|February/March 2007 / Issue No. 28
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story-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!
Hugo Chavez, Totalitarian Alcoholic
The story of Hugo Chavez’ consolidation of power over his Venezuelan subjects will likely be viewed by future historians as one of the shrewdest Machiavellian power-grabs ever. The methodical, gradualyet inexorable increase in control during his seven-year reign has been masterfully designed to avoid inciting social upheaval. Unfortunately for Venezuelans as well for people in neighboring countries, his brand of totalitarianism is likely to get much worse.
In myth # 66 of Alcoholism Myths and Realities, I mentioned that the United States initially dismissed Chavez because it was widely believed that “He’s probably just a harmless ‘big talker.’” I wrote, “We dismiss such talk, in which the rich or some other class is blamed for society’s problems, at great risk. If policy makers in Washington had understood alcoholism, they might not have underestimated Chavez.” I suggested that although we lacked definitive proof, alcohol or other-drug addiction was the best explanation for his extraordinary power-seeking behaviors. In addition, blaming the most successful economic system and nation ever for the poverty of his people is by itself an excellent clue to manipulation or confabulated thinking rooted in alcoholism. The trouble is, as those with at least ten years’ sobriety readily admit, when using addicts are capable of anything, including disrupting the lives of others in unimaginable ways.
Most observers concerned with an “alcohol problem” look for obvious late-stage signs of addiction such as loss of control over use or appearing drunk in public. Early-stage alcoholics, particularly those in positions of power, are often far too smart to ever look the part. Instead, they give away the secret by their behaviors, especially in the capricious exercise of power. They may exhibit a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude, act in compulsive, dogmatic and arrogant ways, use twisted logic, masterfully lie, disparage others and intimidate to get their way. Chavez displays all of these symptoms and more. He is described as having an “utter lack of inhibitions,” an “obsessive need to cast himself as hero of the people,” unpredictable, bombastic, arbitrary, bizarre and unreliable. Alcoholics in positions of power are nothing if not mercurial and cunning. The National Assembly, stuffed with his disciples, has now granted him the power to rule by decree. This marks the beginning of what is likely to be a far more obvious tyranny.
This concentration of power has been accomplished by systematically weakening competing branches of government. The legislative branch was trimmed from a bicameral body to a more easily controlled single chamber. He has packed the courts with cronies. The December 2006 election proved that he controls the reported vote, having received 61% “support” among 16 million voters in a nation of 27 million with over 60% too young to even register. In the 27 months up to the December 2006 election, voter rolls grew 30%. No one has any idea who the new voters are. Chavez makes former President Richard Nixon look like a piker when it comes to an “enemies” list: a local woman told a Wall Street Journal reporter that although many greatly dislike Chavez, they believe electronic voting and fingerprint tracking machines at the polls allow the government to know how they vote, resulting in a subsequent loss of employment if they vote incorrectly. What else can they do when the government is the only employer?
In a world that hasn’t yet learned that people are far safer from demagogues and tyrants when resources are privately owned, Chavez and others of his ilk are enabled. In private lives as well as public ones, money is the biggest enabler. His opponents told National Geographic writer Alma Guillermoprieto that Chavez has so many enemies, if it weren’t for his control of the oil company, PDVSA, and the funds it provides with which to bribe voters and foreigners alike, he would not be able to remain in power. Oil money has allowed Chavez to survive mistakes such as running the oil infrastructure into the ground, which would have otherwise destroyed his power-base. Socialism and its all-too-common by-product, corruption, have already resulted in a GDP collapse from $120 billion at the close of 2000 to an estimated $71 billion in 2003; more recent numbers probably aren’t reliable and oil revenues may hide massive economic deterioration. In a move reminiscent of Stalin’s 1937 purge of over half of his army and 80% of his most capable top brass, Chavez sacked two-thirds of managers and technical oil-field staff in 2002, along with what the Economist Magazine called their “irreplaceable understanding of the idiosyncrasies of its wells and fields.” Staffing promptly became more political: Chavez’ brother and cousin suddenly rose to the top ranks at PDVSA. Former employees who signed a petition advocating the recall of Chavez in 2002 have been blacklisted from jobs at both the government oil company and its contractors. Along with other petitioners, their names and national identification numbers were plastered on the web site of a pro-Chavez congressman and they were subsequently denied passports, government contracts and public welfare. The capricious power-seeking behaviors of an alcoholic are all-too-evident.
In the meantime, oil money has been used to fund propaganda and buy friends. Anti-American billboards litter the roads of Caracas and Venezuelan crude is sold at pennies on the dollar to other South American countries in a blatant bid to encourage their support (as well as over-consumption). In a cult of personality reminiscent of that of North Korea’s alcoholic Kim Jong Il, a 30-foot high close-up of his face and hands looms behind his podium at official ceremonies. As his opposition is squelched, cult-like manifestations of alcoholism can be expected to dramatically increase. The silence should soon become deafening. The innocuously titled “Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television,” passed in 2004, allows the government to suspend the licenses of stations that “promote, defend or incite breaches of public order or that are contrary to the security of the nation.” This will be used against the major opposition media, RCTV, as an excuse to non-renew the licenses of its 40 radio and TV stations. Even if he were to renew them, how much advertising will opposition stations sell when industry is nationalized and the few remaining private companies are afraid to air ads on stations that disagree with government policies? Alcoholics do everything they are in a position to do to bend rules for themselves and dictate rules to everyone else.
Chavez was elected on an “anti-corruption” platform. Yet corruption has gotten so bad that Transparency International, a Berlin-based watchdog, placed Venezuela 140th out of 163 countries in its annual survey of corruption, with a 2.3 rating out of a possible 10, on par with that of Niger’s and Zimbabwe’s. At his inauguration, he swore to overturn the 1961 constitution and create one that would facilitate “participatory democracy.” Apparently, his view of such democracy requires that all decisions be concentrated in his hands, from his own party’s lists of candidates for other offices to increasing murkiness of PDVSA’s finances, which stopped issuing reports in 2003. It has since transferred much of its earnings to a Chavez-controlled development fund for which revenues and expenses are not revealed.
Hypocrisy, particularly in conjunction with increasing one’s power, is one of the great unheralded clues to alcoholism. Chavez is pushing through a law that will restrict the ability of non-governmental organizations to receive money from abroad. However, it’s okay for his government to send as much as an estimated $50 billion in foreign “aid” to private people and organizations over the last couple of years including subsidized heating oil for poor districts in the Northeastern U.S. This is especially loathsome when we consider that this probably accounts for at least 25% of Venezuela’s GDP and as many as 50% of his own people live in a state of far worse poverty than the worst off in the U.S. Anyone found guilty of “disrespecting” the President or “inciting panic”offenses that could arguably include unflattering photographs or nasty political cartoonsfaces up to five years in jail. Yet he is cozying up to Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, backs Iran’s nuclear program and, according to The Wall Street Journal, “embraces” Ahmadinejad’s hateful anti-Semitism, which rivals that of Adolf Hitler’s. He describes Condoleeza Rice as “illiterate” and has suggested that she suffers from sexual frustration. He calls George W. Bush “Mr. Danger,” “asshole,” and “the devil,” and in one extraordinary harangue filled with hyperbole (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLf08O3D_f0), a “coward, assassin and genocist (sic)…you’re an alcoholic, a drunk…” Alcoholics often engage in hyperbole and sneeringly identify others as alcoholics. When the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Miguel Insulza, said that Chavez’ threat to close RCTV appears to be “censorship against freedom of expression,” Chavez called Insulza to resign, saying he was an “idiot” who was acting like a “viceroy of the empire” (i.e., the United States). Recovering alcoholics have a saying describing themselves when using: one finger out, three fingers back.
His twisted logic is breathtaking in imagination. In threatening to confiscate ranches, he explained, “If someone doesn’t want [to reach an agreement with us], he can go to the courts, but we’re going to ask you for all the [documents] from 1821, and if [the property] wasn’t registered in 1821…” at which point he made the sound of a piece of paper being torn in half. The trouble is Venezuelan authorities didn’t get around to issuing titles until decades later. His childish antics would be amusing if they weren’t so intimidating: while making verbal threats not to renew the RCTV licenses, Chavez said, “RCTV has only a few days left…they can scream, stomp their feet, do whatever they want, but the license is finished. They can say whatever they want, I don’t care, it’s over.”
In a report at http://www.vcrisis.com/index.php?content=letters/200502211639, Chavez is described as paranoid and fears assassination plots. While paranoia is a common symptom of cocaine and amphetamine addiction, Chavez appears too bloated to be addicted to anything other than alcohol and, perhaps, pharmaceuticals such as barbiturates to offset his copious caffeine intake (Chavez is reported to drink as many as 30 demitasses of coffee a day and could be replicating Hitler’s caffeine/barbiturate use). On the other hand, the site recalls a Cuban defector who in 2002 said that Castro’s men consider Chavez and many of his inner circle to be “drug addicts.” A private correspondent, who has long suspected Chavez is on something, points out that his pupil size and puffy face vary considerably and early in his career a complacent shrink medicated both him and his wife. Another correspondent says he uses his wife as a punching bag. One of the lesser-known indications of alcoholism is what Lucy Barry Robe in Co-Starring Famous Women and Alcohol called “telephonitis,” or “drunk dialing.” Chavez is known for calling friends late at night, with no particular agenda.
The signs and symptoms of alcoholism should be taken seriously by everyone who is at risk of being affected by his megalomania. With the purchase of 100,000 AK-47s, at least 40 Mi-35 assault helicopters and several fighter jets for his almost 1 million man reserve army, by far the largest in South America and far larger as a percent of population than that of the U.S., he has shown that his version of “democracy” requires a war machine with manufactured enemies. And because alcoholics are capable of anythingand I do mean “anything”we are all at risk.
Runners-up for top story of the month:
Actor Lane Garrison, a co-star of the TV series “Prison Break,” reported by Beverly Hills police as having a blood alcohol level of over .20 per cent along with cocaine in his system after the crash in December that killed a teenager. I wrote in the January report that his attorney, Harland Braun, asserted that Garrison had consumed only two drinks that evening. I also suggested that Braun seems to have made a career of enabling alcoholics (prior clients include actor Robert Blake and former basketball player Dennis Rodman). Braun now says the actor’s memory of how much he consumed may be unclear “because he’s been in a horrible accident.” No, his memory is unclear because he may have been in an alcohol- and cocaine-induced blackout that resulted in the death of a 17-year-old boy. A .20 requires the consumption of not two drinks but rather 12 (two bottles of wine; 18 ounces of 80-proof liquor) in three hours for a 200-pound person. Police recommended that he be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, which could result in up to 13 years in a real prison.
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, apologizing for having an affair with a good friend and trusted aide’s wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, Newsom’s appointments secretary. Infidelity is almost as apple pie in the lives of addicts as verbal and emotional abuse. Newsom has announced that he plans to seek counseling for “alcohol use,” explaining that while “my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment,” life might be better without alcohol. Mayor Newsom, 39, was recently reported to be dating a 20-year-old. Vast age differences are also common in the love affairs of alcoholics because of their ego-inflating potential (“look at the babe I caught!”). There’s more under “co-dependents-of-the-month.”
Former Ohio Representative Bob Ney, the only Congressman to be criminally charged in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, sentenced to 30 months in prison. Ney, now in recovery, apologized in the courtroom to family, friends and constituents while taking “full responsibility” and accepting the consequences for his actions. The judge in the case, Ellen S. Huvelle, said, “an alcohol problem doesn’t explain everything.” No it doesn’t your honor. It required that he attain a position from which he could wield power and act accordingly. Sorry Judge Huvelle, but everything else is explained. His physician, Dr. Renata Dela Cruz, wrote the judge, “I became concerned that his use of alcohol was influencing his behavior.” A doctor got it right, for a change.
Writer Barbara Seranella, a former auto mechanic, dead of liver disease at age 50 while awaiting what would have been a third liver transplant. She was jailed 13 times by age 21 due to behaviors resulting from addiction, readily admitting, “I got into liquor and drugs and underwent a complete personality change.” Facing a long sentence at Sybil Brand Institute for Women in Los Angeles, she made the decision to get clean and sober and appears to have stayed that way. According to a 1997 L.A. Times interview, her husband, whom she married in 1994 after he made her service manager at a Brentwood, California gas station he owned, told her that he didn’t want her hauling engines out of cars when she was 50 years old and asked, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” She told him she’d like to write. She wrote about the street life she knew via a character named Miranda “Munch” Mancini, a young prostitute who attempts to rid herself of booze, other drugs and her biker buddies after becoming involved in a murder investigation and assuming a new identity as a car mechanic. The book, No Human Involved, made its way to number five on the Los Angeles Times best seller list in 1997. She went on to write seven more mysteries featuring Munch, which also chronicled her personal progress.
Singer and songwriter for the 1960’s band, The Mamas and the Papas, Denny Doherty, dead from kidney disease at age 66. The group had six Top 10 hits in a two-year career together, including “California Dreamin’” and “Monday, Monday,” which strongly influenced the “California sound” of the era. In fact, several musicians and I recently brainstormed the question, are there any non-addicts who made revolutionary changes in music? and we found none. Mozart, Beethoven, at least three of four Beatles, Elvis, James Brown, Miles Davisall addicts, willing to take risks in their craft that the sober among us wouldn’t dare. The other members of the Mamas and the Papas were all addicts as well. Their short stint together ended amid “exhaustion” and interpersonal “tensions,” which included Doherty having an affair with his band mate and best friend John Phillips’ wife Michele. While as mentioned in the Gavin Newsom paragraph that affairs are rather normal in the lives of addicts, this one was a bit out of the ordinary: the three of them lived together and the lovers kept the secret for a time. Doherty is believed to have gotten clean a couple of decades ago and likely remainedand diedsober.
Actress Yvonne De Carlo, dead at age 84 from complications of heart disease. De Carlo, who played Lily Munster in the 1960s television comedy, “The Munsters,” reportedly stopped drinking in 1998 subsequent to a stroke, a year after her son was likely murdered by a drug dealer. Her father abandoned the family when she was a child, after which she lived with grandparents and cousins. She played the wife of Moses in the 1956 movie “The Ten Commandments” and listed 22 lovers in her 1987 autobiography, including Howard Hughes, Burt Lancaster, Billy Wilder and Robert Stack. Her only marriage was to Hollywood stunt man Robert Morgan, who “had a bad temper and squandered” her money. Alcoholics are often children of alcoholics and marry what they are used to, which is how the disease travels generationally. Still, we’ll miss you, Lilly.
Sports announcer Jim Lampley, 57, arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, violating a restraining order and dissuading a witness, after an altercation between him and Miss California USA 2003, Candice Sanders, 28. Sanders claimed she received injuries to her head, neck and back from being thrown against the walls and a door of her Encinitas, CA apartment on New Year’s Eve. She also alleged that Lampley drank and smoked marijuana before attacking her. The restraining order apparently resulted from an incident two months before in which she claimed he threw her onto the floor of a New York restaurant. Linda Lee, the first of Lampley’s three former wives, said Lampley isn’t capable of striking anything, much less a woman. The question is not whether there is at least one addict; rather, the question is, which oneor both? The answer will shed light on whether Lampley is capable of such violence, Sanders is capable of making false accusations, or both.
Former treasurer of GE’s NBC Universal unit Victor Jung, arrested on charges of stealing more than $800,000 from the company and using the proceeds for lavish private spending sprees. Jung’s job included overseeing the company’s bank accounts and providing financial reports to GE. He allegedly wired money to a company he secretly set up, NBCU Media Productions, the name for which bears a close resemblance to that of an actual NBC subsidiary, NBC Media Productions. According to the indictment, the money was quickly used to fly friends and “companions” in private jets to such destinations as Antigua and the Turks and Caicos Islands, while enjoying Veuve Clicquot champagne, Grey Goose vodka and Mondavi wine while enroute. Another $56,000 was allegedly used for a Southampton, N.Y. summer rental and $87,000 to pay off an American Express bill. I must admit, alcoholics do have more funfor a while.
World-renowned geneticist William French Anderson, 70, sentenced to 14 years in prison for molesting his assistant’s daughter for four years, beginning when she was 10. Judge Michael E. Pastor explained that Anderson lured the insecure and trusting immigrant and because of his “intellectual arrogance, he…got away with as much as he could.” Anderson was Time magazine’s runner-up for Man of the Year in 1995 for his work in genetics. He was charged after the girl wore a wire and confronted him about the sexual abuse that occurred after he began teaching her tae kwon do. Anderson told the girl, “I just did it, just something in me was just evil.” Or perhaps, it was a lower brain center unrestrained by a neo-cortex damaged due to decades of alcohol and other-drug addiction.
Co-Dependents of the Month:
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, whose ex-lover Ruby Rippey-Tourk told her husband, Newsom’s re-election campaign manager Alex Tourk, of her affair with Newsom. Ruby was working Step nine of the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which suggests that direct amends be paid to people the alcoholic harmed “wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” Reportedly, Newsom could not have asked for a more loyal and supportive aide than Alex, who resigned when he learned of this ultimate breach of trust. Paying amends, which requires taking responsibility for past misbehaviors and accepting the consequences, can result in unforeseen falloutwhich is the reason for the exception. However, it is entirely up to the addict to interpret and many addicts must come clean for the sake of their own sobriety. It’s up to the codependent to decide whether to forgive.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory, which began random drug testing after finding secret nuclear weapons data in a former worker’s residential trailer. Police found about 1,500 pages of classified information among methamphetamine pipes after responding to a domestic violence disturbance at the trailer park. The former employee used memory sticks to download the classified data and sneak it out of the lab. The energy department still allows the use of computers with USB ports. The powers-that-be seem to need a course in identifying addicts and in grasping just what they are capable of.
Enabler of the Month:
Publicist Jeff Ballard, telling FOXNews.com that the recent FOX television morning-show interview of “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul resulted from a “technical problem. They dropped the sound not once but twice. She’s in a little room by herself and could hear people shouting in her mike.” He denied that Abdul’s speech was impaired during the interview. More objective observers may beg to differ. Viewers watched Abdul almost swivel out of the shot and rock back and forth in her seat as she slurred her words. We would have to strain hard to find any adjective other than “drunk” to explain the truly bizarre scene. Mr. Ballard, please do your client a favor: get honest and stop enabling.
Oil money in the hands of government, which has enabled Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez to remain in power despite, as The Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes, “soaring murder rates, double-digit inflation, food shortages, oil-field depletion and a massive brain drain.”
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 addictswhich 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 proactively intervene.
Artsy, with two alcoholism-related tangents
“Babel,” nominated for seven Academy Awards, is billed as a stylistic movie about connections and the difficulty of human communication. Indeed it is, but it’s also one that portrays tragedy occurring without alcoholism, while worsening with it and its close relationchildlike actions, by children and their counterpart, adults with adolescent mindsets resulting from alcoholism. It also includes a tangential story that might have been compelling in itself and should have been separately told.
The connections are part and parcel of chaos theory, which posits that small changes in initial physical conditions can escalate into major changes and that the more distant in time, the less predictable the outcomes. In life, too, seemingly insignificant events can result in dramatic and unpredictable changes. “Babel” chronicles a seemingly unimportant event that begins on the other side of the planet from which the tragic consequences play out.
Of interest to the addictionologist are Harry M. Tiebout’s observations from his extraordinary 1954 pamphlet, “The Ego Factors in Surrender in Alcoholism.” Tiebout points out that (1) the inflated ego of the alcoholic has its origins in Freud’s “His Majesty, the Baby;” (2) the little monarch tolerates frustration poorly; (3) such rulers have a tendency to do everything in a hurry; and (4) they have a sense of omnipotence, which I point out in How to Spot Hidden Alcoholics takes form in a Supreme Being complex and sense of invincibility. This feeling of godlikeness explains why both children and alcoholics fail to take into account the possible outcomes of misbehaviors and act without thinking. Shooting at a tourist bus is one such action, as is running from border police with a woman and two children in the car. Hence the tragedy, created by children in Morocco and worsened by an addict named Santiago, who drives his sister Amelia and her two wards back to the U.S. from a wedding party in Mexico, with Santiago uttering the classic line, “Drunk? My ass! I’m fine!”
The movie is interesting, the cinematography excellent, but the story is not tied together the way it should have been. The sense that both my wife Marty and I had at the end was a sort of “clunk” and, “is that all?” The other story of addictionthe deaf Japanese girl’s (Chieko’s) mother’s suicide, resulting in some truly bizarre behaviors on the girl’s partshould be told as a separate story. We can at least explain the behaviors as one possible response of a child psychologically abandoned by her mother, likely an alcoholic since some 80% of suicides are rooted in alcoholism.
“Babel” deserves a review because you might otherwise be disappointed seeing a “just ok” movie billed as Academy Award material, a “masterfully interwoven story,” and a film that “explores the ways in which cultural assumptions and biases tend to obscure reality even when reality is plain, and the way our perceived differences keep us from finding a human connection to one another,” which is nonsensical to most viewers. It’s a two and one-half star movie (Marty would say less), interwoven in ways that make only partial sense, showing events connected by humans, some of whom are children and others childlike through biochemistry, which at least makes it more interesting than it would otherwise be.
Dear Doug: Road Terrorist
My husband drives as if he were crazed. While a superb driver, he is very aggressive and creates dangerous situationswith me and the kids in the carthat require excellent driving to pull out of. He seems to have a need to always be ahead of everyone else. I beg him to slow down and he gets angry with me for being upset, showing a lack of regard for my wishes and feelings. He drove all of us to a friend’s a few days ago and we haven’t spoken since. Am I asking too much of him?
Terrified in the Shot-Gun Position
. . . .
Other columnists might say that your husband sees his driving as an extension of his masculinity, with which he takes pride. While admittedly immature, he may continue to refuse, in which case they’d suggest you take separate cars. While wasting gas, it may save your lives.
Were it only so simple.
Your husband is indeed immature, but not because he has a need to show off his masculinity. More likely, he is immature because his emotional growth was stunted the day he triggered alcoholism.
You may scoff. However, think about when he drinks. No, he doesn’t beat you, he hasn’t lost his job and he pays his bills. But doesn’t he get just a bit more boisterous? Isn’t it possible that if you were to insist on taking separate cars, his immaturity would boil over into a more obvious need to control you and the kids in other ways?
Mature men don’t need to let you know they are masculine. They don’t have a needat the risk of destroying the familyto be in front, on top, a NASCAR driver or aggressive, certainly while putting his family at risk. Mature men pay attention to the needs of their spouse and children. Anything elseincluding the numerous signs of immature behaviors you describeare symptomatic of alcoholism.
I once drove with such a driver. I vowed never to drive with him again. It was the only symptom that I ever saw of what could have been alcoholism. Years later, his spouse told me he’d entered a program of recovery.
The fact that you didn’t mention anything about his drinking doesn’t mean he isn’t an addictive drinker. You would have no idea that the drinking and behaviors might be linked. However, there is one possible alternative: that he does not have alcoholism. If, after reading my first book, Drunks, Drugs & Debits, you conclude that he is definitely not alcoholic, look to his parents. Even if an odd way of doing so, he may be compensating for psychological abandonment as a child. A related hypothesis is that his reckless need to endanger the lives of his family was learned from a parent. In either case, he needs counseling to help him understand where he learned his poor behaviors. With the right counseling, IF he’s not alcoholic, he will probably unlearn these childish misbehaviors rather quickly. If he has the disease of alcoholism, reading Drunks, Drugs & Debits will allow you to offer a dose of uncompromising tough love with a clear conscience.
(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, January 3, 2007.)
Prevent Tragedy Foundation
“She’s too smart to be an alcoholic, and if she does something at which we shake our heads in disbelief, we should assume she has a psychological problem.”
The antic-of-the-month below, starring astronaut Lisa Nowak, brings to mind all sorts of myths. She’s too smart, too successful; the stress caused her to freak out; it’s probably a psychological problem rooted in something other than alcoholism; she’s too good a mother; ad nauseam.
No, when inexplicable and destructive behaviors rear their ugly head, it’s probably alcohol and other-drug addiction.
While there were reportedly few problems in Nowak’s life until a few weeks ago, outsiders often have no idea about the turmoil that goes on behind closed doors. Such turmoil often continues for decades, while close people attempt to “reason” with the occasional outbursts of irrational behavior. While Deputy NASA Administrator Shana Dale said that before Nowak’s arrest there were no signs of instability, neighbors reported hearing the sounds of dishes being thrown inside the Nowak home in November, for which police were summoned. A few weeks ago, Nowak and her husband of 19 years separated. This could be a classic example of an addiction-related gulf between public and private lives.
Roughly two-thirds of what appear to be mental illnesses dissipate within the first few months of sobriety. As I wrote in Drunks, Drugs & Debits, addiction can mimic all the Personality Disorders and mental illnesses, “which therefore become symptoms of an underlying addiction….Addicts exhibit abrupt mood changes, from depressed and withdrawn to hyper, manic and excited, for no apparent reason. The timing depends on when and which drug was used last, interactions of various drugs and how the addict’s particular brain neurotransmitters are affected. Often, these reactions take place between uses [which could explain why she may not test positive for alcohol or other drugs in her system, if she was tested at all]. The only difference to the layperson in observable behaviors of an addict and a bipolar [or other Disorder, including paranoia] is that if the addict cleans up, the depression and mania [or other bizarre symptom] eventually disappears.” This is not to say it cannot be anything else. However, we should go with the odds. The best explanation for her behaviors is the consumption of a cocktail of drugs, likely alcohol and pharmaceuticals, as part of a long-standing psychotropic drug addiction.
Last summer, astronaut Lisa Nowak was soaring 220 miles above earth, floating in the International Space Station. More recently, she was in a dingy jail awaiting a court appearance on charges of attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary, destruction of evidence and battery.
Nowak, 43, a married mother of three, donned a wig and trench coat, armed herself with a BB gun and pepper spray andwearing diapers, so she wouldn’t have to stopdrove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando. She then confronted fellow astronaut Colleen Shipman, who she suspected was involved with another astronaut, Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein. She told police she only wanted to “talk” to Shipman about her relationship with Oefelien, but couldn’t explain the role of a wig, trench coat, BB gun and pepper spray in such “talk.”
Nowak is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate with a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Astronauts are watched like hawks; one can only imagine the psychological testing that must be passed to be allowed the privilege of embarking on space missions. Yet, as author James Graham in The Secret History of Alcoholism points out, the second person to walk on the moon, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., “was an active alcoholic while an astronaut. While in trainingand under intense medical and psychological scrutinyhe would go on two-week-long benders. He stopped drinking only two days before lift-off.”
Nowak’s escapade is one of the most bizarre ever undertaken by a public figure. And the odds are, alcohol and other-drug addiction explain her actions.
To view reader's comments on last month's Thorburn Addiction Report and Doug's responses please visit the Thorburn Weblog at PrevenTragedy.com.
Doug frequently posts alcoholism-related articles, as well as his responses, so be sure to check back often.
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Have you visited the Prevent Tragedy Foundation" The Prevent Tragedy Foundation is a tax-exempt 501c-3 organization, the goal of which is to educate the general public on the need for early detection of alcohol and other drug addiction. The Foundation is intended to answer a question that has been all-but-ignored by similar organizations: what does alcoholism look like before it becomes obvious"
Click here to visit the Prevent Tragedy Foundation
The Thorburn Addiction Report is a free newsletter published by Galt Publishing and PrevenTragedy.com. Subscibe by visiting our web site at www.PrevenTragedy.com.
The Thorburn Addiction Report is available to newspapers as a regular feature column.
Inquiries are invited.
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