Thursday, August 13, 2009
Doug Thorburn, addiction expert, addiction contrarian and author of the recently released Alcoholism: Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease
, has wrong way drunk driver Diane Schuler as the top story of his August Throburn Addiction Report. Schuler's tale highlights a number of issues that Doug Thorburn has been writing about for years. Here is the Top Story of the August 2009 Thorburn Addiction Report: http://www.preventragedy.com Diane Schuler: A Tragic Case of Hidden Alcoholism Diane Schuler's
husband, Daniel Schuler
, told investigators that everything seemed fine when she left a Sullivan County, New York campground with her 2-year-old daughter, 5-year-old son and three young nieces at 9:30 a.m. on July 26. He was going fishing, while his wife was heading home. When he heard from police a few hours later that she was involved in a wrong-way head-on collision that killed everyone in both vehicles except for the 5-year-old, he—and the press—had no idea what could have possibly gone wrong. For days, cops and family members were "baffled" about what made her drive so recklessly.
Six other drivers called 911 before the collision, as she straddled two lanes, tailgated, flashed her headlights, beeped her horn and attempted to pass at least one other vehicle via the highway's shoulder over an almost-60-mile path. The ultimate tragedy didn't occur until two miles after she began driving the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, about 35 miles northwest of New York City.
As shown in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse
, any one of the behaviors described points to a likely DUI and alcoholism, while a confluence of driving behaviors this erratic is virtual inarguable proof of both. Indeed, a broken bottle of Absolut vodka was found near the wreck. State police, however, according to media reports "investigated" why Schuler, 36, a Cablevision executive, would have been driving the wrong way on a highway she had driven numerous times before. The addiction-aware would have simply waited for the results of the toxicology report, knowing full-well what to expect.
When Daniel Schuler
, a security officer for the Nassau County Police Department, was told that his wife's blood alcohol level (BAL) was .19 percent, with 6 grams of undigested alcohol in her stomach and high levels of the key psychoactive substance in marijuana in her system, he said, "She did not drink. She is not an alcoholic" However, the facts belie the claim. It would take about 10 shots (15 ounces, or almost half a liter bottle) of vodka over four hours to achieve a BAL of that level in the 150-pound person she appeared to be. Not even factoring in that she was using two different psychoactive substances at this hour of the day, driving and with children in the car, this much alcohol in her system virtually assures us that Diane Schuler had the disease of alcoholism.
Addiction is often hidden, even from those who are closest. I observed erratic behaviors in my long-ago ex-fiancée, but never saw addictive drinking. Schuler later modified his claim, telling investigators that his wife drank socially and "occasionally" smoked pot. I, too, observed the "sipping" of wine we would expect of a social drinker, but never the gulping of vodka that I later learned was occurring prior to tasting wine. I never saw (or even smelled) the pot, which of course, when I found it, was her "son's pot" The therapists with whom we counseled for the better part of two years of our rather (behind closed doors) tumultuous 2 ½ year relationship never—not once—suggested even the possibility that alcoholism might explain the behaviors that drove us to seek counseling. Schuler said that there were "absolutely" no marital problems. The addictionologist in me thinks the truth is somewhat more complicated.
In 1969, Astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon. He later admitted to going on two-week-long benders while under intense medical and psychological scrutiny before his journey. He stopped drinking only two days before lift-off. If NASA didn't identify alcoholism, it can be hidden anywhere. The late Joseph Kellerman, who wrote the classic A Merry-Go-Round Named Denial,
estimated that it takes an average of nine years for a spouse to tentatively diagnose alcoholism in the other spouse.
Almost as interesting as the hidden aspects of Diane's disease are the myths associated with the reporting of the story. While she was confused enough while on the road to call her brother, Warren Hance, to ask for directions home, he said there was "no slurred speech," as if that's the norm in someone under the influence. No, it's not. As explained in Alcoholism Myths and Realities: Removing the Stigma of Society's Most Destructive Disease
, myth #6: "With a Blood Alcohol Level between .10 and .24 per cent, even an alcoholic would appear inebriated," alcoholics often don't exhibit slurred speech, staggered gait and the like until the BAL is at least .24 percent (and often much higher).
Daniel Schuler's attorney, Dominic Barbara (a divorce attorney who frequently appears on Howard Stern's radio show and has represented the alcoholic likes of Joey Buttafuoco, actress Lindsay Lohan's father Michael and Victoria Gotti) said, "this is not a woman who would jeopardize five children" Not when sober, but while under the influence anything goes—and many, many alcoholics in recovering admit to having regularly driven with children in the car while under the influence. (myth #80, "Alcoholicsm Myths and Realities": "He may be an alcoholic, but he would never risk a child's life by drinking and driving with one") Daniel Schuler said, "I never saw her drunk since the day I met her" We often have no idea that highly tolerant early-stage alcoholics are under the influence. (myth #43: "He never looks drunk - so he can't be an alcoholic!") Even I have failed to diagnose alcoholism in someone who I saw many times, only to learn recently that I never—not once—saw her sober. As if to explain Schuler's alcoholism, clinical psychologist Carol Goldman said, "We have to look at the pressures on women these days.
They have to be supermom" No, if the trials and tribulations of life caused alcoholism, we'd all be alcoholics. (myth #32: "The stresses of the job and other life problems made her turn to the bottle") Connecticut psychologist Elaine Ducharme pointed out that just because someone is a parent doesn't mean she'll stop using "drugs and alcohol", saying "If you have a real addictive personality, just having a child isn't going to make the difference" It's not "drugs and alcohol," nor is it an "addictive personality," Ms. Ducharme. It's a genetic and biological predisposition to alcohol and other-drug addiction.
The New York Post
reported that a "drinking buddy" of Diane's said, "She liked her drinks, she liked her vodka" (reportedly in screwdrivers). If Daniel Schuler was not a co-addict (which is a big "if"), he may well have had little or no idea about his wife's alcoholism. The families of the three victims in the other vehicle are suing Daniel, alleging he "had" to know of her addiction. No, he didn't. Roughly 10% of the U.S. population consists of alcohol and other-drug addicts. If you know 500 people, you know about 50 addicts. Yet, the typical person says he or she knows maybe 5 people in whom addiction has been confirmed, leaving 90% of the addicts in our midst unidentified and undiagnosed. Unfortunately, this often includes those closest to us.
TO COMMENT to the author, send your email via the website, http://www.preventragedy.com
or write to Doug Thorburn, P.O. Box 7777, Northridge, CA 91327-7777
For media interviews contact Promotion in Motion at 323-461-3921 or firstname.lastname@example.org