23, former tight end for the New England Patriots, charged with first-degree murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. The heavily-tattooed Hernandez (the more tattoos, the higher the odds of substance addiction) has also been charged with five firearms-related violations and is being investigated for multiple other murders in Florida and Massachusetts. Despite having received the lowest possible score, 1 out of 10, in the category “social maturity” on a personality test and psychological profile given by an NFL scouting service and being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft, the Patriots recently signed him to a five-year extension, which included the largest signing bonus ($12.5 million) ever given to an NFL tight end. The fact that it was conditioned on his continued “good behavior” demonstrates some acknowledgment of his prior misbehaviors by the Patriots.

Overachievement and lack of social maturity, while apparently contradictory, are entirely consistent with alcoholism and, therefore, misbehaviors, including the commission of murder. Alcoholics stop growing emotionally the day they trigger alcoholism—average age, 13—and yet can be extraordinary overachievers due to their need to wield power over others. The psychological profile also reported Hernandez “enjoys living on the edge of acceptable behavior and that he may be prone to partying too much and doing questionable things….” Since “partying” is a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically,” this appears to be a classic case of undiagnosed and untreated alcoholism, ending very badly for everyone involved.


Codependent of the Month:

Rena Price, who inadvertently contributed to the start of the 1965 Watts riots, died recently of natural causes at 97. Her son, Marquette Frye, had been stopped by officers after driving erratically. After he failed sobriety tests, his mother, who had been summoned by a neighbor, scolded him about drinking and driving. Frye suddenly turned from being “good-humored and cooperative” to uncooperative, as he suddenly blew up at the officers. Accounts vary as to subsequent events, but after Frye’s arrest someone shoved Price, Frye was struck on the head by a patrolman’s baton and Price and her stepson (who was in the car with Frye) jumped on an officer. After rumors of the arrest and police abuse spread, mobs turned the area into a war-zone. Six days later 34 were dead, thousands injured and tens of millions of dollars of property destroyed.

Frye, described as “the man who started the riots,” drifted from job to job and was arrested dozens of times before he died in 1986 at 41 from pneumonia, often a symptom of alcoholism (especially at that age). He “struggled with excessive drinking,” which is a euphemism for alcoholism. All of this confirms the Watts riots were precipitated by an alcoholic and that Price was, therefore, a codependent—and a serious one at that.

The effect on her was enormous. In the subsequent court case, Price was found guilty of interfering with police officers. Although later exonerated, she couldn’t get a job for years. No one would hire someone who the prosecution accused of helping to cause the riots. And she couldn’t bear living life believing her son was the indirect cause for the death of dozens, injury of thousands and property damage in the millions, with hundreds of small businesses literally going up in smoke—so she went into denial. While according to officers she initially believed her son was drunk, she later recanted, saying the officers lied, no doubt thinking of the good son she knew lay underneath the muck of addiction.

She likely had no idea her son’s affliction was genetically rooted and that it caused him to act badly some of the time, including drinking while driving. She couldn’t have had a clue that arguing and scolding was senseless, as it is with every practicing alcoholic. She couldn’t have understood the only proper method of dealing with such misbehaviors is to promise logical consequences and, when the rules are broken, administer them without delay or compromise. She no doubt lived life thinking she could have done better—with no understanding of how she could have done so. Fortunately, time erased the memories; Price found work sometime after her husband died in the ‘70s and, in 2005, when asked about the riots, said, “Oh, it’s been years. I’m through with it.” She was fortunate: she lived long enough for time to cause the pain to diminish. How many codependents aren’t that fortunate?


Quotes of the month:

“The star regularly lavished castmates and crew with expensive perks to make up for his maddeningly odd behavior.”

So wrote Rebecca Rosenberg, Jamie Schram and Dan Macleod for the New York Post, describing actor James Gandolfini’s attempts to make up for his alcoholic antics like disappearing from the set of “The Sopranos” for days at a time. “All of a sudden, there’d be a sushi chef at lunch,” one crew member told reporters. “Or we’d all get massages.” These are classic alcoholic-on-bended knee attempts at reconciliation, promising “I’ll never do it again.” Alcoholism must be at the top of likely explanations for “maddeningly odd behaviors” that make us shake our heads and wonder, “what is he thinking?”


“There is not a good reason in the world for why I did the horrible things I did.”

So said Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 39, as he pleaded guilty to the March 2012 rampage in which he murdered 16 innocent Afghan civilians, thereby avoiding the death penalty. While there wasn’t a “good” reason, there was a reason, which he may not grasp: he was in an alcoholic blackout. During such times, addicts are capable of atrocities, yet can’t remember anything, because the events don’t enter the memory. This is one of the most tragic cases of military malfeasance ever: as discussed in the Top Story of issue # 69 of TAR, his alcoholism should have been obvious to everyone around him. His employer, the U.S. Army, should long ago have given him a choice between sobriety and a court martial. Having systems in place to recognize addiction in law enforcement personnel, including the military, is important to everyone’s safety and security. If such appropriate action had been taken, Staff Sgt. Bales wouldn’t be asking why he did these horrible things, because the horrible things would not have happened.


Retrospective find of the month:

Numerous clues revealing likely addiction are disclosed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics. Clue # 16, “Has ever knowingly made a false accusation” in the chapter, “A Supreme Being Complex,” describes how false accusations, an especially vile subcategory of lying, are often made by addicts. Turning facts and reason on their head, addicts “play an instigating and continuing role in most crowd psychology,” turning crowds into mobs, which can result in riots and witch-hunts*. These include the spate of daycare sex abuse “witch-hunts” of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

While the hysteria had largely died down by the time I began researching addiction, I thought it would make a fascinating study and add to the massive amount of evidence that alcoholics have a disproportionate impact on history. I hypothesized that such witch-hunts require several addicts: the original accuser(s), at least one prosecutor and at least one therapist who talks children into making the accusations. The odds of a witch-hunt resulting in a grotesque miscarriage of justice increase when the judge, police who are directly involved and defense attorneys are also alcoholics.

Bernard Baran was the first person convicted in the wave of hysteria comprising the daycare sex-abuse and satanic-ritual abuse trials in the mid- to late-‘80s. Baran, an openly gay man, began working at an Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, as a teacher’s aide in 1983. In September, 1984, the parents of a boy who had recently been placed at the Center by social workers told the Center they “didn’t want no homo” near their son and insisted that Baran be fired.

When the board of directors of the ECDC refused to fire Baran, by all reports an exemplary worker, the parents—who were known drug addicts and police informants—removed their child from the Center. A few days later the parents called their connection at the local police department drug control unit and alleged that Baran had molested their son at the Center that day—when they had removed the child three days earlier. Police began an investigation and, incredibly, not only validated the claim of sexual abuse, but also charged Baran with multiple counts of rape and indecent assault against several other (no doubt coached) children. Three months later, Baran was on trial. In violation of Baran’s 6th Amendment right to a public trial, the proceedings were convened in closed court; he was positioned so couldn’t even hear the children’s testimony. One week after the mockery of a trial began, he was convicted and given three life sentences.

After more than 20 years in prison, his conviction was finally set aside and, in 2006, Baran was released. In 2009, the Massachusetts Appeals Court vacated the convictions, deeming the case “notorious” and stating the behavior of the original prosecutor was “troubling” (a gross understatement). In 2010, Baran’s lawyers reached a (pathetically stingy) $400,000 settlement with the state, which still denies liability and refuses to expunge Baran’s record. (The documentary film Freeing Bernie Baran, covers the entire 25 years of this horrific case.)

The original accusers were known addicts. The complicit police were likely alcoholics. The assistant District Attorney, who used the case to advance his career and is now a judge, was probably alcoholic, as was the original judge on the case. This miscarriage of justice was made possible by a perfect storm that placed alcohol and other-drug addicts in positions of power, in just the right place at the right time. Bernard Baran is one of the most tragic victims ever of such a storm.

* As explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, when such accusations “stick” it’s because addicts frequently tell much more convincing lies than the sober among us tell truths.


Retrospective look of the month:

When I first saw the 2000 feature movie Erin Brockovich, with Julia Roberts playing the “environmental” activist, I speculated that the real Erin Brockovich might be alcoholic. I don’t recall what led me to this tentative diagnosis based on a mere portrayal and what would, for many, seem to be flimsy evidence. It could have been the willingness to (arguably) stretch the truth, which is often rooted in alcoholic confabulations; it might have been her foul mouth and cigarette-smoking —hypocritical for a purported anti-cancer crusader. Because alcoholism is often locked behind closed doors, I’ve learned patience is a virtue and things take time to see the light of day. In the case of the real Erin Brockovich, that time has come: she was recently arrested for DUI while trying to dock a boat on Lake Mead, with a blood alcohol level at “more than twice the legal limit of .08.”

Brokovich released this statement:

“At no time was the boat away from the dock and there was no public safety risk. That being said, I take drunk driving very seriously, this was clearly a big mistake, I know better and I am very sorry. After a day in the sun and with nothing to eat it appears that a couple of drinks had a greater impact than I had realized.”

This is classic alcoholic “spin.” She makes excuses for her drinking: the boat wasn’t away from the dock so there was no risk; yet the police report shows she was trying to dock it when she was arrested. While admitting it was a “mistake” and superficially apologetic, she lies about the number of drinks she had (unless they were 28-ounce Long Island Ice Teas). The truth can be calculated: if she weighs 130 pounds, she consumed nearly 12 drinks over 12 hours, almost 10 drinks over 8 hours or 8 drinks over 4 hours. Any way you cut it, that’s not “a couple of drinks.” And when someone lies about drinking, is 53 and is not flat on her face with a blood alcohol level of anything much over .12, alcoholism is a given.

Like most alcoholics, Brockovich likely triggered early-stage alcoholism in her early teen years. She would have been, then, deep into alcoholism by the age of 30, when she began her quest to prove that residents of the small town of Hinkley, California developed high rates of cancer due to chromium VI in drinking water. The chromium, used to fight corrosion in a natural gas pipeline cooling tower, was released into unlined ponds by Pacific Gas & Electric before the 1970s. Brockovich made the connection between that and a “cancer cluster” in Hinkley in the mid-‘90s. This didn’t, however, stop her from smoking cigarettes through which she inhaled chromium VI, even though inhaling the chemical is much more dangerous than drinking similar quantities of the stuff (lung absorption through inhalation is much higher than absorption into the stomach, liver and pancreas via ingestion).

Other than the smoking and propitious use of foul language (either of which yields an estimated 30-50% odds of alcoholism for California residents in this demographic), there was little other evidence of alcoholism in this very public figure until recently, when her third husband left her. The odds of alcoholism increase with each divorce; as reported in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, after four divorces the odds of addiction are about 85%.

Isn’t this helpful? Someone was divorced four times—or three times, and also smokes and uses foul language. Knowing nothing else, we can ascribe very high odds of addiction and conclude the person can’t be safely trusted—for anything. Such clues give tremendous ability to protect oneself from the capricious misbehaviors of addicts in our personal and professional lives. They also give us the ability to quickly determine whether we should take special precautions in analyzing the veracity of such people’s claims.

It’s possible Brockovich is simply wrong regarding Hinkley. The findings here and here are interesting in this regard, as is the analysis here and here. We must always silently ask the possible alcoholic, “Are you telling and perpetuating a lie because of your egomaniacal need to capriciously wield power? And, if such need is unconscious, is your belief rooted in confabulated thinking?” On the other hand, if perceptions are distorted and one truly believe one’s incorrect assertions, the need to inflate the ego can make one blind to the truth. This alone should cause us to consider Bruce Ames’ arguments at the links above and to question the ideas for which Brockovich has helped to gain common acceptance.


Victims of the month:

Michelle Kane, 43, who was stabbed to death while trying to flee her estranged husband Michael Kane, 46, on a suburban street in the West San Fernando Valley, CA. While she was granted a restraining order a couple of months earlier, to an addict this is like poking a stick in the eye, which may cause him to react and lash out in much more destructive ways. Kane, a teacher at a Los Angeles Unified School District elementary school (in the process of protecting worthy members, unions enable the worst ones), had already committed a number of malicious acts and made numerous threats, including a promise to cut her throat. While she knew enough to describe her husband’s “long history of drug abuse” (he’d used heroin and methamphetamine), she was under the impression he had an “undiagnosed bipolar disorder.” This may have kept her in the marriage for 12 years—“oh, I’m sure some sort of prescribed medication will help him,” and we just don’t want to leave someone who is sick. The trouble is, there is no way to diagnose most mental disorders (i.e., bipolar, sociopathy, narcissism) until the afflicted is long sober, when we usually find that substance addiction merely mimicked the disorder. Michelle Kane was clearly a victim of addiction and, worse, she was a victim of the all-pervasive myths and misunderstandings surrounding the disease.


Pamela Devitt, 63, who died while taking a morning stroll through her neighborhood when a pack of pit bulls mauled her, dragged her 50 yards, scalped her and removed her arm. The alleged owner of the dogs, Alex Jackson, 29, is charged with murder. This is not the first incident involving his dogs: he was also charged with assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from an earlier altercation in which he is accused of throwing a rock at a horse rider after his dogs attacked the rider’s horse (yes, you read that right: the horse didn’t attack anyone, the dogs attacked the horse and then Jackson threw a rock at the rider). After Devitt’s death, homicide investigators found six dogs and two mixed breeds at Jackson’s home, along with a marijuana-growing operation, leading to additional charges on various drug-related offenses. As regular readers of TAR might surmise, I doubt Jackson was doing only pot; meth is very popular in this area (the Antelope Valley, north of Los Angeles). Regular readers also know that bad pets, including pit bulls (which I understand can be wonderful pets), are usually raised by people turned bad by alcohol or other-drug addiction.


Gabriel Fernandez, 8, dead after his mother’s boyfriend admitted he beat Gabriel repeatedly for lying and “being dirty,” following six investigations into abuse allegations involving the mother over nearly a decade by the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services. Gabriel died of injuries from his latest beating, which resulted in a cracked skull, three broken ribs and bruised and burned skin. All but one of the investigations found prior allegations to be “unfounded,” despite the fact that his teacher told authorities he often appeared bruised and battered at school. Gabriel’s death is not the only instance of gross malfeasance on the part of Social Services: no workers have been fired in 15 instances where children died, even when errors on their part were found to be “egregious.”

Gabriel’s mother, Pearl Fernandez, first came to the attention of social workers a decade ago when another son suffered a head injury resulting from a car accident; he was not wearing a seat belt. A year later, after beating the same son she told a relative she didn’t want him; while social workers found that complaint was unfounded, he (along with other siblings) went to live with relatives soon after. Despite an admission to being involved with gangs and drugs and a subsequent conviction for using an unspecified weapon in a reckless manner, Fernandez was able to reclaim Gabriel, along with two other children, when he was 2 years old. Fernandez told social workers she was concerned about the treatment of her children by relatives; a cousin told authorities “it was for the welfare money.” Less than a week later, despite the fact that social workers confirmed new allegations of physical abuse, she was allowed to enter counseling and keep her children. Several more instances of confirmed physical abuse followed in quick succession, including numerous bruises, a busted lip and bruised dots all over his face from being shot with a BB gun by his mother.

The problem in nearly all (if not all) such cases—and there is a current backlog of 3,450 of them in L.A. County—is alcohol and other drug addiction in a parent. Rather than being coerced into abstinence, which is the starting point for sobriety, social workers counsel, cajole and otherwise do nothing (and possibly may not be allowed to do what’s right by L.A. County rules, a topic for a future article). This is a recipe for ensuring the abuse continues, at untold cost to innocent children and society at large—which has to pay for human beings made and kept less than worthless by their drugs of choice.


Story of the month:

An article, “Friend unable to prevent killing,” in The Los Angeles Times reported that Michael and Michelle Kane, whose tragic tale is reported above under “victim of the month,” declared bankruptcy in 2012. The article, written by Jean Merl and Joseph Serna, claimed the Kane’s financial problems stemmed from the purchase of their home in the San Fernando Valley in 2002, which needed “landscaping, appliances and various other improvements,” paid for with credit cards. The story claimed, “When the housing market crashed, it also doomed their plan to tap their home equity to pay the bills.”

The trouble with this narrative is that the real estate bubble had barely begun in 2002. Prices nearly doubled in the San Fernando Valley from that point to the peak in 2005-2007. The fact that either they didn’t refinance when they could have or refinanced and already took equity out for other purposes shows an appalling lack of financial common sense and judgment. Such poor judgment is a great clue to addiction. We could easily have ascribed high odds of addiction in one or both, even if we knew nothing else about the couple.*

Worse, Merl and Serna repeated the claims in the Kane’s bankruptcy declaration without any discussion, skepticism or questioning whatsoever: “We didn’t use the cards to buy expensive toys or take extravagant trips around the world. The charges were for our general living expenses, such as mortgage payments, auto payments, food, insurance and utilities.”

HUH?!!! They paid ordinary and necessary living expenses by piling on more debt?!!! The so-called journalists merely repeat the claim as if there’s nothing wrong with using debt to pay “general living expenses,” including mortgage and auto payments—which are themselves repayments of debt!**

Merl and Serna further enable the Kane’s miserable financial behaviors by repeating Michael Kane’s claim that he spent “a significant amount” on school supplies and gifts to “incentivize” students. They also repeated his assertion that “because I taught in an underprivileged area, I even bought some of the students clothing when I noticed some students coming to class wearing the same thing every day.” As an Enrolled Agent tax professional the most significant amount I’ve ever deducted for such expenses was maybe $2,000-$3,000, and for teachers who could afford it. Someone who owes $166,000 on credit cards is not that person. Oh, and that “underprivileged area” he taught in? Tarzana, California, with a median income of nearly $70,000 in 2011.

The fact that Merl and Serna make excuse after excuse for an estranged husband who murders his wife in cold blood and who was at large at the time they wrote the article is nothing less than astounding. To repeat such bald assertions without even noting flagrant incongruencies in their bankruptcy claim is appalling journalistic malfeasance.

* With limited information, addictionologists would distrust this couple and avoid initiating any kind of relationship, whether personal, business or professional—and certainly wouldn’t lend them money.

** Similar to how the entire country is being run, isn’t it?


Disenablers of the month:

Richard Stannell and his K9 named Joe, who work for RK Agency Investigations in Granbury, TX. Parents can call on Joe to sniff out heroin, marijuana, meth and cocaine to see if their kids (or spouses) have drugs stashed in and around the house. Some parents say they’ve found some drugs and want Joe to see if there are others in locations ordinary trusting humans wouldn’t think of—in air conditioning vents, under carpets, in linings of clothes and beds and anywhere else young addicts dream up to protect their perceived “right to use.”

Once Joe “locates” the drugs, it’s up to the parents to either turn in the kids or deal with it privately. Firms all over the country now offer services similar to Joe’s.

BTW, I’m all in favor of your right to use at your own expense, so long as it’s in your own home—not your parents’ home, and so long as society stops trying to feed you, house you and provide your medical care after injuring yourself or suffering medical problems due to addictive use.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

James Gandolfini, best known for his role as Tony Soprano, dead of a heart attack at age 51. Whenever someone dies so young, addiction should be suspected. I knew little about him and his alter-ego (I was not a fan of The Sopranos), but quickly found a history of substance addiction in the actor (not to mention the character). During a nasty divorce in the early 2000s, Gandolfini went public about his drug use. However, he was arguably in damage-control mode, deflecting accusations by his then-soon-to-be ex-wife, Marcy Gandolfini, that he was a cocaine and booze binger who had “kinky sex with multiple mistresses” during their brief marriage. His chief enabler and representative, Dan Klores, claimed that “to bring [up the drug problem] now, as an attempt to gain leverage and a better settlement during the divorce, is just reprehensible.” We might instead suggest it is reprehensive to claim the use was “something from years ago…that he’s taken care of it,” as Klores put it, when he was married for only three years. Court papers filed by Marcy included “more than two dozen names of those she believes James did drugs with, including a number of Sopranos buddies.” Since court papers on James’ side portrayed Marcy as unhinged and threatening suicide after he moved out of their apartment barely 2 ½ years into their marriage, she also could be an addict and her claims could, therefore, be false. Of course, the claim that she was unhinged and threatened suicide may be a false accusation, so who the hell knows. The lives of addicts are so intertwined with lies and half-truths, the actual truth can be very difficult to discern.

One truth that is self-evident is Gandolfini’s ability to perform well while using, even if disappearing from The Sopranos set for days at a time. The show premiered on HBO in January 1999 and ran until June 2007. It was, at the time, the most financially successful series in the history of cable television and has been called by some the greatest TV series ever. It won 21 Emmys and five Golden Globes. It catapulted careers of both cast and crew, including Gandolfini’s, even though (or because?) he was likely drinking or using during most of the show’s filming. In 2003, Gandolfini’s manager Mark Armstrong stated he was “having a casual cocktail with a cast member,” yet maintained (apparently with a straight face), “As far as I know, he’s been sober.” We knew from Gandolfini that he’d been in rehab and was, therefore, a confirmed alcoholic. Alcoholics can never drink without risking a full-on relapse and, if they are drinking, they’ve relapsed. The only question with a relapse is how bad it will get—this time. Oh, and he was reportedly drinking Stoli straight, which isn’t even a “casual cocktail” (not that it would matter).

The New York Post reported Gandolfini’s final meal included at least eight alcoholic drinks. People who saw him at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (apparently recently) said they didn’t think “he was serious about getting sober,” and these are folks who know who’s serious and who’s not. Another source said, “I can confirm he has been known to blow lines [of cocaine] and drink like an Irish sailor on weekend leave.” Photos show him looking haggard, drink in hand, in the days immediately preceding his death. Although the direct cause of death was a heart attack, the underlying cause was likely alcoholism and possibly cocaine use, which some claim he was using again in the days leading to his death (cocaine can trigger heart attacks). Gandolfini’s demise is yet another example of the tragic results of enabling by wealth, fans, managers and very likely well-meaning family and friends.

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.

“Why She Drinks”

An article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Why She Drinks,” which is an adaptation from the new book, Her Best Kept Secret by Gabrielle Glaser, begins by pointing out there is a profound difference between how men and women “abuse” alcohol and the purported reasons. While the ideas in the article may have been taken out of context, the myths they extol are dangerous for those looking for real reasons. That the genders are biologically different does not mean the common thread of abuse is any different between the sexes.

According to the article, women are the primary drinkers of wine. Additionally, the number of women arrested for DUI in the decade ending in 2007 rose 30%, but are still fewer than that of men, despite men’s arrests for DUI having dropped by 7%. In the decade ending in 2008 the number of young women landing in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated rose by 52%, still less than that of young men, the percentage for which rose by just 9%. The piece explains that women have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, causing women to become intoxicated more quickly. She states that this could explain why alcohol-related liver and brain damage occur more quickly in alcoholic (my word) women than men.

So, women drink their alcohol in a form different from that of men—as if the alcohol in wine is different from that in beer or whiskey (!)—and DUIs and emergency room admissions are becoming more equal. That leaves a biological difference, which has nothing to do with any purported differences in how genders “abuse” the drug.

The article then turns to psychologist Mary Ellen Barnes, examining her ideas as to why women drink “differently” than men and, implicitly, agreeing with them.

“The baby’s crying, they’re not getting paid,” Barnes says. This results in boredom, anxiety and guilt, and of course drinking makes those feelings recede.

That’s preposterous. If that worked for even a few hours, we’d all drink addictively.

Worse, Barnes believes the alcoholic women she’s interviewed. She repeats their claim that “a few glasses [sliding] into a whole bottle…[is] an embarrassing habit that needs to be concealed.” Ms. Barnes, with all due respect, it’s not a “habit;” please save us from repeating the claims of practicing addicts, or even recovering ones without a decade or more of sobriety. It’s addiction. And it wouldn’t need to be concealed unless the behaviors are so awful they can be connected to the drinking—just like in men.

Worse, the article cites Ms. Barnes as claiming that the AA approach, which requires that members “tame their egos…may not be perfect for women whose biggest problem is not an excess of ego but a lack of it.” Ms. Barnes confuses ego, an inordinately large sense of self-importance, with self-esteem, or having a favorable view of self. Early-stage alcoholism causes egomania, which impels behaviors that gradually result in the implosion of self-esteem. Behaviors rooted in egomania may not be readily recognized, because they can rotate with depression and anxiety. They often masquerade as a need to wield power in subtle ways, such as by whoring oneself out to men—which is a terrific way to wield power over those men. Barnes claims that “women need to feel powerful, not like victims of something beyond their control,” such as becoming victim to sexual abuse and suffering from eating disorders. You’re confused, Ms. Barnes: they are victims of sexual abuse because they are children of alcoholics, or come from families filled with alcoholics, where sex is used as a means of wielding power over others. They inherit the biochemical predisposition to alcoholism and it looks like they drink because they were abused—which doesn’t explain similar children who grow up and drink normally (or not at all).

Glaser then claims that “studies show that after drinking, men report feeling more powerful…while women say it makes them feel more affectionate, sexy and feminine.” Never take anything an alcoholic says with more than a grain of salt. Many alcoholic women control men with sex; they simply don’t admit it until they are long in recovery, just as Don Juan types won’t admit they engaged in serial sexual conquests until they are clean and sober for years.

Finally, Glaser claims that “studies around the world have found that for those who are not severely alcohol-dependent, controlled drinking is possible.” The studies reported in Alcoholism Myths and Realities conclusively show that controlled drinking is impossible over extended periods. One study had such awful results that it had to be called off after four years because “it would be unethical to continue”; another, conducted by Mark and Linda Sobell at Patton State Hospital in California, seemed to have good results at the two-year mark but utterly failed by the 10th year, proving that while alcoholics can control their drinking for periods of time, they cannot do so forever. The author of Moderation Management, Audrey Kishline, who founded a group by the same name, relapsed and killed two innocents six years into her “controlled drinking” at a blood alcohol level of .28, three and one-half times the per se legal limit for driving.

Glaser even suggests that AA can be dangerous—after all, in Hawaii in 2010 an AA member with a history of violence who had been ordered to attend meetings met a woman in AA and killed her and her 13-year-old daughter. How many people do un-sober alcoholics kill? That’s like saying we should never imprison anyone because he might kill someone in prison.

I love The Wall Street Journal. However, this article is not only trash—it’s dangerous in that it perpetuates not just one or two, but numerous myths of addiction.

Biological mom is no mom at all

Dear Doug:

I’ve been involved with a wonderful man who has three children from a previous marriage. I love these kids and don’t mind serving the role of their biological mother, who’s rarely around.

I have a problem with a mother who doesn’t act like one. She had her driver’s license pulled because of her refusal to pay court-ordered child support (the father has full custody). She has had no contact with the kids for nearly a year, while the kids are continually asking when they will see her.

If she ever calls should we tell her to leave us all alone?


Concerned would-be step-mother

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would tell you your role is to offer emotional attachment and a mature attitude towards their chronically disappointing mother. The kids have been abandoned; you should help the children handle her absence appropriately. If she ever calls, you don’t need to tell her to leave you alone—she’s already done that. Such columnists would make a number of other suggestions, including helping the children grieve. This is all good counsel.

However, the one thing other columnists wouldn’t say, at least overtly, is perhaps this abandonment is for the good. For a mother to abandon her children, substance addiction in the mother is almost always the culprit. A relationship with the bottle (or pills or powder) trumps those with other human beings, even one’s children.

If she does have addiction, contrary to the common belief that mothers and children shouldn’t be separated, because she’s potentially dangerous while using—consider the “victims of the month,” above—the kids should not be in contact with her until she’s sober. Keep in mind the stories of codependents in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: until I interviewed them, they were usually blind to the possibility of addiction even in those closest. Find a counselor who understands addiction, how dangerous addicts can be and how to counsel children who have been subjected to abuse by their mother.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, June 11, 2013.)

“Unchecked emotions can lead to irrational behavior.”

So said reporter Julian Kimble in a piece entitled, “Pennsylvania Man Tries to Shoot Wedding Ring Off After Argument with Wife,” in reporting how Alfredo Malespini III, a Federal Correctional  Institution guard nearly severed his finger in his failed attempt to shoot off his wedding ring (the subject of TAR Lite # 25). This is yet another half-truth. While “unchecked emotions” can lead to irrational behavior, this doesn’t shed light on the causes of such emotions and, therefore, the source of irrational behavior. As readers of my books know and understand, such behavior is nearly always rooted in alcoholism.

Malespini had been “drinking heavily” the day of the shooting. “Drinking heavily” is a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically,” especially when the drinking occurs during daytime hours. Practicing alcoholics can’t be treated for “unchecked emotions,” including anger, because such emotions are a symptom of the underlying cause of nearly all rage—substance addiction. If “anger management” classes worked, they wouldn’t be utter failures. To correct Kimble’s assertion: alcoholism can lead to unchecked emotions, which can (and often does) result in irrational behavior, such as attempting to shoot rings off fingers.

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

“A SOBER ASSESSMENT: When Tom Stilwell, 20, woke up in a hospital, the British man living in Auckland, New Zealand, was told what brought him there. He had arrived at his apartment after a night out with friends to discover he was locked out. Stilwell, who lives on the 14th floor of the building, knocked on the door of the woman who lived directly above him. Despite the hour — 2:00 a.m. — and despite him being ‘a little bit tipsy,’ Geraldine Bautista, 28, let him in. Stilwell's plan: ‘Can you please let me jump off from the balcony? I will not bother you just let me use your balcony.’ He figured he could let himself into his apartment from his own balcony just below. ‘I never thought he would really do that,’ Bautista said. ‘In my mind I thought 'OK, I'll just let you see that it's really impossible.’ ’ But, she said, without saying a word he went over the rail — and fell 13 storeys to the roof of an adjacent building. He survived with internal injuries and multiple fractures, including his back and neck. Once a nurse in intensive care explained what happened, she handed Stilwell a board and a pen — he couldn't talk thanks to tubes in his throat — and he wrote his reaction: ‘What an idiot.’ (RC/New Zealand Herald) ...Funny: those are the very words of everyone who just read this.”

Bautista doesn’t understand alcoholism and, therefore, what alcoholics are capable of: anything. If she understood this, she might have stopped Stilwell. However, since the problem is alcoholism, if she had said “no” he might have simply gone next door and gotten someone else to let him jump from the balcony.

The larger problem is this and similar “idiots” wreak havoc on health systems all over the world. With most of them either socialized or government controlled, everyone pays for such follies either in higher taxes or higher insurance premiums.

How would something that hasn’t been tried in decades—a free market in health care—handle such issues? The price of coverage would be commensurate with risk—which would be much higher for those who “drink excessively,” i.e. alcoholics. Some might object such a system would unduly punish those having a genetically-rooted disease that is no fault of their own. This libertarian, one of the few who understands alcoholism as a disease and not a question of “willpower,” would respond that it’s a disease for which logical (often financial) consequences are the cure. When able to dig deep enough, every recovering alcoholic admits pain from consequences for misbehaviors got him or her to “try sobriety.” Such consequences would properly include the imposition of appropriate costs. (Therefore, the cure is a libertarian one.)

In a market in which insurers were free to try different pricing arrangements and different solutions to keeping their customers safe from disease and injury, some of the more ingenious entrepreneurs might try regular and random alcohol and other-drug testing. In the few areas in which this has been tried, rates of relapse have plunged, such as in drug courts. Should a relapse occur, either insurance coverage would end or its price would skyrocket. The power of the pocketbook should not be underestimated.

The ultimate goal is to get and keep addicts sober, which reason can’t do. Drawing lines in the sand usually works—but because we are not God and can’t read inside their drug-damaged brains, we cannot know which line will do the trick. Is it one or three DUIs? Is it loss of license—or freedom? Is it loss of friends, family or job? Is it loss of wealth and, if so, how much? Ratcheting up a price or ending coverage contractually (the customer knows the rules ahead of time), is yet one more line in the sand that would reduce the number of “idiots” who decide to go over rails and fall 13 stories.

For those who worry that some addicts will, as a result of having no insurance, die—they already do die with and without insurance. Truly free markets would reduce the number of addicts dying of their disease by reducing the number of un-sober addicts. And by the way, the backstop for insurance are charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army, which are more capable of reminding addicts of the rules (and much more effective in doing so than one-size-fits-all government will ever be). They would get care—even if they have to lose everything to get that care. On the other hand, losing everything helps to deflate their massive egos, a crucial step in bringing about a long-term cure.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2013 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

We’re back!

“Regulars” know this is our “second” job and, well the first one takes precedence. We had quite a Season, which you can read about a few weeks from now at (hey, at least we survived). On the other hand, you all know how much we LOVE communicating ideas via “strange but true” stories, so we’ll never leave you for long.

There hasn’t been an absence of topics; fortunately (unfortunately?) several of them will be around for a while, so you’ll likely be reading some as “top stories” in future editions. In the meantime, terrorism made a particularly ugly comeback recently and there was a slew of stupid people (aka addicts and likely addicts) doing crazy and awful things. Our favorites this month include the antics and lessons that can be gleaned from George Jones and a review of the movie Flight.


Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2013 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

Active Alcoholism Isn’t Required to Foment Terrorism…But a Failure to get Sober May Be
(Or, it Could be Amphetamines)

In a piece written shortly after 9-11, “Micro Terrorism and Macro Terrorism May Have Similar Roots,” I suggested the best explanation for terrorism lays in alcohol or other-drug addiction. While dramatically different in scope, I argue that the underlying cause of a man terrorizing his wife and kids is likely the same as for men converting aircraft into weapons of mass destruction: addiction-fueled egomania, creating a need to wield power over others. James Graham, in The Secret History of Alcoholism, made the indelible point that an alcoholic’s circumstances and environment help to determine his occupation and beliefs, which in turn determine how and where he wields that power.

Where we find a street thug, we’ll often find a teenager or adult who grew up in the ghetto and developed addiction. Where we see a bar fight, look for an alcoholic adult who grew up in a lower-to-middle income family. Financial and other white-collar crimes are often committed by addicts who graduated from private schools. Acts of terrorism are usually committed by young pseudo-Muslims who confabulate their reading of the Koran and think they are God-like due to the particular effect alcohol or other psychotropic drugs have on their brain.

Of the two brothers who carried out the Boston marathon bombings, the younger one’s seemingly innocuous behaviors has everyone fooled. Friends and classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who will be tried on charges stemming from the attack, can’t fathom how the “pot-smoking, party boy” who they knew “enjoyed drinking” could be capable of such an atrocity. Yet the clue is in their words—not so much the “pot-smoking,” even though he “frequently reeked of marijuana,” but rather the “party boy” who had a propensity to “enjoy drinking.” While there may be exceptions, potheads who use only marijuana often under-achieve, readily admit to their use and exhibit few if any signs of an inflated ego; except for short-term memory loss, it appears among the most harmless of drugs. On the other hand, “party boys” and those who “enjoy drinking” are usually heavy drinkers and often alcoholics. Since alcoholism causes an inflated ego and a need to wield power over others, resulting behaviors can include terrorism and despotism.

Dzhokhar’s behaviors clearly indicate polydrug addiction. Psychoactive drugs “potentiate” each other, where one dose of two different drugs packs a much more powerful punch than two doses of the same drug. While “party boys” likely drink plenty of booze to fuel egomania, anecdotal evidence suggests potentiation and worse behaviors may occur by combining marijuana and alcohol in those predisposed to alcoholism.

Evidence also suggests Dzhokhar’s alcohol and other-drug use may have recently ramped up. His college grades took a sharp downturn, with a number of F’s including (ironically) Principles of Modern Chemistry and Intro to American Politics. That’s hard to do, unless alcoholism-induced heavy partying began afterwards.

How could Dzhokhar appear to be such a nice guy and hide his malign intentions? Consider the portrayal of former FBI agent Robert Hanssen in the movie Breach (reviewed in issue # 31 of TAR, which is worth a re-read and re-watch). Hanssen sold far more secrets to the Soviets than any other U.S. traitor. The secrets were estimated to have been worth at minimum tens of millions of dollars and yet he sold them for a mere pittance—a few hundred thousand dollars. One of the arresting agents asked why anyone would have done it if not for the money. Hanssen replied, “It's not so hard to guess, is it? Considering the human ego...can you imagine sitting in a room with a bunch of your colleagues...everybody trying to guess the identity of a mole? And all the while, it's you they're they're looking for. That must be very satisfying, don't you think?” Dzhokhar may well have found his subterfuge equally exciting—his inordinately large sense of self-importance likely inflated knowing his friends didn’t have a clue he was about to become a murderer and terrorist.

And he may have had the perfect Keirseyan Temperament to pull it off. He loved literature, especially studies of his former homelands. His wrestling teammates say they looked up to him as a teacher and motivator. He believed in people. These describe an intuitive-feeler (NF), or David Keirsey’s “Idealist” who, due to an inborn psychological need to help people, frequently develop great communication skills. This compels them to become teachers, writers and actors—and they are the greatest of these. They also are people-pleasers, which is consistent with the idea he would do anything for his older brother, even becoming his accomplice in terrorism. The odds of acting on this were magnified by an alcoholism-damaged neocortex, reducing or eliminating impulse control and self-restraint. (For Myers-Briggs enthusiasts, Keirsey makes a compelling case that Adolf Hitler was an Idealist, specifically ENFJ; Dzhokhar may be INFP because of how intensely private he apparently was—even close friends had no idea whether he had a girlfriend.)

The older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, seemed very different. At 26, he was a community college dropout, married, a born-again Muslim and had sworn off drinking, apparently after being charged with assault of his then-girlfriend (who later became his wife). On the other hand, when he visited his father in Dagestan for six months in early 2012, a family friend noted he “slept a lot” and was frequently absent from helping in the mornings as his father struggled to ready a new business. When asked where his son was, his father would shrug and say he was still asleep. This strongly suggests psychotropic drug use—if not alcohol, then barbiturates, which are often required to offset the effects of amphetamines. And Tamerlan would not be the first or last addict to say one thing and do another. The fact that he said, “There are no values anymore” and worried that “people can’t control themselves,” is meaningless. Robert Hanssen told everyone who would listen that the FBI didn’t allow agents to drink yet almost certainly drank himself to oblivion every night.

When they were younger, the brothers were known for throwing loud parties, grilling and drinking until midnight or later. A neighbor reports screaming coming from the Tsarnaev brothers’ apartment at odd hours, “then a female voice wailing, or a baby wailing.” According to The Wall Street Journal, Tamerlan’s mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, feared that her elder son “was slipping into a life of marijuana, girls and alcohol” and may have been influential in converting her son to Islam. Yet she was arrested for shoplifting twice before returning to Dagestan; there is still an outstanding arrest warrant due to her failure to show for a court appearance relating to the more recent charges (nine dresses taken from a suburban Boston department store). Her hypocrisy and crimes suggest there may have been pills on board; keep in mind, substance addiction is genetic. If Tamerlan is an addict the odds are about 40% that at least one of his parents is as well; if the mother is an addict, the odds are the same 40% for each child.

Some might argue Tamerlan’s likely first drug of choice, alcohol, changed, to the “drug” of religion. Yet religion, correctly interpreted, serves to deflate the ego by recognizing a higher power, reducing if not eliminating a need to wield power over others. This leaves only two best explanations for Tamerlan’s megalomania: either the psychoactive drug may have changed, likely to amphetamines or, if he truly stopped using, he didn’t deflate his ego. In Tamerlan’s case, amphetamine use is the likeliest scenario. Adolf Hitler began using amphetamines by 1936 and, likely, barbiturates—alcohol in pill form for those predisposed to alcoholism—long before. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was an amphetamine addict. Yasir Arafat (TAR issue # 4) was clearly addicted to amphetamine-like drugs (just look at his pupil size in nearly every photo of him) and suicide bombers (TAR issue # 13) are likely given a cocktail of drugs including amphetamines and tranquilizers before committing atrocities*.

The other scenario is plausible because sobriety requires not just cessation of use, but also ego deflation. If Tamerlan stopped using all psychoactive drugs—doubtful though that may be—he certainly didn’t deflate his ego. Without ego deflation, resentment can become toxic. An uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, a corporate lawyer and executive in Montgomery Village, MD, explained: “Being losers, hatred [is felt for] those who were able to settle themselves” by which he means assimilate successfully as immigrants. Recovering addicts readily admit to having resented anyone and everyone when they were using, for whatever reason (which really never matters). It seems more likely that amphetamine use was the culprit in Tamerlan’s case—but time will tell if toxicology reports become public.

* Those interested in related pieces on terrorism and drug addiction might wish to re-read the Top Stories in TAR issues # 3 (Kim Jong Il, alcoholic), # 24 (a discussion of a potpourri of terrorists from Ivan the Terrible onward), # 42 (anthrax murderer Bruce Ivans, alcoholic) and # 53 (the role of khat in fomenting terrorism in and around Yemen), as well as the top stories on Arafat and suicide bombers.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

The military sexual assault problem, which may be a top story in an upcoming TAR. Let’s just say no one “gets it.” Consider Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, chief of the Air Force sexual assault prevention branch when he was arrested on charges of “drunkenly groping a woman outside a bar near the Pentagon.” Given the fact that Krusinski is 41 and likely triggered alcoholism in his early teen years, he should have been diagnosed with alcoholism long ago—and never have been put in control of a branch of the armed forces that deals almost exclusively with alcoholism-related misbehaviors.

Ariel Castro
, 52, charged with kidnapping and imprisoning three young women inside his Cleveland, OH home since the early 2000s. Amazingly, his thuggish brothers, Onil Castro and Pedro Castro, were reportedly unaware of Ariel’s horrific crimes, even though they were not estranged from him. There are no specific reports of Ariel that can be cited as absolute proof of his alcoholism (even if the crime provides all the evidence we need), but his brother Pedro was described by a neighbor as a “cool old guy” who would pedal his bike around the west side of Cleveland, “drinking wine.” Think of all the non-addicted 50-something-year-olds who ride their bikes drinking wine. It turns out both of the brothers have been charged with drug-related crimes. We might suspect that drinking or using has been a big part of Ariel’s life which, hopefully, the trial will bring to light.


Codependents of the month:

Los Angeles Clippers’ owner’s son Scott Sterling, 32, died from a drug overdose. His family released a statement: “Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1 diabetes.” While the family did not explain what role diabetes may have played in his death, the Los Angeles County coroner said it was caused by a pulmonary embolism and “intravenous narcotic medication intake.” The fact that an injection of ground-up oxycodone (a narcotic) can lead to blood system blockages resulting in a pulmonary embolism suggests addiction as the root cause of his death.

I’ve long suspected that alcoholism is the best explanation for the behaviors of Scott’s father Donald Sterling—a real estate mogul whose smiling face frequently graces the pages of the Los Angeles Times. While he goes by the label “humanitarian,” there are numerous behavioral indications of addiction, including extraordinary overachievement, narcissism-rooted philanthropy, accusations and lawsuits over alleged racism and housing discrimination, sexual harassment and belittling of players. Based on genetics, 40% odds of addiction can be ascribed to each (if a parent has alcoholism, the odds of any one child having this disease are 40%, and vice versa). Mr. Sterling, your “philanthropy” might be better directed at helping addicts get clean and sober. This might be difficult until and unless you admit the truth about your unfortunate son and possibly yourself.


Possible codependent of the month:

Adam Lanza, 20, who shot his mother Nancy Lanza, 54, several times in the head before launching his rampage and then shooting himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It’s highly unusual for a mass shooter to be a non-addict, but toxicology reports (surprisingly) show no drugs in Lanza’s system at the time of the attack. While it’s possible that he was on something that wasn’t screened, toxicology exams search for hundreds of drugs, from alcohol and illegal drugs to anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. It’s also possible he took himself off drugs just long enough to clear his head and pull off one of the biggest massacres in U.S. history. On the other hand, his mother went to a regular watering hole where she had regular “drinking buddies,” a near-certain indication of alcoholism. The emotional abandonment Lanza likely experienced as a child may have twisted his otherwise socially awkward yet benign personality to create a monster.


Quote of the month:

“Under [my father’s] strong influence, my brother and I steered clear of the alcohol and drugs that seem to have plagued the Tsarnaevs—and might have fueled depression and hopelessness that…twisted their judgment.”

So wrote Kenan Trebincevic, a well-assimilated foreign-born Muslim-American, in “Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path,” in The Wall Street Journal, comparing the lives of he and his brother with the Tsarnaevs. “There is a well- documented connection between unhappy, disenfranchised immigrants who can’t connect and crime and terrorism….I’m convinced that remaining a close-knit family kept my brother and me saner and safer. The Tsarnaev family, by contrast, seemed constantly roiled—by war, immigration, work and financial difficulties, serious illness and a marriage breakup….We didn’t experience the sort of disappointment and resentment that Tamerlan seems to have endured when his boxing dream went sour.” Except for the fact that Tamerlan’s boxing dream didn’t go sour; he decided boxing conflicted with Muslim values, which teaches that no man should strike another. So, he exited boxing because of its violence yet decided later, confabulated thinking activated, that blowing people up is okay. While Trebincevic understands the effects plaguing the Tsarnaev family (work and financial difficulties, divorce and unreasonable resentments), he doesn’t get the underlying cause: addiction. This article supports the idea that addiction plays a huge but unappreciated role in fomenting terrorism.


Excuse of the month:

An unnamed source claimed that “Reese Witherspoon started drinking to cope with the stress of her parents’ bitter battle in divorce court last year….‘Reese feels she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and she started drinking alcohol as a release,’ added the source.” So wrote an anonymous columnist for The National Enquirer. Such explanations for one’s ability to consume large quantities of alcohol and resulting misbehaviors are incredibly misleading. If Ms. Witherspoon acts badly as a result of drinking, she has the disease of alcoholism—which allows her to drink large quantities and compels her to act badly, at least some of the time, as she did recently when her second husband, talent agent Jim Toth, was pulled over and arrested for DUI. When asked to stay in the car, she got out and began berating the arresting officer. She then told him she didn’t believe he was a real cop and, as many a famous alcoholic has done while being arrested, asked him if he knew who she was and exclaimed, “You’re about to find out!” prompting her arrest. To her credit (and offering a bit of evidence that she may not have alcoholism) she admitted later that same night she “clearly had one drink too many” and apologized to the officer, who was simply “doing his job.” As a very famous “good girl” actress and mother of three, she may simply be in the early-stage “control” phase of her alcoholism. We’ll know for sure in the fullness of time.


Retrospective find of the month:

I’ve found a number of “alkie antics” news stories involving DUIs and rider-mowers, but none involving a rider-mower without a DUI—until reading up on country icon George Jones (see “Sometimes, it takes an addict,” below). His second wife, Shirley Corley (to whom he was married from 1954 to 1968) thought she made it impossible for him to drive to the nearest town, eight miles away, to buy liquor—whenever she left, she took the keys to all their cars. In his autobiography, I Lived to Tell it All, Jones recalls being unable to find any keys, until he looked out the window. The way he describes it: "There, gleaming in the glow, was that ten-horsepower rotary engine under a seat. A key glistening in the ignition. I imagine the top speed for that old mower was five miles per hour. It might have taken an hour and a half or more for me to get to the liquor store, but get there I did." Incredibly, that wasn’t the only time he rode his mower over a long distance in his quest for booze. In her 1979 autobiography, country idol Tammy Wynette, his wife from 1968 to 1975, recalled waking at 1 AM to find her husband gone: "I got into the car and drove to the nearest bar 10 miles away. When I pulled into the parking lot there sat our rider-mower right by the entrance. He'd driven that mower right down a main highway. He looked up and saw me and said, ‘Well, fellas, here she is now. My little wife, I told you she'd come after me.’"


Idiot of the month:

Jarad S. Carr, 37, whose scanner-copier-printer broke after trying to print counterfeit $100 bills. Not only did he try to return the printer to Wal-Mart with one of the sheets of fake bills still in the scanner, but he also picked a fight with the Wal-Mart staff after they refused to give a refund (or even half a refund, which Carr pushed for), prompting them to call police. When police arrived, Carr resisted arrest and tried to run. Unsurprisingly, he was already wanted on two felony warrants for armed robbery and burglary. The police chief noted three fake $100 bills found on Carr weren’t even good fakes, although in a dark bar—no doubt where Carr spends much of his time when outside the joint—they might have passed.

Chutzpah of the month:

Father Marek Lacki, who met with “Jane Doe” and her husband at a church retreat, where he encouraged them to drink alcohol with him to celebrate their wedding anniversary and, at the same time, to discuss their marital difficulties. Lacki, who was especially interested in their sex life, learned that Ms. Doe was a victim of child sex abuse and then, through “charm and guile,” got her to divulge numerous details. Following the retreat, Lacki “insisted” that Ms. Doe, who trusted Father Lacki to act in her best interests, meet him at Our Lady of Czestochowa, a popular shrine and retreat house run by the Pauline Fathers monastic order in Doylestown, PA, to visit him for “counseling,” pray and talk in a private room, where she was then preyed upon. Doe testified that Lacki set her up by “grooming” her and then used “physical, intellectual, moral, emotional and psychological force” to sexually abuse and assault her, including digital rape and the smearing of menstrual blood on her face. Doe and her husband reported the assault to the Archdiocese, which notified the Bucks County, Pennsylvania District Attorney’s office. When asked to be interviewed by detectives, Lacki responded that the conversation took place “under seal of confession” and he declined to be interviewed. Incredibly, the DA’s office accepted this answer and did not pursue the case, which allowed Lacki to travel to Poland, where he cannot be prosecuted. Ms. Doe claims that the Archdiocese, Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Pauline Fathers concealed knowledge that Lacki had deviate sexual interests and a long history of concealing sexual abuse by its clergy, and they never forbade or limited the time that un-chaperoned women could spend with priests in private rooms. Wait, is that one “chutzpah” or five record-breaking “chutzpah’s” in one?


Future watch:

Samuel Little, 72, found living in a Christian shelter in Kentucky by Los Angeles cold case detectives after matching DNA from a recent arrest for possession of a crack pipe with DNA collected from slayings of three women in 1989. His 100-page rap sheet (!!!) details crimes in 24 states spread over 56 years for a wide array of criminal behavior, including various drug violations, assault, burglary, armed robbery and shoplifting. Incredibly, the former boxer has been incarcerated for a total of only ten years. LA detectives allege he is a serial murderer, killing by delivering a knock-out punch and then strangling prostitutes, drug addicts and “troubled” women (i.e., generally more drug addicts). He pleaded “not guilty” to the three murders, explaining, “I just be in the wrong place at the wrong time with people.” Yup, except prison. His trial should be interesting, but there really should be a trial of the various law enforcers, especially judges, who let him out each time without at least an ankle bracelet and a promise of re-incarceration should he ever fail random and regular drug tests.


Enablers of the month:

Georgia attorney Jackie Patterson, who asserted that Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow “was not an impaired driver,” along with attorney Antavius Weems, who claimed that “the cars parked on the side of the street may have distracted her,” in explaining why she is accused of running a stop sign and a red light, driving on the wrong side of the road and weaving. The Atlanta police officer who arrested her wrote in his report, “She seemed very distant/out of it and had a very slow reaction” to questions, and “she had glassy eyes and was squinting.” Oh, and she couldn’t figure out how to open the car door; “in fact, she was turning the car on and off in an attempt to exit the car.” We’ve all been distracted by parked cars to the point of running stop signs and red lights, driving against opposing traffic, weaving, and confusing the door handle with a car’s ignition—haven’t we?


Disenablers of the month:

Tyrone Holmwood’s father, who told police that the woman who threw a bucket of chilli flakes at his son’s face during an attempted robbery of a chicken shop in Rosebery, NSW, Australia, didn’t go far enough. “Good [for] them,” he said, but “I would have poured hot fat upon his head.” Holmwood, 24, was easily identified as the would-be robber—he had burns all over his face from the chilli.

Twyla DeVito
, a bartender for the American Legion Post in Shelby, Ohio, thought that one of her “regulars” wasn’t fit to drive, so she called police when he drove off. The regular, Mike Ramey, was located and administered a breathalyzer test; he blew a .167, more than twice the per se legal limit, and was arrested. Although fired two days later, she says, “I would do it again.”


Blunt comment of the month:

Twyla DeVito’s boss, who said when he fired her, “If every patron who comes in here has to worry about the cops waiting for them when they leave, the place would be empty.” Yup, so long as you only serve alcoholics. The .167 per cent blood alcohol level at which the patron tested meant he consumed about half a liter of 80-proof liquor over a four hour period (assuming he weighs about 200 pounds). That’s an alcoholic.


Ironies of the month:

Ex-Compton, California fire battalion chief Marcel Melanson, 37, who starred in the BET reality TV program First In, which followed Compton firefighters on emergency calls, charged with arson and embezzlement. Described as “upstanding” and a “role model,” Melanson is accused of setting a fire at the Compton Fire Department headquarters as part of an elaborate scheme to steal communications equipment from the cash-strapped department. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has since recovered more than 50 of the pricey ($2,500 each) radios “from around the world,” many of which were sold on eBay.

Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux said “it’s hard to reconcile that man with the allegations he is now facing.” Whenever we hear of such seemingly contradictory behaviors, addiction must be suspected, since alcohol and other-drug addiction is by far the best explanation for behaviors that otherwise make no sense. Melanson was described as “charismatic,” which allows us to double the odds of alcoholism from the 10% we start with knowing nothing about the person. He was featured in the tattoo magazine Inked for the artistry covering his neck, arms and back; this allows an upping of the the odds to at least 30-50% (the more tattoos, the greater the odds of substance addiction). There were IRS and state of California liens for $109,000; based on my professional experience, for someone who was no doubt earning a good income this alone puts the odds of alcoholism at nearly 80%.

When a case is as compelling as this, there is very little likelihood that “he’s just a bad guy” explains “that man.” Ms. Arceneaux, once you understand the role of alcoholism-impelled egomania (see Drunks, Drugs & Debits), it’s not hard to reconcile at all. For more on how our hero can be an anti-hero, read the review of the movie “Flight,” below. You will see a lot of Melanson in Whip Whitaker.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton, who described former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper’s behavior as “puzzling and baffling.” Harper pleaded guilty to diverting nearly $32,000 of city funds to personal use, including “the purchase of alcohol, restaurant meals and a 32-inch television set.” His lawyer, Robert Del Greco, explained that Harper’s original intentions were good but that he succumbed to an “irresistible temptation.” Harper was also charged with failing to file federal income tax returns for 2008 through 2011, which Del Greco explained was a result of “personal issues” and “procrastination.” Mr. Del Greco described his client as “sad and humbled and contrite.” He could have helped to educate the public by adding that Harper is “a now-recovering alcoholic,” but that might be asking too much because so many people see that as an excuse. It’s not. It is, however, the best explanation for Mr. Harper’s lack of impulse control and the resulting “puzzling and baffling” behaviors.


Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Comedian Jonathan Winters, dead at 87 of natural causes surrounded by family and friends in his Montecito, California home. His ability to create “a cavalcade of charmingly twisted characters,” as the Los Angeles Times writer Dennis McLellan put it, led to Tonight show host Jack Paar to quip Winters was “the 25 most funny people I know.” The son of a down-and-out alcoholic who had trouble keeping a job and often left his young son locked in the car while he got drunk in bars, Winters enlisted in the Marines at 17 in 1943 because, while he wanted to fight, he “mostly…wanted to get away from my parents.” Soon after WWll he met his future wife (to whom he was married until her death in 2009) who encouraged him to enter an amateur talent show; his career took off from there. Having inherited his father’s alcoholism, he was reportedly drinking up to two quarts of liquor a day before getting sober in his early 30s. I haven’t found details of what triggered in him a need to clean up, but his wife likely played a crucial role.

In 1959 and 1961, at the ages of 34 and 36, he suffered two nervous breakdowns, the latter of which kept him in the hospital for eight months. I’ve long hypothesized that not only does alcoholism mimic certain personality disorders, but it also often triggers them (see the discussion in Drunks, Drugs & Debits of Patty Duke, who was likely drinking alcoholically by age 14 and suffered her first bipolar episode at age 19). Among many comedians giving Winters credit for having inspired them was Robin Williams. Winters starred as Mearth in the early 1980s sitcom Mork & Mindy, hatching out of a giant egg as Mork (Williams) and Mindy’s (Pam Dawber) middle-aged “infant” offspring. Williams acknowledged later that “Jonathan’s the source for me, the guy that made it all possible….First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend….He was my Comedy Buddha.”

I first saw Winters in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood when I was 10 and last saw him at an antique shop in Montecito, as always “on,” entertaining everyone around, about a decade ago. My wife and I thought he was a nutcase, but long live the nutcase—one of the greatest comic geniuses ever.

Country music icon George Jones
, succumbing from respiratory failure at 81. Seeing only headlines—variously describing his “tumultuous life,” that his “songs mirrored [his] turbulent life,” and that he lived “a life of heartbreak, redemption”—and aware such descriptions are always euphemisms for “alcoholism” (or “alcohol and other-drug addiction”), I knew an obit was in order even though I barely knew his name. His is quite the classic case. While receiving two Grammies and putting 167 records on the Billboard Hot Country Song chart, with a record-making 143 in the top 40, he married four times, earned the nickname “No Show Jones” for his numerous failures to appear for scheduled performances and had, by his own account, numerous brushes with death. He credits the last, crashing his Lexus SUV into a bridge abutment near his Franklin, TN home in 1999, resulting in a collapsed lung, ruptured liver and a two-week hospital stay, with the realization he had to stay clean and sober. This time, it seems he did.

In addition to his own self-abuse, Jones financially abused others. He got into legal problems for not paying child support for his daughter to his first wife, with whom he was married for all of one year (1950-1951). His talent, financial rewards and most importantly “friends” helped keep his financial difficulties under control for much of the next few decades. Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash admitted they periodically helped Jones, who became penniless fighting lawsuits for missed performances and arrests over alcohol and other-drug charges. Despite enormous success and making millions, Jones declared bankruptcy in 1979.

If it hadn’t been for the fact that Jones was an entertainer and a country icon—whose personal tragedies and turbulence led an air of authenticity to his music—his alcoholism would never have been so public. Forget about the famous; consider the number of alcoholics engaging in similar misbehaviors throughout their lives who go undetected until it’s too late for their victims. If all we know is someone repeatedly doesn’t show up for work, doesn’t pay child support or that he’s been married four times, using clues from How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics we can ascribe 80-90% odds of alcoholism—and take measures to protect ourselves from the emotional, physical and financial abuse that goes hand-in-hand with the disease.

Slayer’s Jeff Hanneman
, who Wikipedia reported was a “reformed cocaine and pill abuser,” dead from alcohol-related cirrhosis at age 49. His friends and family were reportedly unaware of the “true extent of his liver condition until the last days of his life.” We might speculate that Hanneman may have relapsed and that he, like countless alcoholics before him, was an expert at hiding use for extended periods.

And so long too, to movie critic Roger Ebert, 70, sober since August 1979, whose wonderful 2009 commentary on his sobriety and AA is worth a read.

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.

Flight, and a review of Flight

Robert Zemeckis, who directed, produced and/or wrote Romancing the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the Back to the Future trilogy, Forrest Gump and a number of other enduring motion pictures, has given us in Flight one of the greatest portrayals of addiction ever. Denzel Washington portrays the extraordinarily skilled pilot Whip Whitaker, who has hidden decades of addictive use of alcohol and other drugs from everyone except those with whom he uses or from whom he buys. And he’s a hero.

The movie brilliantly portrays Whitaker’s heroism, drug use and the ability to function and hide such use. We often find early-to-middle stage alcoholism in bed with extraordinary behaviors, both good and bad. That the story line meshes his early-stage heroism and functionality with the late-stage symptom of a need to use during every waking moment can be forgiven, if only to show the unaware viewing public that Whitaker is clearly a full-on addict.

However, the portrayal of addiction in someone so functional and heroic was met with skepticism by some addiction unaware film reviewers. One example is film critic Chris Tookey’s review in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. In his ignorance of alcoholism he writes, “Zemeckis asks us to accept two or three things that struck me as dubious.” While actually lists five such things, Zemeckis gets it right on all counts.

The first is we’re supposed to believe “a pilot as out of control as the hero…would nevertheless be able to steer a stricken airliner to land, with minimal casualties, far better than any other pilot can in a simulator.” Actually, Mr. Zemeckis (who has portrayed alcoholism rather accurately in Death Becomes Her, Back to the Future, Real Steel, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, along with a 1999 biography he directed entitled The Pursuit of Happiness: Smoking, Drinking and Drugging in the 20th Century) demonstrates deep insight into what addicts are capable of. They frequently are not only heroes, but also supremely competent. Both competency and heroism are highly efficient ways to inflate the ego, the need for which acts to drive both, since they are great ways to wield power, which in turn further inflates the ego. Consider WWII flying ace Pappy Boyington, the greatest athlete ever Jim Thorpe, baseball great Ty Cobb, golf pro Tiger Woods and countless others. Recovering addicts frequently admit having to practically learn their skills again when sober, as they learned them when drunk.

The second is, “We’re invited to accept the idea that his addictions have managed to pass unnoticed and unchallenged for years.” Tookey considers this unlikely, given that Whitaker slurs, walks unsteadily and falls over during much of the film. Sorry Mr. Tookey, but addicts frequently go undiagnosed for decades even by spouses. “Full House” child star Jodie Sweetin was married for five years to a cop who had no idea she was a meth addict for at least two of those years. Whitaker’s unsteadiness demonstrates that he is heading towards late-stage addiction; knowing that he now risked being outed as an alcoholic could quickly catapult him into the latter stages of his disease.

The third: “cocaine is a brilliant pick-me-up after wildly excessive binge-drinking,” an assertion in the film over which Tookey is wildly skeptical. Yet recovering poly-drug addicts admit they could take a particular combination of drugs with the goal of doing just the right thing for them when they needed or wanted it.

Fourth: “The film would end immediately if the pilot would only own up to his mistakes, and acknowledge that he is a risk to the public as well as himself.” This demonstrates extraordinary ignorance about the mindset of addicts, who see everything they do through self-favoring lenses. They can admit to their own failures only when long sober.

Finally, Tookey is unconvinced by the relationship between “the middle-aged alcoholic pilot and a much younger female junkie (Kelly Reilly),” because “both parties seem too self-obsessed to care about each other….” Mr. Tookey—that’s what addiction is all about; the addict is incapable of caring for another person when their love affair is with the drug. The relationship was purely for the convenience of each addict.

Tookey goes on to denigrate John Goodman’s performance as Whitaker’s dealer and the “preachy” screenplay, calling it an “over-extended infomercial for Alcoholics Anonymous.” Goodman was fantastic in the role and, far from being an infomercial for AA, Flight is a terrific portrayal of a highly functional alcoholic who ends up being a hero, even as he’s ruining relationships and, outside of the cockpit, destroying lives.

At the risk of turning this review into a “spoiler,” the movie’s magnificent ending was analogous to Evel Knievel’s thanking God he got sober even if only for the last six months of his life, because he finally got to know his son and his son got to know him. It’s a shame more movies—or critics—can’t get it right when it comes to portrayals of addiction. Flight gets it right at multiple levels—thank you Mr. Zemeckis.

She’s looking for a relationship—but is he?

Dear Doug:

My boyfriend and I have worked through most of our issues over the four years we’ve been dating. The trouble is he lives a “wild” lifestyle—partying, drinking and lots of women. Every time I bring up the topic of commitment he changes the subject. What should I do?


Wants to Get Serious

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest he’s doing you a huge favor in “telling” you, by his avoidance of the subject, he doesn’t want a commitment. They would miss the other unspoken point, however: he already has a relationship with his other girlfriend—booze. Due to a damaged neocortex, you cannot reason with him, nor can you trust him, believe him or predict when his behaviors might turn into misbehaviors. Get out of this relationship before you waste any more time—and further risk your possessions, livelihood and personal safety.

(Source for story idea: “Ask Amy,” April 30, 2013.)

Here’s a bonus “Dear Doug”:

She lies, cheats and steals—and is repeatedly rescued

Dear Doug:

My niece lies, cheats and steals from her family and workplace. Every time she gets into trouble, her family rescues her. We pooled our money to prevent an eviction; when she was caught embezzling, she was terminated but we helped her to avoid arrest; when her car was about to be repossessed, we helped her catch up on car payments. She always cries and promises to do better and the cycle repeats.

We know we’re enabling, but she has a 4-year-old son, an innocent who would be dragged down with her if we stop “helping.” Yet, we don’t want the boy to follow her into a similar life of committing serial misbehaviors, or get sucked down with her. She refuses to seek counseling and won’t turn over custody of her son. How do we stop enabling her without hurting him?


At the end of our rope

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would agree with your family’s setting of limits and trying to protect your niece’s son. They’d say it’s impossible to know whether she’s “just” chronically messed up or has a mental illness or is an addict, and suggest that the family seek counseling to help you set boundaries. They might admit that your family must let her face consequences by refusing to rescue her yet again, but this would not be emphasized. It should be.

First, the odds of addiction are about ten to one over mental illness, and being this “chronically messed up” simply doesn’t happen without one or the other. So, let’s go with the odds.

Addicts in recovery tell us when they used they lied, cheated, stole and manipulated everyone around them. Other columnists might figure out she’s using the family’s concern for her son to wield power and control over the family. They would fail to connect all of the dots and bluntly tell you to assume psychotropic drug addiction. Therefore, they would fail to tell you that no good can come from allowing her to keep her son. You have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors, or what will occur when she finds she can no longer control you by using her son. At the very least he is already experiencing emotional abandonment; at most she’s abusing him in other ways and, just like the rest of the family, he forgives her when she apologizes and proclaims her love for him on bended knee.

Unfortunately, counseling addicts only enables them. For the behaviors to improve she must get sober. While sometimes a credible threat of loss of a loved one will get an addict clean and sober, this has likely gone on way too long for threats to work. She probably needs to lose her son, at least temporarily. Your family would do well to plan for this and deal with it appropriately—which means the family needs counseling. And, if you all get lucky, his mother will get sober, stay sober, and be a mother to her son.

(Source for story idea: “Ask Amy,” May 10, 2013.)

“In short, teens who [text while driving] engage in a multitude of other risky behaviors.”

So concluded Andrew Adesman, senior investigator of a study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported in June’s Pediatrics. Adesman, who is chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, along with the researchers, fail to link cause and effect: that drinking causes or exacerbates all of the other risky behaviors they studied. While not a myth per se (although some might call it a “half-truth” because it leaves out crucial information), the omission of underlying cause makes the study pointless—unless one understands addiction.

The study found that teens who text while driving are also much more likely to engage in other dangerous driving habits—“including failing to buckle up and driving after they have been drinking.” They reported that “teens who text while driving are also more likely to binge drink (five or more drinks), use tobacco, use pot, use indoor tanning devices and have unsafe sex.” The implication is either texting causes all of the other risk-taking behaviors, or such behaviors go together for no particular reason and have no identifiable underlying cause.

Incredibly, the researchers failed to connect the dots even though they also found that “teens who texted while driving were five times more likely than those who didn’t to drive when they had been drinking alcohol.”

CDC Director Thomas Frieden noted it’s not surprising that kids who take such risks in one area are more likely to take risks in others. But what causes the excessive risk-taking in the first place? Does texting increase the odds of failing to buckle up? Does speeding up the odds that one might text? Does having unsafe sex cause one to increase their use of indoor tanning devices? Neither he nor the study drew any connections. They didn’t point to alcoholism as the underlying cause of the excessive risk-taking behaviors studied.

Recovering alcoholics tell us they knew they were alcoholics—“for the first time in my life, I felt powerful”—after their first drinking episode, at an average age of 13. By the time they are driving, 90% of those who will eventually trigger alcoholism have already done so. They were drinking addictively before they could drink and drive or drive, text and fail to buckle up.

Alcoholism causes egomania, which usually increases the sense of invincibility many teens already have (or, one might suggest, to decrease the odds that the sense of invincibility fails to dissipate over time). This sense of invincibility impels addicts to take inordinate risks. The resulting behaviors include texting while driving far more frequently than do non-addicts, as well as smoking, excessive use of indoor tanning beds, having unsafe sex and even failing to buckle up.

It’s crucial to get cause and effect right because once alcoholism has begun, no amount of cajoling, reason or education will cause a change in behaviors. Only by addressing alcoholism—the underlying cause of most misbehaviors—and getting addicts clean and sober can we hope to reduce excessive risk-taking. This is true even for teens.


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

“TRUE LOVE II: Police in Charleston, S.C., were called to sort out a domestic dispute at an apartment complex. As far as they can piece things together, Charles Baker, 33, got into a fight with his unnamed girlfriend, also 33, in the parking lot. It started when Baker pulled up and his girlfriend allegedly opened the door to his truck and punched him in the face. He responded by allegedly running her over, and then calling out ‘I love you baby!’ as he sped away. The woman was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor-sounding injuries, and Baker was arrested when he returned, charged with ‘criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature.’ Baker pointed out to officers that he did at least pull forward so the woman could pull her foot out from under his tire. (RC/WCSC Charleston) ...Quite the humanitarian gesture.”

Love and hate often go hand-in-hand, but rarely if ever do they take form in such extreme behaviors without alcohol or other-drug addiction. We can ascribe high odds that Baker has alcoholism, since domestic violence is almost always rooted in the disease. The girlfriend, having punched Baker, is also likely alcoholic. Without alcoholism, the story makes no sense. Viewing it through the lens of alcoholism, it makes perfect sense, even though the sober among us might be aghast.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2013 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

Welcome back after one of our longest hiatuses since we began in August 2004. Until the Petraeus Affair, there wasn’t anything that struck us as worthy of Top Story, and the other juicy news tidbits were rather spread out over the last few months as the election stayed in the headlines. As usual, however, to the extent that the media reported on events related to addiction, we show they don’t have a clue about the genesis of most newsworthy items in its coverage. In addition, we got pretty busy planning for Roth conversions and other year-end tax strategies (which you can read about at, and call us about if they intrigue you).

As a reminder, Alcoholism Myths and Realities is now available as an e-book either on amazon or IPG in multiple formats; we're working on the others.

Enjoy the latest Thorburn Addiction Report!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2012 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

Gen. David Petraeus’ Biographer Paula Broadwell and Socialite-Friend Jill Kelley:
Possible Alcoholics are Enmeshed in Positions of Power

The story is worthy of a soap opera or “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”: a highly respected General (also former director of the CIA) has a 10-month affair with a woman who, becoming obsessed with him, sends another woman, who she believes is flirting with him, threatening emails. Most people probably think, “it’s not real,” or “whatever.” However, there’s a lot more to this story, which should be taken very seriously by concerned citizens because it’s all-too real—and its likely genesis is all-too common.

A core theme of my work, from Drunks, Drugs & Debits (which we are selling to subscribers for $1 each plus shipping costs through January 31, 2013; email to Alcoholism Myths and Realities and this Report, is that addiction-aware observers can spot alcoholism-induced misbehaviors long before addictive use is ever proven. We can do this because alcohol and other-drug addiction causes distortions of perceptions and memory, as well as egomania. Very high odds of addiction can be ascribed when seemingly idiotic or unnecessarily risky behaviors are observed (caused by distortions of perception and memory), or when unethical or criminal acts are evident (as egomania compels the addict to attempt to wield inappropriate or capricious power over others). Another theme pervasive in my works stipulates that where we observe behaviors indicative of addiction, for our own safety as well as that of others we must assume its presence: addicts are capable of anything. Whenever we see “soap opera,” “obsessed” and “threatening,” we should look for addiction. In this case we find evidence for it in spades, even if we don’t have absolute proof.

Not everyone involved in these types of stories is an addict; non-addicts occasionally engage in unethical behaviors. General David Petraeus, 60, engaged in at least a modicum of such misbehaviors—he committed adultery. However, misbehaviors must be more evident to ascribe high odds of addiction. Such behaviors are apparent in the case of Petraeus’ biographer Paula Broadwell, 40—she became obsessive, possessive and threatening, committed adultery with a man 20 years her senior (she’s married to radiologist Scott Broadwell), appears arrogant, and seems prone to bragging about if not exaggerating her qualifications (as one columnist put it, “Margaret Thatcher once noted that if you had to tell people you were a lady, you probably weren’t”). Further, such misbehaviors utterly fill the lives of socialite Jill Kelley, 37, her husband surgeon Scott Kelley, MD and Jill’s twin-sister lawyer Natalie Khawam.

Jill Kelley’s contact with the FBI about allegedly hostile, graphic and threatening emails she received from Broadwell sparked the investigation that brought the Petraeus-Broadwell affair to light. Ironically, she also brought a lot of attention to her own misbehaviors. The Kelleys’ current residence, a palatial Tampa, Florida $1.8 million home has been in foreclosure since 2010 and Bank of America claims the Kelleys haven’t made a payment since 2009. They appear at some point to have taken equity out, since they owe more than $1.7 million on a home purchased for $1.5 million in 2004. A downtown Tampa office building, on which they owe $2.2 million, has also been in foreclosure since 2010. In 2010, Chase sued the Kelleys over the failure to pay a $25,000 revolving credit card debt while Regions Bank sued them over failure to pay $253,000 in credit card bills. All told, Jill and/or Scott Kelly have been the subject of at least nine lawsuits since they moved to Florida in 2004.

Financial distress is not uncommon after a real estate crash (Florida was especially devastated), which can bring down sober and non-sober individuals alike. The foreclosures by themselves do not give high odds of psychotropic drug addiction (psychotropic drugs are those capable of causing distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals); however, Dr. Kelley is apparently a well-known surgeon and, presumably, earns an excellent living. Lawsuits combined with financial distress in high income earners dramatically up the odds of substance addiction. Further, the fact that even under scrutiny the Kellys continue to live the life of Riley , remain in a home for which they are not paying and, until recently, held lavish parties for military brass give compelling odds that addiction explains (but does not excuse) the behaviors in one or both of the them. Additional clues are plentiful, even if they are unnecessary at this point for confirming very high odds of addiction.

There was only one tax filing (2007) for the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation, a non-profit listing only Jill Kelley, Scott Kelley and Natalie Khawam as trustees. The foundation, dedicated to “efforts to discover ways to improve the quality of life of terminally ill cancer patients,” listed $43,000 in meals and entertainment, $8,800 in travel, $25,000 in legal fees, nearly $9,000 in auto and $3,700 in office-related expenses even though the non-profit had no employees and was based in their palatial home. CharityWatch analyst Laurie Styron concluded, “The charity did not report that any of the…expenses were related to granting wishes to terminally ill adult cancer patients, as was its mission. With only three people on the charity’s board, two of them husband and wife, there was not enough independent oversight in place to ensure proper or efficient use of funds.” This smacks of incredibly poor judgment or, worse, fraud, the former of which is more common to addicts than non-addicts and the latter of which is the near-exclusive domain of alcohol and other-drug addicts.

The odds that psychotropic drug addiction explains one’s life are dramatically increased by seemingly trite misbehaviors. While there is no evidence of the Kelleys making derogatory remarks about others, which has proven on numerous occasions to be a great first clue to addiction, a sign company, Signs Now of Carollwood, sued them over $2,200 in unpaid invoices for a huge banner advertising “executive suites” at their downtown office building. The Kelleys disputed the charge to their American Express card because the sign company submitted the charge under a name they didn’t recognize. When the company told them American Express had denied payment, the Kelleys told them to use the American Express Card dispute process to resolve the matter rather than fixing it themselves. Craig Lewis, the son of the sign company owner, observed, “That’s the loophole they tried to use. They owned a huge office building downtown. He’s a doctor, and she described herself as a socialite….How could this be a big deal to them?” Mr. Lewis, addicts revel in wielding power over others, even over relatively tiny things. If neither is an alcohol or other-drug addict, it makes no sense. If either or both are, all of their behaviors make sense, including accusing Signs Now of trespassing on their property to repossess the signs after Signs Now had called them weekly asking for payment for nearly three months. In court documents, the Kelleys claimed “The taking of the signs created a scene and breached the peace.” The judge, however, not only ruled against the Kelleys, but ordered them to pay the $2,200 plus interest.

Jill’s sister Natalie Khawam has exhibited behavior even more outrageous. Despite earning income of more than $300,000 in both 2010 and 2011, she filed for bankruptcy in April 2012, listing more than $3 million in debt, including $600,000 to a St. Petersburg, Florida man, $53,000 to the IRS and an $800,000 personal loan from Jill and Scott Kelley, with whom she now lives. She listed $694 in savings; it’s “unclear” where all that money has gone. In a custody battle over whether Khawam was fit to parent her 4-year-old son, the head of the CIA and U.S. Marine Corps four-star Gen. John R. Allen, praised Khawam for her “maturity, integrity and steadfast commitment to raising her child.” After her husband tried to get custody, Khawam began filing domestic violence allegations. The court disagreed over Ms. Khawam’s “maturity” and “integrity,” finding the accusations were “ever-expanding,” “sensational,” and “so extraordinary, and…so distorted that they defy any common sense view of reality.” After a litany of hearings and psychological evaluations the judge wrote, “Ms. Khawam appears to lack any appreciation or respect for the importance of honesty and integrity in her interactions with her family, employers, and others with whom she comes in contact….The court fully expects that Ms. Khawam’s pattern of misrepresentations about virtually everything, including the most important aspects of her life, will continue indefinitely.” The judge also wrote she displayed a “willingness to say anything, even under oath, to advance her own personal interests at the expense of others.” It’s doubtful that many judges have called out an attorney as, essentially, a quintessential liar, or that many Generals have ever come to the defense of such a person. This alone places General Allen under scrutiny for possible alcoholism. In addition, according to court documents, Gen. Allen lives an extravagant lifestyle that conceals “mountains of money owed to banks and credit card companies,” further increasing his odds of addiction. Further, the Pentagon is looking into 20,000 to 30,000 pages of possible “inappropriate communication” between him and Jill Kelley (“email-itis” is a modern form of “telephonitis”—addicts controlling others via continuous phoning—clue # 22 in the chapter “A Supreme Being Complex” in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics). So, we have Khawam engaging in false accusations, enabled by a General who lives extravagantly while seemingly risking bankruptcy, carrying on with Khawam’s married sister. This appears to be a tangled web of addicts doing all they can to enable one another.

Moreover, Khawam had blown through four jobs in five years and had three failed engagements before marrying and then leaving her new husband. Serial jobs and failed engagements are each powerful clues to alcoholism; together they are compelling evidence. In one of her stints, she worked as a lawyer at the Tampa law firm Cohen, Foster and Romine and, after leaving, accused and sued the firm’s business consultant for sexual harassment. The firm’s founder, Barry Cohen (whose firm has also been sued by surgeon Scott Kelley), presented a “giant” stack of evidence accusing Khawam of fraud, in this case involving an apparent false accusation. In attempting to serve a subpoena on Khawam, Cohen’s process server noted that although four cars were in the driveway of the Kelleys’ home, with whom Khawam had by this time moved in, no one would answer the door. Several people came and went but wouldn’t say who they were; none would accept the papers. When a black SUV pulled in to the driveway, blocking his way out, and two men climbed out (apparently in menacing fashion) the server called 911. After he was told they were FBI agents, Jill Kelley came out of the home, screaming that the process server had assaulted her guests and employees. It appears that both sisters wield power via false accusations, the near-exclusive domain of alcoholics.

On another occasion, after complaining about reporters and asking Tampa police for help with trespassers and cameramen blocking access to her home, Kelley didn’t just act like an alcoholic—she sounded like she was under the influence. Speaking to a 911 dispatcher: “You know, I don’t know if by any chance, because I’m an honorary consul general, so I have involability [sic], so they should not be able to cross my property. I don’t know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well.” Aside from the fact that she made little sense, she engaged in hyperbole, as her “honorary” status invokes no special privileges and she is not actually a diplomat. Hyperbolic statements by media magnate Ted Turner were my first clue to his addiction.

Guide to Misbehaviors

Behavioral Clue to Addiction Odds of Addiction* Name
General David Patreaus Paula Broadwell Jill and/or Scott Kelley Natalie Khawam General John R. Allen
Adultery** 50%



Sexual relationship with a 20-year+ age difference** 30%



Extremely possessive of lover 30%


Makes threats 50%




Arrogant 50%




Brags and exaggerates about oneself 50%


Spends other people's money with abandon 60%




Deeply in debt*** 60%




Involved in numerous lawsuits 70%



Brings frivolous lawsuits 70%



Well known, high income with financial distress 80%




Lavish/extravagent lifestyle 50%




Doesn't pay one's bills 60%



Possible fraudulent charitable foundation 80%



Engages in trite misbehaviors 80%



Blows a lot of money with no apparent explanation 60%



Lies under oath 80%


Lies repeatedly (under oath or not) 80%



Makes false accusations 80%



Engages in email-itis** 50%





Repeatedly blows through jobs, engagements, and/or marriages 50%


Appears drunk in public during the daytime 90%+


Engages in hyperbole 50%



* Estimated odds of alcohol/other-drug addiction for any one behavior. To calculate the odds of addiction in any one person after the first alcoholic behavior is observed, as described in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: multiply the odds of any additional behaviors by the remainder percent and add to the previous percentage. Estimated odds cap out at 80% without proof of addictive use.

** Estimated odds of addiction in one party or the other; one may be codependent-victim.

***Estimated odds that either the person under scrutiny is an addict, or has been severly affected by one.

We can’t identify addiction in someone just because of who they hang out with. However, birds of a feather often flock together, especially when those birds are addicted ones. Ms. Khawam’s financial misbehaviors are not only beyond the pale, they make the tragic tales of financial abuse of others reported in Drunks, Drugs & Debits appear relatively benign. The odds that addiction explains her behaviors are not only exceedingly high, they are a textbook case. Identical twins share genes; studies have shown that when one has the disease the odds of addiction in the other are at least 50% (and there’s good reason to believe those studies are simply missing the rest). It’s crucial to keep in mind, too, that we give those who engage in misbehaviors the benefit of the doubt by assuming addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs and not other behavioral problems. While numerous characters in this scandal exhibit behaviors indicative of addiction, their closeness to the highest levels of power doesn’t contradict the possibility: as explained elsewhere they add to it. Due to the risk of blackmail (which no one is alleging), it also increases the odds that national security could be compromised. Aside from their relationships with Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Allen, Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam ate breakfast at the White House on September 28 and lunch on October 24, mere weeks before Petraeus resigned after admitting to the extramarital affair. What better way to wield power over friends, family and co-workers than by getting close to a man like Gen. David Petraeus, not to mention the President? If we’re correct in diagnosing substance addiction in the other players, Petraeus, whose reputation will be forever tarnished, will end up as one in a long list of tragic non-addicted victims of alcoholism.

Runners Up for Top Story:

Software millionaire John McAfee, 67, who sold his anti-virus Internet security company in 1994, apprehended in Guatemala after his Belizean neighbor, Florida restaurateur and builder Gregory Viant Faull, 52, was murdered execution-style. Belizean authorities claim they simply want to question McAfee, but they likely believe he killed Faull after a long-running feud boiled over into the poisoning of McAfee’s dogs, for which McAfee blames Faull. Considering the fact that the heavily tattooed and reportedly paranoid McAfee is known for violent behavior, engages in odd sexual proclivities, keeps at least a half dozen under-25-year-old girlfriends and has long been suspected of psychotropic drug use (including “bath salts,” an extremely dangerous drug related to methamphetamine), addictionologists wouldn’t be surprised if he is responsible for Faull’s murder. His dogs may contain proof of his guilt: after he found them poisoned, he told a girlfriend he put them out of their misery by shooting and burying them. Authorities recently dug up the dogs to see if the bullets match those in Faull’s head.

Eight members of the Forbidden Ones, the Dirty Ones and the Trouble Makers, biker gangs whose members average age 51, arrested and charged with firearms trafficking. Undercover officers bought 41 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammo and a full-sized cast-iron cannon as part of a two-year undercover sting; the gangs sold the weapons out of tattoo parlors they controlled in Brooklyn and Queens. The cannon was fully operational and parked at the front door of the Forbidden Ones’ clubhouse ready to be fired at infiltrators. Members wore “bangout patches,” an emblem of two handguns crossing, as a badge of honor for assaulting NYPD cops. Four of the eight arrested were too sick to make their arraignment and were instead admitted to a hospital. Two of them needed heroin detox; another, Scott Brannigan, 61, complained of high blood pressure and a bad heart. Agents found several improvised explosive devices, 20 guns, 2,000 envelopes of heroin and a couple of ounces of cocaine and marijuana inside Brannigan’s home—where his wife—are you ready?—operated a day care center. It’s nice to know that, as Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch put it, “Violent biker gangs are not outside the reach of the law no matter how many patches or tattoos they wear.” Or even if they operate day care centers inside their homes, filled with weapons and drugs.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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 behaviors themselves.

Former city of Bell, California police chief Randy Adams, whose attempt to more than double his yearly pension to $510,000 was rejected by administrative law judge James Ahler, who determined it was never properly approved by the Bell City Council. Adams ran the tiny police department for barely a year, but his extraordinary annual salary of $457,000, far higher than either the Los Angeles police chief or the police commissioner of New York City, put him in a position to more than double his retirement pension. Ahler said that keeping Adams’ contract secret was part of a plan to hide city salaries, spear-headed by former City Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo and former assistant administrator Angela Spaccia, whose names graced these pages in issues # 56 and # 57. While we got lucky in being able to prove Rizzo’s alcoholism—he was popped for a DUI a few months before the Bell scandal broke, which at 55 years of age virtually confirms alcoholism—we haven’t been as lucky with Adams. However, consider: (1) he may have taken part in a conspiracy to hide salaries, (2) he more than doubled his salary after leaving the city of Glendale, California, which is six times the size of Bell, (3) he exhibited extraordinary greed at taxpayers’ expense by squeezing the purse strings of the much-lower income residents of Bell, and (4) he asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination an astounding 20 times during the hearing. This all suggests a need to wield power over others in capricious fashion, which would be best explained by long-standing alcoholism.

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, accused of accepting bribes to reduce assessed valuations of properties represented by property tax consultant Ramin Salari, along with a top deputy of Noguez, Mark McNeil and a lower-level assessor’s office employee, Scott Schenter, all facing numerous corruption charges. Since the ongoing case (no one has been convicted—yet) involves bureaucrats and crapitalists, we will likely never get proof of psychoactive drug addiction in any of them. However, the behaviors of which they are accused (and for which the evidence seems overwhelming) speak loudly. In the meantime, Noguez is on paid leave and continues to collect his $197,637 yearly salary at taxpayers’ expense.

Alcoholic victim of the month:

Catherine Davis, 81, who was bludgeoned to death by actor Johnny Lewis just before Lewis, 28, either jumped or fell to his death from the roof or balcony of Davis’s two-story home. Lewis, who had a long history of drug addiction, was arrested at least four times this year on various charges of burglary and battery. Only on the third arrest was he ordered into a 30-day outpatient program for addicts, but was likely not ordered to undergo random and regular drug testing, which might have saved both lives. Davis died of blunt head trauma and had been strangled; her cat was also killed. Because there were two reported instances in which victims fought back and Lewis reportedly “didn’t even blink” despite being hit repeatedly in the head in one case and “not phased by any blows” in another, we might suspect his drug of choice was either meth, PCP or bath salts. Oddly, the coroner found no drugs in his system—but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any. More likely, they didn’t test for every possible drug. On the other hand, if he was sober there is a high probability his extensive drug use triggered a latent mental illness, although such illnesses rarely cause the afflicted to become so violent.

Codependent retrospective find of the month:

“Survivor” competitor Dana Lambert told her mother she was hooked on amphetamines and asked for a rather unusual 21st birthday gift: a stay in rehab. Her stunned mother asked: “you’ve got a problem with drugs?” This lack of awareness, even in close family members, is not uncommon. A great example involves “Full House” child star Jodi Sweetin: she grew up and was married to an LAPD cop for five years, two of which she was a  full-on methamphetamine addict. The cop husband didn’t have a clue. Codependents, including parents, are frequently unaware of addiction in friends, co-workers and even family members. Dana, now 32, spent 28 days in rehab and has reportedly been sober since.

Quote of the month:

“I tell lottery winners five things to protect themselves:

  1. Don’t tell anyone you won. If you can collect the money anonymously, do so.
  2. Stop and think for a minute before rushing down to collect the check.
  3. Don’t take the lump sum payment. Take the money over time instead.” Etc.

So writes financial guru Don McNay. However, he leaves out one giant point: “Get sober.” While he notes that about 90% of lottery winners run through their winnings in five years or less, he fails to connect the dots between the largely mathematically-impaired down-on-their “luck” lotto players and alcohol/other-drug addiction. The latest victim of her own excess: Amanda Clayton, who after winning a million-dollar lottery was convicted of collecting state welfare money, and is now dead at age 25 from a drug overdose. McNay writes, “Like so many lottery losers, Amanda made the first big mistake when she won the lottery: she let the world know she won.” Sorry Mr. McNay; her first mistake was taking her first drink, hit or snort.

Retrospective find of the month:

Rickie Lee Fowler, who in 2008 was accused of setting the catastrophic 2003 “Old Fire” that destroyed 1,000 homes and blackened thousands of acres in the San Bernardino Mountains that led to five deaths, convicted and sentenced to death. Deputy District Attorney Robert Bullock noted that Fowler, a violent methamphetamine addict, raped and brutalized at least two girlfriends, one of whom was pregnant with his son, and sodomized a jail cellmate whom he had turned into a “sex slave.” In a classic case of “you never know what an addict may do next,” according to the prosecutor Fowler deliberately set the blaze in a fit of rage against his godfather, who had kicked him out of his home at the top of Waterman canyon. As he threw a lighted road flare into brush at the base of the mountains on a Santa Ana-windy October day, we wonder if he said to himself, “I’ll show that damned godfather!” The damage that addicts can wreak is breathtaking.

Video of the month:

JZ Knight, the cult-like head of The Ramtha School of Enlightenment, was filmed making derogatory comments about Mexicans, Catholics, gays and others. Clue # 14 in the chapter (and category) “A Supreme Being Complex” in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics is “Belittles others.” While belittling others, including entire classes of people, is a subtle way to inflate the ego at others’ expense, I’ve long noted it’s a wonderfully accurate clue to alcoholism, and often the first observable one. But in this video, we get much more: she’s high as a kite. But then, what would we expect of a cult-like leader claiming to channel a 35,000-year-old warrior? The school is suing a former student for publicizing the videos. But then, we’d expect that too.

Study of the month:

A Swiss study concluded that students who “pre-drink,” which is drinking alcohol before heading out to an event (such as, in this study, a bar, club or sporting event), are much more likely to have a blackout, unprotected sex, unplanned (other-)drug use or injury. Researchers found that students who pre-drank consumed on average seven drinks in an evening while those who drank only at a bar or event consumed just over four drinks. The difference is night and day: alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic drinking, and alcoholic vs. non-alcoholic behaviors. The addictionologist would have predicted precisely this outcome. The wonder is the researchers even bothered with the study (except why not: they probably used other people’s money). We’ll make another prediction (note to researchers: please don’t spend our money unwisely): nearly all of those who pre-drank and had a blackout, unprotected sex, unplanned other-drug use or injury, will at some point in their lives become obvious alcoholics or grateful recovering ones.

Chutzpah of the month # 1:

Diana Williamson, MD, 56, once lauded for her AIDS treatment work including the founding of an AIDS hospital, convicted of defrauding Medicaid out of $300,000 in part by writing about 11,000 phony prescriptions for painkillers (purchased with Medicaid tax dollars) peddled on the street. Williamson, who pleaded guilty, blamed “Nala,” one of her “multiple personalities,” for committing the crimes. Defense lawyer Jonathan Marks explained that Nala was “mischievous, irresponsible, reckless and, as we have just discovered, criminal.” Williamson added that Nala “committed these crimes without telling Diana or the other parts of me about them….Perhaps it sounds incredible that a part of me could be doing something that the rest of me would not know about.” Just a hunch, but perhaps Williamson didn’t peddle all those pills (she may have taken more than a few herself). The myth of multiple personalities was debunked in the “review of the month” in issue # 67 of TAR.

Chutzpah of the month # 2:

Juanita Cunningham, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with a police shooting of her son, Samuel Thomas Cunningham III, two years ago, just as the two-year statute of limitations for initiating a civil action was expiring. Cunningham had already stabbed John Jennings and was slashing at his throat when Detective Lou Pasqualetti heard a drunken fight in process, investigated and looked through the front door of the apartment where the fight was occurring. In what Pasqualetti described as a “split-second” decision in a use-of-force report filed after the shooting, he shot Cunningham to save Jennings, whose neck Cunningham was in the process of slashing. Mrs. Cunningham claims her son’s civil rights were violated by the shooting and, though unemployed at the time, he was “strong and healthy at the time of his death and capable of earning a living.” In her lawsuit, she claims her grandson, 17 at the time of the shooting, lost “his parent and the monetary value of the life of his parent [and we] have lost the value of [Cunningham’s] advice, example, counsel and company, and all of the other intangible items of uncountable value that their loved one meant.” Yup, like an entire life on how not to act when the grandson grows up.

Enablers of the month:

Journalists David Zahniser and Corina Knoll, for failing in an L.A. Times piece to connect the dots in regards to (1) Andrea Alarcon, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s top appointee on the Board of Public Works, (2) the abandonment one Friday night of her 11-year-old daughter, who was found unattended at City Hall, (3) her failure to “turn up” until about 2 a.m., after her daughter had been taken to the LAPD’s Central Division station, (4) Alarcon’s arrest on suspicion of DUI about a year ago, with a child in her car and (5) her decision “to seek professional help and treatment.” Granted, Alarcon asked the media to respect her family’s privacy “during this difficult time,” and the connection is pretty obvious—but not to everyone. Alarcon, 33, is a public figure who earns $130,000 on the taxpayers’ dime; one might argue those taxpayers have a right to know what’s going on, especially in regards to a having a disease that could compel her to commit fraud or other crime against not only her daughter, family, friends and co-workers, but also the  public. On a related note, her father, longtime Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon is being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office in a case involving his (alleged) lies about living in a house in his Panorama City district—or not. Keep in mind, alcoholism runs rampant in some families—not because they are bad people, but because of a genetic link rooted in ancestry.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Native American and sometimes-libertarian activist Russell Means, dead at age 72 after a “general decline in health” subsequent to a reportedly successful battle with esophageal cancer. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s he participated in the occupation of Alcatraz, the seizing of the Mayflower ll (a replica of the original), the occupation and trashing of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Washington offices by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and, in the coup de grace, the occupation of the hamlet of Wounded Knee in the Pine River reservation where, in 1890, 300 Lakota Indians were killed by the U.S. army. Means, along with some 200 others, held out through blizzards and machine gun fire against federal guardsmen for 71 days. He ran for the Presidency on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988 (losing the bid to Congressman Ron Paul) and appeared in three dozen movies and television shows from 1992 until his death. Along the way he led a life of volatility as only addicts do: his face was crossed with the scars of numerous barroom brawls, he led and quit as head of the AIM six times before the movement split and he married five times. He defied authority, as do many addicts, in countless other ways: he never had a drivers’ license, a fishing permit or an Indian ID card and for 21 years he refused to pay income tax.

Dutch actress and model Sylvia Kristel, who made cinematic history by starring in the soft-core film “Emmanuelle” in 1974, dead at 60 from esophageal and lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking unfiltered cigarettes. According to The Economist, “she smoked at 11, and sneaked cognac from the bar” at the hotel her parents ran; her parents may have both snuck it, too: her mother is described by The Economist as “tippling” and her father left the mother for another woman just a few years later. Her drugs of choice became Dom Perignon and cocaine, which she thought of, according to Wikipedia, as a "supervitamin, a very fashionable substance, without danger, but expensive, far more exciting than drowning in alcohol – a fuel necessary to stay in the swing." And that she did, but not without the ups and downs experienced by so many addicts. Largely capitalizing on her sexually provocative image from the first “Emmanuelle,” she appeared in over 50 films, including four of seven in the Emmanuelle series, but along the way lost her entire savings on a film project, leaving her with $400 at the time. She was described, again by The Economist, as “seething with contradictions”: at once responsible and restrained, with an IQ of 167 and fluent in five languages, while she was “also a rebel who embraced freedom and fed freely on excess.” Such “contradictions” are classic alcoholism. And, as is so common among addicts, she pushed a revolution along—in this case, the sexual one: such a film as “Emmanuelle” had never before been on general release; Brazil, Spain, Japan and the Arab world banned it, while Britain cut it heavily.

Teri Shields, who promoted and managed the career of her daughter, actress Brooke Shields, dead at 79 after a long illness linked to dementia. I’ve long noted that many child actors have had careers driven by an alcoholic parent, and Brooke Shields is no exception. Teri’s single-minded promotion is something an addictionologist would expect of an alcoholic parent. She wielded power by doing all she could to ensure her child would become a monstrous success. And that she did, beginning with Brooke’s appearance at 11 months in an Ivory soap commercial. She allowed her 10-year-old daughter to be photographed nude for a Playboy Press publication. Two years later she let her be cast as a preteen prostitute in the 1978 film “Pretty Baby,” for which Teri earned much criticism, only the first of a number of roles that critics considered too sexual for Brooke’s age. The nude childhood photos gave a New York Supreme Court justice an excuse to lecture Teri for choices she had made for her young daughter, while dismissing a lawsuit by Teri and Brooke to suppress those same photos. Justice Edward Greenfield said that Teri was trying to be “maternally protective but exploitative at the same time….She cannot have it both ways” (even if alcoholics often try). At least we can thank you Teri, for bringing us Brooke.

Actor Larry Hagman of “Who shot J.R.?” and “I Dream of Jeannie” fame, dead from cancer at 81. Hagman, the son of “Peter Pan” star Mary Martin, was considered the “unofficial mayor of Malibu,” having lived there for decades in an oceanfront home. He often led impromptu parades on the sand while wearing wild costumes; I ran into him back in my surfing days in the 1970s, realizing much later that he was the crazy guy covered with what I recall was a toga-like or karate robe. He admitted to having drunk his way through “Dallas,” which ran from 1978 to 1991, uncorking a bottle of champagne at 9 a.m. and keeping it flowing all day. When diagnosed with liver cirrhosis in 1992, he became an instant teetotaler and later spoke openly about decades of alcoholic drinking (which began at age 15) that led to his cirrhosis, a cancerous tumor on his liver and, in 1995, a liver transplant. He was often asked how his liver transplant operation changed his life; he responded that apart from saving it, nothing changed. (Too bad nobody asked how his diagnosis with cirrhosis changed his life.) On the “I Dream of Jeannie” set, he reportedly drove his co-workers crazy with tantrums and destructive behavior he later attributed to perfectionism. (All-too-often, alcoholics don’t understand their own disease; for the uninitiated reading this, his behaviors were of course alcoholism-induced.) He said it took $40,000 in therapy sessions to learn to be calmer; he could have spent a whole lot less had he instead gone to AA meetings, but I digress. Through all of this, he remained married to one woman, whom he married in 1954, once again showing that we can’t predict the behaviors of a practicing alcoholic, whether good or bad.

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.

Do gun owners or addicts cause tragedy?

"'Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. ...Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.'"

So said Bob Costas during a National Football League half-time show on national television, channeling Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock after the tragic murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher, 25 and his on-again off-again girlfriend and mother of his child Kasandra Perkins, 22. He added, "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."

Jovan Belcher was drinking heavily almost continuously and popping loads of prescription painkillers, the labels for which very clearly tell users not to drink any alcohol. Because Belcher was drinking heavily while popping pills he was a readily-diagnosable alcohol and other-drug addict.

Addiction, Mr. Costas, is a disorder that causes afflicted people to act badly (and sometimes, unpredictably, horribly) some of the time. Addicts are capable of anything. If Belcher didn't have a gun, he easily could have killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, with his hands, or with a knife, or with his car, or in any number of other ways. Addicts are quite resourceful this way: consider O.J. Simpson (not) brutally murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman using only a knife.

Nearly every murder is committed by an addict. Guns save far more in lives than they cost; one study suggests more than two million people successfully defend themselves and their loved ones every year by wielding a gun. As John Lott proves in his book More Guns, Less Crime, taking guns away from most people only increases levels of crime.

Admittedly however, guns make it a bit easier to commit murder. Therefore, targeting those who have proven to society they are not capable of controlling their behaviors when under the influence could be a topic for rational debate. Already, felons are proscribed from owning guns. On the other hand, many a felon has committed murder using a gun that he was not allowed to possess, so this is not likely to reduce murder in dramatic fashion.

Do we need to create more felons to give us an excuse to prohibit gun ownership by those who might mis-use guns? While that would help at the margin, there are already too many felons. Generally, a DUI isn't a felony. However, it is pretty good evidence for addiction, which in turn shows we can't predict how destructive a person could become, or when. Society might prohibit gun ownership for at least a period of time by those convicted of DUI. Again, however, this isn't likely to substantially reduce the number of murders.

By far the largest cause of violence outside of war is alcoholic egomania, which compels addicts to wield capricious power over others. Nearly every murder, assault, battery, instance of domestic violence, rape and other serious crime is committed by alcohol and other-drug addicts. If we really want to make it so that future Jovan Belchers and Kasandra Perkins remain alive, we need to dramatically reduce the number of active addicts. To do that, we need people to diagnose addiction, stop the enabling and intervene. I often say that for every tragedy that occurs in the life of an addict there were usually dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened, but didn't.  One can only imagine the enabling of Jovan Belcher by family, friends, co-workers and even his employer (despite their purported prevention efforts--after all, his alcoholic drinking was well-known) before tragedy occurred.

Costas, quoting Whitlock, said that handguns "exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it." He added, "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." No Mr. Costas. Alcoholism exacerbates our flaws, tempts us to escalate arguments, and baits us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. If Jovan Belcher had been clean and sober, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

Click here to check out Doug's movie reviews.

My Wife’s a Drunk, But I Don’t Know it

Dear Doug:

My wife, to whom I have been married for eight months, is making me wonder if we got married too young. She’s just 23 and I’m 27.

She has a habit of going out with friends, getting drunk, and staying the night at her friends’ homes. I don’t want to be a control-freak and tell her she can’t go out, but the fact that she wants to spend the night with her single friends and get drunk is troublesome. What should I do?


Un-controlling husband

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might say your wife is trying to “hold onto her carefree single days.” While they might suggest it’s unfortunate she can’t do that without getting smashed, at least she’s not driving until she sobers up the next day. Such columnists would suggest that you both widen your circle of friends in a bid to spend more time with other more mature couples.

Incredibly, such columnists would completely miss the root of the problem: your wife has alcoholism, a disease that causes her to biochemically process alcohol very differently from the way a non-addict like you processes the drug.

It’s hard to grasp the idea that alcohol makes the alcoholic act in ways non-addicts never would. Would you ever dream of leaving your wife (especially your newly betrothed!) o that you could go out drinking with your friends—and then spend the night at one of their homes? Of course not. Yet she does this frequently.

Whether you married too young is impossible to say. However, you married an alcoholic. Contrary to the extraordinary claim a columnist might make, she is not trying to “hold onto her carefree single days” and widening your (or her) circle of friends will do nothing to solve the problem. Nor will hanging out with “more mature couples” do anything to make her act more mature.

She needs to get sober and fast, before your marriage is irreparably harmed. You need to do whatever you can to arrange an intervention with a qualified interventionist. Be aware, however, that you may be swimming against the tide: alcoholism is heritable, so her parents may have the disease as well. Her friends are alcoholics. You will have to search far and wide to find enough people willing to help intervene to have an effect. And if you can’t, after at least giving her a choice between you and the bottle, leave her before she takes you down with her—because living with an alcoholic will do that, and hard. As the great alcoholism authority George E. Vaillant put it: “Outside of residence in a concentration camp, there are very few sustained human experiences that make one the recipient of as much sadism as does being a close family member of an alcoholic.” You have not come close to experiencing the worst of it, yet. You don’t want to.

(Source for story idea: Dear Abby, October 16, 2012)

And a bonus Dear Doug for this issue, which in this case isn’t as obvious:

Mother controls via ultimatums

Dear Doug:

My partner’s mother has always been unsupportive and critical of her. Lately, she has given several ultimatums threatening she will refuse to come over for various family holiday gatherings. She “won’t come over” if we adopt two cats to be companions for our dog, or if we invite friends to Thanksgiving dinner, or if I invite any of my family for Christmas dinner. My partner says we should adopt the cats, invite our friends to Thanksgiving and have my family over for Christmas. If we do any of this, I fear we’ll never see her mother again. I feel torn.


Torn between families

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might correctly respond that this is a terrorist-like grab for control and, while you should invite her over, you can’t let her take control of your pet or guest list. They might point out this is a “divide and conquer” technique and that if you give in to one unreasonable demand, such demands will multiply. So far, so good. But then such columnists might suggest that if you and your partner stay on the same page and remain firm, her mother could come around.

Not likely.

Your partner’s mother’s need to control is so extreme and abhorrent, the odds that its likely root isn’t alcoholism is near-zero. If correct, she is not likely to “come around” until clean and sober. If you’re thinking, “But she’s never stunk of alcohol!” consider the fact that a cocktail of psychotropic pharmaceutical drugs does the same thing: it fuels egomania, which in turn switches on a need to wield power over others. Control over others’ lives in ways such as she is trying to do with yours is just one of countless ways to wield power. The best thing you can do is assume alcohol (or other-drug addiction—it doesn’t matter which drug or drugs) and try to get your partner on board for an intervention with a qualified interventionist. Only then will you be dealing with the real mother, who will be far more amenable than the likely drug-addicted one with whom you are trying to reason, but can’t.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, November 14, 2012.)

“She’s not going to be stable until she gets on medication.”

So said Bebe Anderson in explaining that her daughter, KoKo Nicole Anderson, 21, who had crashed through a gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and drove onto a runway with her infant son in the car, suffered from bipolar disorder.

The trouble with this explanation is, as described in Alcoholism Myths and Realities, alcohol and other-drug addiction mimics (and sometimes triggers) mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

Police found KoKo in her car with the 2-month-old baby’s pacifier in the mother’s mouth. She told officers she wanted her flip-flop shoe. She was acting so erratically, a drug recognition officer (DRE) was called to the scene. Since a charge of aggravated DUI was added to charges of criminal damage and DREs are the law enforcement experts in identifying people who are under the influence, we can safely assume she was on something. Despite the claims of those who believe they can “dually diagnose” both a personality disorder and substance addiction, she needs to get clean and sober before being diagnosed as bipolar, which I seriously doubt will be the case.

If Bebe Anderson wants to help her granddaughter to avoid becoming yet one more tragic and very innocent victim of an undiagnosed and untreated psychotropic drug addict, she will correct her thinking to, “She’s not going to be stable until she gets off her drugs, whatever they may be.”

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

“STRIKE TWO: After a sex scandal in Colombia, the U.S. Secret Service, which is charged with providing protection to the president and presidential candidates, issued an order prohibiting ‘excessive drinking’ by agents. Weeks after that order, President Barack Obama made a Florida campaign stop at the University of Miami. Shortly after the president left, a police officer found a man lying down at a busy intersection at 7:00 a.m. He told the man, who had a ‘strong odor of alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath,’ to get up, but he refused. The cop helped the man up -- and the man allegedly punched him. The officer called for backup, and once he got the man handcuffed, identified him as Aaron Francis Engler, an officer of the Secret Service and part of the president's security detail. Engler, who apparently wasn't armed, was charged with disorderly intoxication, and resisting arrest. (RC/Miami Herald) ...Does anyone else wonder what happened to his gun?”

Great quip Randy, but it’s also a great question.

In the Top Story (“The Afghani Massacre and the Secret Service Scandal: the Common Thread is Alcoholism”) of issue # 69 of TAR I wrote, “Nearly all law enforcers who act badly do so not because they are fundamentally rotten, but rather because they have the disease of alcohol or other-drug addiction. Since they hold particularly powerful positions in the public trust, more than others they need to be sober.” I’ve long argued that because addicts are capable of anything, law enforcement agencies of all stripes should screen out alcoholics via regular and random screening, with failure requiring treatment and proven sobriety using ankle bracelets. Consider this story: God only knows where the agent’s gun was or worse, what sort of secrets might have been divulged. Some might retort, “Oh, he’s a Secret Service agent; he would never do that because he knows better” doesn’t cut it. He already passed out, may have lost his gun and may have suffered a blackout, during which time he could have done anything. American soldier Robert Bales knew better than to massacre 17 Afghanis, but he was in a blackout—and those can happen to any alcoholic at any time while drinking and during such times addicts are capable of anything.

And as for the idiotic Presidential order prohibiting “excessive” drinking: it’s unnecessary to tell non-addicts to drink in moderation, while it’s futile to tell alcoholics to do so.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2012 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

Welcome back, rather quickly to a "regular" TAR because, well, we don't control the news. There were a number of newsworthy events over the last few weeks that we just had to comment on. Our favorite piece is "chutzpah of the month," but we think you'll find every article interesting and, in a few cases, shocking. As usual, we show that the media doesn't have a clue in its coverage of the news.

As a reminder, Alcoholism Myths and Realities is now available as an e-book either on or IPG in multiple formats; we're working on the others.

Enjoy the latest Thorburn Addiction Report!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2012 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

James E. Holmes Murders 12 in an Aurora, CO Theater: Another mass murderer, another undiagnosed substance addict

I used to say, “While the vast majority of mass murderers in U.S. history have been alcohol or other-drug addicts, I’m sure there are exceptions,” and used as my prime example Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. However, I eventually learned I was wrong: McVeigh was a methamphetamine addict.

In the Top Story of issue # 29 of TAR, I suggested that Cho Seung-Hui, who murdered 32 and injured 25 in a shooting spree at Virginia Tech, was no different. I examined an article by Bob Unruh entitled, “Are meds to blame for Cho’s rampage?” in which he, like many, blamed anti-depressants (which are not psychotropic drugs) on mass murder. He listed 20 school shooters, all of whom he said were on one or more of these anti-depressants, including Luvox and Prozac. Bear in mind journalists don’t have a clue as to the critical importance of addictive use of alcohol and other psychotropic drugs and authorities are often reluctant to release toxicology reports; therefore, proof of addictive use is often elusive. Despite this dearth of information, I found that at least eight of the 20 shooters—four times what we’d expect of a random sample of the population—were known heavy alcohol users (i.e., “alcoholics”) or on Xanax or Valium, both of which are psychotropic drugs capable of causing distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals. Another three mass murderers were on Ritalin, a commonly-prescribed amphetamine, which was one of Judy Garland’s favorite drugs. A 12th shooter was described as being on “a variety of prescriptions,” which were not likely limited to just the anti-depressants. The rest were old enough to have used alcohol or other drugs addictively; such use generally begins by age 13. I concluded that “since 80-90% of convicts are alcohol or other-drug addicts and it’s so darned difficult to obtain actual evidence of use even on the Internet, the idea that only 11 [65% of these] mass murderers were such addicts strains credulity.” If journalists actually understood the role of alcoholism, they would look for and report it in the first paragraph of news stories, rather the 27th, if at all.

The fact that many shooters are on anti-depressants could be coincidence. Many mass murderers are not on these drugs and there were countless such killings long before they were invented. Consider the alcoholic Ivan the Terrible who, using sleighs, had at least 15,000 citizens of Novgorod chained and dragged to their deaths in the Volkhov River in 1570—and drowning was among the most humane ways he murdered his subjects (see James Graham’s Secret History of Alcoholism). Anti-depressants also could serve as a trigger for alcohol and other-drug addicts, potentiating their effect. I would argue, however, that psychotropic drugs, including alcohol, are all-but-essential in creating such horrific behaviors and that anti-depressants are not an essential component. The fact that shooters are often on anti-depressants may be simply coincidence: psychiatrists may prescribe anti-depressants to full-blown alcoholics without identifying the true source of the patients’ problems, instead misdiagnosing alcoholism for mental illness as therapists did to my long-ago ex-fiancée (the story of which I tell in Drunks, Drugs & Debits).

Elsewhere (issue # 13, issue # 24, and issue # 53 of TAR, along with my article on bin Laden shortly after 9-11 at ), I’ve made a case that suicide bombers—mass murderers of a different stripe—are high on a cocktail of psychotropic drugs, possibly either an amphetamine-tranquilizer combo or khat (Scrabble® players may spell it “qat”) or some combination.

In the worst of recent shootings, James E. Holmes’ murdered 12 and wounded 58 in an Aurora, CO theater. Journalists and pundits have displayed their usual ignorance of the likelihood that addiction is the best explanation for the deadly behaviors. The evidence, however, leads the addiction-aware to a near certainty that Holmes’ actions were, in fact, driven by alcohol or other-drug addiction-fueled egomania.

  1. The behaviors alone suggest at least 80% odds of addiction to psychotropic drugs, most likely alcohol and / or an amphetamine-tranquilizer drug cocktail, capable of causing distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals; two manifestations of this are impaired judgment and an inflated sense of self—a God complex. Holmes clearly exhibited both in spades.
  2. After graduating with highest honors in the spring of 2010 with a neuroscience degree from UC Riverside, Holmes enrolled in the neuroscience Ph. D. program at the University of Colorado-Denver, but withdrew unexpectedly. Alcohol or other-drug addiction usually explains the inexplicable, including bizarre behaviors that have us shaking our heads and asking, “What’s he thinking?” It also usually explains huge changes in behavior, especially from “good” to “bad,” with the converse occurring when an addict gets clean and sober.
  3. A furniture mover, who obviously didn’t know him (“I figured he was one of the college students”), said he had drinks with Holmes at a local bar two days before the shooting. So, he was at a local bar on weeknight talking with a furniture mover, with whom a doctoral student is likely to have little in common other than sports. Drinking must have been very important to Holmes. When drinking is that important, there is addiction.
  4. Holmes went to that bar by himself. While heading to a local bar by oneself on a weeknight is not always indicative of alcoholism, it usually is. As a good friend pointed out, “This was not social drinking with friends. This is, ‘I need to drink, and I’ll chat with whoever is there.’”
  5. A neighbor “often” saw him at the bar. There you go.
  6. Glenn Rotkovich, who owns a gun range where Holmes wanted to practice shooting, reviewed Holmes’ application, made a routine call to invite him for an orientation and got his answering machine. According to Rotkovich, Holmes had a “bass, guttural, rambling, incoherent message that was bizarre, at best.” It was so bizarre Rotkovich decided he didn’t want him shooting at his range.
  7. While described as brilliant by many, a grad student who oversaw him during an internship at a computer lab at the Salk Institute at UC San Diego, said “His grades were mediocre….Holmes was enormously stubborn and refused to follow instructions [for a project].…He never completed the project. What he gave me was a complete mess.” Mental confusion and/or arrogance that manifests in stubbornness and a refusal to follow rational and appropriate instructions, which these appear to have been, are excellent behavioral indicators of substance addiction.
  8. Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist. While many non-addicts see psychiatrists, we suspect the odds of addiction in a person seeking such medical help are much greater than in the overall population.
  9. Holmes’ psychiatrist, 51-year-old Dr. Lynn Fenton who, to her credit, reported to authorities she was concerned about him a few weeks before the tragedy, was disciplined by the State of Colorado medical board in 2005. She had prescribed medications to herself, her husband and an employee without maintaining proper medical charts; the medications included the psychotropic drugs Vicodin, Xanax, lorazepam (Ativan) and Ambien. She was ordered to complete more than 50 hours of medical training and to promise not to prescribe medications to family members or employees. There is no record of her being diagnosed as an addict or required to enter a program of sobriety, but the addictionologist would likely ask, “Why not?” We might hypothesize that addicted MDs are more likely to prescribe addictive drugs than non-addicted ones even if she may have stopped prescribing for him, based on the fact she warned the University of Colorado about Holmes’ potential for violence several weeks before the shootings.
  10. Finally, Holmes’ pupil size in court, even several days after the shootings, strongly indicates addiction. Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Thomas Page wrote to me regarding this picture: “The pupils are very dilated, probably about 8.5 millimeters in diameter. This compares with pupils of about 4.0 mm in normal room light and is especially noteworthy since courtroom light is usually quite bright. Stimulants, hallucinogens and, to a lesser degree, marijuana and the so-called ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ cause dilation. Since these photos were taken four days after the shootings, during which time he was in police custody, it’s crucial also to note that withdrawal from narcotics such as heroin and OxyContin can also cause pupil dilation to this degree.”

In terms of behavioral proof, the mass shootings indicate a near-certainty of addiction. The other behaviors further confirm the hypothesis. Short of blood testing, pupil size is probably the single best physiological proof of addictive use. Holmes’ drinking patterns, other behaviors and pupil size allow us to conclude that psychotropic drug addiction, once again, is the underlying cause of barbaric actions.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Wade Michael Page, who murdered six before being gunned down by police at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, was described as a “gentle and kind and loving” child by his stepmother Laura Page. She wondered, “And what happened, God only knows, because I don’t.” Let me try and explain, Ms. Page: your step-son, gentle and kind and loving though he may have been, inherited alcoholism. How do we know? He had convictions for criminal mischief and arrests for driving under the influence; as a soldier in 1998 he was demoted for being drunk on duty and was later discharged for “patterns of misconduct”; he was also fired by a trucking company after being cited for driving while impaired. Pete Simi, a journalist who studied and wrote about White Supremacists in California, lived with him for a period of time and reports he “drank heavily.” An evaluation of his behavior (see my work, including Drunks, Drugs and Debits and How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics) shows your step-son was clearly an alcoholic. We cannot begin to predict how destructive a practicing alcoholic may become or when, regardless of how gentle, kind and loving the person may otherwise be. Unfortunately, your step-son engaged in an extreme example of such destructive behaviors. We also know that alcoholics are capable of anything. This is what is meant by “anything.”

UC Irvine pharmaceutical sciences professor Rainer Reinscheid was understandably upset when his teenage son hanged himself after being disciplined by an assistant principal at his high school. Most parents would grieve for years, but would never consider vengeance, which is what Reinscheid allegedly did. He was arrested after setting a series of small fires at the high school, the assistant principal’s home and the park where his son died and now faces several counts of arson. In an email, while reportedly “on medication and drinking a second bottle of wine,” he wrote he had dreams of burning down the school, getting a dozen machine guns, shooting administrators and sexually assaulting at least one of them. He then planned to shoot “at least 200 students” before killing himself, asserting total control, as if to say to the police, “Not even you can touch me.” Non-addicts pale in comparison with addicts in having a need to control everything. Note also that few non-addicts can finish a bottle of wine at one sitting, much less get through part of another bottle, and the number of non-addicts mixing “medication” and alcohol is very low—non-addicts tend to follow the instructions on the package that says “do not drink alcohol while taking this medication”. In addition, non-addicts don’t set fires or dream of burning down schools and killing hundreds of people. And by the way, with a dad like this we should ask what really made his son commit suicide.

Hans Kristian Rausing, 49, billionaire heir to his Swedish family’s drink carton company (his grandfather, Ruben Rausing, invented the Tetra Laval milk carton in the 1960s), was stopped for driving erratically. Drugs were found in his car and, in a subsequent search of their luxurious London townhouse, the body of his wife, Eva Rausing, was found. Her body was largely decomposed, under a pile of clothing and garbage bags that had been taped together in a fly-filled room. Officers were fortunate: the stench was at least partly offset with deodorizing powder. Kristian, in one of the classics in the annals of alcoholically-induced confabulated thinking, explained he couldn’t survive without his wife. He was arrested but quickly exonerated of murder by a judge, who ruled that Eva likely died from heart failure coupled with longstanding drug “abuse” (i.e., addiction) more than two months before being found. During this time, whenever friends or family asked about Eva, Kristian gave vague replies but never, according to reports, suggested anything was awry. I’ve a hunch an addictionologist would have strongly suspected something, but I digress. Eva, who was 48 and the daughter of a wealthy Pepsi executive, was arrested four years earlier for trying to smuggle crack cocaine and heroin into the U.S. Embassy in London. A decision by the judge to drop charges in favor of a conditional caution, which attracted criticism of double standards for wealthy offenders, obviously didn’t do Ms. Rausing any favors; money, as so often proves true, enabled Ms. Rausing to her death. Kristian was sentenced to a 10-month suspended jail sentence that will require extensive drug rehab. He noted, “I do not feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that following her death I acted rationally.” You think? Ah, the lives of addicts; nothing surprises, and yet, in one of the numerous paradoxes that is addiction, the variations in behaviors are so endless they all surprise.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, a recent story follows for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Michael Steven Poret, arrested on suspicion of vandalism, having “calmly [fired] metal marbles from a slingshot across six lanes of Ventura Boulevard in broad daylight,” as well as at night, and shattering windows at dozens of businesses and homes over a several month period along the Sherman Oaks-Encino-Tarzana-Woodland Hills corridor. Poret, 58, a vice-president at UBS Financial Services in Beverly Hills, may have been stressed by the markets. More likely, he’s just doing what alcoholics do: wielding power capriciously, however odd this particular style appears to be. Los Angeles police raided his Encino home and found an arsenal of slingshots, marbles, BB guns and firearms. Note to law enforcement authorities: this could have been a lot worse. After all, if Mr. Poret has alcoholism—and the alleged behaviors alone suggest the odds are at least 80% (see the Thorburn Substance Addiction Recognition Indicator, as well as How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics for an updated version of the TSARI)—he is capable of anything. Those marbles could be bullets next time. Please, for the sake of the community, treat him accordingly.

Codependent of the month:

Ryan Lochte, who despite his father’s alcoholism (Steve Lochte has multiple arrests for DUI), succeeded against the odds by winning two gold medals (along with three others) at the London Olympics. On the other hand, we don’t know yet whether he inherited his father’s alcoholism and that, perhaps, his success is motivated by an inflated ego. While the jury’s out, he can certainly put them away—take a look at his pupil size here. While they are not big enough to suggest stimulants, they do suggest a lot of booze in the system; but then, a lot of young people party hard. In the meantime, congratulations Ryan—and to all the other athletes who competed; it’s quite an accomplishment. For the uninitiated who may think Olympians and Olympic swimmers can’t be alcoholics, think again: Roy Saari, gold medalist swimmer at the 1964 Olympics, was full-on (even if you’d never know it from his obituaries, including this one), and the man widely considered the greatest athlete ever, Jim Thorpe had alcoholism. Being an alcoholic does not preclude one from being an amazing athlete and, as I’ve often pointed out, an extraordinary overachiever.

Untrue quote of the month:

“[Thomas] Eagleton, little more than an acquaintance of Mr. McGovern’s, was hurriedly picked despite vague rumors of alcoholism (untrue) and mental illness (true).”

So wrote Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, in a review of Joshua M. Glasser’s new book, The Eighteen-Day Running Mate. Partly as a result of the failure to properly vet the late Senator Thomas Eagleton (D-MO) while running for President in 1972, George McGovern suffered a landslide defeat. Eagleton was diagnosed with clinical depression and clearly suffered the extreme and prolonged highs and lows of someone with bi-polar disorder. However, friends also “noted his drinking” and described him as having “drank quite a bit….Sometimes he was funny, sometimes he was frightening, sometimes he created some stirs about that,” which implies he caused trouble. If there is trouble and there is heavy drinking, the trouble, as they say in AA, is alcoholism. It would appear Mr. Eagleton had this disease and alleged “rumors” stating as such weren’t just “rumors.” It would also appear history was greatly affected by one alcoholic and, as usual, completely missed by historians.

Alcoholism is often confused for and may trigger mental illness. In Drunks, Drugs and Debits, I noted that actress Vivien Leigh was “repeatedly diagnosed as bipolar (manic-depressive) even while she drank regularly and heavily,” and that “Patty Duke’s autobiography is suggestive of heavy drinking and other (legal) drug use as a trigger for her bipolar disorder….[which] doesn’t usually appear until at least the late teen years, well after most have had their first of many drinks.” Duke, in fact, was fed Bloody Mary’s by her obviously alcoholic business managers at age 13 or 14 and she didn’t experience her first bipolar episode, by her own testimony, until she was 18 or 19. In her 20s she was “hung over most of the day because I drank most of the night.” In this case, both Glasser and Barnes should have considered the underlying trigger for Eagleton’s bipolar disorder as alcoholism, as was likely true for Duke and Leigh. If there’s a problem, a personality disorder, or something otherwise inexplicable, the cause is usually alcoholism. Barnes, by being so cock-sure, helps to increase the myths surrounding the public’s vast misunderstandings of alcoholism. You’ll find 118 other myths debunked in Alcoholism Myths and Realities.

Headline of the month:

“The Suspect: ‘Shy guy,’ brilliant scholar, mystery; 24-year-old clean-cut doctoral student offers no clue to bizarre acts.”

See Top Story, above, for numerous clues to why the “shy guy,” James E. Holmes, would engage in “bizarre acts”: alcoholic egomania. Just don’t look for a “reason,” since addiction requires nothing other than a need to inflate the ego at the expense of others. You just need to know to look for it.

of the month:

The $60 million plus estate of “Painter of Light” Thomas Kinkade, at the center of a legal battle with two wills, two women and two very different pictures of his last wishes. The estranged wife has one will; his girlfriend another. The details hardly matter—the crucial point being that Kinkade had alcoholism, a manifestation of which is frequently awful planning for estates where heirs have clear conflicts.

Retrospective look of the month:

A 24-page search warrant affidavit regarding 25-year-old Krystle Marie Reyes, a runner-up for Top Story in the June-July 2012 issue of TAR, disclosed that three Oregon Department of Revenue employees were required to override the flagged payment, resulting in the issuance of a fraudulent $2.1 million state income tax refund. According to the affidavit, none of the three ever opened the file to look inside and no one looked at the W-2 form Reyes filed, even though they signed off on it. I’d love to see that form. My money is on “how could anyone with tax experience have failed to see the W-2 was fraudulent unless they’re drunk?” Oh yeah, they didn’t look at the W-2. Ok, my money would have to be on “how could anyone not look inside the file or at the W-2, unless there is a culture of alcoholism inside the Oregon Department of Revenue?” Note to ODR employees: I give the benefit of the doubt by assuming addiction. It’s either that, which would explain gross incompetence (or being complicit in a criminal act) or gross incompetence all by itself, without the benefit of flawed judgment rooted in alcoholism.

Chutzpah of the month:

David Belniak and his sister, attorney Debra Tuomey have earned what could be the “Chutzpah-of-the-Decade” award. Belniak pleaded guilty to killing three people in a DUI car crash and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The estate of the deceased sued in civil court to recover damages; later, Tuomey filed a countersuit, saying her brother wasn’t actually guilty and instead the crash resulted from the victims’ driver swerving into the lane where Belniak struck them. She asked the court to award Belniak for his pain, suffering, mental anguish and medical bills for a permanent scar on his arm (which the court could barely see when he held his arm up for them). All this, despite the fact that:

  1. Evidence showed the victims were waiting at a traffic light at a standstill in their Chevy Tahoe when Belniak slammed into it at somewhere between 53 and 86 mph, sending the Tahoe from “zero to 40 mph” in an instant.
  2. Several witnesses testified they saw Belniak driving erratically miles before the fatal incident, careening into curbs, sidewalks and oncoming traffic.
  3. There were a number of 911 calls pleading with authorities to stop Belniak’s Nissan Titan before he hurt someone.
  4. Belniak had alcohol (no doubt plenty of it), Xanax and cocaine metabolites in his system.
  5. He already had an array of DUI and likely DUI-related incidents to his credit: in 1994, he hit and killed a pedestrian but wasn’t charged; in 2003, police found a gallon of the date rape drug GHB in his car; he faced DUI charges on two other occasions.

Belniak has had plenty of opportunities to get sober, but this is the first time he’s really had to face the music. There are some alcoholics for whom the keys should be thrown away, not only because of their extraordinary arrogance, but also because they have proven time and again they don’t get it and, for some reason, seemingly can’t get it. Belniak is, apparently, one of those. As for Tuomey, many defense attorneys act as enablers in unwarranted situations, but this one takes the cake. They should be put in the same cell.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Dr. James W. West, 98, dead from complications related to old age. West was a pioneer in the area of organ transplants, having been part of a team of surgeons who performed the world’s first kidney transplant in 1950. He was already addicted to alcohol and, due to a fellow student’s introduction in medical school, amphetamines. He eventually sought help, which led him to study psychiatry and substance disorders. While we have not been able to ascertain when he got sober, we suspect it was long after he began performing surgery, but likely by the early 1970s when he helped to found the Haymarket Center in Chicago, a well-known alcohol and other-drug addiction treatment center. After “retiring” in 1982, he joined the Betty Ford Center at its inception, where he insisted that physicians serve as active members of addiction treatment teams. Betty Ford wrote, “This little bit of insight has prompted Dr. West to develop models of assessment and detoxification that have been duplicated around the world.” John Schwarzlose, president and chief executive of the Betty Ford Center, described Dr. West as “an addiction physician before there was even that term. It wasn’t so much the actual medication used; other people were using those. It was the attitude. He would look at them and say: ‘It’s the way you treat them. Alcoholics and addicts always feel like nobody wants to treat them. We make them feel like you’ve come to the right place.’ He would say, ‘My doctors and nurses treat people with love.’” We’ll miss you, Dr. West. Thanks for all you did.

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.

TV’s Real-Life Alcoholics

I’ve noted previously (in issue # 9 and issue # 14 of TAR, among others) that reality TV is filled with alcohol and other-drug addicts; “Survivor” and “Big Brother” are replete with them. While identifying such addicts on “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” might be a bit of a challenge (only a few are immediately obvious), they appear ubiquitous in this summer’s reality trash “Bachelor Pad.” In the latest incarnation of the series, Ed Swiderski is the patently obvious person with alcoholism, as he can’t seem to go a day without naked swimming, loud hook-ups and running around like a crazy person while clearly under the influence. In general, his poor morning-after performances in the competition events confirm middle-stage alcoholism in a younger man’s body. He couldn’t even get himself up the chocolate sundae slide, which all the other guys easily scaled. However, if signs of inflated ego are an indication of alcoholism, as is usually the case, there are many other alcoholics in the Pad. I would suspect at least Erica Rose, Kalon, Chris, Reid (who’s already gone home as of this publication) and Blakeley.

Occasionally, we stumble across shows in which addiction is unexpected. One of recent vintage was in the Animal Planet series “My Cat from Hell.” While one must wonder about Jackson Galaxy, the rather freakish but very gentle host who clearly lacks egomaniacal behaviors (at least on the show), one of his recent guests makes the likely-addictive cut, at least for me. In the first half of the show titled “Cat Escape,” Khrys is a trashy-looking girl with low-cut dresses in all the scenes. Her hair is messy, she does “hair flips” (no doubt thinking it’s sexy), she sounds like she’s slurring her words in an early scene and she has a propensity to fail to follow directions (“the rules are not for me” attitude). She owns a Russian Blue who, according to the boyfriend, “declared war on its owners.” Despite the fact that it’s “her” cat, she refuses to care for it—she won’t scoop the litter box, clean up its spray, chase it down when it goes outside and take the cat to have it neutered even though she’s agreed to do so. While the boyfriend is portrayed as having created the problem with the cat, Khrys may have set the stage for problems, but you can take a look here and see what you think. My associate Kristin thinks she acts just like some (most?) 20-somethings today, but I’ve got to wonder.




My son keeps getting deeper into debt

Dear Doug:

My son, who doesn’t earn enough to cover regular expenses, spends some $400 monthly on beer and cigarettes. He and his wife owe $15,000 on five credit cards and over his wife’s objections he just bought a new flat-screen TV. He refuses to see a counselor. What can be done?


Concerned and frightened father

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest that your son turn his paycheck over to his more responsible wife. They might also suggest divorce, keeping in mind your daughter-in-law would still likely be on the hook for the debt. They’d say she could try earning more, which would only serve to further subsidize and thereby exacerbate your son’s irresponsible behavior. A fourth approach would be to allow them to ride the train to the bottom, resulting in cutting up the credit cards and, if they own, losing their home. They’d suggest she look into credit counseling. Finally, other columnists might suggest she (and you) consider attending Al-Anon meetings.

Other columnists, while finally hitting the mark, have it bass ackwards.

Your son has the disease of alcoholism. That comes before everything else because, as all addicts do, he experiences distortions of perception and memory that manifest as poor judgment and, in his case, irresponsible spending behaviors—and who knows what else behind closed doors (your daughter-in-law is likely experiencing at least tremendous verbal abuse). While some of the suggestions may help your son bottom-out, without someone involved forging the link between his problems and the booze he’s likely to spiral down further to an even lower bottom. Turning the paycheck over to his wife serves only to enable, as would riding the train to a bottom with him. Since alcoholism is the underlying cause of all of his problems, his addiction must be addressed before anything else can be fixed. During an intervention with a qualified interventionist, she must give him an ultimatum: either he stops drinking and attends AA, or she walks. Only in sobriety can the addiction-fueled irresponsible behaviors be addressed and be expected to dissipate.

You are observing one variation on the theme of the nearly-countless adverse consequences of alcoholism. Cause and effect must be viewed in the right order: he drinks not because of poor spending behaviors and God-knows-what-else; instead he has poor spending behaviors, etc., because of an alcoholism-fueled sense of invincibility and entitlement. The cause of your son’s misbehaviors must be assumed to be alcoholism until proven otherwise. The only way to disprove the hypothesis is to inspire in him a need to get clean and sober and watch the misbehaviors dissipate. By far the best privately-imposed inspiration is the credible threat of concrete and severe consequences for failure. He must know that his wife will follow through and keep every promise, and she must do exactly that.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, July 25, 2012.)

“Individuals who commit acts of mass violence often have suffered some kind of loss and aren’t able to bounce back from it.” *

So said* Secret Service and the U.S. Marshals Service behavioral threat assessment consultant Barry Spodak, commenting on the James E. Holmes mass shooting. Some myths make my hair stand on end; this, one of the most ignorant statements ever made by someone who should know better (what?! He consults for the Secret Service and U.S. Marshals Service?!) is one of those. I suspect everyone reading this article has suffered a severe loss (likely several) during their lives. Were you able to “bounce back” without committing violence? Of course you were. If you didn’t or know someone who didn’t, why? My research indicates the odds are at least 90% that the emotional state was completely screwed up by substance addiction, either directly or indirectly; close addicts can really mess with the minds and emotions of close codependents. The statement might be accurate if Spodak had said, “Addicts who commit acts of mass violence often have suffered some kind of loss from which they were unable to bounce back,” except no such loss has been reported in the life of Holmes or, for that matter, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer or Timothy McVeigh. Let’s try again: “Addicts are capable of anything, including mass murder. Other than a need to wield power over others, no motive is required.”

* Apparently a journalist paraphrased what Spodak said. His actual words were: “Individuals who carry out acts like this of mass violence tend to perceive themselves to have suffered significant losses or failures and the people around them have generally been worried about their ability to deal with it.”


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

“PENALTY STROKE: Patricia A. Maione, 46, ‘stated that her GPS had told her to turn left,’ a Northbridge, Mass., police officer wrote in his report. ‘She stated that this left brought her into a 'cornfield' and once she was in the 'cornfield' she kept driving trying to get out of her 'cornfield'.’ It wasn't a cornfield, it was a golf course: the officer found her car stuck in a sand trap. And, witnesses say, she took the turn onto the course at about 45 mph. It wasn't so much of a failure of the GPS navigation unit as it was, the officer found, that Maione allegedly admitted she had drunk half a bottle of vodka. She was charged with driving on a suspended license, fourth-offense drunk driving, and driving with an open container of alcohol in the car. (RC/Worcester Telegram & Gazette) ...She may have yelled ‘fore!’ but it sounds like she had a fifth.”

At least that much, Randy (the “RC” before the news source means this is Randy Cassingham’s headline and tagline), since confusion to this degree requires a lot of hooch. While it’s true we can’t always trust our GPS (or MapQuest) directions, unless we’re really plastered we’re not going to turn onto a golf course, we won’t think it’s a “cornfield,” we won’t end up in a sand trap and we’re unlikely to have made such a turn at 45 mph. If there was no proof she had been drinking, the uninitiated among us would shake our heads, wonder what she was thinking and make excuses for her, such as “She should have been able to trust her GPS” and “It must have been really dark.” The addictionologists among us would simply ask, “What drug or drugs was she on?” as we must always do when we shake our heads and wonder what someone is or was thinking.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2012 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

We hope you are enjoying the “What Would You Do?” stories now sent most weeks between issues of the regular Thorburn Addiction Report. We are always interested in your comments and leads to new stories. Also, be sure to check out our client letter, Wealth Creation Strategies; the top story in the latest issue is Edgar Allen Poe-like in its manifestations—and keep in mind, Poe was the greatest alcoholic writer of horror stories. Only this is all-too-real.

The Top Story in this issue would ordinarily qualify for “Sometimes, it takes an addict,” but there is so much more to the story. The “runner-up” once again shows that white collar crime, including tax fraud, seems to require addiction (this one’s a classic!). The “Public policy recommendation” is something I’ve long pondered and truly invite your comments, as I’m only scratching the surface of the legal issues this could create. As always, the “Antic-of-the-month” is a story of an addict who got lucky and lived, even if she deserved the Darwin Award. Please read on and enjoy!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2012 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

Sometimes it Takes an Addict: The Duality of Rodney King’s Life

Drunks, Drugs & Debits describes numerous cases involving the wide-ranging negative impact of addicts’ behaviors. One such case was a classic:

“…[and] we are all indirectly affected by addicts’ behaviors. The damage one addict inflicts can, in fact, be monumental and injure practically all of us. Regardless of the police officers’ behavior, [an alcoholic] was high on alcohol and other drugs when he led them on a 100-mph car chase. When he stopped, he violently resisted arrest. Entire sections of Los Angeles [later] burned to the ground, a billion dollars in property damage resulting [from] one man’s [addictive use]….The results of such addicts’ behaviors are reflected in our insurance rates and higher taxes for police, prisons and public health….”

The alcoholic referred to is well known, but the name doesn’t really matter; it could have been any alcohol or other-drug addict. Those with the disease of alcoholism suffer from distorted perceptions that sometimes cause the afflicted to think they are invincible and above the law; they take risks, do things and act in ways the sober person would never consider. As a result, they often change the world, for better or worse and sometimes both.

Rodney King, dead at 47 from the (likely) intersection of too much booze and a swimming pool, was indirectly responsible for 53 deaths, 2,373 injuries and nearly $1 billion in property damage resulting from the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Oddly, for all of his faults and without giving undo credit (although a few days after the riots began he made an impassioned plea, “Can we all get along?”), he may have done some good. An independent commission created in the wake of his beating issued a scathing report on the culture of the LAPD, helping to remake the force over the following decades into one that racial minorities can trust (at least more than before). While King changed many lives for the worse—those who were killed, their family and friends, those who were injured or had their homes or businesses destroyed or property stolen—his misbehaviors likely drove positive change for future generations of Los Angelinos. Nevertheless, as I often remark about even the most productive addicts, The world would be a better place without their positive contributions if, in exchange, we could avoid the extraordinary harm they inflict.

In early 1991, King drove from police at speeds of up to 115 mph because he was on probation from a previous robbery conviction and was under the influence. He knew he’d go back to jail if stopped—so, with drug-addled brain and confabulated thinking, he tried to escape. When the car was finally cornered, his two passengers were taken without incident; King, on the other hand, fought with the officers for some time before the infamous videotape and beating began (see this page for the amazing description). This resulted in an “apparent” over-reaction by police—“apparent” because police are all, by the nature of their jobs, codependents (which, because they are dealing with insanity, can make any rational person do crazy things). In a radio interview shortly before he died King claimed he’d had only a few drinks before being pulled over that night. However, five hours later his blood alcohol level was nearly .08 per cent. He obviously didn’t have just “a few drinks,” unless you count as a “few” three 28-ounce Long Island iced teas; his BAL had to have been at least .16 per cent at the time of the incident, which requires 11 drinks, the equivalent of more than 16 ounces of 80-proof liquor over the course of four hours for a 200-pound person. The radio interview demonstrates he was still doing what addicts do: lying.

In another interview, he said he didn’t buy the notion that addicts can’t drink and be sober. “All addicts are different,” he said. “And I’m different. I’ve learned that I’m one of those who can manage it.” As he dabbed peanut butter between his teeth at 9:30 a.m., he explained to a journalist that it was an old drinker’s trick to mask the smell of alcohol. His drinking was just “a sip here, a sip there. It was never out of control.” The journalist never saw the pre-drinking, which we know occurred because no addict can “sip” unless the blood alcohol level is where he wants it, something well north of .12 per cent.

King got sober for periods of time, including during his stints on “Celebrity Rehab” and “Sober House.” He was a nice guy when sober. Hell, he was often a nice guy when he was drunk. The problem was those darned addiction-induced unpredictable misbehaviors. In his case, those misbehaviors wreaked havoc, even though the worst of it was indirect and committed by other addicts. At least, among the ironies that encompass addiction, he may have inadvertently done some good.

Runner-up for top story of the month:

Krystle Marie Reyes, 25, accused of tax evasion, theft and computer crimes in which she duped the state of Oregon into giving her a $2.1 million tax refund on reported earnings of $3 million. Having $2.1 million withheld suggests, in a state with a virtual 9% flat tax on all taxable earnings, at least $23 million of income. Returns on which such earnings are reported would rarely, if ever, be self-prepared (she used Turbo Tax). However, despite the return being red-flagged by Oregon’s automated system, in a subsequent manual review state workers (incredibly) OK’d the refund, which was loaded on to a debit card for Reyes. This occurred despite at least three glaring red flags: an impossibly high withholding-to-earnings ratio, self-preparation of a very high-income return and loading this much money onto a debit card. Her scam might not have been discovered was it not for Reyes reporting the card lost or stolen after she debited $150,000 on various extravagances. Before I saw the drug for which she was also arrested, simply seeing her face here and reading the basics of the crime, I blurted out to my office-mate Kristin, “It’s got to be meth.” Indeed. But I’d like to know what the state worker(s) who approved the refund was/were using. If it’s an inside job (the Oregon Department of Revenue is looking at the possibility), I’ll predict either alcohol or meth is on board in a very big (i.e., addictive) way. By the way, I didn’t notice the caption under the picture in which meth was mentioned before identifying her as a likely meth-head. Unsurprisingly, several other sources on a Google search failed to even mention the meth possession charges—without knowledge of which we can’t begin to fathom her sense of invincibility. Isn’t it amazing how understanding addiction makes sense of so much that would otherwise be nonsensical?

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, a few recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the purported behaviors or alleged crimes themselves.

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC), 59, found not guilty of one charge, with a mistrial declared by the judge on five other charges of violating multiple campaign contribution laws in a failed attempt to cover up an extramarital affair with Rielle Hunter, 48, a wannabe actress. Hunter hit her biggest show business payday when Edwards arranged to have her paid $250,000 to make a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries of his 2008 campaign while running for President. Inasmuch as he is—as are most politicians—well-protected by enabling journalists, there are only occasional references in news reports to Edwards’ possible alcoholism, such as “is he really partying?” and “under tremendous stress, Edwards had also been drinking too much.” However, journalists have no such qualms about an otherwise unknown like Hunter, whose life one writer describes as having had “a lurid, supermarket-tabloid quality to it—full of deception, betrayal [and] reckless behavior” before she turned 30 and found she needed “spiritual growth.” An ex-boyfriend, writer Jay McInerney, based his “cocaine-addled, sexually voracious” narrator of his 1988 novel “Story of My Life” on her earlier exploits.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., 47, whose office, after he was inexplicably missing from the House floor for more than a month, finally issued a statement saying Jackson is “receiving intensive medical treatment” for a “mood disorder.” Such disorders are usually caused or mimicked by alcoholism. The statement was given two weeks after his office released another statement saying he was on medical leave and suffering from “exhaustion,” which is almost always a euphemism for “alcoholism.” Oddly, based on the description of his personal life at Wikipedia I would ascribe much lower odds of alcoholism in him than in his famous father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, but it wouldn’t be the first time public expectations don’t match private reality. We’ll have to wait and see.

Russell Wasendorf Sr., 64, founder of Peregrine Financial Group, Inc., hospitalized in critical condition after a suicide attempt, following a number of seemingly inexplicable events surrounding him and his firm. His company had just come under investigation by the National Futures Association for alleged falsification of bank records amidst accusations it held only about $5 million in funds of the $225 million it claimed to have in a deposit account. Wasendorf gave his son power of attorney to act on his behalf a few days earlier, which was two weeks after he got married—to a woman family and friends believed he was due to marry several weeks in the future. Huh? Whenever we shake our heads wondering, “What the hell is going on here?” and read descriptive phrases in stories such as “erratic moves,” “the mystery deepened” and “adding to the puzzles,” we’ve got to look for alcohol and other-drug addiction. The alleged fraud and suicide attempt all but confirm high (80-90%) odds of substance addiction explaining all of the behaviors.

Still, it’s helpful to have stories of private behaviors. An anonymous but extremely credible source told me Wasendorf walked into a room at a hotel conference, screaming and cursing out a hotel employee because directional signs hadn’t initially lead him in to the right conference room. Most people would think “he’s just having a bad day; cut him some slack.” Sorry, but berating of an innocent is a terrific clue to alcoholism. If an addictionologist observed such a reaction on the part of a head of a firm with whom he had funds, he would immediately move all of his funds to another brokerage firm. Since investors may not get all of their missing funds returned to them, we can see that understanding alcoholism is immensely helpful at times—if you see the behavioral indicators and take them seriously.

Headline of the month:

“Sage Stallone ‘Didn’t Drink’ Says Attorney”

So said Stallone’s lawyer and close friend George Braunstein in commenting on Sage Stallone’s tragic death at age 36. “There was a report that his room was filled with liquor bottles. Actually, they were empty bottles of Dr Brown’s Cream Soda….I don’t think it has anything to do with drugs, he wasn’t that kind of guy.” Braunstein insisted (his words), “He wasn’t anyone trying to take his life.” Mr. Braunstein, I hardly know where to begin, but let’s try to dispel the myths you are helping to promulgate. 1. The annals of alcoholism are filled with those who managed to hide their use from friends, co-workers, parents and even spouses for years. We must always bear in mind Nassim Taleb’s admonition, especially when dealing with alcoholism, “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Jodie Sweetin’s LAPD cop husband, to whom she was married for five years, didn’t know: she was a full-on methamphetamine addict for at least two of those years. Sage’s famous father Sylvester Stallone may even have been flummoxed.  2. Your comment, “he wasn’t that kind of guy,” implies only “bad” people use drugs. Mr. Braunstein, addiction is inherited. It has nothing to do with morality or lack thereof. Addicts are born with an ability to use drugs addictively. If you are not an addict, try using like one; you will find you can’t. In recovery, most addicts prove to be wonderful, endearing and highly intelligent individuals. If Stallone died of a drug overdose, it’s tragic. It doesn’t mean he was a bad person; get past the stigma, so you can view with an open mind whatever evidence appears.  3. Most overdoses are not attempts at suicide; they are inadvertent. If Mr. Stallone’s death proves to have been a drug overdose, Mr. Braunstein, the behaviors were probably right in front of you for years.

Robert Rhine, editor-in-chief of Girls and Corpses magazine, might agree. He is troubled by the fact that he saw “the signs,” while people around him claim “there were no signs.” He told TMZ he did a photo shoot of a friend of Sage’s for the magazine at Sage’s home in May. According to, Rhine “waited 45 minutes for Sage to answer the door,” who then stumbled around appearing as if he was “on something” while slurring his words, acting “very similar to Ozzy Osbourne.” Anything close to Ozzy suggests longstanding addiction. Both Rhine and police officers reported that Sage’s house was “disgusting,” which is consistent with late-stage poly-drug addiction. Mr. Braunstein, just because you never saw Sage drink or use doesn’t mean he didn’t. And get over the idea he “couldn’t have been one.” Some of the nicest, most productive and most successful people in history have been drug addicts.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Henry Hill, who inspired Martin Scorsese’s film “Goodfellas,” dead at age 69 following decades of heavy smoking and years of heart disease. After an arrest in 1980 on charges of drug-trafficking and facing a long prison term or possible execution by his former crime bosses, Hill became a government witness and helped send dozens of former associates to prison. He was expelled from the government’s witness protection program in 1987 after “relentless misbehavior” including drug possession; amazingly, he managed to survive another 25 years outside the program, with many of those he feared either dead or in prison. While claiming to have never murdered anyone, he knew, by his own admission, where a “great many bodies” were buried—literally. He originally wanted to be a priest, but no doubt triggered his lifelong addiction to alcohol and other drugs early on, so that idea “didn’t work out.” Instead, he was seduced by “the flash and dazzle of the neighborhood wiseguys, with their sleek cars, glinting rings and glittering women.” Aside from dealing drugs, he committed arson, numbers running, truck hijackings and loan sharking. Most infamously, he was involved in the 1978 Lufthansa heist at Kennedy International Airport in which $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels were stolen (up to that time the most lucrative cash robbery ever in the United States), as well as a point-shaving scandal in which basketball players at Boston College were bribed to fix games. Later in life, although easily bored, he found time for ordinary pleasures including, as he often said, never missing an episode of “The Sopranos.”

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.

Should Enablers be Held Responsible?

Vernon Johnson, in I’ll Quit Tomorrow, explicated that every alcoholic experiences euphoric recall, causing him to view everything he says or does while under the influence through self-favoring lenses. James Graham, in The Secret History of Alcoholism, expounded that the early stages of the disease are characterized by an inordinately large sense of self-importance (inflated ego) something first written about by Harry M. Tiebout in his fabulous pamphlet Ego Factors in Surrender in Alcoholism. During my research while writing Drunks, Drugs & Debits, I realized that Johnson’s euphoric recall triggers Graham and Tiebout’s alcoholic egomania, which increases over the progression of the early- to middle-stages of the disease. Over time, egomania and its behavioral manifestations can “slop over” to periods between uses; this allows hidden alcoholism to be more easily identified. Regardless of whether we see the person while under the influence, as misbehaviors increase the odds of alcoholism also increase. Even without seeing any use, if serial misbehaviors are evident we can ascribe about 80% odds that the person under scrutiny experiences euphoric recall and is, therefore, afflicted with alcoholism. This insight is incredibly helpful in protecting ourselves from the erratic and often dangerous behaviors in which addicts engage.

Alcohol and other-drug addicts commit at least 80% of unethical and criminal behaviors, including felonious ones. Addicts don’t have to be under the influence while committing misbehaviors; many feign sobriety when they are only temporarily abstinent. Sobriety requires both abstinence and ego deflation, an admission they are not all-powerful. Since the commission of a crime generally requires an inflated sense of self, the addict who commits such crimes is by definition not clean and sober. Since a cause and effect relationship exists between active addiction and the commission of criminal acts approximately 80% of the time, the number of criminal acts obviously would drop if we could get more addicts clean and sober. It follows that crime prevention should focus on cleaning up addicts rather than reacting to misbehaviors and focusing only on punishment.

Criminals commit an estimated 100 crimes per crime for which they are dealt appropriate consequences and possibly many times that in acts involving questionable ethics. Arguably, every tragedy that occurs in an addict’s life is preceded by dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law should have intervened but didn’t. Two separate incidents involving law enforcers—a police chief’s wife and a former detective—are prime and tragic examples of likely known addiction. Unfortunately for everyone involved, their addiction seemingly was allowed to progress unimpeded.

Brinda Sue McCoy, 49, hazy from prescription pills and martinis, got into an argument with her husband, a former councilman and police chief in Orange County, California, and teenage son. Trying to avoid further confrontation, the husband and son left the house. She became suicidal, grabbed her husband’s loaded service weapon and barricaded herself inside the family home. She called several friends, a daughter and a nurse practitioner and told them which two songs she’d like played at her funeral. When police arrived, having already warned a 911 operator she’d shoot anyone who tried to interfere with her impending suicide, she shot twice and hit police cruisers the police were using as barriers; fortunately, no one was injured. She was convicted on five of six felony counts and could draw a 29-year prison term. Out on bail pending sentencing, she tried to kill herself and was remanded back to jail.

Anthony Nicholas Orban, a former Westminster, California police detective, shared eight margaritas and two pitchers of beer with a friend and sought a sexual encounter. He kidnapped and then raped a 25-year old waitress in a hotel room. He didn’t remember the rape and “came to” shortly after the criminal act, having no idea how he or the waitress got to the room. His attorney argued he was rendered “mentally unconscious” by a “powerful” dose of Zoloft and was, therefore, not responsible for his actions. (And by the way, Zoloft is not a psychotropic drug like Xanax, which is also used in treating depression.) Although neither the defense nor prosecution identified it as such, Orban was almost assuredly in an alcoholic blackout, during which time alcoholics can commit heinous acts they will never remember because the events don’t enter the memory banks of the brain. The jury convicted him and he now faces life in prison. Recall from issue #69 of TAR the story of U.S. soldier Robert Bales, by all accounts “a nice guy,” who murdered 17 Afghanis during an alcoholism-induced blackout. Bales could easily have done what Orban did, and vice versa. Perhaps Zoloft interacted with alcohol to create especially awful behaviors, but it doesn’t matter.

Brinda Sue McCoy’s husband likely knew what he was up against: an alcoholic wife. And Anthony Nicholas Orban’s cop friends, associates and captain almost certainly knew they had an alcoholic detective on their hands. Both addicts had probably engaged in dozens and possibly hundreds of incidents for which close people and especially the law should have intervened but didn’t.

Currently, the law proscribes that an absence of memory of an incident is by itself enough to absolve the perpetrator of responsibility for a crime. However, what if that person has been apprehended for crimes multiple times—and he had never been forced to face, address and deal with the root cause of the misbehaviors and lack of memory? What if there were numerous incidents of unethical behaviors for which close people should have intervened, but didn’t? If alcoholism is a disease that causes the afflicted person to act in ways he never would when clean and sober, shouldn’t there be some absolution if the cause of the behaviors has never been properly addressed by those in a position to know about the problem? Consideration should be given to lesser sanctions and greater compassion against those who have never been confronted with their all-too-obvious addiction. Since most alcoholics are never confronted or made the subject of an intervention, it’s unlikely either McCoy or Orban’s family, friends or co-workers had ever properly confronted either of them.

On the other side of the coin, greater incentives on the part of those in a position to intervene to get them to do so would be helpful. We should consider sanctions against those who bypass obvious opportunities to intervene—particularly law enforcers in the broadest sense. This especially includes judges, who should be required to tell defendants, “You probably sit in front of me because, through no fault of your own, you inherited a genetic predisposition to addiction: when you drink or use, you act badly some of the time. Therefore, society can no longer allow you to drink or use any drug capable of causing distortions of perception and memory. In installing an ankle bracelet on you today to encourage abstinence, we hope you will find your way to sobriety, which requires ego deflation, possible only when you become abstinent. So that you may learn about the cause of and solution to your behavioral problems, the court recommends that you attend AA meetings or some facsimile as often as you can. We wish you the best of luck and remind you that any failure will result in remand back to jail or prison.”

A police force captain who observes a modicum of misbehaviors could warn officers, detectives and other law enforcers under them that this is what a judge will advise if the drinking continues. When close people including family, friends and employers use these words and act on them with appropriate disenabling and, where feasible, regular and random testing and ankle bracelets, there will be far fewer Brinda Sue McCoy, Anthony Nicholas Orban and Robert Bales-like tragedies.

We should consider taking this idea further, even if it would be a legal morass. Those in a position of power with an opportunity to intervene, but don’t, should face some sort of sanction(s). We could start with egregious and obvious cases and see how it goes, especially when involving law enforcers on whom the public depends for sound judgment and moral rectitude.

Now that I’m sober, my friends are no longer friendly

Dear Doug:

I formed close friendships with a group of women who became my bridesmaids, confidants and associates in my career. We raised our children together and celebrated together—a lot.

Nearly eight years ago I stopped drinking. Though my friends cheered me on initially, they dropped me when, in early sobriety, I didn’t attend their champagne brunches and ladies’ happy hours, doing what I had to do to stay sober.

They are smart women. I thought they grasped the idea of addiction when they conspired in an intervention for another friend.

I miss my friends and have invited them over, but they have generally snubbed my invitations and have never reciprocated. Do you think there is any way to reconnect with them?


Sober, but missing my friends from the old life

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might tell you just as your drinking affected others, so does your sobriety. They would correctly remind you that you are not the person your friends knew long ago, and they might not be able to adjust. They would suggest you simply and bluntly tell them your feelings—that you would love to enjoy dinner and music with them and would like very much to reconnect.

Other columnists wouldn’t quite get to the crux of the problem. The hint is, “they might not be able to adjust.” Why not? Because you’re sober and they may not be sober.

The clues to this are embedded in your letter: you “celebrated together—a lot,” with frequent “champagne brunches and ladies’ happy hours,” which I’ve a hunch isn’t just for the inexpensive appetizers and camaraderie. Your girlfriends were heavy drinkers and, therefore, possibly alcoholic ones like you. As I’ve pointed out in my works largely focusing on spotting hidden addicts (Drunks, Drugs & Debits and How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics), birds of a feather doesn’t apply just to birds. Alcoholics often hang out together. They can’t adjust because your sobriety will force them to consider their own drinking, which flies in the face of what they want to do—to continue drinking addictively.

You mentioned they are “smart” women. As you well know, “smart” has nothing to do with addiction. Addiction is a biological process that is genetically inherited—just as your hair or eye color is. And, being involved in an intervention doesn’t preclude addiction. Interventionists tell us there’s almost always at least one alcoholic among the conspiring members in every intervention, and sometimes even one who is prompted to ponder the possibility they’ve got a problem too.

In your sobriety, you’ve developed new friends. Focus on those. Let your old friends know you are still available, especially if they ever need a helping hand. They may come to you for the help they likely need and you can offer it, along with your experience, to them.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, June 15, 2012.)

“Life has not been kind to Erin.”

So said a caption in the National Enquirer underneath a picture of former “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi” star Erin Moran, now 51, who played Richie Cunningham’s cute little sister Joanie. Life would likely have been fine had she not “frequented the local bar,” as a source for the story reported. The Enquirer writers observe Moran is “haggard, near-broke and living in a rundown trailer park,” but they fail to connect the dots between apparent alcoholism and her “unkind” life. The caption should likely have read, “Alcohol, and therefore alcoholism, has not been kind to Erin.” If our diagnosis is correct, Joanie, life will be much kinder when you get sober. We’re rooting for you!

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

“FREAKS OF NOMENCLATURE, BILATERAL DIVISION: Two weeks after graduating from the University of Colorado, a 21-year-old student allegedly went into someone else's Boulder house at 3:30 in the morning. When the shadowy figure entered the bedroom, the homeowner yelled at the intruder to get out -- and he had a gun. When the figure came closer, the homeowner fired a shot, and the intruder dropped. Zoey Ripple, 21, police say, had a blood-alcohol level of ‘above’ 0.2 percent; she was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to her hip. The homeowner will not be charged, police say, as Timothy Justice was acting in self defense. Ripple will be, though: felony criminal trespass. She likely won't see jail time. ‘We see this pretty frequently,’ said District Attorney Stan Garnett, and the goal of prosecutors is for the court ‘to help the person get the treatment they need for their drinking.’ (RC/Denver Post) ...After the trespass: just one shot. Before the trespass: way too many shots.”

The DA’s comment, “We see this pretty frequently,” seems shocking. I run across many stories in which drunks enter someone else’s home thinking it’s their own, but not even I’d have dreamt it was that common. Although in this case the alcoholic got lucky, there are countless ways for alcoholics to kill and be killed (alcoholism is the third most prevalent cause of death in adults under 59 throughout the world) and now we can add one more possible cause of death that even the most creative writers of fiction could never have thought of—if it weren’t all too real.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2012 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

We’re back!

We hope you have enjoyed the first five issues of “TAR Lite” (if you somehow haven’t seen them, here’s the link), which we hope to send weekly. The reviews have so far been very complimentary and even flattering.

We’re pleased to announce that Alcoholism Myths and Realities is now available as an e-book in several formats. How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics will soon be available as an e-book. We’ll keep you posted!

Since the last issue, there’s been a lot of news that can only be understood through the lens of addiction, from out-of-control soldiers and Secret Service agents to premature deaths of celebrities and popular painters to (allegedly) abusive politicians and public school teachers. Please read on, discover and enjoy!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2012 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

The Afghani Massacre and the Secret Service Scandal: the Common Thread is Alcoholism

Stories of out-of-control American soldiers in Viet Nam drinking and drugging are legion. Soldiers engaging in Viet Nam massacres such as those at My Lai did not, as often inferred, use drugs to “deal with” the nightmare in which they lived. Those who commit murder and especially those leading others in committing atrocities, including wartime massacres, are nearly if not always alcohol or other-drug addicts first. They do not use addictively because they engage in carnage (“anyone who saw such horrors would drink!”); they commit atrocities and cajole others into engaging in them because their addiction requires the capricious wielding of power over others. Murder is one way by which to exercise such power.

Consider the soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib scandal that broke in 2004, in which detainees were stacked in pyramids after being raped with phosphorescent light sticks and forced to masturbate in groups. Soldiers inside Abu Ghraib describe one of their own “with a strong personality and red flags in his record,” who triggered the group descent into “horrific behavior.” “Strong personality and red flags” is, especially when the phrases are used together, a euphemism for “alcoholic.” This includes the soldier described, Charles Graner, who was also characterized as being able to easily lead weak-willed people to do whatever he wanted. Recall the amphetamine-addicted alcoholic Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana, who led 909 men, women and children to commit Flavor Aid suicide, along with nearly every other cult-like leader in history.

Graner joined the marines in 1988 and left the service after the 1st Gulf War. He became a construction worker and then a prison guard at a state penitentiary, where he was reprimanded three times and suspended four times for showing up late or not showing up at all. Graner was never fired, nor was he ever apparently given a choice of job or sobriety, even though alcohol or other-drug addiction is by far the most common explanation (never an excuse) for serial tardiness.

Between 1997 and 2001 Graner’s then-wife got three restraining orders and accused him in court of threatening to kill her and trying to throw her down a stairway. There is nothing in the record to suggest any judge ever offered Graner a choice between prison and sobriety, even though alcoholism is the root cause of domestic violence at least 80-85% of the time.

After Abu Ghraib, fellow soldiers described Graner as “unafraid of confronting the enemy” and a “very charming guy. People tend to follow him, whether it’s the right way or the wrong way.” Graner is a classic in the annals of likely alcoholism: often charming and heroic, seemingly born leaders while intermittently destructive, in this case horrifically so.

On the other hand, risk-taking behaviors, which often appear volatile, can be helpful for human progress, which is one of the grand and perverse paradoxes of alcoholism. Alcoholics in the early stages of their disease frequently take risks the more sober among us would never consider. They often become successful and sometimes famous when those risks pan out (and more quickly lose everything when they don’t). They have an almost universal need to win regardless of cost—and sometimes for the benefit of the rest of us. Ted Turner brought us 24-hour news channels. Rush Limbaugh brought us talk radio. Multitudes of alcoholics innovated in the creative arts, including most of the greatest writers, painters and musicians, from Mozart and Beethoven to John Lennon (the most likely explanation for which is in issue # 31 of my client letter, Wealth Creation Strategies. Ulysses S. Grant helped win the Civil War while he was still a practicing alcoholic. At a military parade in 1863, the man whom contemporaries considered the finest horseman ever to attend West Point was so drunk he fell off his horse.

However, whether by purpose or sheer dumb luck the volatility and downside can destroy those who cross their paths, while addicts can bring themselves down by taking risks appearing as simply awful judgment. Such is the case in two recent seemingly unrelated events: Robert Bales’ alleged murder of 17 innocent Afghanis and the Secret Service scandal in Columbia.

Robert Bales, an Army staff sergeant serving in Afghanistan on his fourth tour of duty, reportedly trained his men carefully, was vigilant on patrols and treated Iraqis and Afghanis with the utmost respect—until he allegedly didn’t. He has been charged with 17 counts of murdering Afghan civilians, in a house-to-house bloodbath beginning around 3 a.m. after a night of “drinking,” which the addictionologist would strongly suspect was addictive in nature.

Robert Bales is a man about whom a friend, stunned over the Afghani massacre, said, “There is no way the guy I knew did this. You don’t go from being a local hero to a monster.” Other friends, who knew and worked with him for years, concurred with similar remarks.

Yet this was not the first time this otherwise heroic and patriotic soldier with a wife and two young children engaged in misbehaviors while drinking. In 2002, Bales set off a fight with a woman’s companion at a casino bar in Tacoma, WA after he grabbed her hand and put it in his crotch. The woman told police Bales had been “drinking heavily.” Prosecutors declined to press charges because “it was a mutual scuffle between two drunk adult males, and it couldn’t be determined who started the fight.” In an apparent separate incident at a bar, Bales was charged with criminal assault for threatening another customer and, after refusing to leave, a security guard. He paid a $300 fine and underwent anger management training to have the charge dismissed. (Studies cited in Drunks, Drugs & Debits suggest there are near zero incidents of anger management “classes” that have resulted in a reduction in the incidence of violent behaviors without treatment for alcoholism.) Bales also was linked to a drunken fight at a bowling alley in 2008. There is no mention of any judge ever giving him a choice between jail time and a program of sobriety as a result of such misbehaviors. And these are only the public cases; for every situation for which police are called, there are often dozens if not hundreds of similar incidents, swept under the rug by well-meaning friends who, after a shove or a missed punch, talk him down. There are no reports of any friends or family members giving him the option of getting sober or losing their emotional and financial support. More importantly, there is no mention of the Army telling him he could no longer drink if he was to be allowed to continue to serve.

Bales reportedly “drank” the night of the massacres. We know from previous episodes he drank addictively; therefore, “drank” in this case is a likely euphemism for “drank heavily” and, therefore, addictively. The description of what Bales remembers suggests an alcoholic blackout: he remembered a few things both before and after the alleged atrocities, but nothing in-between. During a blackout, events don’t enter the brain’s memory banks, leaving nothing to remember, even while he may have appeared stone-cold sober and capable of extraordinarily intricate and demanding tasks. This includes the commission of expertly-applied violence, just as alcoholic surgeons have operated and Boeing 747 pilots have flown during blackouts.

Alcoholism-fueled exercise of capricious power may take form in the commission of acts that appear to others as extraordinarily poor judgment. This includes Secret Service agents engaging prostitutes, thereby compromising the safety of the President before a visit to Cartagena, Columbia for a summit. Poor judgment rooted in alcoholism clearly includes the agent who, after a “wild night of booze,” ended up in an argument with a hooker over her $47 fee, resulting in her leaving his hotel room after the 7 a.m. curfew the hotel implicitly set for overnight “visits.” It also includes a number of other agents who had engaged 11 hookers in all. Most of the agents are married and, therefore, could be easily compromised and susceptible to blackmail. Ronald Kessler, an expert on the Secret Service and author of a book on the agency, said it could have resulted in a potential assassination attempt on the President, not to mention possible breaches of national secrets.

Nearly all law enforcers who act badly do so not because they are fundamentally rotten, but rather because they have the disease of alcohol or other-drug addiction. Since they hold particularly powerful positions in the public trust, more than others they need to be sober. The idea of enforcing sobriety among law enforcers is discussed in greater detail in this month’s “public policy recommendation,” below.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Those who have cried, “Guilty until proven innocent!” and would like to form a lynch mob (including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton) in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who seemingly support Napoleonic “justice” when it suits their ends. BothTrayvon and Zimmerman exhibited behavioral signs of alcohol or other-drug addiction (Trayvon recently in spades—he was described as a “troubled teen,” which is usually a euphemism for “he’s into drugs”—see the article here; Zimmerman in a case of domestic violence, years ago), so this could easily be a case of addict v. addict. However, sober-minded people are much more likely to admit that because we weren’t there, it’s impossible to know what actually occurred with certainty and that justice must be allowed to take its course.

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, days before his trial on charges of domestic violence, pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of falsely imprisoning his wife, Eliana Lopez, during an argument on New Year’s Eve. Nearly all domestic violence is committed by alcoholics. Since it was New Year’s Eve (even if it was lunch time), the odds of alcoholism approach 100%. This is especially true when the abuser screams obscenities, tells her she “didn’t deserve to eat” and threatens to take their two-year-old son away from her, after she had simply asked permission to visit her family in Venezuela after his January 8 inauguration. (The list of clues to alcoholism in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics includes the use of obscenities, but not even I thought of an assertion that one doesn’t deserve to eat and threats to take a spouse’s child, but I digress.) Moreover, Lopez was apparently not the only woman in Mirkarimi’s past who was bruised and tearful; an ex-girlfriend, Christina Flores, made similar allegations. The conviction does not preclude Mirkarimi from keeping his job (and of course his pension), which he had ascended to after winning election to the post only two months before. Whether he is fit for a job that is largely about arresting other alcoholics and preventing them from committing mayhem is now in the hands of the city ethics commission and Board of Supervisors. Mirkarimi was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, 52 weeks of domestic violence classes, a $400 domestic violence fine and parenting or family counseling. Nothing suggests he will be required to wear an ankle bracelet that would continuously test for alcohol in his system or otherwise be coerced into abstinence.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, several recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the alleged crime itself.

Tax preparation service Mo’ Money co-founder and CEO Markey Granberry, who said that customers not receiving completed copies of tax returns or tax refunds was “not his fault” and, further, not a “Mo’ Money, Money Co USA Taxes Problem, this is a systemic problem,” whatever that means (I suspect he’s trying to blame the IRS for his woes). He told reporters, “I don’t have the money.” His wife of 20 years filed for divorce last September after she had him arrested for domestic assault, claims he withdrew $750,000 from a joint account in 2009 and could be hiding assets other than his $1.4 million home in Shelby County, TN, his Lamborghini, Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes and Escalade. (I guess she doesn’t have the money, either.) He’s behind $55,000 in property taxes on various properties listed in his name, with at least four properties slated for tax sale. Living a grandiose and luxurious lifestyle while failing to keep up with financial obligations indicates late-stage alcoholism has begun to take hold. His chief enabler, his wife, took the rocket ship up with the addict’s successes and, now, she’s crashing with him. Unfortunately, Granberry has also adversely affected tens of thousands of innocent people, from customers to landlords—including my wife and me, who rented an office to a franchisee of his, who apparently also was a victim. (By the way, we rented knowing there might be a problem based, more than anything else, on Mo’ Money’s advertisements, which were moronic. The tenant, while skipping out on his lease obligation, at least left the office in good shape.)

LAUSD teacher Mark Berndt who, in the latest in a series of teacher scandals, has been accused of seeking sexual gratification by spoon-feeding his semen to his third-grade students (and yes, for the unbelieving, his DNA matches that of the semen found on a spoon and a small container apparently found in his classroom trash). When I asked the late Fr. Jack Shirley, a long-time correspondent and long-recovering alcoholic, what percent of priests involved in Catholic Church sexual scandals might be alcoholics, he didn’t hesitate: 100%. There is unlikely any difference in the underlying root cause of sexual abuse committed by priests vs. that committed by teachers. The countless forms and styles of alcoholic egomania boggle the mind.

One L. Goh, 43, a nursing student at Oikos University in Oakland, CA who left the private school several months before allegedly murdering seven innocents in a shooting spree. The primary explanation for his horrific behaviors: he sought revenge against a female administrator with whom he had “problems.” Failing to find her at the school the day of the shootings, he apparently decided to inflict his rage on others. “Other” explanations offered by the media include: 1. His brother, U.S. Army Sgt. Su Wan Ku, was killed in an auto wreck in Virginia sometime in May of 2011. 2. His mother, Oak Chul Kim, recently died after returning to Seoul, Korea from Oakland, California. 3. His father, Young Nam Ko, lived in Oakland, but had recently moved. 4. He owed approximately $23,000 in federal tax liens for the years 2006 and 2009 that he had been paying down. Since most of us have “problems” and even those of us with terrible personal challenges learn to deal with them, the best explanation is that Goh, like nearly every other mass and serial murderer in U.S. history, is an addict. (The failure to identify the correct root cause of most murder is addressed in the April-May 2007 issue of TAR, issue # 29, in which the top story focused on Cho Seung-Hui, who also committed mass murder in what became known as the “Virginia Tech massacre”).

Alcoholic victims of the month:

The tens of thousands of motorists and millions of Los Angeles taxpayers who paid for 19-year-old Abdul Arian’s run from police in both time in a traffic-snarled nightmare and cost of police services, as his shooting death was investigated, during a recent rush hour. You can read more on Arian and his enablers in TAR Lite, issues # 4 and # 5.

Quotes of the month:

“Mayor Ed Lee did not have authority to suspend him for an action that occurred before Mirkarimi was sworn in as sheriff in January.”

So wrote a journalist, reporting Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s assertion that because he falsely imprisoned his wife before he was sworn in as San Francisco Sheriff, he shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions Mayor Lee couldn’t suspend him, thereby paving the way for a city ethics commission and the Board of Supervisors to determine whether he should be removed from the elected office of Sheriff for his domestic violence-related conviction. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold E. Kahn said Mirkarimi’s case should be tried before the ethics panel and Board of Supervisors before resorting to the courts. Mirkarimi claims that he “accepts responsibility completely for grabbing my wife’s arm.” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said, "What he's doing now is very typical of many criminal defendants. Criminal defendants have a tendency to minimize their behavior, to rationalize it, and on occasion they lie....” They also have a tendency to not accept responsibility. If the action had occurred after he was sworn in as sheriff, does anyone really think his behavior and claims would be different?

Irony of the month:

Thomas Kinkade, whose life is briefly chronicled below under “Enablers of the month” and “Sometimes, it takes an addict,” raised millions for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Salvation Army, which specializes in treating chronic late-stage alcoholics. The irony: alcoholism likely cost Kinkade his life.

Chutzpah of the month:

Former New York Mets star and would-be financial guru Lenny Dykstra, sentenced to three years in California state prison after a judge rejected the unrepentant Dykstra’s last-ditch effort to change his no contest plea and fight charges of grand theft auto and filing false financial statements by essentially stealing someone else’s identity. “Did I do something I’m not proud of? Yes,” Dykstra said. “Am I a criminal? No,” he told the court while asking for leniency in a rambling and repetitive speech in which he apologized to his family but not his victims. Prosecutors said Dykstra had no remorse. He had been arrested at his Encino, CA home, where authorities, serving a search warrant, also found cocaine and Ecstasy. I began chronicling Dykstra’s life in TAR after watching a TV interview in which I suspected he was drunk, earning him a spot in the “under watch” section of issue #18 of TAR. He graduated to “runners-up for Top Story” in issue # 50 and was one of the subjects I suggested might make a fun movie in the “Review of the month” in issue # 64.

Enabler of the month:

Thomas Kinkade’s estranged wife, Nanette, telling reporters, “Thom provided a wonderful life for his family. We are shocked and saddened by his death.” Wonderful in terms of the trappings of wealth, sure. Saddened, of course. Emotionally wonderful? He was an alcoholic, Nanette. Shocked? He was an alcoholic, Nanette. How about: “When Thom was sober, he was a wonderful man, husband and father. Unfortunately, money enables and increases the odds that even the most endearing alcoholic in seeming solid recovery will relapse. We are incredibly saddened, but since his relapse occurred, we were ready for anything. Unfortunately, the worst happened before we could inspire in him a need to get sober again and despite all our attempts to do so.”

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Jocky Wilson, darts player, dead at 62 from complications of COPD. Jocky, a chain-smoker for 40 years, became the first Scot to win the World Darts Championship in 1982, repeating the feat in 1989 during what The Economist called the golden age of darts, when the sport became a “gladiatorial televised spectacle second only to soccer.” He started playing as a way to get shillings to buy pints; as good as he was, a cigarette in one hand and dart in the other, he often threw games, once so drunk he could barely walk and another time falling from the stage. The Economist reported he often fueled “himself with seven pints of lager…topped with vodka.” He invested some of his winnings in a home, where he “filled the garden with empties until the neighbors asked him to move.” (Note that the neighbors, who could have asked him to remove the trash, instead asked him to move. One can only imagine the other goings-on they were forced to put up with.) In the mid-‘90s after he was diagnosed with diabetes, he appears to have been scared sober: he stopped drinking and playing darts cold-turkey. He may have realized he would not be able to play well, as he likely learned to play while drunk: alcoholics, once sober, often must re-learn sports and skills learned while drinking (which may explain Tiger Woods’ performance after his divorce—he finally admitted the drinking and drugging “impaired the judgment”—and his performance since has been abysmal).

“Painter of Light” artist Thomas Kinkade, dead at age 54 from “natural causes” after a night of “heavy” drinking. While the art establishment dismissed his work, Kinkade’s sentimental and inspirational paintings of cottages, country gardens, lighthouses and churches in dewy morning light are beloved by millions. His paintings, prints and spin-off products such as teddy bears and La-Z-Boy loungers, reportedly bring in $100 million in sales yearly and are believed to be in at least 10 million homes, including ours. Yet, he was accused of using religion to gain the trust of prospective investors, who successfully sued Kinkade’s production arm, Pacific Metro, for fraudulently inducing them to invest in Thomas Kinkade Signature Galleries. A day after a $1 million payment was due on a judgment from one such lawsuit, Pacific Metro filed for bankruptcy. In 2010 Kinkade, whose alcoholism almost assuredly ran in the family (he came from a “broken home and a rough childhood”), pleaded no contest to a DUI arrest. Among many escapades while drunk, he heckled illusionists Siegfried & Roy at their Las Vegas show and cursed a former employee’s wife who tried to help him after falling from a bar stool. He often went to strip clubs and bars with employees, where he “frequently” got drunk and “out-of-control.” One former employee described him as a “Jekyll-and-Hyde character, whose behavior worsened as the alcohol flowed.” Kinkade’s alcoholism, like that of so many others, drove him to extraordinary success with a tragic outcome.

Model, Singer, Actress and Producer Whitney Houston, dead from drowning in her own bathtub at age 48, toxicology reports showing cocaine, Xanax and marijuana in her system after what was reportedly several nights of hard partying. It was likely the Xanax that didn’t allow her brain to wake her up as her head slipped under the water. She was the most awarded female artist of all time, with an incomparable voice. The list of firsts and records is breathtaking, from the first album by a new female artist to yield three No. 1 singles, to winning more American Music Awards, 22, than any other woman. The list of female artists she influenced is a who’s who of greats, including Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion and Toni Braxton. Yet long before she died, the everyday drug use had taken her voice. The Enquirer chronicled Houston’s decline for nearly a decade, reporting on her downward spiral while “her reps vehemently denied she had a problem.” One source told The Enquirer, “The people around her did their best to cover up her deadly addictions. Now, they have to share some of the blame for this superstar’s sad demise.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Jonathan Keith “Jack” Idema, dead from AIDS at age 55. Idema, who fashioned himself as a highly trained covert operative combating international terrorism, was more likely an imposter and con artist who led life in the very fast lane. The Wikipedia piece on him reads like a “what’s what” of alcoholism-fueled behaviors: “questionable behavior… a history of criminal activity…charged with impersonating an officer, conspiracy, passing bad checks, assault, possession of stolen property, and discharging a firearm into a dwelling…arrested and charged with 58 counts of wire fraud defrauding 59 companies of about $260,000 [for which he spent three years in prison] …litigious…threatening legal action against his detractors…several reports of poor performance [in his military career]… cited for ‘failure to obey orders, being derelict in the performance of his duty, and being disrespectful to a superior commanding officer’...[described by an army Major in a letter of reprimand as having] ‘disregard for authority and gross immaturity characterized by irrationality and a tendency toward violence’…known to have a volatile temper….” While alcohol, drugs, partying and related words are found nowhere in the Wikipedia bio, The Economist concluded its obituary by mentioning that Idema’s “life ended in a haze of vodka and cocaine.” They should have begun the piece by saying, “Everything in Idema’s life can be explained by alcoholism-induced euphoric recall, resulting in egomania and confabulated thinking. Here’s the amazing story.”

Political activist Andrew Breitbart, dead of heart failure at age 43. Breitbart, who often appeared as a speaker at Tea Party rallies, founded, among other conservative-libertarian websites. Using hidden cameras, Breitbart contributed to the fall of Acorn, and caused the fall of Congressman Anthony Weiner after hacking into his Twitter account and releasing sexually explicit photos he had sent to a number of women who were NOT his wife. Breitbart reportedly “liked” to drink and was seen drinking in public on a number of occasions; more importantly, he may have been drunk in public and on television interviews. He was uninhibited in style and exhibited, as a good friend of mine put it, “fearlessness,” which is more often rooted in alcoholism than not, as would a philosophy that being outrageous gets more attention than being staid and authoritative, and acting on that philosophy. He wouldn’t be the first libertarian-leaning hero to be alcoholic and won’t be the last. Sometimes, it takes an addict: we need more Andrew Breitbarts. But those whose credos are “It would be arrogant to suggest I know better how to run your life and spend your money than you do” and “Don’t tread on me” should tread carefully when working with alcoholics, even where they may do some good.

And so long too to “Run for Your Life” star Ben Gazzara, dead from pancreatic cancer at age 81, apparently long sober. Gazzara thanked his third wife, Elke, for saving his life: “When I met her, I was drinking too much, fooling around too much, killing myself.” She must have given him a choice. Thanks, Elke.

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.

Law enforcers, including members of the Armed Forces and Secret Service agents, should be screened and treated for alcoholism. Those who fail treatment should be fired.

“It's against bureau policy for an agent to consume alcohol, even off duty...because an FBI agent is never off duty." --Robert Hanssen, via Chris Cooper, “Breach” (reviewed in “Review of the Month” in the July 2007 issue of TAR).

The assertion was a lie, designed to make his young protégé believe he didn’t drink. However, Robert Hanssen, the alcoholic double-agent who is believed to have leaked more secrets to the Soviets than any traitor, ever, likely knew at some level why FBI agents shouldn’t be allowed to drink or, if one drinks addictively, why he shouldn’t be hired or retained. As described in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, no one can predict how destructive an alcoholic might become, or when. The existence of alcohol or other-drug addiction provides extraordinary insight into the person’s psyche and potential for misbehaviors: we know we can’t trust, rely on, depend on or believe a practicing alcoholic about anything, important or unimportant. This confuses the uninitiated, because sometimes alcoholics can be trusted. We just don’t know when.

I have long suggested regular and random screening of law enforcers for substance addiction. Such addiction requires a modicum of misbehaviors in one’s personal or professional life in conjunction with addictive use of psychotropic drugs, which are those capable of causing distortions of perception and memory in susceptible individuals. (The distortions lead to egomania, which impels the addicted person to wield capricious power over others, which can take form in abusing positions of authority in wildly unpredictable fashion.) The drugs include not only the illegal ones, but also alcohol and prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines (Valium and Xanax) and opioids (synthetic opiates including oxycodone and Vicodin). Once a law enforcer is suspected of addiction, he or she should be proscribed from consuming any psychotropic drug as a condition of keeping his or her job. Let the person use, but not on the taxpayer’s dime, where extraordinary damage can be done in the service of justice.

Targeted prohibition: narrowing the scope of the war on drugs and focusing on those who erratically damage others’ lives.

I am not suggesting a new Prohibition. On the contrary, the use of drugs is both a property rights issue (in terms of both the drug and your body) and a practical one: prohibition creates massive incentives for corruption among law enforcers and, because illegality leads to prices far higher than would occur in free markets, it rewards horrific behaviors with obscene wealth. In addition, until an addict decides to try sobriety, he will always find a way to get his drug, which because of higher-than-free market costs often in itself causes harm to others. Instead, once a person proves to society he or she cannot use safely without sometimes harming others, society has a right to proscribe use by that person and should make every effort to do so. Consequences are essential in getting addicts to make that crucial decision to stop using. Public employers should not only have the right, but the obligation to offer choices designed to drive addicted people to seek sobriety. Further, those in a position to coerce abstinence should be held accountable for a failure to have at least tried to do so.

“Bad cops” are almost always addicted ones. This includes everyday policemen, district attorneys, public defenders, judges, politicians and bureaucrats, all of whom are charged with making or enforcing laws. It also includes members of the Armed Forces who commit atrocities and Secret Service agents who engage in idiotic and stupid acts with the potential for endangering national secrets and the President of the United States.

We can greatly decrease the odds that bad cops stay that way by allowing, in cases of confirmed alcohol or other-drug addiction, credible promises of loss of employment and allowing superiors to terminate addicted law enforcers who repeatedly make the wrong decision.

Flight boors

Dear Doug:

Passengers across the aisle from us on a recent seven-hour transatlantic flight talked and laughed raucously and blocked my view of the overhead video while standing in the aisle for nearly five hours. My earphones were no match for their loud and inane chatter, making reading impossible. I’m already anxious about a 15-hour flight I will be taking soon and wonder if there’s a method of approaching such people in a way that gets them to pipe down.


Quiet deprived

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would say you acted like a doormat for tolerating such rude behavior without even attempting to do something. They would suggest that next time you make a direct, clear statement to such boors and politely appeal to their inner sensitivities.

Instead, you should first monitor their drinking intake. If, as would be strongly suspected by the addictionologist, they are drinking heavily, a direct, polite approach could end in disaster. Keep in mind this could occur even if you see only “normal” drinking, as they may have gotten on the plane already loaded.

Whenever we approach others about rudeness, our tendency is to think they, like us, are rational clear-thinking humans. Unfortunately, approaching people in a way that we would expect to be approached doesn’t work with brain-damaged individuals. I would strongly suspect several members of this group to have alcoholism-induced brain damage. And all it takes for a heated argument or even brawl to ensue is just one addicted person among them. Here, there are likely several.

In such an instance, all you can safely do while on board is notify the flight crew. It’s their job to deal with such problems, not yours. If they fail to take action, notify authorities on the ground after disembarking and do everything you can to have your fair refunded.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, April 4, 2012.)

And a bonus Dear Doug:

Neighbor boors

Dear Doug:

My neighbor rocks loudly throughout the wee hours. We need our sleep. Is there a kind way to ask that they turn it down without offending?


Sleep deprived

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would suggest you initiate this conversation in the middle of the night, when it’s happening.

Are you kidding? You really don’t think these inconsiderate neighbors don’t know they are being rude?

You have no idea what these people are capable of. Such behaviors are usually (nearly always) rooted in alcohol and other-drug addiction.

You have no idea what they are on. Approaching and questioning their perceived “right” to blow their speakers at 2am could subject you to serious harm. It’s time to call local authorities and do everything in your power to let the police know you wish to remain anonymous and that you will hold them responsible if any harm comes to you or your family. In the meantime, you might suggest there could be some illegal goings-on next door.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, March 16, 2012.)

“You can’t reach an addict when he’s not ready.”

So said Harold Owens, senior vice president of MusiCares/Musicians Assistance Program (MAP) Fund, in commenting on Whitney Houston’s untimely and tragic death. Owens, who has been counseling other addicts since he became sober 23 years ago, added, “Nobody can tell you you’re an alcoholic until you tell yourself.” Although true—you can’t reach an addict when he’s not ready—it’s a half-truth. The implicit suggestion is the addict must simply find his own way, which is incredibly misleading to the non-addict. While MusiCare performs a wonderful service in providing “safe harbor” rooms at special events where recovering musicians can go to avoid relapsing, it must be emphasized that close people should do everything possible to impose consequences for misbehaviors stemming from active addiction. Law enforcement should coerce abstinence if offered an excuse to do so. Addicts would be better served if Owens instead said, “Addicts are never ‘ready’ for recovery without outside pressure and pain from consequences, and are incapable of self-diagnosis. Therefore, it’s incumbent on the rest of us to mete out every logical consequence possible. This is the only way to get the addict to tell himself, ‘This isn’t working. I’ll try sobriety.’ It’s the only way to get the addict ready, so he can be reached.”

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

“A QUIET DRIVE: Rebbecca Fowler, 21, was at a friend's house in Wichita, Kan., and when she got home she found her 2-year-old boy was not in the back seat of her car. He was definitely there when she left her friend's, so she retraced her path. He had unfastened his seat belt, opened the car door, and fallen out about a mile and a half from home -- and she hadn't noticed. Samantha Garcia, 22, found him running down the street, bleeding and crying. When Fowler pulled up, ‘We wouldn't let her have him until we knew what happened,’ Garcia said. ‘The police were on their way.’ Officers said Fowler didn't have a valid driver's license, nor a child seat in the car. The boy was hospitalized in protective custody, and the next day, after police consulted with prosecutors, Fowler was arrested. (RC/Wichita Eagle) ...Which means it didn't occur to the dolts to do a field sobriety test on her when they had the chance.”

Randy is becoming very perceptive in regards to likely alcoholism and its cure. Ms. Fowler leaves a toddler unbelted. She has no child car seat. She doesn’t have a driver’s license. She drives for several minutes, arriving home, before she realizes her son is no longer in the car. And in the story behind the story, she likely lied to officers, telling them she “ripped a car seat out of the vehicle in despair when she couldn’t find her son;” officers said they don’t believe she had a child car seat. Gross carelessness, impaired judgment, a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude, an apparent belief that “nothing can go wrong; I am invincible” and lying to law enforcers are just a few of the behavioral indications of alcoholism found in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, but they are enough for the addictionologist to ascribe exceedingly high odds of alcohol or other-drug addiction in Ms. Fowler.

As soon as someone is suspected of gross neglect, especially of a child, the perpetrator should be tested for alcohol and other drugs. Any officer can test for alcohol; if none is found, a Drug Recognition Officer (DREs are specially trained for this) should be summoned to check for other drugs. Instead, yet another likely alcoholic’s addiction is allowed to progress, unimpeded, increasing the likelihood that tragedy will ultimately occur. Ms. Fowler’s son got lucky this time. Next time he might not be so fortunate.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2012 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

January - February 2012

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

Well over a decade ago, when I was doing research for my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, I had several discussions with the gentleman I view as my greatest mentor, James Graham, about the great and horrific despots that fill the history books. I suggested, based strictly on behaviors, Adolf Hitler must have been an addict; Graham, who wrote The Secret History of Alcoholism, responded that being a child of a particularly awful alcoholic (referring to Hitler’s father, Alois) was enough to turn someone into a mass murderer. Besides, he added, Hitler was a known teetotaler. I was skeptical and thought there had to be some drug addiction that would turn a man into a monster. I kept my eyes open thinking I might find my mentor to be mistaken.

Stumbling onto a used copy of The Medical Casebook of Adolf Hitler was one of those magical moments in my quest to find examples of people in whom behaviors indicated addiction, but where no one suspected it. Its authors, the husband and wife team of Leonard L. Heston, M.D. and Renate Heston, R.N., made an incontrovertible case for amphetamine addiction in this tyrant. Further, based on admittedly scant evidence, I surmised that barbiturate addiction may have preceded the amphetamines. By the same token, finding proof of barbiturate addiction in Mao Zedong in The Private Life of Chairman Mao, by Dr. Li Zhisui, was a similar coup. Now, in this month’s “Review of the Month,” we have one of the great finds in the annals of addiction: a review of one part of a book by the great historian Paul Johnson. He unknowingly provides proof of addiction in a political philosopher whose convoluted ideas have adversely affected billions over the past 150 years: Karl Marx.

The Top Story in this issue is a bit unusual in that while we lack absolute proof of addiction, the behaviors alone provide compelling evidence. The obituaries under “Sometimes, it takes an addict” are more numerous and varied than usual, adding to the loads of evidence that alcohol and other-drug addiction leads to behavioral extremes manifesting in both creative genius and evil incarnate. Since it’s the beginning of my income-producing Season (and, wish as I might, TAR far from pays the bills), I don’t guarantee another issue of the Thorburn Addiction Report until May, even if we’ve succeeded in nearly every year to supply at least one issue somewhere in-between. However, we have tried to give you a double issue you won’t soon forget. If you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it, please forward it in its entirety to family, friends and associates and suggest they add themselves to our mailing list to receive future issues.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

A Con-Artist for a Mother, An Arsonist for a Son and Amphetamines May Explain it All: The Case of Dorothee and Harry Burkhart

The New Year’s headline in the Los Angeles Times read, “Arson Wave is Worst Since Riots,” referring to the 1992 riots that began when a nearly all-White jury (ten Whites, one Hispanic and one Asian) acquitted one Hispanic and three White police officers of using excessive force in the beating of a drug-addled Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Nearly all felonious crime is committed and instigated by alcohol or other-drug addicts. There’s no doubt about King’s polydrug addiction, and there’s little doubt that most if not all of the rioters were alcohol or other-drug addicts. The cause of this latest arson wave will likely prove to differ only in style and degree.

Both cases have aspects of the bizarre. King, who is African-American and has a history of addiction and related criminal behaviors both before and since, tried to run because he feared being sent back to prison for parole violations. He was under the influence with an estimated blood alcohol level of .19 per cent at the time of the chase. While the officers may have been too aggressive and were tried for police brutality in a criminal trial, they were acquitted, leading to the L.A. riots. The tragic result of one person’s active addiction, because he resisted arrest and may have driven police to do what codependents often do—overreact—included 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires and over one billion dollars in property damage.

The recent arson wave began shortly after the apprehension of Dorothee Burkhart for immigration violations and a pending extradition back to Germany, from which she had escaped while awaiting trial for a series of criminal acts. She had embezzled at least $35,000 from an unspecified number of renters and landlords, in addition to nearly $10,000 from a surgeon whom she falsely convinced would have the funds transferred into his bank account for breast augmentation. At the initial court hearing, her son Harry Burkhart unleashed an expletive-laced tirade against U.S. authorities for capturing his mother and for intending to deport her to Germany. The fires began that night and continued for several days before Harry was apprehended, after over 50 blazes were set.

The Burkhart’s didn’t start out this criminally-inclined. After fleeing to Germany in 1994 following the Russian invasion of Chechnya, Dorothee apparently worked legitimately for a time driving taxis and dealing in real estate. Only later did she turn to scamming. She also clashed often with teachers and school officials over Harry’s “learning disabilities.” Along the way, she developed paranoid conspiracy theories, becoming convinced she and her son were targeted by nearly everyone (because they were Chechnyan), especially neo-Nazis whom she believed secretly ran the country.

Police in Germany arrested her for multiple counts of fraud in 2007. After escaping and fleeing to Canada, which is now looking at Harry as a suspect in a number of unsolved arson fires, Dorothee told Canadian authorities, from whom she was requesting asylum, that she was tortured while awaiting trial in Germany. After being denied asylum in 2010 they moved to the L.A. area, where Harry got his own apartment, next door to his mother’s. At night, he placed a mattress against the door and slept on it in order to, according to reports, “keep intruders out.” A doctor diagnosed him with, among other disorders, severe anxiety and a sleep disorder, but not the obvious: paranoia.

The crimes the duo have been accused of are by themselves very strong indicators of addiction, despite the media calling Dorothee variations of “crazy” and blindly repeating Dorothee’s allegations that her son is autistic, mentally disabled and mentally ill. They both act like they’re on a panoply of drugs but, since different drugs can cause different symptoms, I wondered which one might be their drug of choice. While Dorothee’s known behaviors are suggestive, Harry’s behaviors may give away the secret: four strongly indicate amphetamine addiction. First, he committed arson, which is a particularly destructive crime; while alcoholics are perfectly capable of committing such atrocities, amphetamine addicts are probably more likely to do so. (I admit to hypothesizing here based on limited anecdotes; there are no studies of which I’m aware.) Second, the speed with which he committed the arsons is more likely consistent with pure stimulant than with other drug use. Third, he experienced apparent delusions and paranoia in believing his mother’s fears that neo-Nazis were after them. In fact, according to German authorities, Dorothee was convinced she and her son were being targeted by nearly everyone with whom they crossed paths, including neighbors and police. Heavy stimulant use, including amphetamine addiction, causes both delusions and paranoia. Fourth, Harry suffers from sleep disorder, of which amphetamine addiction is one leading cause.

The key indications of amphetamine addiction are, therefore, consistent with their known behaviors: paranoia, delusions, irritability, aggression and (for Harry at least) sleep disorders. The main contraindication is a sales clerk at a Russian pastry store Harry frequented, who said he appeared to have a hard time focusing; while amphetamine use increases concentration, this observation could be explained by the probability she saw him between uses. The key, however, may be a photo here in which his pupils—the part of the eye that reflects the light in the picture—look like they could be as big as the moon. Outside of an ophthalmologist’s office, hardly anything other than amphetamines and cocaine cause pupils to be as dilated.

While the media and public remain baffled over behaviors that are both destructive and bizarre, the best explanation isn’t “she’s crazy” or “he’s a sociopath.” The best explanation and by far the most likely is substance addiction, specifically to stimulants and, most likely, amphetamines.

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Kim Jong-un, the 28-year-old heir to the North Korean Kim dynasty following in his father’s (Kim Jong-il) footsteps as ruler of what will likely be considered the most totalitarian state ever by future historians. Kim-the-younger is depicted in U.S. intelligence assessments as a “volatile youth with a sadistic streak” and “may be even more mercurial and merciless” than his father, which is difficult to fathom. Imagine the alcoholic serial murderers Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer ruling 20 million extremely unlucky victims and you might get a picture of life under the Kim’s.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, sentenced to a 14-year prison term for what U.S. prosecuting attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called “the most staggering crime spree in office I have ever seen.” Among other offences he was convicted of conspiring to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama. The litany of behaviors indicative of alcoholism were enough to qualify Blagojevich for the Top Story honor in the January 2009 edition of TAR, even though actual proof of drinking or using was not yet evident (a rare honor indeed for those in whom absolute proof is lacking). However, I think we now have all the proof possible short of an actual admission. Not only have his attorneys asked that the ex-governor be included in a prison residential drug “abuse” program, which would shave a year off his sentence; so has the judge, James Zagel, who sentenced him. While journalists reported that “no one is aware of any drug abuse problem during the three years since Blagojevich’s arrest in December 2008,” neither was “Full House” child star Jodie Sweetin’s husband, an LAPD cop, aware of her methamphetamine addiction, which was active for at least two of the five years they were married.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, two recent stories follow for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Kinde Durkee, 58, previously charged with using funds from clients’ accounts to pay her own bills, now charged with practicing accounting without a license. The scope of the embezzlement is likely on par with some recent Ponzi schemes: she controlled more than 360 bank accounts for nearly 100 Democratic politicians, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who says hundreds of thousands of dollars are missing from her campaign fund. Obviously, she wasn’t just paying “bills;” she was living high (pun intended).

Laurie Ann Martinez, 36, a licensed psychologist for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the prison system), arrested on charges of faking a rape and robbery with the goal of persuading her husband to move to another, “safer” neighborhood. Police responding to her 911 call found her lying on the floor crying hysterically, her shirt ripped open with her breasts exposed, lip split, knuckles scraped and soaked in her own urine. With the help of a friend, Nicole April Snyder, 33, she had staged the entire scene, going so far as to have Snyder rough up her face. Incredibly, Martinez oversees a team that treats inmates with mental health issues in one of California’s state prisons. Not surprising, Martinez’s husband David is divorcing her. Less surprising, there is a vacancy for her in a state prison cell, as she moves from one side of the bars to the other.

Enabler of the month:

The U.S. government, which has been negotiating with North Korean “diplomats” hoping, as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton says, “to trade food aid for more empty promises to denuclearize.” As Melanie Kirkpatrick, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute put it, “On Pyongyang’s part, [the history of the failed denuclearization agreements] is a history marked by lies, broken promises, and clandestine programs. On the part of the U.S., the history is marked by gullibility and wishful thinking.” It’s also a history of accepting “Kim Jong-il’s promises of future good behavior in return for economic benefits.” If it’s reminiscent of parasite and host, alcoholic and codependent, it’s because it is. We addictionologists can only hope it doesn’t end as badly as it so often does when well-intentioned people attempt to “help” the addict, or believe him. Now we get Kim’s son, Kim Jong-un, who one senior U.S. official sums up in a U.S. assessment: “He has a violent streak and that’s worrisome.” When referring to alcoholics in positions of power, this official—and no doubt the U.S. government—have no idea.

Disenabler of the month:

David Martinez, who announced he is divorcing his “crazy” wife, Laurie Ann Martinez, whose issues are described in the “Under watch” section above.

Addict v. addict v. addict

Sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who represented Ben Roethlisberger among many other highly successful NFL’s pros, filing for bankruptcy protection. Steinberg, who was the inspiration for the movie “Jerry Maquire” (“Show me the money!”), admits his alcoholism caused impaired judgment resulting in his financial collapse. What he won’t say—but we will—is that he was likely taken down by other alcoholics. Taking responsibility for the debts, he avoided filing bankruptcy for years after a 2003 incident in which one of his employees, without his knowledge, took a $300,000 loan from one of his NFL clients. Aside from the fact that such loans are specifically forbidden by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) regulations, apparently the loan went unpaid and the NFL player fired Steinberg and hired a rival agency, one run by an agent who previously “worked at” his firm and who was sued by Steinberg over the way “he left” the firm. Steinberg won the lawsuit. “There are many legal complexities,” Steinberg explained, “but in a nutshell, his representatives—the ones who lost the lawsuit—have insisted on collecting monies without informing the NFLPA that the matter is settled. The point is crucial because I did not apply for recertification by the union after one of their agents (and his wife) filed suit against me in 2006. If I cannot be recertified, I cannot work in the field that I have been trained in, which is to the benefit of this rival agent. Keeping me out of business seems to be a priority above collecting the debt, and although substantial payments have been made, the demand is now four times the original amount. My attempts to rebuild my life have been hamstrung.”

Steinberg, who seems genuinely contrite in stating “I have attempted to make amends for damage my drinking caused to others,” may be a victim of two possible alcoholics: the employee who took the loan and the rival agent, who seems unreasonable and vindictive. As I’ve often noted, both the criminal and civil justice system are filled with addicts, often on all sides.

Question of the month:

“Just how drunk were you, Francesco Schettino, Captain of the Costa Concordia? And were you a relapsing (and hidden from those that matter) alcoholic?” Several reports on the listing of the ship include clues suggesting the answers to the questions are “very” and “yes.” Clue # 1: Pier Luigi Foschi, the chairman and chief executive of Costa Cruises, reportedly said he believed that Captain Schettino “never drank alcohol.” Yet, a Dutch survivor claimed she “saw him drinking with a woman on his arm at the ship's bar.” Clue # 2: Prosecutors allege he was showing off by sailing past the Tuscan island of Giglio, where his head waiter lived, with some claiming he was piloting the cruise liner “like a Ferrari.” Clue # 3: His former captain, Mario Palombo, claimed Schettino "was too exuberant. He's a braggart. More than once I had to put him in his place."

Quote of the month:

“Jerrold M. Post, a former psychological profiler for the CIA, diagnosed Kim as having malignant narcissism, a personality disorder characterized by ‘extreme grandiosity and self-absorption….There is no capacity to empathize with others,’ [he] wrote in a study of Kim. ‘There is no constraint of conscience….Kim’s only loyalty is to himself and his own survival.’”

So wrote Barbara Demick and John M. Glionna in the Los Angeles Times story on the death of Kim Jong-il. They, along with Post (and unfortunately, perhaps, the CIA) omitted Kim’s alcoholism, which explains the “malignant narcissism,” the “extreme grandiosity and self-absorption,” the incapacity “to empathize with others,” the absence of “constraint of conscience” and the loyalty only to himself “and his own survival.” The failure to identify alcoholism at the root of all of Kim’s behaviors ensures the failure to comprehend him, and to predict we were utterly unable to predict what he might have done next. Now we get to say the same about his son, Kim Jong-un who, by the way, recently inherited some nuclear weapons.

Headline of the month:

“North Korean leader dies. Kim, 69, defied and baffled world with his nuclear aims, bizarre actions.”

So led the Los Angeles Times cover story on the death of Kim Jong-il. From a libertarian-humanist perspective, the use of the word “leader” is revolting; Kim was among the most horrific of despotic rulers. From an addictionologist’s viewpoint the idea that he “baffled” the world with “bizarre” actions would be shocking and baffling only if he was not an alcoholic. We know there is nothing baffling or bizarre about him: he did what many practicing alcoholics dream and would do if only they could be placed in identical circumstances. Kim’s alcoholism-induced behaviors are discussed in detail in the Top Story and “Review of the Month” of issue # 3 of TAR. It’s an amazing read.

Sometimes, it takes an addict:

Kim Jong-il, North Korean ruler since 1994, dead at age 69 or 70. I was a Ron Paul-style non-interventionist libertarian until I began studying alcoholism and realized there’s only one way to deal with an alcoholic sitting on nukes: take him out. (I’m with Paul on practically all domestic matters, as I believe it’s the height of arrogance to suggest I know better how to run your life and spend your money than you do—but not in this case, where his hands-off foreign policy is, I believe, naïve.) Kim is such a classic study of alcoholism and the abuse of power it’s hard to know which example of abuse to mention. However, three prime examples may help to give the unaware a “feel” for his regime. First, a night-time satellite photo shows the extraordinary contrast in lights and, therefore, civilization or its lack thereof between North and South Korea. Second, those who dare speak out against the dictator were not only dragged into the North Korean gulag (refugees frequently use the word “hell” to describe their country, which doesn’t leave words that might adequately describe its version of the gulag), but also their family members similarly “disappear.” In one (likely) extreme case, Kim’s response to the 1997 defection of a high-ranking official, Hwang Jong-yop, was to ship 3,000 of Hwang’s relatives—including many having no idea they were related to the defector—to the gulag; Kim then spent the next 13 years dispatching assassins to Seoul in a (luckily) futile attempt to murder him (Hwang died of natural causes in 2010). Third, a comparison between the standard of living of North and South Koreans shows that while their estimated living standards were similar for nearly two decades after the stalemate ending the Korean War, the South is now, monetarily, 17 times richer than the North (and these are the same sort of “official” statistics that told us the Soviets’ standard of living was roughly half of ours, when it was more like 10%).  The hellhole that is North Korea is a direct result of Kim’s alcoholism-fueled egomania, for which I believe an incontrovertible case is made in the Top Story and “Review of the Month” of issue # 3 of TAR which is, again, an excellent and timely read.

Socrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira, Brazilian football (soccer) player, political agitator and intellectual, dead at 57 from septic shock caused by food poisoning, which his dining companions survived. While playing over 300 games, he talked Van Gogh and Cuban history, practiced medicine (he’d miss training sessions for his medical studies in a country where commerce stops and elections are planned around soccer) and campaigned for democracy while generals ran the country. After retiring from soccer, he blasted the corruption rampant in the game and argued his ideals at cafès through smoke and alcohol. While insisting he “never had many problems with alcohol because I was not addicted….I interacted with alcohol as if it were a partner, but I never had withdrawal symptoms. I spent long periods without use,” his liver was weakened enough from long-standing non-alcoholism that he couldn’t survive sepsis. In fact, he was hoping his health would stabilize ahead of a liver transplant.

Author Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62 from esophageal cancer. Hitchens, who wrote provocative essays on religion, politics and war also wrote an engaging series of essays about his disease, prognosis and impending death. He also acknowledged that years of heavy smoking and drinking had put him at grave risk for the often-fatal disease. Having made a case against religion in his 2007 God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he stuck to his atheism to the end. He wrote two dozen books, including biographies of Thomas Jefferson, George Orwell and Thomas Paine. When younger he was a socialist, but began crossing the aisle in the ‘90s when, among other surprises, he lambasted President Bill Clinton as a rapist. After 9-11 he was repulsed by his perception of leftists blaming the U.S. for the attacks and supported the Bush administration’s war on terrorism, culminating in taking the oath of citizenship in 2007, on his 58th birthday, in a private ceremony at the Jefferson Memorial conducted by George W. Bush’s homeland security chief Michael Chertoff. Hitchens was described by a friend and fellow writer, Martin Amis, as “one of nature’s rebels….He has no automatic respect for anybody or anything.” And all along, he drank. I saw him in a number of television interviews in which he looked and sounded drunk and only later discovered his secret: he had outed himself years ago. He was always engaging and everyone simply accepted him for who he was. But I’m reasonably certain it would have been hell to live with him, at least some of the time.

Producer Bert Schneider, who captured the negative social mood of the late 1960s and the 1970s in “Easy Rider” and “Five Easy Pieces,” dead at age 78 of “natural causes,” no doubt exacerbated by long-standing alcoholism mentioned only in the 23rd paragraph of the Los Angeles Times obituary. Yet, the clues abounded long before that second-to-last paragraph. First, I have long hypothesized (see issue # 31 of Wealth Creation Strategies) that alcoholics are better able to capture the social mood of the times and use it to their advantage, whether as businessmen, actors, writers, musicians or other creative artists. It’s apparent from the first few paragraphs of the obituary that Schneider managed to do this in spades. Second, the headline read, “Iconoclastic producer of ‘Easy Rider’.” An iconoclast is one who attacks and seeks to overthrow long-cherished or popular ideas and institutions. Due to their insatiable need to wield power, alcoholics more often do this—and are more often successful—than are non-addicts. Third, Dennis Hopper directed and co-starred in “Easy Rider” with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson; addicts often hang out with other addicts (though Hopper was much more obvious in his addiction). Finally, the 23rd paragraph would give away the “secret” to the addiction aware even if it hadn’t mentioned long-standing alcoholism: “Beset by personal problems, including substance abuse and a fire that destroyed his Beverly Hills home, Schneider was estranged from his children and many of his friends in later years.” All of these indications suggest that the obituary would more accurately have read, “Bert Schneider, dead at age 78 after long-standing alcoholism compelled him to take extraordinary risks that ‘worked,’ while ruining relationships with family and friends, especially towards the end.”

Director Ken Russell, known for his flamboyant visual style in films such as “The Devils,” “Altered States,” and the Who’s rock opera “Tommy,” dead at 84 after suffering a series of strokes. He was known for irreverent BBC documentaries of prominent figures in the arts and hit the big leagues with his 1969 movie “Women in Love,” which famously included a nude wrestling scene between Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. Glenda Jackson, who won an Academy Award for best actress in the movie, said he “broke barriers” for many people. He courted controversy and was referred to as the “enfant terrible” of British cinema because of films like “The Devils,” an X-rated 1971 film about a priest and sexually repressed nuns in 17th century France (starring Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed). Peter Rainer, film critic for the Christian Science Monitor said that he was different from other British directors with his “tremendous flair for flamboyance and fantasy, rich in self-indulgence and a lot of overheated imagery….[using] the lives of famous artists…as springboards for his own lurid, psychosexual fantasias.” Film critic Kevin Thomas said Russell was “a major risk taker” as a director. His heyday stretched from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, when, as Rainer pointed out, “his type of extravagance struck a chord with counterculture audiences…looking for cutting-edge experiences in the movies, both visually and sexually.” He was married four times. So what about the alcoholism, which all of the italicized words and phrases suggest (and for which I added all of the emphasis throughout)? Not a mention of it in the Los Angeles Times obituary or many others. The Guardian mentions his father, a shoe shop owner, whose “violent episodes led Russell and his mother to seek refuge in the cinema.” Only in the 14th and last paragraph was drinking even mentioned, but it’s enough: “Tributes began appearing to the director…with the comedy writer Graham Linehan recalling an anecdote from the set of "Lair of the White Worm" in which Russell’s directing style grew exponentially broader as his alcohol intake for the day increased.”  The anecdote makes Russell’s alcoholism even more obvious: “The mornings would go ok, but then he would go to lunch and knock back two bottles of wine. So after lunch his acting note to everyone was simply "Bigger! BIGGER." So the performances would get bigger and sillier and more broad, until finally everyone was acting as if they were in a Carry On film. At that point he yelled "PERFECT! NOW...DOUBLE IT!"

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.

Karl Marx, Alcoholic

A historian fails to diagnose the obvious

Alcoholics have had an enormous effect on human history, with both positive and negative results. As I’ve argued throughout my work (beginning with Drunks, Drugs & Debits), the effect is so immense it’s impossible to make sense of our past without understanding alcoholism. The great includes the likes of Thomas Paine, Ignaz Semmelweis and Ayn Rand. The horrific includes Jeffrey Dahmer, Ivan the Terrible, Josef Stalin and Kim Jong-il. I’ve long suspected that, if able to dig deep enough, we would find alcoholism explaining the life and thinking of Karl Marx, but until I stumbled upon historian Paul Johnson’s book, Intellectuals, I had been stymied.

The book, described by Johnson as “an examination of the moral and judgmental credentials of certain leading intellectuals to give advice to humanity on how to conduct its affairs,” includes brief vignettes of a dozen of these intellectuals. They include Jean-Jacques Rousseau (“an interesting madman” and, therefore, almost assuredly alcoholic), the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (husband of Frankenstein’s Mary Shelley), Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemmingway (discussed among others in the review of the month in the October-November-December 2011 TAR), Jean-Paul Sartre, Lillian Hellman and Karl Marx. That we have positively identified at least five of the twelve intellectuals as alcoholics —who this great historian believes have made their mark—demonstrates the staggering effect alcoholism has had on history.

The 30 pages devoted to Marx are a fascinating chronicle of a previously undiagnosed alcoholic’s life. It’s especially powerful given that, as Johnson says, “Marx has had more impact on actual events, as well as on the minds of men and women, than any other intellectual in modern times.” Moreover, his influence created more pain and suffering than anyone else—ever—by giving totalitarian despots, including Stalin and Mao, a pretext for murdering tens of millions.

Marx’s most important theme and foundation for the mass of his ideas was that the more capital employed, the greater the exploitation of workers. In Johnson's words: “capitalism produces ever-worsening conditions; the more capital employed, the more badly the workers had to be treated to secure adequate returns.” This is the opposite of the truth (and entirely at odds with the views explicated in “The Wealth of Individuals: Part 2” in issue # 34 of Wealth Creation Strategies). Twisted logic is a key behavioral clue to alcoholism in an intellectual, and this is about as twisted as it gets. So is intellectual dishonesty—he justified this absurdity by citing one work published twenty years earlier (Engels’) which, in turn, was “based not on primary sources but on a few secondary sources of dubious value” and which was itself as much as forty years out of date, even though Marx cited it as contemporary. His evidence included “small, inefficient, undercapitalized firms in archaic industries which in most cases were pre-capitalist….[where] conditions were bad precisely because the firm had not been able to afford to introduce machinery, since it lacked capital….[Marx ignored] the truth which stared him in the face: the more capital, the less suffering.”

Another extraordinary instance of intellectual dishonesty involved the deliberate falsification of a sentence from W. E. Gladstone’s Budget speech of 1863. Gladstone said, “I should look almost with apprehension and with pain upon this intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power if it were my belief that it was confined to the class who are in easy circumstances; [however,] the average condition of the British laborer…has improved during the last twenty years in a degree which we know to be extraordinary, and which we may almost pronounce to be unexampled in the history of any country and of any age.” However, Marx claimed Gladstone said, “This intoxicating augmentation of wealth and power is entirely confined to [the propertied class].” As Johnson points out, “it would be hard to conceive of a more outrageous reversal of his meaning,” and almost unimaginable that after his misquote was pointed out, he nevertheless reproduced it in his book Das Capital. Later, “when the falsification was again noticed and denounced, he let out a huge discharge of obfuscating ink,” a debate he (and later his codependent heirs) carried on for at least two decades. As readers of my books know, alcoholics can be great and persistent liars.

Johnson asks, if a love of truth didn’t motivate Marx, what did? Johnson believes four aspects of character “deeply rooted in the personality” supplied his “energizing” force: “his taste for violence, his appetite for power, his inability to handle money and, above all, his tendency to exploit those around him.” All of these character flaws are manifestations of alcoholism; if true, they lie at the root of all of his thinking and behaviors.

Marx exhibited fury, especially when his views couldn’t be supported by facts. He was extraordinarily hostile to his fellow revolutionaries, particularly when they experienced real life, something Marx wasn’t interested in—“he never set foot in a mill, factory, mine or other industrial workplace in the whole of his life.” In fact, Marx looked only for facts that fit his preconceptions and, when the facts didn’t support his ideas, falsified, misrepresented and deceived.

Marx used violent expressions throughout his writing and speech and, in real life, engaged in “huge bursts of rage.” While a journalist, he held “editorial meetings…behind closed windows so that people outside could not hear the endless shouting.” He quarreled with everyone “unless he succeeded in dominating them completely” and spent much time, in anticipating Stalin, by “collecting elaborate dossiers about his political rivals and enemies.” He often used the phrase, “I will annihilate you” which, along with his actions, suggests to Johnson he “would have been capable of great violence and cruelty” had he ever gained a true position of power. Because he was never in such a position, “his pent-up rage therefore passed into his books.” Each of these behaviors is consistent with a diagnosis of alcoholism.

In fact, almost every description by Johnson of Marx’s thinking and behavior is indicative of this brain disease, which becomes nearly incontrovertible when there are dozens of examples. Johnson describes Marx as having a “withering contempt for all non-scholars” and hatred of “usury and moneylenders.” Marx endorsed and quoted anti-Semitic views with approval, asking “What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money.” Johnson argues Marx’s philosophy was created around his desire to “make the Jew impossible” by abolishing “the preconditions, the very possibility of the kind of money activities which produced him.” Capricious hatred of others, including classes of people, is common among alcoholics. It allows them to wield power by keeping others off balance and serves to deflect blame.

What might have triggered such hatred in a brain-damaged individual? Marx was often driven “into the hands of moneylenders at high rates of interest,” which Johnson surmises could explain “why his entire theory of class is rooted in anti-Semitism, and why he included in Capital a long and violent passage denouncing usury….” His money problems “began at university and lasted his entire life.” His attitude about money was, in fact, “childish”: he “borrowed money heedlessly, spent it, then was invariably astounded and angry when the heavily discounted bills [!!!], plus interest, became due.” He “adopted a pattern of living off loans from friends and gouging periodic sums from the family.” He inherited what were then sizeable amounts from both parents and various other relatives; at no point did his income fall below “three times the average wage of a skilled workman” and yet he was “always in debt, often seriously….” Alcoholics often spend more than they earn their entire lives.

The sick mind usually extends hatred from groups to individuals. He ended up in a “total breach with his mother” and suddenly cut off other friends, especially after they questioned him; when a devoted colleague suggested “he would find no difficulty in finishing Capital if only he would organize his life a little better, Marx broke with him for good and subjected him to relentless abuse.” He exploited his wife, whose jewelry and silver he pawned, as well as his three daughters, since although he could have afforded the expense (and the girls were clearly “clever”) “he denied them a satisfactory education, refused to allow them to get any training, and vetoed careers absolutely.” And although he feigned defending the “working class,” he never paid his cook and maid Helen Demuth (known as “Lenchen”) from the time she came to work for him in 1845 (she worked for the family for 45 years). Further, Lenchen became Marx’s mistress and conceived a child, whom Marx “refused to acknowledge [as] his responsibility, then or ever,” terrified that if his son’s paternity was discovered he would suffer irreparable damage as “revolutionary leader and seer.”

All of these read like a catalogue of behaviors indicative of the alcoholic need to wield mercurial power over others. Contempt, hatred and blaming others are all, as described in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, typical ways by which the alcoholic inflates his ego at the expense of others. Violent rages, hostility and lies—especially twisted logic and intellectual dishonesty—are hallmarks of the disease. The purposeful misquote of Gladstone is similar in vileness to the false accusations that I have suggested elsewhere are rarely if ever made by non-alcoholics. The four “energizing” forces Johnson avers are all consistent with alcoholism—the alcoholic must wield power over others in a bid to inflate the ego and often displays poor judgment in financial affairs, having a need to spend money even while bankrupting himself and often those around him. This is frequently accomplished by exploiting well-intentioned (but naïve) family and friends. Unreasonable resentments and the instantaneous cutting off of long-cherished relationships are also classic alcoholism-fueled behaviors, as is acting like a child.

Utilizing Appendix 1 in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, 25 of 35 early-stage non-use-related behavioral indications of alcoholism are satisfied: behavioral clues 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10-17, 19-22 and, 25-30 can all be answered in the affirmative, while several others could not be answered in the 19th century, since telephones and automobiles weren’t invented. However, without confirmation of heavy drinking we cannot be absolutely certain of a diagnosis of alcoholism.

Despite this evidence, Johnson displays a typical ignorance of alcoholism when he flatly states, “Marx was not an alcoholic.” He finishes this sentence by adding, “But he drank regularly, often heavily and sometimes engaged in serious drinking bouts.” Three pages later, he continues: Marx “smoked heavily, drank a lot, especially strong ale, and as a result had constant trouble with his liver.” In addition, Johnson describes Marx's suffering of boils for a quarter century, including carbuncles, boils that merge to form a single deep abscess with several heads. According to, both boils and carbuncles “are more likely to develop in those with…alcoholism or drug abuse.” Finally, putting the nail in the coffin Johnson cites a “clever Prussian police spy describing in great detail the activities of the German revolutionaries centered around Marx,” including the fact that Marx was “often drunk.” Even though Johnson presents clear, undeniable evidence of alcoholism to his readers, he fails to explicitly recognize and diagnose the disease in his subject. Had he understood alcoholism, he would might written, “Marx exhibited thinking and behavior patterns consistent with early-to-middle stage alcoholism. He also drank heavily. He was, therefore, an alcoholic—and, perhaps, the most destructive in history.”

I often say, alcoholism explains “only” 80% of society’s ills, woes and dysfunctions. However, now that we’ve confirmed alcoholism in the man who is alone responsible for perhaps 80% of the horrifying tragedies that fill books of recent history, we might up this to 90%.

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Homeowner association board from hell

Dear Doug:

A couple of board directors who are alcoholics have entered into contracts, negotiated with vendors and made decisions regarding maintenance projects while inebriated. They have not recalled signing contracts or conversations and promises made to owners, vendors and management. Other board members have learned about contracts too late to rescind them, but are loathe to confront them because the last time they did so things turned ugly. The irony is the alcoholic members keep getting re-elected because they are generally well-liked, even though everyone knows we’ve been bound by contracts we never should have entered into. How do we tactfully handle this and not get sued for discrimination?


The “other” board members

Dear Codependents,

Other columnists would point out any tactful method for handling this flew out the window when the alcoholics suffered memory loss. They’d tell you that signing contracts and not remembering doing so is reckless, which violates the requirement that they take their obligations seriously and refrain from such behavior. They would suggest various legal ways of removing these board members and making them liable for any damages resulting from their breaches of duty.

Such columnists would not explain that these members repeatedly get re-elected because of all-too-common alcoholic charm and that this can turn to vitriolic hatred and vengeance on a dime once they see their positions of power threatened or taken away. Because their lies are far more believable than your truths and they may seek revenge (you don’t know what “ugly” is, yet), the other members should immediately hire an attorney to guide the association in ridding themselves of these dangerous parasites. In addition, for everyone else’s safety, an off-duty policeman should be hired supervise any meetings these directors attend, especially those that seek to remove them. Finally, if these board members live among you, great care should be taken to avoid run-ins with people whose behaviors you really can’t predict.

(Source for story idea: “Associations,” a column written by Stephen Glassman and Donie Vanitzian, The Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2011.)

“False reports of sexual assault are extremely rare… [According to the U.S. Department of Justice] only 2.5 percent of reports turn out to be false.”

So claimed Beth Hassett, executive director of Women Escaping a Violent Environment, in commenting on Laurie Ann Martinez’s arrest for staging a rape, reported in the “under watch” section above. With due respect to women who have been sexually assaulted, of which possibly 75% go unreported (some sources claim 95%), false accusations are one of the most effective means by which addicts wield power. This is especially true of those who cannot easily physically overpower others, including women.

I have written at least twice about such accusations. The Top Story in the first issue of TAR involved a likely false accusation of rape concerning NBA star Kobe Bryant. The Top Story in issue # 20 discussed what turned out to be a false accusation of rape of then 27-year-old stripper Crystal Gayle Mangum by several members of the Duke University lacrosse team. (In a classic case of prosecutorial misconduct for which he was later disbarred, District Attorney Mike Nifong was not only complicit in the false accusations, but also hid evidence that would have quickly exonerated the players.)

Hard statistics are exceedingly difficult to come by. Often, addict is pitted against addict, which can make it impossible for anyone other than those directly involved to ever ascertain the truth. That said I suspected at least a quarter of such accusations are false when I found an article written by libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy supporting my estimate.

In a piece entitled “False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought” published by the Independent Institute in May 2006, McElroy argues that false accusations of rape are common. She points out that the crime of “bearing false witness,” i.e. making a false accusation, is rarely tracked or punished. While “politically correct feminists” make unsubstantiated claims that such false accusations comprise only 2 percent of all reports, men’s rights websites point to research suggesting a rate as high as 41 percent. Arguing for the idea that the truth is somewhere in the middle (but 10 times the figure Hassett claims), McElroy quotes a 1996 FBI study reporting that “out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have ‘matched’ or included the primary suspect.” She adds that the authors reporting the FBI study, Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, co-founders of the Innocence Project (which seeks to exonerate those falsely imprisoned for allegedly committing all manner of felonious crimes), pointed out the percentages remained constant over the seven years ending in 1996 and “the National Institute of Justice’s informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26 percent exclusion rate.”

Then where does the 2 percent figure come from? McElroy found it in Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book on sexual assault, Against Our Will and elsewhere, but never with a citation or “with only a vague attribution to ‘FBI’ sources.” To the contrary, she quotes a leading scholar on rape law, Professor of Law Michelle Anderson of Villanova University Law School (now Dean of City University of New York): “No study has ever been published which sets forth an evidentiary basis for the two percent false rape complaint thesis.”

McElroy cites a few small studies, one from an unnamed small Midwestern city and two from major universities, concluding that 45-50 percent of rape accusations were false. McElroy concludes that while the 50 percent figure seems high, “False accusations are not rare. They are common.” Any addictionologist, who grasps the fundamental idea of alcoholic egomania and the consequential need to wield capricious power over others, would agree. Beth Hassett and other “politically correct” feminists, please take note.

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

“GIVE ME AN A! After a student informed the principal at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla., math teacher Jeff Spires was confronted and admitted it: yes, he sold better grades to the kids for cash payments of $40-70. The students would staple or paper-clip the cash to quizzes, and Spires, 36, would increase their grades. Why? ‘Maybe I see the kids as desperate as I am,’ Spires allegedly told a school district investigator, who said Spires ‘went on to say that he was in financial straits due to bankruptcy, arrests, and jail time.’ Charlotte County Jail records show Spires has been jailed three times in the past two years, for charges including DUI, driving with a suspended license, and probation violation. Spires has resigned from the school. (RC/Sarasota Herald-Tribune, WINK-TV) ...Teacher bribery isn't the scandal here. School teachers keeping their jobs when they are ‘in financial straits due to bankruptcy, arrests, and jail time’ is the scandal.”

Not to mention alcoholism. In fact, the tragedy is Spires wasn’t given the choice of loss of his job or abstinence early on. With the proper incentives and enforcement, addicts often make the right choice, which frequently leads to sobriety. As soon as misbehaviors are spotted—and there are always misbehaviors of some sort—alcoholism should be suspected. When the likelihood involves someone dealing closely with children, the law could easily (and justifiably) require abstinence. If the law had done what it should do—intervene early—the tragedy of bribing children and the trail of arrests, imprisonment and bankruptcy would likely not have occurred.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2012 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

October - November - December 2011

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

IMPORTANT NOTE: We may switch email services, which will require that each of you opt in to the new service.

Two months is longer than we like between issues of the Thorburn Addiction Report, but there’s been a dearth of alcoholism-related news for which a unique perspective can be offered. In addition, we released the fall issue # 46 of Wealth Creation Strategies, available here (you may find the discussion of Howard Buffet and why taxing the “wealthy” is counter-productive, as well as the article on how best to audit-proof your tax records, of interest). And we got very busy with the end of the “real” tax filing season (mid-October), after which we took a wonderful vacation to Maui. Via Blue Hawaiian Helicopters we actually got to see one of the rainiest spots on the planet, Pu’u Kukui, the highest peak (5,787 feet) on the western “head” of Maui, with an average and very evenly distributed yearly rainfall of 386 inches (our pilot told us it was only the tenth time in ten years he was able to see the top, which is usually shrouded in clouds). Fortunately, we missed the helicopter ride just a few weeks later in which all five people aboard were killed, yet one more example of how precious—and unpredictable—life (and trade winds) can be.

The Top Story in this issue offers evidence that those who own exotic animals are more frequently alcoholics than in the overall population. The “Review of the Month” discusses six reviews of biographies. While considerably longer than our usual review, I felt the length was warranted in order to demonstrate that biographers can’t possibly make sense of their subjects’ lives when they don’t view their subjects through the lens of alcoholism. The myth-of-the-month shows why variations in the abuse of power can be understood only by taking into account the stages of alcoholism and factors such as circumstances of the addict, not just the addict’s social status. Please read on and enjoy!

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

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

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Is alcoholism the best explanation for owning exotic animals, their release into civilization and the suicide of owner Terry Thompson?

Terry Thompson, 62, released 56 wild, exotic animals, including lions, Bengal tigers, leopards, monkeys, bears, mountain lions and at least one wolf from his 73-acre Zanesville, Ohio property before committing suicide. Thompson had previous run-ins with neighbors, who had repeatedly complained about animals escaping, and the local sheriff’s office, which had charged him with animal cruelty and neglect. He had been released from federal prison only a month earlier after serving a year for possessing unregistered firearms (133 of them, including a machine gun and several guns with missing serial numbers). He had recently split up with his wife. He owed at least $68,000 in property and income taxes, and was recently hit with a federal tax lien.

This combination of extreme risk-taking behaviors, defiance of convention, conflict with the law, problems with neighbors, family and finances and ultimate suicide provide compelling evidence that Terry Thompson’s life story is best explained by alcoholism. One of many ways to defy convention in excessive, risk-taking ways is by owning exotic animals, as suggested in the Antic-of-the-Month of issue # 51 of TAR (October 2009). Throughout my work I have shown that the commission of crimes is fueled by addiction at least 80% of the time (compelling evidence for which is provided in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse). In a talk I give to Enrolled Agents entitled “Alcoholism, Your Clients and Tax Fraud,” I include a list of another speaker’s “10 Greatest Tax Scofflaws of All Time,” which include at least seven alcohol and other-drug addicts. The other speaker, Sharon Kreider, EA, CPA knew nothing about my work when she compiled the list. Since alcohol and other-drug addicts comprise only 10% of the population, if addiction was not connected to tax fraud we would expect to find only one addict among the ten. Based on this anecdotal evidence, the odds of addiction in someone who commits tax fraud could be at least 70% (but it’s probably closer to the 80%+ likelihood of those who commit crimes generally). Extrapolating from this and my own experience as an EA for over 30 years, I’ve found the likelihood of addiction in someone severely behind in tax obligations to be at least 50%—and probably much higher for a person with net assets (likely for someone who owns a 73-acre farm with at least 56 wild animals) or who “should” have net assets. Furthermore, Thompson appears to have been going through a divorce, 40% of which involve at least one addict. And he committed suicide, which I argue in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behaioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in its Early Stages (pp. 108-109 and footnotes) results from one’s own addiction-caused problems at least 70% of the time. Any two of these clues gives roughly 80% odds of alcoholism; combined, they seem almost irrefutable.

One long-time friend of Thompson commented “he just wasn’t thinking right.” No doubt, but confabulated thinking is a manifestation of alcoholism. The same friend also suggested he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. While this might be true, Myth # 64, “’Personality disorders are more common than alcoholism,’ or a variation, ‘He’s no alcoholic—he’s just crazy!’” in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease establishes that those with mental disorders are usually not crazy—they are usually alcoholics. Another long-time friend of Thompson excused his decision to release the animals and commit suicide, saying he was not a nut, but was driven to act the way he did by crazy neighbors and law enforcers and didn’t have any other way out. We’re sorry for your friend, but non-alcoholics usually figure out a way of dealing with life’s obstacles and challenges in reasonable and civilized ways. Alcoholics, due to damage to the neo-cortex—the “human” part of the brain responsible for reason and logic and for restraining the impulses of the lower brain centers—often take unreasonable actions to resolve conflicts, which Thompson clearly did.

The unfortunate aspect to Thompson’s history and the death of 48 wild animals (shot by local authorities, who were under a mandate to protect nearby residents) is there probably were, as is true for nearly every alcoholic on the planet, dozens if not hundreds of opportunities for close people or the law to intervene before tragedy occurred. Given his felony conviction, the law had both an excuse and a reason to coerce and enforce abstinence, but didn’t. If Thompson had alcoholism, and since abstinence often leads to sobriety, the tragedy of Thompson taking his own life and the death of so many extraordinary animals was completely unnecessary.

Thorburn Addiction Report Archives

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley, 33, arrested after a verbal argument escalated with Bradley swinging a baseball bat at his wife, who then ran out of their home. Bradley previously made TAR twice: once in the “under watch” category of issue # 6 (January 2005), when he pleaded guilty for having yelled at police using profane language for a traffic stop that went “awry,” and in the “runners-up” section of issue # 14 (September 2005), where police responded to reports of domestic violence three times in 33 days. His wife, who was four months pregnant at the time, refused to press charges. In 2002 he was taken to a hospital after refusing to leave a restaurant and was, according to the medical report, “severely intoxicated.” Mr. Bradley, it’s pretty obvious your alcoholism takes potentially lethal form. It’s time to seek sobriety, before you kill someone you love (or even an innocent bystander).

Deborah Bradley, whose 11-month old daughter Lisa Irwin “disappeared” after she put the baby to bed, admitting she was drunk the night of the “disappearance” and admits she doesn’t remember anything occurring after 6 p.m. While Lisa may have been abducted, there may be another, darker explanation: she might have hurt her daughter. Bradley told NBC that she rejects the notion she could have harmed her daughter while under the influence. “No, no, no. And if I thought there was a chance, I’d say it. No. No. I don’t think alcohol changes a person enough to do something like that.” True enough for a non-addict, but unfortunately not true for one with alcoholism. Ms. Bradley, please Google “murder committed during an alcoholic blackout” so you may better understand your disease, which by now you should; your mother, Lisa Netz, had been in recovery for eight years before her death and many other members of your family have been in and out of trouble all of your life, with many admitting to their alcohol and other-drug addictions.

Denny Ray Hardin, 52, who ran the Private Bank of Denny Ray Hardin out of his home, convicted on 21 felony counts relating to creating, marketing and selling $100 million in fraudulent and worthless financial documents. Using his home computer to produce more than 2,000 “bonded promissory notes,” he claimed the bonds were backed by a Treasury Department account and could be used to pay off debts. He charged a “fee” for the notes, which was substantially less than the face value of the notes, leading some to jump at the “deal.” Creditors who refused to accept Hardin’s notes were threatened with legal action by Hardin. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad that some people actually believed the joker pictured here; on the other hand, many of those who believed him might have been not just gullible, but also as high as he was (which is a polite way of suggesting perhaps they got what they deserved).

Former “Hannah Montana” and current Disney’s “Pair of Kings” star Mitchel Musso, 20, arrested for DUI after being stopped for failing to slow down at an intersection where police officers were directing traffic. Let’s hope Musso doesn’t end up 46 years later like Hawaii entertainer Cecilio Rodriguez, 66, recently arrested on suspicion of sex crimes that occurred in the 1990s, committed against two teenage girls. By the way, Rodriguez was convicted of DUI a month before his arrest.

Nathan Walter Sikkenga, 31, who told Florida Highway Patrol troopers after the crash into a security gate arm bar that he instructed his 9-year-old son to drive his van home because he and his wife were too drunk to drive. In a similar story, Shawn Weimer, 39, whose 9-year-old daughter, sitting in a booster seat behind the wheel at 3 a.m., quizzically asked police after she was pulled over, “What did you stop me for? I was driving good.” At the preliminary hearing she testified that her father had been drinking Black Velvet whiskey all night but “wasn’t drunk.” Some day, little girl, should you survive your father’s insanity, you will understand that “drunk” is often evident in bizarre behaviors and actions long before there is slurring, staggered gait or bloodshot eyes.

Under watch:

In an early 2009 piece on white collar crime, The Economist magazine mentioned 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, a recent story follows for which the evidence of alcoholism is in the crime itself.

Jerry Sandusky, accused of sexually assaulting several minor male children, both while he was a football coach for Penn State and after he retired from coaching. The accusations are so compelling and the allegations were covered up so fully, Penn State has fired a number of top people who “should” have known about the alleged abuse and “should” have reported it to authorities. Anyone aware of addiction who found evidence of addictive use by Sandusky would have known the alleged crimes were credible and, if in a position to do so, should have done everything possible to inspire in Sandusky a need to get sober. Addictionologists would ask was Sandusky under the influence when the alleged abuses occurred? If he was, there were no doubt dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened but didn’t, long before it went this far. If he wasn’t, Sandusky would be among the 20% or less of perpetrators of felonious criminal behavior whose behaviors cannot be explained (but never excused) by addiction. Until further evidence of addictive use surfaces, we’ll give Sandusky the benefit of the doubt: if he committed the acts, he’s probably an alcoholic.

Enablers of the month:

Those protecting Jerry Sandusky’s apparent secrets and alleged criminal behaviors, including Joe Paterno, the longest-tenured football coach ever in Division 1 of the NCAA and Mike McQueary, the former assistant coach at Penn State who claims he saw Sandusky sodomize a 10-year-old boy in a campus locker room.

Monique Bradley, wife of former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Milton Bradley. See “Runners-up of the month,” above for details. To her credit, she filed for divorce in early 2011. On the other hand, this sort of misbehavior has been going on since at least 2002 and they have young children. In addition, if it’s unclear why she had to run out of “their” home after he swung a bat at her recently, you’re not alone. (Were they reconciling? Was he invited over? Did he just “show up?”) Such craziness is typical wherever there are addicts.

Likely relapse of the month:

Shareef Allman, 47, who after conquering his “inner demons” and dedicating his life to God after running up a string of minor criminal convictions two decades earlier, went on a shooting rampage at a quarry near Cupertino, CA, killing three people and wounding seven others. Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith described Allman as a “disgruntled worker.” Note to Sheriff Smith: since he committed a series of violent attacks against his now ex-wife in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and “inner demons” is a euphemism to describe the convoluted thinking of alcoholics, he would likely be better described as a “recovering addict who relapsed and whose addiction took form in lethal behaviors.”

Likely recovering addict of the month:

Basketball star Ron Artest, who recently legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. In “Might alcoholism have precipitated the NBA brawl?”, the Top Story of issue # 5 of TAR (December 2004), I wrote: “With a history of out-of-control behaviors, Artest was previously forced into anger management therapy….While there are no reports of addictive use of alcohol or other drugs by Artest in anything I have read, he clearly makes our ‘under watch’ list….”  When John Green, then 39, started the brawl by throwing a cup of beer onto the court at a sprawled-out Ron Artest, the overreaction suggested addiction in the victim: Artest jumped into the stands and threw punches as he climbed over seats. He was later arrested (twice) for threatening an ex-girlfriend in 2006 and now admits (and, hence, could be now sober) that while playing for the Chicago Bulls from 1999 to 2002, “I used to drink Hennessey [cognac] at halftime.” (Note that those “under watch” due to behaviors alone, for whom there is no proof of addictive use, in time frequently become eligible for Top Story or “runner-up of the month.”) In explaining the pathetic 1999-2002 record his first team suffered (the Chicago Bulls lost 188 games out of 241), in typical alcoholic-excuse fashion Artest said he drank more because the team stunk and the team stunk because he drank more. Bear in mind, recovering alcoholics often misunderstand their own disease and he could have easily said this when sober. Mr. Artest: we welcome what appears to be sanity, as well as an admission of your problem, although the name change—an ego-inflating one—suggests it may not last.

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.



Viewing the subjects of biographies through the lens of alcoholism

I’ve long maintained that fundamental changes to personality resulting from alcoholism are so all-encompassing we cannot understand an alcoholic’s life without an appreciation for “euphoric recall,” whereby the addict views everything he says or does through self-favoring lenses, and its inevitable result, an inordinately large sense of self-importance. This egomania is fueled by wielding power, taking three main forms: abuse of others, a willingness to take extraordinary risks and overachievement. These behaviors of alcoholics are completely different from those that occur if addiction is never triggered. Further, behaviors committed by any particular early stage alcoholic are dramatically different from those committed later in life, as the addict spirals into the latter stages of addiction. Biographers, please take note.

Admittedly, this can confuse the observer, who may be a biographer. After all, most people don’t expect to see overachievement by someone who physically, emotionally or financially abuses others. Moreover, when reckless risks don’t pan out, the results manifest as impaired judgment rather than overachievement. Instead of success, we may witness failure, which tends to deflate that inflated ego and, without abstinence, leads more quickly to obvious late-stage alcoholism. As a result, alcoholism not only takes countless forms, but even many forms in the same person, depending on the addict’s current circumstances, environment and where he is in the progression of his disease.

Understanding an alcoholic is impossible without comprehending distortions of perceptions, the resulting egomania and behavioral changes relating to the stage of addiction. The early stage may be characterized by extraordinary overachievement, seeming success in one’s personal and business life and complete functionality. As the addiction takes hold and success turns to occasional failures, the alcoholic may become far less functional and more often appear (and actually be) “drunk,” he may begin to lose jobs or spouses and eventually lose friends and standing in his community. This trajectory can take decades, which makes it impossible for the uninitiated to make sense of an addict’s life. I have long maintained that without understanding alcoholism and identifying it, biographers, as well as journalists and historians, can’t really comprehend their subjects’ lives, as well as the current events and history for which addicts are so often responsible. Unfortunately, almost none grasp the fundamental ideas—the distorted perceptions, god-like sense of self and need to inflate the ego at the expense of others—of alcoholism.

Six recent reviews of biographies (all from The Wall Street Journal) are typical in their failure to recognize their subjects’ underlying behaviors as rooted in alcoholism and, hence, truly comprehend their lives. Either alcoholism wasn’t mentioned at all, or was but only as of peripheral interest or in helping to explain a continuation (but not instigator) of murky behaviors. Incredibly, alcohol or other-drug addiction wasn’t mentioned at all in the review of a new biography, A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres, which suggests it wasn’t mentioned in the book either. Yet the review (“The Horror, The Horror,” The Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2011) chronicles the life of by far the most sadistic addict among the six reviewed here. Jim Jones convinced 900 men, women and children into committing “Kool-Aid suicide” (really Flavor Aid with cyanide) in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978. While a reviewer may omit a biographer’s identification of alcoholism, the author herself (if she has any clue as to the nature of the disease) shouldn’t make the same omission when being interviewed. Yet, in a recent radio interview, Scheeres failed to mention Jones’ proven addiction to alcohol and amphetamines, which is by magnitudes the best explanation for his megalomania and unparalleled ability to sell such an absurd and deadly idea. Amazing, too, the reviewer wrote, “While we may never understand exactly why so many people agreed to die, we can be sure that drugs, isolation and Jones’ depravity all played a part….[and that] Temple leaders ordered vast quantities of tranquilizers and Thorazine, ‘liquid cosh,’ in order to drug the members.” So we are told that his victims were drugged, but not him, even though anyone responsible for drugging someone else (a felonious, not to mention abominable behavior) is almost assuredly an addict himself. Only by understanding addiction and identifying the perpetrator of the horrific acts can we make sense of such tragedy, which Ms. Scheeres either didn’t uncover (even if obvious from Jones’ history) or at best seemed so unimportant to her it would go unmentioned in both a review of her book and a radio interview.

In a review of John Huston: Courage and Art by Jeffrey Meyers (“The Man Who Would be King,” The Wall Street Journal, October 15-16, 2011), Richard Schickel discusses the author’s description of director John Huston as “always charming and insouciant” yet “a bad and elusive father, a terrible husband to five wives and a largely absentee lover of literally hundreds of mistresses.” Huston’s sadistic streak extended from his professional to his personal life and “he was not very nice, the occasional grandiose gesture aside.” Incredibly, his alcoholism isn’t even mentioned in the review and, by extension, possibly not in the book either. If it is, it’s obviously not discussed as an explanation for his behaviors—every one of which mentioned here is not only consistent with but best explained by alcoholism, with any other explanations not even distant seconds.

In a review of Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith (“A Stranger to Himself,” The Wall Street Journal, October 15-16, 2011), reviewer Jonathan Lopez says the authors described Vincent Van Gogh as “a strange boy,” which suggested to the reviewer that a purported mental illness may already have been present. However, while Lopez at least mentions the heavy drinking, he gets cause and effect backward, writing: as his “behavior grew erratic…he drank heavily, sought out low company and had a protracted romantic entanglement with a prostitute.” This is very different from writing (as I would), “As his alcoholism took hold, he continued to drink heavily and his behavior grew increasingly erratic. He sought low company, including a prostitute with whom he had a protracted romantic entanglement,” which makes much more sense of Van Gogh’s volatile behaviors. His alcoholism-impaired judgment and alcoholism-fueled need to inflate his ego are the best explanations not only for his contentiousness, dangerous confrontations, reliance on his brother for support, disorderly habits, self-mutilation, institutionalization and ultimate untimely death, whether by suicide or “misadventure,” but also his extraordinary accomplishments. At least a review of the same book in The Economist does better: the second paragraph begins: “The book describes a lonely, bad-tempered alcoholic….”

Carol Tavris in reviewing Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan (“Multiple Personality Deception,” The Wall Street Journal, October 29-30, 2011) also gets a bit closer to the mark in stating that Sybil’s (whose real name was Shirley Mason) psychiatrist, Cornelia “Connie” Wilbur, “turned [Sybil] into an addict, giving her nearly a dozen drugs, including barbiturates, tranquilizers and anti-psychotics.” Yet Sybil was already suffering from various physical and emotional ailments long before she began treatment with Connie, suggesting that Sybil was already an addict or suffered severe trauma due to being raised by one. Either reason could explain Sybil’s need to please Connie, including her subsequent cooperation in agreeing to help Connie commission a New York magazine writer, Flora Rheta Schreiber, to write and publish a book on Sybil’s made-up multiple personalities (Sybil: the Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities, first published in 1973). Tavris writes, “The disorder…results from suggestion, sometimes bordering on intimidation, by clinicians.” While intimidation suggests to the addictionologist that Connie’s behaviors might best be explained by addiction, the idea isn’t broached.

As an aside, Tavris explains that after the Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) bubble burst in 1995 due to malpractice suits, including one by several patients who sued a St. Paul psychiatrist alleging the use of “punitive methods” to induce their so-called “multiple personalities,” “Psychological researchers went on to scientifically discredit virtually all the assumptions underlying MPD.” I read Sybil way back in the 1970’s and thought it was fallacious. I was unaware that MPD was more recently so thoroughly debunked, perhaps because those responsible for the DSM (the psychologists’ manual of personality disorders) renamed the supposed disorder as “dissociative identity disorder,” and continue to insist it exists. While it may occur in real life on exceedingly rare occasions without benefit of alcoholism, it’s almost always yet another alcoholically-induced fabrication.

Reviewer Allan Massie praised biographer Paul Hendrickson (“The Slow Crack-Up,” The Wall Street Journal, September 24-25, 2011) for knowing as much about Ernest Hemingway as anyone ever, having studied him for 30 or 40 years via “all” the other biographies, countless articles, library archives, his children and many others who knew him. The main question raised in Hemingway’s Boat, “what went wrong with Hemingway?” is answered with full knowledge of Hemingway’s well-known alcoholism, but according to Hendrickson his troubles “went deeper.” This is a classic example of a biographer who fails to comprehend early-stage alcoholism, when the alcoholic may be incredibly productive and completely functional. Hendrickson insists that Hemingway’s artistic decline and ultimate despair cannot be explained by any one thing; “that matter is too complicated. There are no simple explanations,” accepting only that “his dependence on alcohol is obviously another explanation of his decline.” While there are never simple explanations for the particular path that alcoholism takes, there is a simple explanation for the thread of craziness, successes and failures woven through the life of every alcoholic: alcoholic egomania in the early years and, should he live long enough, the brain’s failure to produce neurotransmitters on its own in later years, when the addict is unable to function without the sauce. This accounts for his early success, the company he kept, the sudden change from middle age to old-looking, how he could be kind and generous but also often fully capable of “appalling behavior” (including “shocking brutality, vulgarity and stupidity”), as well as his final artistic decline and despair. This did not likely result from an exhaustion of material as Hendrickson suggests; but rather an almost predictable result of late-stage alcoholism, when many authors develop “writer’s block.”

Reviewer Jeanine Basinger (“Hollywood’s Favorite Actor,” The Wall Street Journal, October 29-30, 2011) doesn’t shy away from repeating author James Curtis’s acknowledgement in Spencer Tracy: A Biography that Tracy was “throughout most of his life…an alcoholic.” Spencer Tracy “disappeared on lengthy binges, sometimes trashing hotel rooms,” and when on a double-date that he and Loretta Young had with Josie and John Wayne was “well blasted before dinner” and was carried to his hotel room by Wayne. During one week in 1945, Tracy “ran amok” in New York and was ultimately admitted to Doctors’ Hospital. Yet, both Basinger and Curtis still miss the progenitor of it all, despite Curtis’s recognition that Tracy’s drinking did not stem from his supposed guilt over his son’s deafness, as is apparently commonly believed by other biographers. Basinger writes, “The truth is no one today can really know what made Tracy so angry, so guilty, so unhappy—and so drunk—for so much of his life. Mr. Curtis sketches Tracy’s human flaws with clarity and tact. He doesn’t try to explain what he can’t explain.” Of course, we know better: alcoholism explains Tracy’s binges and charm, his running amok and achievements, his ill health (and consequential early demise) and his charisma. It explains Spencer Tracy.

Most biographers, journalists, public policy analysts and historians, fail utterly to make sense of alcoholic subjects of their biographies and a human history filled with events created or deeply affected by alcoholics and the manifestations of their disease. Being unaware of euphoric recall and figuring out the connection to egomania, which manifests in the abuse of others, reckless risk-taking, a “God” complex, overachievement and a sense of invincibility, it is impossible to make rhyme or reason out of behaviors that otherwise fly in the face of logic. It will be a very different world when those who chronicle the perpetrators of such behaviors, current events and history “get it.” When that era arrives, biographies, news and histories will be re-written in ways that will make the original versions almost unrecognizable.

Click here to check out Doug's movie reviews.

Thanksgiving boor

Dear Doug:

For the last few years, my husband has invited a friend of 35 years to our annual Thanksgiving party. From the start, this divorcee bellies up to our bar and, while mixing drinks for the men, entertains them with stories of his conquests, business deals and travels. He monopolizes conversation throughout the meal while ignoring or rudely dismissing any female guests who try to speak. Right after dessert he yawns and, thankfully, leaves.

Although he’s ruined the last two Thanksgiving dinners, my husband feels sorry for him and can’t stand the idea his friend might spend Thanksgiving alone if we don’t invite him. What can I do to change my husband’s thinking?


Boored to death

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might suggest you compromise and suggest a family-only dinner with a dessert package consisting of his friend and all the drinks and regaling he wants. However, this misses the main cause of his behavior: alcoholism (even if it’s taking a somewhat odd form here).

Usually, alcoholics want to continue their conquests, especially sexual ones, which unless he’s gay he obviously isn’t interested in. However, since your husband has been “friends” with him for 35 years, the “friend” may be approaching late-stage alcoholism. He may no longer be able to perform as he once did with the lady-victims, or he blames women for his woes (including at least one divorce) and they have become the target of his wrath. The other behaviors he is displaying are entirely consistent with alcoholism, including sidling up to the bar before anything else and then sitting there, inflating his ego with his (tall) tales. The best thing you and your husband could do is to arrange an intervention, before he has no friends left with whom to intervene (a huge problem for getting late-stage addicts sober). You’ll find him to be a much better dinner guest if and when he gets sober, not to mention a truer friend for your husband. In the meantime, don’t invite him to any dinner, much less Thanksgiving.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, September 27, 2011.)

And a bonus Dear Doug:

Soccer mom’s coach’s mom problem

Dear Doug,

For three years, my daughter has been on a soccer team with a wonderful coach. The coach’s mother, however, is a loud, mean witch. She taunts referees, yells insults to coaches and parents on the other side and screams at girls on our team to play the way she wants, even though we otherwise enforce a no-coaching-from-the-sidelines rule. Would an anonymous note to the coach or her mother be appropriate?


Soccer Mom

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists would tell you that everyone already knows the coach’s mom is a trouble-maker. It must be adversely affecting the kids and, therefore, something must be done. Such columnists would suggest having a private word with the coach, all the while acknowledging the coach is in a difficult spot.

You bet the coach is in a difficult position. Her mother’s behavior is not only affecting her in her coaching career, but no doubt also in her home and every other facet of her life. She may have lived with it while growing up for twenty years and has suffered, along with everyone else, ever since.

In many similar situations, family members don’t link behaviors to likely alcoholism. They’ve grown up with it and, because they see the same (or even worse) behaviors between drinking episodes (or simply don’t see the drinking) they often fail to connect the dots between the behaviors and the heavy drinking or using. The biography of actress Betty Davis by her daughter, B. D. Hyman, discussed over five wonderful pages of Drunks, Drugs & Debits (pp. 166-170), is instructive: Hyman doesn’t mention her famous mother’s drinking until page 47 of the book (My Mother’s Keeper), doesn’t mention it again until page 114, never even mentions the possibility of alcoholism until the family doctor explains she’s going through alcoholic withdrawal on page 269 (after a series of strokes put her in the hospital, where she didn’t have access to her drug of choice) and concludes that the best explanation for her mother’s serial misbehaviors was her need “to prove who’s strong enough to win.” Your coach could easily be as unaware as was B. D. Hyman.

The coach needs a different private word: intervention. The intervention should focus on getting the coach’s mother out of your lives, utilizing the services of a qualified interventionist who understands how to deal with the coach, who is severely codependent. Until and unless the coach’s mother has several years of sobriety, the problems will continue, both on the playing field and everywhere else the mother goes. The coach can deal with her mother later, with her own family.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, October 12, 2011.)

“Our findings indicate that the experience of having power without status, whether as a member of the military or a college student participating in an experiment, may be a catalyst for producing demeaning behaviors that can destroy relationships and impede goodwill.”

So found a study, reported by Peter Pappas on his blog, by three universities showing that people holding positions of power with low status tend to demean others. This is a half-truth, since the study appears to completely omit alcoholism as an explanation for their findings.

Peter Pappas, a CPA, income tax professional and blogger whose work I have found immensely useful, observes, “I have dealt with all levels of IRS employees in my 20 plus years of tax practice and I find [the] theoretical conclusions to be absolutely true in practice. The rudest IRS employees and the ones most likely to disrespect taxpayers and their representatives are the ones with the least status.”

It’s difficult to disprove or otherwise dispute such findings via the lens of alcohol and other-drug addiction. The reason isn’t that alcoholism can’t explain such findings; it probably does, but in a convoluted way because of the innumerable forms of alcoholic behaviors. These vary based on the stage of alcoholism, circumstances, environment (including upbringing), particular drug of choice, afflicted person’s psychological type and temperament, his or her biochemistry and virulence of the strain of addiction inherited. Since they vary tremendously, explanations are difficult.

However, let me try. I would hypothesize that IRS agents with little status can’t easily inflate their egos by saying to family and friends, “Look at how successful I am!” Taking the path of least resistance, they (especially collectors, as opposed to auditors) inflate their egos at the expense of taxpayers and their reps by demeaning them.

What about the more successful alcoholic IRS agent who becomes a group manager? Why bother with belittling comments when much more powerful tools are available? They can ruin lives, which more than makes up for disparaging others.

Similarly, alcoholic police officers may belittle and even get physical with their victims. Rather than doing something so ordinary, higher-up cops, such as district attorneys, have no need to act like those beneath them, whom they no doubt malign if not verbally, at least in their minds. In myth # 83 in Alcoholism Myths and Realities, “Law enforcers can always be trusted to tell the truth and act appropriately,” I relate the story of Charles Whitman, District Attorney of New York, who framed police lieutenant Charles Becker for murder. Using false witnesses and suborning perjury, Whitman was able to convict Becker, but only at a second trial. The Governor of New York was convinced of Becker’s innocence and intended to commute his sentence, but not before Whitman was elected Governor of New York. The new Governor Whitman was so drunk on the eve of Becker’s execution, two assistants physically supported him the entire time that Becker’s wife pleaded for a stay, which his wife felt he couldn’t even understand much less agree to.

At least fewer IRS employees are alcoholics than policemen and prison guards. But there’s a compelling reason: it’s not as ego-inflating to boast at a bar about being an IRS agent as it is to tell the hot babe sitting on the stool next to you that you’re a cop.

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

“NOT A COMPELLING ARGUMENT: ‘You are going to make me lose my job,’ whined Donald Leet, 37, to Hillsborough County, Fla., sheriff's deputies. He had drunk ‘a glass of wine’ with dinner, so naturally he had let his girlfriend's 11-year-old daughter drive. The girl lost control and crashed into the First Baptist Church of Brandon, severing a water pipe, which sent water spurting 50 feet into the air. Deputies arrived to find the girl climbing out the driver's side window, with a 7-year- old girl right behind her. ‘Why don't you arrest a rapist or murderer instead of me?’ Leet demanded. ‘You're an illiterate Southerner. You don't know anything. You only have a high school diploma. You're dumb.’ Deputies noted his comments in their report, and arrested him on two charges of child neglect. Why not drunk driving? ‘He was drinking,’ said sheriff's Deputy Larry McKinnon, ‘but we couldn't charge him with DUI. The little girl was driving.’ (RC/St. Petersburg Times, WFTS-TV) ...Dang it. There's always a loophole.”

So, you thought Nathan Walter Sikkenga and Shawn Weimer (last of the “Runners-up” above) were stupid? Ha!

While I really shouldn’t comment on this one (it really does speak for itself), the idea for a public policy recommendation is compelling. A person under the influence who has a unlicensed minor drive for them should be eligible to be convicted of DUI or some equivalent in terms of penalties, in addition to penalties relating to child endangerment and having any unlicensed person drive for them. Maybe double all of the penalties for having a minor child under age 16 (maybe 14) driving.

And by the way, “a glass of wine” is nonsense. This is the sort of reporting (even though it’s in quotes) that could lead the uninitiated to believe that a glass (or even two or three, the latter of which would increase a 120-pound person’s blood alcohol level to .075 per cent after one hour of drinking) could cause a person to be under the influence under “per se” rules for DUI (which consider a person legally intoxicated if the blood alcohol level is .08 per cent or higher, regardless of whether they can pass a sobriety test). On the other hand, if the person goes by the name of Nicole Richie, it might only take two drinks….

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2011 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven't already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

With the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I felt it would be appropriate to review the state of knowledge regarding terrorism and addiction, which you’ll find in the “Review of the Month.” Because of its timeliness, this supercedes what could easily have been a “Public Policy Recommendation of the Month,” which the careful reader will see embedded in a number of stories below. On the other hand, the ideas are intricately intertwined.

You also may find the upcoming Wealth Creation Strategies piece on fraudulent financial come-ons of interest, which will be posted by the end of the month. Please keep in mind Doug has clients in 25 states; with modern communications, you can become a client too.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

The London Riots: Feral Humans,*
Resentment of Enablers and Alcoholism

Alcoholics experience distortions of perception and memory. One of these distortions, “euphoric recall,” causes practicing alcoholics to view everything they do or say through self-favoring lenses, which leads to a God-like sense of self. As explained in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, this is the root cause of alcoholic egomania, which manifests in a compulsion to wield power over others.

This key distortion also reveals itself in the act of blaming others for one’s problems. After all, if everything you do is good and right and nothing bad or wrong, how can you be to blame for anything that you perceive to be inequitable in your life? It’s certainly not your fault—it’s the fault of your spouse, or the kids, or your boss, or the other driver, or the dog, or even society. This explains much if not most of what journalist and commentator John Stossel has identified as “the blame game,” in which some segments of society—the supposedly downtrodden—blame others for their problems. Such blame can take form in racism or classism, in which other classes of people are viewed as the cause of your problems or those of your group or race. Other classes include the so-called “rich.” While this includes those who stole their wealth either directly or by corruption, in free societies this is rare. More often, they are extraordinary achievers and producers, producing more for others and, compared with that production, consuming less than the rest of us over the course of their lives (which those who inherit wealth must also do in order to maintain that wealth).

Euphoric recall makes logical analysis and weighing of equity and justice difficult if not impossible. Therefore, alcoholics may be incapable of distinguishing between those who earn their wealth honestly and are wonderfully productive (think: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) vs. those who steal their wealth or way to the top (think: Muammar Gaddafi and other alcoholic despots at the opposite end of the spectrum). They end up feeling indignation toward others as a result of real or imagined grievances, including a perception of having been treated unfairly or denied something, including unearned wealth. This is called “resentment,” yet another negative end-result of euphoric recall. It’s especially negative when directed at productive members of society, which may be the reason recovering alcoholics tell us resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else: subconsciously, at least, they know such resentment is incredibly wrong, especially when acted upon.

Resentment causes some alcoholics to attempt to destroy those against whom they hold grudges. This, combined with alcoholic egomania and the consequential compulsion to wield power over others, results in all manner of criminal behaviors, ranging from false accusations and murder to theft and the commission of mayhem, including the recent London riots.

Who other than an alcoholic or seriously sick codependent would demand that if you want to prevent social unrest the masses must be given more unearned benefits (i.e., property taken from someone who earned it and given to someone who didn’t)? The problem is that when dealing with alcoholics, who commit by far the vast majority of criminal acts, we deal with people who have the emotional mind of a child. What sort of a reaction do you think you’d get after giving an ice cream cone to a 5-year-old* and, after letting him take a few licks, you take it away? By giving adults unearned benefits we insure they remain immature, poor and unwilling to make attempts at reaching their full potential. We protect from consequences and the protected become dependent on us for continuing that protection. This is classic enabling, in which the enabler, perversely, controls the enabled—at least until they turn against their enablers because that feeling of resentment, whether conscious or subconscious, eventually deteriorates into unethical and criminal behaviors. This is where feral humans come from, especially when combined with alcoholism.

If you need some evidence for the idea that the riots were fueled by alcoholism, take a look at the 3rd “Quote of the month,” below and consider the fact that Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, reported that 75% of those arrested on charges relating to rioting have prior records (which means, for the uninitiated, at least 80% of that 75% had already provided us with proof of their alcoholism). Here’s a particularly illuminating example of one of (no doubt) thousands of conversations that took place during the riots that inextricably links alcoholism to the “blame”-filled mindset:

Reporter: So, you’re drinking a bottle of rose wine at half past nine in the morning?

Girls: Yeah, free alcohol (laughs).

Reporter: Have you been drinking all night?

Girls: Yeah (more laughs). Like…it’s the governments fault…yeah…I don’t know who it is. Conservatives…yeah conservatives…that’s the point of the riot is showing the police that we can do whatever we want. That’s right. And now we have.

Reporter: But these are local people. Why is it targeting local people and your own people?

Girls: It’s the rich people, the people that have got businesses and that’s why all of this has happened…because of the rich people. We’re just showing the rich people that we can do what we want.

British socialism has taught people they have a claim to the property of others, euphemistically referred to as “entitlements.” They’ve learned they can suck at the teat of those who produce, without returning anything of value. They have become parasites because their hosts have allowed it. And now they riot over the perceived injustice of having some of those unearned products of theft taken away. Even if some alcoholics may disagree, this set of beliefs is more consistent with alcoholism than the idea you have the right to the fruits of your labor, ideas and expertise.

In Drunks, Drugs & Debits I likened enablers and alcoholics to hosts and parasites, similar to the hero in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, who suggested to producers that they stop playing host to parasite (and whom after I named my publishing arm). It’s time we recognize the parasites for what they are: generally alcohol and other-drug addicts with the emotional capacity of five-year-olds. If we really want to help them grow up, we need to stop protecting them from the consequences of their own actions. This means we need to stop the enabling, both public and private.

* With thanks to Peter Pappas and his terrific blog for the wonderful term “feral humans” and the ice cream cone analogy.

Thorburn Addiction Report Archives


Runner-up for top story of the month:

San Diego motorcycle officer David Hall, a 14-year veteran, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 41. Hall was off duty in February when he (allegedly) struck another car and fled the scene. The married father of three was later arrested and, while on paid administrative leave awaiting trial, ordered by a judge to attend AA meetings. There can be little doubt that officer Hall’s suicide was preceded by dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law—or his employer—could have intervened, but either didn’t or didn’t do so adequately. “Adequately,” once someone has proven to society he can’t safely drink or use, requires court-monitored ankle bracelets for the detection of alcohol and regular and random testing for other drugs, including addictive use of legal pharmaceuticals, with failure leading to certain jail time. Such coerced abstinence is obviously overdue: several other officers in the same department have recently been accused of serious misconduct, including spousal abuse, stalking, excessive force and rape. This tragic suicide, following the death of Thomas Kelly at the hands of six Fullerton police officers (which is an ongoing investigation; see the top story in the last issue of TAR), provides yet another reason why law enforcers should be regularly screened for addiction: for their own safety as well as that of others. Ironically, Hall had served on specialized narcotics and parole apprehension teams before becoming a motorcycle cop. The addictionologist would wonder about the goings-on that might have caused him to be transferred from such teams and ask, “Just what did the San Diego Police Department know, and when?

Alcoholic victims of the month:

A number of airline passengers who have recently been on the receiving end of a too-desperate need to pee, which may include those on an Air France flight when actor Gerard Depardieu took a pee in the aisle (see “Enablers of the month,” below). They also include an 11-year-old girl who was with her father, a Stage 4 cancer patient, and her sister on their way to visit her grandmother for the first time since her father’s diagnosis, who was on the receiving end of 18-year-old would-be Olympian skier Robert Vietze’s need to go potty. In a possibly life-saving act of disenabling, Vietze reportedly has been kicked off the U.S. Ski Team.

Co-dependents of the month:

Non-addicted British citizens who, according to Theodore Dalrymple (aka physician Anthony Daniels), even before the recent riots “would not venture into the centers of most British cities or towns on Friday and Saturday nights, for fear—and in the certainty—of encountering drunken and aggressive youngsters.” Dalrymple says in his own little town drunk young people often go on rampages, which no one dares try to stop.

Enablers of the month:

British taxpayers, who provide an education costing $80,000, a guaranteed income, “free” medical care, “free” housing, “free” food and everything from cell phones to flat-screen TVs to those who, because they are “fed up with being broke,” riot—as if the needs of some bestow a right to the property that others took time, ingenuity and expertise to buy or produce. 
Left-wing former mayor of London Ken Livingstone who, within hours of the start of the London riots, said the unrest was “the fault of the government,” citing a 9% cut in central government grants to Tottenham, where the rioting began. It’s odd, then, that the rioters didn’t mention this as they looted high-end luxury goods shops.
Possibly actor Gerard Depardieu’s traveling companion actor Edouard Baer, who claimed that Depardieu, despite peeing in the aisle before an Air France take-off, was “stoned-cold sober” and has prostate problems. I say “possibly,” because Depardieu was reportedly very apologetic and offered to clean up the mess, which resulted in a two-hour delay for the Air France flight. However, another passenger reported Depardieu as being “visibly drunk” and was reportedly quite loud and animated in announcing his need to go potty. Depardieu, 62, has a history of drunken antics, including a 2009 incident in which he smashed a car windshield with his bare fist and a 1990 conviction for DUI. Mr. Baer and Mr. Depardieu will have to confirm or disconfirm, but please don’t bother until a decade or two has passed: if you were drunk, Mr. Depardieu, it will take a period of sobriety to come clean. 
The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has decreed that Section 8 tenants and other renters who are evicted because they committed domestic violence may sue for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act giving, as James Bovard wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “troublesome [read: alcoholic] tenants a federal trump card to play against landlords who seek to preserve the peace and protect other renters.” On a related note, the Indianapolis Housing Authority has linked 80% of criminal homicides in Marion County, Indiana to individuals fraudulently obtaining federal assistance “in either the public housing program or the Section 8 program administered by the agency.” It also noted one unnamed attorney who allegedly “operated a law practice from a Section 8 home for eight years, providing shelter to unauthorized occupants who were linked to 10 homicides, 431 police calls and 394 criminal arrests during that time period.” 
Fairhaven, MA police for failing to charge Joseph Morra for drunk and disorderly conduct for behaviors occurring in the Seaport Inn and Marina parking lot. Instead, he was charged with assault and battery on a disabled person, intimidation of a witness, impersonating a police officer and malicious destruction of property valued at over $250 after having taken up two handicapped parking spaces without a handicapped placard or license plate. He was also charged with improperly displaying a badge to a parking-spot-obstructed, handicapped citizen who was trying to take pictures of the offending vehicle, uttering expletives and shoving the same victim. Morra slapped the cell phone from the victim’s hand as the victim tried to take pictures of Morra (destroying the cell phone) and, while officers were speaking with the victim, returned to the scene and yelled at them to get the victim off the property, using profane and derogatory language. A failure to zero in on the underlying cause of all of these behaviors won’t help Mr. Morra make a decision to ever get clean and sober, since it’s (obviously) the victim’s fault. Perhaps this failure has something to do with the fact that Mr. Morra is an elected member of the Fairhaven Planning Board and a constable appointed by the New Bedford City Council, but I merely hypothesize.

Disenablers of the month:

Conroe, Texas resident Tracy Allen, who spotted Gliddon William Davis, 73, driving erratically two years ago, somehow stopped him and tried to take his keys and, after he fled reported him, resulting in a 55-year sentence for Mr. Davis. A jury took less than three hours to find Davis guilty of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon and render the effective life sentence. The surprising result may have had something to do with the fact that Mr. Davis had previously been convicted of two counts of attempted rape, one assault with intent to commit rape, several other unspecified felonies and seven previous DUIs. Now, wouldn’t it have been so much cheaper and better for society, not to mention Mr. Davis, if Mr. Davis had been simply fitted with an ankle bracelet after his 1st conviction (ok, maybe his 5th—after ankle bracelets were invented) and sent back to jail every time he registered a .01 through his skin?
The former Mrs. Chad Petersen of Iowa City, Iowa, who agreed to let her ex-husband, Chad Petersen, 44, watch their two children, age 4 and 6, in her home while she was away for a weekend, only to find him drunk and passed out on the living room-kitchen area floor upon her return while the children ran around unsupervised. There were hazardous cleaning supplies and three pairs of sharp scissors within reach of the kids, one of whom was naked and the other of whom was wearing only underwear. After taking several minutes to wake Mr. Petersen up, she suggested he take a taxi home. After he refused to leave and became verbally abusive saying, “I’m going to kill you,” she took her children to a neighbor’s house and called the police. Alright, so it’s a weak disenabler—after all, no doubt knowing he’s a drunk she never should have let him watch their kids in the first place. Some people just take longer to come to their senses than others. The fact that she reported him at all must have been scary, since he’s obviously a danger to others.  

Quotes of the month:

“At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas.”

So said Dr. Michael Miller, past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), who oversaw the development of a new definition of addiction requiring a four-year process involving more than 80 experts. This, about a decade after one singular amateur refined his redefinition of alcoholism as “A genetic predisposition to biochemically process the drug alcohol in such as a way as to cause that person to act badly some of the time.” Oh, that amateur must have forgotten to explicate where “acting badly” might be relevant: in social, moral and criminal ways. So, it took two decades of advances in neuroscience to convince ASAM that addiction should be redefined by how it affects the brain and for someone to finally say, “Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.” Hmm, I think that amateur said it—much more than a decade ago, in Drunks, Drugs & Debits.

“This young man is a quality young man.”

So said the former Rhode Island House Speaker John Harwood, now acting as the attorney for Clayton Hardon, 22, following Hardon’s release on a DUI charge. Hardon is a volunteer firefighter who was off-duty when he (allegedly) stole a “special hazards” truck while under the influence, took it on a joyride and crashed into a tree, which is the only object that prevented the truck from smashing through a home and possibly killing its occupants. Mr. Harwood, we’ll see how high a quality of a young man Mr. Hardon is when he decides to plead guilty to the crime (assuming he committed these acts). 
“At first it seemed as if the [London] riots were almost random with no basis in class or race. As the perpetrators have come to court, a different picture has emerged. Of those charged, 60% had a previous criminal record, and 25% belonged to gangs….The truth is, it’s not their fault. They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have…children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement….Freud was right. The precondition of civilization is the ability to defer the gratification of the instinct.”
So wrote the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, in The Wall Street Journal (August 20-21, 2011, “Reversing the Decay of London Undone”). While he mentioned that “crime is rampant [and] so are drugs,” he failed to connect the dots between the “wishful thinking,” the inability to defer gratification and alcoholism. The ideas are fueled by alcoholically-induced distortions of perception, which can result in logic being turned inside out. The inability to defer gratification is a result of alcoholism-caused damage to the neo-cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for controlling the impulses of the lower (pre-human) brain centers. Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver thought violent revolution was the solution to perceived inequities until he got sober, after which he gradually figured out that practically everything he had believed when he was drinking was wrong. When sober, recovering alcoholics almost never retain a belief that violence is a solution, almost always come to think of responsibility as a prerequisite to liberty and self-esteem, and become far more “civilized.” If we really want to reduce violence, improve the lot of the “poor” and increase the odds that instinct gratification will be delayed, those charged with a criminal act should be required to become and remain abstinent as a condition of release and parole. 
There are some things you just can't make up (if it were fiction nobody would believe you):

New Jersey physician Dr. Sylvia S. Lee, who faces felony charges for having stabbed her 13-year-old adopted daughter with a screwdriver at least 100 times for failing to wash her dog’s clothes and towels in the correct order. For those of you doggie-clothes owners who want to avoid being repeatedly stabbed for doing it wrong, doggie clothes are washed first.  
What would you do...:
If you’re sitting in your nephew’s front yard drinking beer together and you give him $6 to go buy more beer, and he pedals off on his bicycle in the summer heat while you wait and it takes too long, you would:
1. Call your nephew to make sure he hasn’t been involved in an accident,
2. Call the police to see if there are any reports of an accident involving a bicyclist between your place and the beer place, or
3. Smash a brand new soon-to-be installed toilet against his front door and, after shattering it hurl porcelain chunks at the door and then rip electrical wires out of the meter box and smash the plastic piping of the front yard water well onto the asphalt street?

Congratulations if you selected option #3, which was the preferred choice of 60-year-old Kenneth Charles Stuck of Pasco County, Florida. It’s not the first antic for which Mr. Stuck is guilty: more than two years ago he was trying to punch passing cars on a U.S. Highway, apparently when he was on his way to buy more beer. Gone unreported, which is unfortunate for those of us who enjoy reading non-fiction reports of alcoholics doing what they do best, are the likely thousand-plus other antics that have occurred over the drinking career of Mr. Stuck, as well as nearly every other 60-year-old person having the disease of alcoholism.

If you’re a cop and sitting with a friend at the Colorado National Golf Club clubhouse bar in Erie, Colorado, and you’re watching a Rockies baseball game on TV, when two other men pick up the remote and change the channel to the final College World Series Championship game, do you:

1. Quietly and calmly discuss who has the right to decide on which game to watch and try to reach an amicable decision,
2. Report what could be a violation of your rights, since you were first, to the clubhouse manager and hope they can set the other two straight,
3. If that doesn’t bring some sense of justice to the other two, call the police department and ask that a fellow on-duty officer be dispatched to the scene, or
4. Allow a heated exchange of words to quickly escalate to a physical confrontation in which you and your friend punch at least one of the other men in the face?

Congratulations if you selected option #4, which is exactly what 37-year-old Kevin Carlile, a five-year veteran of the Denver Police Department and Christopher Douglas, 39, did to the other two men. Imagine this, too: all four men had been “drinking,” which is most frequently a euphemism for “drinking alcoholically.” Carlile has been taken off his usual patrol duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Nine other officers have been fired for cause from the Denver P.D. since March, which suggests a lot of alcoholism on the force. Now, wouldn’t it be so much easier if cops were simply screened for alcoholism and treated appropriately?
Sometimes, it takes an addict:

The Rev. Zachery Tims, Jr., who founded a ministry of 8,000 Floridians and became well-known due to frequent television appearances, found dead in a Manhattan hotel room at age 42 with what appeared to have been illegal drugs (“a white powdery substance”) in his pocket. He chronicled his teenage drug addiction in a 2006 memoir after, according to Rev. Randolph Bracy, catapulting “a church that started in a hotel room [10 years earlier] into a megachurch.” In 2009 after admitting to an extramarital affair he and his wife of 15 years divorced. It was “unclear” what brought Mr. Tims to Manhattan a week earlier. Inexplicable goings-on when associated with recovering addicts almost always suggests relapse, as would even one extramarital affair. 
Jani Lane, the former lead singer of the metal rock band Warrant, found dead in a Woodland Hills, CA hotel room at age 47. Lane embodied the “excesses” of the 1980s “hair metal” rock bands, joining Warrant in 1984 and writing several hit songs. He had an on-again off-again relationship with the band. In recent years he appeared on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” made news for a DUI and, in 2003, for being admitted to rehab due to alcohol- and drug-related “exhaustion.”
And so long too to Dan Peek, founding member of the band America, which was responsible for some of my favorite melodies of the 1970s including “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway” and “Sister Golden Hair,” dead at age 60 from unknown causes. We may never know for sure, but the “unknown cause” will likely prove not to be an overdose, as Peek admitted to Goldmine magazine last year, “I was a spectrum drug abuser, alcoholic, you name it” and he was found dead in bed by his wife, with whom he appears to have had a stable marriage. Peek was probably sober since leaving the group in 1977.

Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addicts—which would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.



Ten Years After 9-11: Sadly, Hardly Anyone has Connected the Dots Linking Terrorism to Substance Addiction
Ten years ago, my wife and I were about to fly from Cusco to Lima, Peru on an early morning flight after an extraordinary stay at the fabulous El Monasterio Hotel before and after visiting the amazing ruins of Machu Picchu. It was the final leg of our three-week visit to South America, where we skied Portillo, Chile and Bariloche, Argentina, stayed at the International Hotel in Santiago, Chile (and fell in love with the country) and did the fabulous Andean “Lake Crossing” from Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile. We were due in Lima late morning, where we were to catch a 1a.m. flight to LAX via Lan Chile (now LAN Airlines). We were told, however, that our plane, arriving from the jungles of Iquitos, Peru, was late because a “bird had flown into the windshield, shattering it” and it would take a bit to fix. By about 9a.m. we were really wondering whether we’d get out of a city which, at 10,000 feet in elevation, you apparently can’t safely fly out of after noon.

Unfortunately, it was the wrong day to try to leave Peru and a really bad day to have gotten out of Cusco, which we both loved.

At about 10a.m. we were beginning to hear rumors of the United States coming under attack. By the time we got into Lima, it was becoming apparent we were not getting out quickly. And Lima is not a city the ordinary traveler wants to be stuck in for several days.

From our hotel room, we watched the tragedy of 9-11 unfold, collapsing buildings and more (quite a bit more on the Spanish CNN than, apparently, on the U.S. version). When we arrived at LAX three days later (Lan Chile was among the first airliners allowed back in the states), we could feel it was a different world.

About six weeks later I called into a late-night radio show, “Mr. KABC” (hosted by Marc Germain), which had an unusual format: the caller was never screened and could ask Mr. KABC anything. I asked what he thought the mindset of your typical terrorist might be, to which he gave me his analysis. After I held my tongue for five minutes or so, he stopped and I asked, “Would you like to hear my theory?” He responded “sure,” and I gave him a quick synopsis of alcohol- and other-drug addicted egomania as the root cause for much in the way of misbehaviors ranging from the mundane to horrific, including terrorism. Doug McIntyre, who hosted the “Red Eye Radio Show” from midnight to 5a.m. was just walking in and yelled out, “He’s right! Put him on with me. I want to talk to him!”

McIntyre told me he thought I was absolutely right in hypothesizing that most terrorist acts are rooted in alcoholic egomania. Along the way, he invited me onto his show and I learned why he so quickly picked up on the idea: at the time he had six years or so of sobriety.

I thought he wouldn’t be the last to publicly acknowledge that I might be on to something. Unfortunately, when confronted with the possibility that alcoholism is the cause of most misbehaviors, those affected often ignore the evidence for years, until reaching a breaking point, as Deputy Chief Brenda Lee Johnson in “The Closer” did (purposely wearing blinders before finally telling her recovering alcoholic FBI husband Agent Fritz Howard “Tell me everything I don’t want to know”). It’s the subject that, present company excepted, no one wants to read or hear about, even though it explains at least 80% of the bad- to horrific acts we see or hear about every day.

I wrote a piece (still posted on the web site) laying out the idea that the best explanation for behaviors resulting from a mindset like that of Osama bin Laden was brain damage from substance addiction. I pointed out that many despots from our past, from Josef Stalin to Mao Zedong, were alcohol/other-drug addicts, as have been most serial and mass murderers. At the time, I would have told you I’m sure not every mass murderer in U.S. history was an addict—I often said Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh might not be—only later discovering he was an amphetamine addict. In nearly every case for which we are able to dig deep enough, gold-standard proof of addiction in those exhibiting terrorist-like behaviors is eventually found. I also shared what I had found on the hijackers: three were at a bar the night before where two drank “heavily”; another had two DUIs; the father of a fifth told reporters his son was not a “drinker,” while an uncle said his nephew “enjoyed” alcohol (which is very likely a euphemism for “drank alcoholically”); and the 12 other hijackers referred to as the “muscle” were reported as indulging “often” in liquor. I pointed out that religious proscriptions have never kept an addict from imbibing and increase the odds of addiction in those who do.

I also gave a list of the sort of behaviors and mindsets that we can readily observe in addicts, including habitual blaming of others for their own problems (or their group’s problems), an inflated ego resulting in a sense of being equal to God, a sense of invincibility evident in reckless behaviors, the capricious wielding of power over others and dangerous non-substance compulsions such as religious fanaticism. All of these fit the profile of the terrorist.

In the ten years that followed, I investigated other terrorists, read much and wrote a number of top stories on the subject (including issues #3, 4, 13, 24, 28, 42 and 53 on the web site here). In 2005 The Economist magazine pointed out that terrorists often have “grown apart from family; some might have drifted into petty crime, or an unIslamic taste for alcohol and women,” but didn’t point out that “petty crime” is as certain an indication of alcoholism as is the “taste” for it. The piece also pointed out that young alienated Muslims may turn to drink, drugs and petty crime before seeing radical Islam as a solution. It failed to mention that abstinent alcoholics, because they have done nothing to deflate the massive ego, become dry drunks and are, in the right circumstances, capable of as much mayhem as when they were drinking.

Although I already knew that some of the most horrific people who ever lived were alcoholics (Ivan the Terrible comes to mind), I found subtle but compelling indications of addiction in others. One was Robespierre, who is thought by many to have been a teetotaler. However, I stumbled onto a book that reported, “At meals, he eats the same fare as his hosts and shares with them an inferior wine. When dinner is over, he drinks coffee, then stays in the house for an hour to receive visitors, after which he commonly goes out….He returns home at a remarkably late hour. He often works past midnight…[and he] never returns before midnight. Where he is, at such times, no one knows.” It’s reminiscent of FBI agent Robert Hanssen’s late-night drives to a park where, if even half-accurately portrayed in the movie “Breach,” he was likely secretly drinking for years while by day selling more secrets to the Soviets than any traitor, ever.

There were many more terrorists who, with the exception of Niyazov, below, I’ve never written about but easily could have, whether so-called “heads of state” or the more common variety. They include:

1. Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan (“He thinks he’s the Messiah” and is a binge drinker known for drinking a quart and a half of vodka in a single day, but he “never loses control”).

2. Saparmurad Niyazov of Turkmenistan, who developed a personality cult so extreme his picture was on everything from all money to a corner of every TV screen, in whom alcoholism was privately confirmed by a diplomat.

3. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, known as the “Butcher of the Balkans,” who “drank heavily.”

4. Warren Kimbro, an ex-Black Panther who, after fatally shooting another Black Panther because party members thought was an FBI informant, went to prison and rehabilitated himself off of drugs, later leading a nonprofit devoted to helping ex-cons reenter society (his conduct was so exemplary he was pardoned after serving only 4 ½ years of a “life” sentence).

5. Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane,” who rarely left her apartment except at night, when she’d “go drinking and get into fights.”

6. David Headley, who federal authorities claimed was a terrorist accused of helping coordinate the 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai in which more than 160 people were killed, known by friends to be “a ladies’ man” and known by his father to “have a Koran under one arm and a bottle of Dom Perignon under the other.” He also spent a month in drug rehab in 1994.

As I wrote in the Top Story of issue #13, “Tantalizing Clues to Alcoholism in Suicide Bombers,” “It’s [often] impossible to obtain direct evidence and, therefore, proof of addiction in people who are far removed from the public spotlight.” It’s also difficult at best to prove those in the spotlight, whose secrets are protected by enablers, are alcoholics. I have been unable to get gold-standard proof of addiction in Liberia’s Charles Taylor, whose drugged-up fighters in the Sierra Leone were notorious for ‘wide awake” amputations, but the behaviors and the fact that his alleged fighters were “drugged-up” are compelling. I can’t find proof of addiction in Cambodia’s Pol Pot, but the behaviors were so similar to those of Ivan the Terrible it’s almost unimaginable that he wasn’t drinking or using addictively as Ivan did. The same is true of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, but as I said about Timothy McVeigh, perhaps he is the exception. On the other hand, his style and that of the others in whom I haven’t yet been able to prove alcoholism seem similar to that of terrorist Che Guevara, who according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa in The Che Guevara Myth, “tried to impose a kind of sharia, regulating relations between men and women, the use of alcohol, and informal gambling—a puritanism that did not exactly characterize his own way of life.” If Muslim extremists act similarly, they impose their Puritanism on others but not themselves, behaviors for which recovering alcoholics have a saying: one finger out, three fingers back. In other words, do as I say and not as I do, because I am above the law—and more powerful than God.

Click here to check out Doug's movie reviews.

Needy Sister

Dear Doug:

My 48-year-old sister is divorced and broke. She blew through an inheritance years ago. She’s been fired from several jobs, lost her home to foreclosure and is now continuously facing eviction. She’s a defendant in a lawsuit which, if she loses, could result in significant time behind bars.

She is always begging for money for food and dog food (she’s a breeder and says her dogs are her “life’s work”). She makes me feel guilty and has threatened suicide if I don’t help her. Our other sister cut her off after giving her more than $10,000 on top of the $12,000 or so I have given her over the years. I always seem to cave and have promised my husband time and again this will be the last time I “help” her. But how do I cut her off when I know she doesn’t have money for food, rent and utilities? Her unemployment and food stamps are simply not enough.  


Concerned about sister 

Dear Codependent,

Other columnists might point out that your sister won’t change as long as you keep rescuing her. They might suggest that despite what could be mental health issues tell her you love her but will no longer contribute money, which only serves to keep her right where she is.

Other columnists would be missing the crux of the problem.

Yes, there are obviously mental health issues. However, the crucial question is this: is the primary problem a mental disorder or alcoholism? Since the latter is ten times more common, let’s go with the odds.

Your sister exhibits numerous behavioral indications of alcoholism detailed in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics, which revolve around serial poor judgment, not only regarding finances but also her personal (divorce) and professional (job firings) life. The trouble is she has been repeatedly bailed out by you, the other sister and hapless taxpayers.

You must stop the enabling. As other columnists might suggest, tell your sister you love her but the private money stops now. However, you should go much further in linking the problems to her likely substance addiction by setting up an intervention with a qualified interventionist. You should educate yourself about alcoholism, along with anyone else who might succumb to her pleas. Only when you get the “feel” for alcoholism (which Drunks, Drugs & Debits is designed to provide) will you no longer be tempted to help her in a way that is guaranteed to prolong the problem and likely end in tragedy.

You might also write to your legislator and tell him or her that public money, whether from unemployment or food stamps, only serves to enable and exacerbate your sister’s almost certain alcoholism. You could suggest that random and regular screening for alcohol and other-drug addiction be required for all recipients of state aid. This would go further in coercing the abstinence required for sobriety to occur among down-and-out alcoholics, including your sister, than any other public policy tool. Good luck.

(Source for story idea: Ask Amy, August 9 2011.)

PrevenTragedy Foundation

“Deputies don’t make stuff up, the hope is, and we contend they did not fabricate anything."

So said Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore in defending Deputies Samuel Orozco and Scott Giles, who claimed a couple, Erick Hosey and his girlfriend Shatwan Smith, resisted arrest and had rock cocaine in their car. Orozco’s past on-duty behaviors were scrutinized during a subsequent trial in which L.A. County was ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution to the couple for “ruining their lives.” Witnesses told of run-ins with Orozco, including one in which he used the N-word against a local resident and another who said she’d been roughed up and subsequently acquitted after being booked for an unnamed offense. Sorry, Mr. Whitmore, but alcoholics not only make things up but—let’s be blunt, shall we?—they lie and they may lie frequently, whether they are Deputies, teachers, lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, CEOs, politicians or, well, anyone. While we can’t be sure that either officer Orozco or officer Giles has the disease of alcoholism, they—and every other officer in the department—should be regularly screened for behavioral indications of having the disease. If they screen positive, they need to be treated accordingly.

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

“OBLIVIOT OF THE WEEK #896: ‘I guess he thought it was a big joke,’ said attorney Daniel L. Castillo about his client, Rick Ehlert, 45. Ehlert is ‘not denying he did it,’ Castillo says, but what he did shouldn't be considered a crime. He says Ehlert was drunk on a cruise ship headed for Tampa, Fla., when he broke into the control room and dropped the moving ship's anchor, and then tossed a life buoy overboard -- at 5:25 a.m. The captain stopped the ship and assembled all passengers and crew on deck for a head count. No one was missing. ‘Everybody was mad at him,’ Castillo said, but ‘where's the crime?’ The crime, federal prosecutors say, is attempting to damage the ship -- a statute that was strengthened after transportation-related terrorist attacks. Dropping anchor on a moving ship could damage it enough to cause it to sink. The 719-foot MS Ryndam holds 1,260 passengers and 580 crew, and all were put in grave danger. Prosecutors are only calling for probation, but Castillo is trying to get him off anyway, noting ‘an alcohol-induced reckless act does not necessarily equate to a violation of federal criminal statutes.’ Also, Castillo added, ‘He's got a lot of money.’ (RC/Tampa Tribune)...Oh, well, if he's got money, then by all means: let him commit ‘alcohol-induced reckless acts’ with impunity.”

Overachievement and the wealth that often results is one of the great problems of alcoholism. Money is the biggest enabler because it increases the odds of protection in many ways, all of which revolve around the fact that enablers enhance their own income, status and power by ensuring the addict doesn’t experience consequences for poor behaviors. These enablers range from spouses who share in the booty, employees who are paid so long as the secret isn’t outed and attorneys who enable by defending the addicted from the legal consequences of criminal misbehaviors.

Rick Ehlert almost assuredly has been involved in dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people or the law could have intervened but either didn’t or did so reluctantly and poorly without long-term effect. This time, tragedy was averted. Next time he, along with who knows how many victims, might not be so lucky. Even the prosecutors are going way too easy on him—especially if they are doing nothing to coerce abstinence. Ehlert has proven to society he cannot safely use psychotropic drugs, including alcohol. Society has a right to proscribe use by Mr. Ehlert and should do so, without shame, guilt or hesitation.

(Story and tagline from “This is True,” copyright 2011 by Randy Cassingham, used with permission. If you haven''t already subscribed to his newsletter—the free one at least, or the paid one I get, with more than twice the stories—I highly recommend it:

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

Over the years, Doug has given a number of talks before chemical dependency counselors. We welcome inquiries regarding speaking engagements for your groups.

Readers are also invited to check out the latest client letter at, where you will find a revolutionary view of Roth conversions and when to begin collecting Social Security. Doug has clients all over the country, so please don’t hesitate to inquire about his tax and financial services.

Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report in which we interpret the news through the lens of alcohol and other drug addiction. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:

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

There is something for everyone!

Addiction Report Archives here

© 2011 by Doug Thorburn

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

Books Here

The Code of Silence, Enabling by Unions and Alcoholism: Kelly Thomas, RIP

I first got a hint of the negative consequences of compulsory unionism* when I worked as a box boy for the old Hughes Supermarket in Van Nuys, California in my teens. I worked my tail off for $2.12 an hour, a wage also paid to those who goofed off. The checkers made nearly four times that amount, some of whom likely earned their wage (including one who may have been the planet’s fastest checker—remember, those were the ancient days when checkers punched in numbers) and those who didn’t, who were slow and rude to customers. Discovering that union bosses protected bad employees, I figured out unions were great for incompetents and those who didn’t give a damn and unnecessary for those of us who were competent and caring. They allowed bad employees to make as much as those who earned their wages and helped the undeserving keep their jobs, thereby rewarding bad behavior. **

The most costly and harmful unions may be those protecting teachers and law enforcers (including police, sheriffs, prison guards and the like). They’re costly because, gradually, compensation including benefits has grown at a much faster rate than wages in the private sector, breaking the backs of taxpayers in many municipalities and states. They’re dangerous because the unions protect incompetent—and even malicious—employees.

Although I didn’t know then but know now, the most menacing of such employees are alcohol and other-drug addicts. Such addicts know how to hide their use and, at the same time, intimidate others to get their way. Their main goal is, as with early-stage addicts in all aspects of their lives, to inflate their egos, often by wielding power capriciously in the workplace. They pack a punch way out of proportion to their numbers, since they consist of only 10% of the overall population and yet are responsible for an estimated 80% of society’s unethical and criminal behaviors. When the 10% comprises unionized public school teachers who, short of committing rape, can rarely be fired, we’ve got a huge problem. Recalling my K-12 school years, a number of teachers were likely addicts, at least one of whom was no doubt drunk every day. He, like his fellow alcoholic brethren, was not a good educator.

The most dangerous of these protected incompetents and would-be criminals consist of alcoholic law enforcers. Drug Recognition Experts whom I interviewed in researching my books estimated that 20-50% of active duty cops were practicing alcoholics, depending on the police force—the smaller the force, the higher the likely rate of alcoholism. With more effective employee assistance programs, according to my Drug Recognition Expert friend Thomas Page the rate may have dropped to 15% among the larger forces, but that’s still high when we consider their power and who is responsible for most problems. (Worse: the most common estimate of alcoholic prison guards among those who have some insight into the subject is 50-70%). The more powerful the union the more likely bad cops—almost always alcoholics—are able to remain on the force.

One of the many problems with alcoholics is they are great at hiding consumption and going without when they need to (for example, during work hours). The behaviors, which often slosh over to periods between drinking episodes, give away the secret, but only to those few who know the signs of an inflated ego and that such egomania is the key indicator of early-stage alcoholism. The civil service system, which goes far in protecting incompetents, is made immeasurably worse by public service unions. When unionized teachers act badly they get to keep their jobs or are “reassigned” to another school. When cops act badly they get to keep their jobs because it’s so darned difficult to fire government employees, especially those in unions. *** Private employers fire at least three times as many employees as do government ones, even if they rarely see any drinking. Unfortunately, unimpeded alcoholism only gets worse, with corresponding behaviors usually becoming increasingly despicable over time (until after decades of use, the late-stage alcoholic becomes more concerned with getting his drug than with capriciously wielding power over others). Sooner or later, tragedy occurs, but only after dozens if not hundreds of incidents for which close people—family, friends, co-workers and employers—could have intervened but didn’t. Tragedy would happen much less frequently with earlier intervention, including firing or forcing such employees into rehab, which is often impeded by union representatives.

Such enabling probably occurred in the case of at least some of the six Fullerton police officers who killed a homeless schizophrenic. Following a report of a burglar breaking into cars, officers approached the alleged perpetrator, Kelly Thomas, 37, who initially resisted arrest. While onlookers’ reports diverge at this point, a video **** taken by one strongly suggests the officers, with a combined weight of some 1,500 pounds, beat and tasered the 135-pound man beyond recognition long after he stopped resisting. Thomas’ father, retired sheriff’s deputy Ron Thomas, who taught other officers proper arresting and subduing techniques pointed out the injuries sustained by his son could not have occurred had proper techniques been used. More probably, alcoholic rage took hold of at least one of the officers and, because of a code of silence that is as prevalent among cops as the perpetrators whom they arrest, other officers went along with the beating and have since protected their coworkers with their silence.

Police officers’ unions may be the most powerful force in protecting these bad cops, almost all of whom are alcoholics. The Fullerton Police Officers’ Association (cops unions are often called “associations”) hired their attorneys to write a formal demand that blogger Tony Bushala, founder and site administrator of Friends for Fullerton’s Future “cease and desist from making false allegations against any member of the Fullerton Police Department.” They objected in particular to a comment on Bushala’s blog that said in part, “An eye witness of Kelly Thomas’ brutal deadly beating told me that the Terminator (Kenton Hampton) was the same cop that smashed poor Kelly’s head into pieces after he had been taser [sic] several times.” The attorneys wrote, “The insults that you have posted about Officer Hampton and other Fullerton Police Department officers are malicious and false.” It turns out the main bully was probably another officer (reportedly Jay Cicinelli), but who wants to bet the police union hasn’t come to the defense of some if not all of these six cops on previous occasions involving misbehaviors? And who wants to bet that at least several of the officers haven’t previously exhibited behavioral indications of alcoholism, including rage?

In researching this piece I stumbled onto a ratings system for officers, “rate my cop,” and found good reports for many Fullerton Police Department officers but very poor ratings for Hampton and a few others. I don’t know that Hampton already had only negative remarks before this episode, but it wouldn’t be surprising. There are no reports on Jay Cicinelli.

Most cops are honest, ethical, sober and honorable. Even alcoholic ones are often good much of the time, but as elsewhere in society if there’s a horrific event there’s usually an addict behind it. Yes, Kelly Thomas probably made a bad mistake in initially resisting arrest. He may even have been under the influence. However, while there appears to be no excuse for subsequent events, the explanation is probably undiagnosed and unimpeded alcoholism in at least one of the officers along with a code of silence among both cops and their union, which harms perpetrators and victims alike.

By the way, John and Ken (John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou), in their roll as what I view as America's greatest living journalists, broke the story on the Kelly Thomas beating on their 3pm-7pm KFI talk radio show in Los Angeles (640am on the dial). If you live anywhere in Southern California their show is well worth tuning in. Regardless of where you live, their blog-history of the Kelly Thomas case is worth reading.

* Compulsory unionism forbids you from contracting with an employer without permission granted by a majority of workers, something I view as a violation of the freedom of association that I recall being mentioned somewhere in the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

** With more open and competitive markets in the private sector, most private employee unions have thankfully disappeared over the decades. However, participation in government employee unions has gone in the opposite direction. (Overall union membership was 20% in 1983 and stands at 12% today. Unionized employees comprised 10% of the government workforce at the apex of union power in the 1940s, nearly 25% by 1975 and roughly 37% today (and only 60% are eligible to be unionized); unionized employees comprised 34% of private sector employees in the 1940s, less than 22% by 1975 and a relatively miniscule 7% today.) It makes sense when we contrast private competition and public monopoly: market forces act to constrain union wages and benefits which, in fact, when otherwise unrestrained have contributed to the decimation of entire industries in the United States, while market forces by definition cannot constrain excessive compensation and poor work ethics among government employees.

*** An IRS manager once rhetorically asked me, “Do you know how difficult it is to fire someone around here?” after I complained about one of her auditors. Thankfully, the percentage of alcoholic IRS agents is probably among the lowest of all law enforcers because budding young alcoholics don’t grow up thinking, “If I go into a bar and tell a hot babe I’m an IRS agent I’m going to get laid.” Instead, they know that if they go into a bar in a cop uniform they likely will.

**** One can only imagine the sort of grotesque violations of private citizens’ rights that likely occurred with far greater frequency before the days of videos.

Thorburn Addiction Report Archives

Runners-up for top story of the month:

Rep. David Wu, D-OR
, saying he would resign from Congress before the end of August after coming under scrutiny for allegedly making an “unwanted sexual advance” (some say a euphemism for “rape”) on a supporter’s 18-year-old daughter. By itself, assuming the accusation isn’t false, this behavior is compelling evidence of alcoholism, especially when the alleged perpetrator is a 56-year-old 7-term Congressman. Even if the “unwanted” part of the allegation is false, the age difference alone is pretty good evidence. In the case of politicians, this is generally as far as we could go because getting proof of alcoholism in those who make (and enforce) laws is usually challenging at best.

David Wu is an exception. He was hospitalized due to an “adverse reaction” to a combination of Ambien and Valium in 2008. As pointed out in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse, because a single dose of two different drugs packs a far more powerful punch than a double dose of any one drug, polydrug use (especially to excess) is almost always a certain indicator of alcoholism. Wu has admitted to taking prescription drugs given to him by a campaign contributor but denied knowing what the drugs were (a contributor claimed it was ibuprofen, which is over-the-counter, while a staffer said it was oxycodone, which is illegal to provide without a prescription and is an opioid commonly used by addicts). I think it could be safely argued that only an addict would lie about knowing which drug he took or would take a drug without knowing what he’s taking. Last fall, Wu’s senior campaign staff quit en masse after confronting him about his “drinking problem” and a pattern of erratic behavior. As pointed out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics: Using Behavioral Clues to Recognize Addiction in Its Early Stages, a pattern of erratic behavior is almost always a result of the effect of various chemicals on the brain. Diagnosing alcoholism in David Wu isn’t challenging in the least.

Rapper Jeffrey Atkins, known as Ja Rule
, 35, sentenced to 28 months in federal prison for failing to file income tax returns from 2004 through 2006. The IRS usually doesn’t go after delinquents on charges of fraud, so an Enrolled Agent like me might predict the rapper, who has sold 40 million records worldwide, must have had a lot of income on which no tax was paid. In addition, since the IRS doesn’t usually prosecute non-filers, we might predict there were more years involved than just the three for which he was sentenced. Indeed, Atkins had more than $3 million in earnings on which he owed more than $1.1 million in taxes and the IRS dropped charges on at least two other years. Since those who believe they are more powerful than the U.S. government have an inflated sense of self-importance, which rarely occurs without the benefit of alcoholism, an addictionologist like me might predict that Atkins is a substance addict. It turns out he has a prior arrest for driving with a suspended license and marijuana possession, along with another on gun and drug possession charges for which he is currently serving a two-year sentence. Atkins blamed his youth, bad advice and an inability to manage his money properly for his poor judgment. We might instead suspect that alcoholism is doing what it does best: causing the afflicted to view everything he does through self-favoring lenses, leaving everyone and everything else to blame for his woes.

R & B star Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly
, 42, f