Interesting Interview

I remember an old X-Files episode called Folie à Deux, in which a man was driven to madness because he could see demons and monsters in his colleagues, and he frequently uttered, in vain, “They hide in the light.” Not sure why that episode of that show sticks out, and I know I have mentioned it before, but I really felt it was a creepy, disturbing show.

That’s what I thought about, immediately, when I watched this recentish PSH interview. His demons were right there, hiding in the light.

Parasocial relationships are an interesting thing. It’s weirder knowing the research, yet still feeling like you have lost someone you knew who, were they still alive, wouldn’t recognize you out of a one-man police line-up. Regardless, the death of PSH has just been gnawing at me for days. I feel like I knew the guy and identified with a lot of his thoughts, although it would be farcical to pretend I was as intelligent or sophisticated and talented, but at some level, there is just something about him that I knew.

Or maybe that is just what a great actor does, even in interviews like this. Or maybe he was an old soul and everyone picked up on it. Regardless, I have never felt this much sadness over the loss of a celebrity. Not even Jerry.

134 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    janeform says:

    JC, I think deep down you thought (or vaguely felt) there was some small crazy chance that PSH really would play you in your biopic.

  3. 3
    kc says:

    I confess I didn’t know much about him, other than that he was a terrific actor.

  4. 4
    SatanicPanic says:

    He seemed to have a knack for empathy and we don’t have many of that kind of person in the world.

  5. 5
    Cassidy says:

    He was just a man with talent and an addiction. There were many before and many still to come.

  6. 6
    khead says:

    Buck up little camper. Avoid the needle and things will be ok.

    Sorry, but I’ve had enough.

  7. 7
    max says:

    It’s weirder knowing the research, yet still feeling like you have lost someone you knew who, were they still alive, wouldn’t recognize you out of a one-man police line-up.

    That doesn’t really happen to me.

    Regardless, the death of PSH has just been gnawing at me for days.

    Dude vaguely resembled you.

    I feel like I knew the guy and identified with a lot of his thoughts, although it would be farcical to pretend I was as intelligent or sophisticated and talented, but at some level, there is just something about him that I knew.

    Or it’s entirely your imagination. In any event, it’s about you, Cole, and whatever bugs you (likely death).

    Or maybe that is just what a great actor does, even in interviews like this.

    That’s exactly what they do, particularly in closeups – they sit back and do the minimum and let the audience project themselves into the holes and fill in the story for themselves. That sort of thing is much more obviously acute in writing – nobody makes a actual set with costumes for any given story, but if the writer says the characters are in Manhattan or the Grand Canyon, *you* draw the picture inside your head. (And the picture in your head may have nothing to do with what the writer pictured.) You’re doing the work.

    You see that occasionally when there’s a slip-up or just a hole and an actor is playing a scene/story one way, and the audience reads the scene in a completely different way. And when you ask the actor about the bit later, they’re all like, ‘That wasn’t what I was thinking at all.’

    (Politics works the same way – isn’t George W. Bush the kindest, warmest, most decent human being you ever met?)

    Dude looks sorta like you, same age, drops dead. Hello, mortality.

    [‘I find it helps if you imagine what the actor sees when they’re looking at ‘you’ – a big round piece of glass attached to a bunch of black metal with some camera dude behind him. He totally thinks you’re great, you big hunk of electronics you.’]

  8. 8
    the Conster says:

    He’s such an unlikely celebrity success because he’s no Brad Pitt or Steve Carrell – more like Steve Buscemi and Paul Giammati or John C. Reilly. So he disappeared into his roles, became celebrated, then disappeared into drugs. He chose this. He chose…. poorly.

  9. 9
    raven says:

    @the Conster: I probably should let it be but the disease model people would say he didn’t choose.

  10. 10
    the Conster says:


    OK. But no one had a gun to his head.

  11. 11
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    muddy says:

    @raven: I’m with you, and even if it’s just a disease, there’s still the choice of how to deal with the illness. Could be said about anyone dealing with any kind of a health issue.

  13. 13
    cathyx says:

    @raven: @the Conster: I love it. Disease vs. willpower argument.

  14. 14
    muddy says:

    @cathyx: It’s both. I win.

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @muddy: Dude was straight for 20 fucking years. Then he wasn’t. I ain’t judging anyone, I’m busy making my own choices.

  16. 16
    La Caterina (Mrs. Johannes) says:

    @muddy: Except that other diseases don’t tell you that you don’t have a disease.

  17. 17
    ultraviolet thunder says:

    We have a relationship with actors because we’ve spent so many hours watching them, but they have no relationship with us because we’re mostly total strangers.
    It’s okay to feel like you knew PSH because you actually knew him as well as you really know anyone. Which turns out to be hardly at all.

  18. 18
    raven says:

    Richard Engel’s stuff on getting hacked in Soshi is really interesting.

  19. 19
    Neldob says:

    Anybody who thinks he could just say no has no idea what mental illness is. Ever tried having one potato chip, one sip of a scotch and soda, one tiny bite of ice cream? Now multiply that by 1000. and do it every day for the rest of your life.

    The Guardian had a nice article by Russell Brand. 10 days in rehab was a joke. He needed 6 months probably.

  20. 20
    cathyx says:

    @ultraviolet thunder: It makes me wonder about people who are obsessed with celebrities. People don’t realize it’s a one way street. And even that isn’t really one way since there is no way we can really know someone we never met, no matter how much we’ve seen video of them.

  21. 21
    Mnemosyne says:


    I’ve linked to this study a few times, but there seems to be new information coming out that links gambling addiction to OCD, and they think it could be an issue in other types of addictions as well. So should people with OCD just make a choice to stop washing their hands until they bleed, or do they need psychiatric help to stop?

  22. 22
    Culture of Truth says:

    I liked him, but didn’t feel like I knew him, because he was too good an actor. I feel like I “know” George Clooney, because he’s so smooth from role to talk show guest to activist to interviewee. PSH vanished into his roles.

  23. 23
    cathyx says:

    @Culture of Truth: But you don’t know him. You need to understand that. You never even said a word to each other.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:


    Brand also had a great one after his friend Amy Winehouse died. It started with something like, There are two calls you know you’re going to get when you’re friends with an addict. One is from your friend, saying they’ve finally had enough and want help. The other is from their family, telling you that they died.

  25. 25
    muddy says:

    @La Caterina (Mrs. Johannes): Sure they do.
    @raven: My brother recently relapsed after a long time sober. Pretty much the second he didn’t have to piss in the cup anymore, he was back after it. Then since he was drunk he didn’t take his head meds. Mind you he made the choice to drink while still on them. And he stayed sober for ages as long as they were checking, he wasn’t helpless to it. He ended up losing his living situation and was so bad off they had to put him in the nuthouse. He’s close on your age.

    I’ve got people in the family that went both ways with addiction. Some people try hard, some people whine about it while still carrying on with it. I believe some people are just born more likely to be an addict. I believe that in some it’s a physical disease. Some people don’t have a physical addiction, it’s just a real bad habit. And sometimes you can work your bad habit enough to turn it into a physical disease if you try hard.

  26. 26
    muddy says:

    @Mnemosyne: Who says they don’t need psychiatric help? Of course they do.

  27. 27
    p.a. says:

    I kinda feel otherwise: he was such a fine actor he really inhabited the roles; I get no real sense of his own personality except for the artistic intelligence that allowed him to become his characters.

  28. 28
    cathyx says:

    Can one use willpower to overcome addiction? Some people have more willpower than others. It’s a personality thing.

  29. 29
    Angela says:

    @muddy: Best book I’ve read on addiction. In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate, MD. He works with addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

    Addiction sucks. My sons’dad, my ex-husband, died of an OD ten years ago. My 2nd husband’s dad died of cancer when he was a boy, The impact and aftermath was huge on all of them; but the addict leaves even more pain in their wake. It sucks all around.

  30. 30
    the Conster says:


    I don’t know that it’s mental illness. He didn’t consider his children enough and calling his choice mental illness lets him off the hook too much IMHO. In my own personal experience, I’ve seen addicts change their behavior if they’re motivated enough.

  31. 31
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @cathyx: Repeat after me: addiction is not a disease. You do not catch addiction like influenza or HIV.

  32. 32
    maeve says:

    That was hard to watch (and 45 minutes long) but I’m glad I did. It does say things aren’t simple. People (all people) are’t simple.

  33. 33
    CaseyL says:

    Addicts who are able to stay clean only as long as they’re being checked regularly might have a very specific type of externalized value system: As long as an external Authority Figure is keeping an eye on them, they feel they matter to someone who “matters.” As soon as they lose that – lose the authority figure – they lose the validation of being controlled by an authority figure.

    It’s one of those things that happens with a thinking animal who happens also to be a pack animal. The ways our wiring can get screwed up – how we gauge our self-worth, and who we look to for affirmation – are infinite, and infinitely varied.

  34. 34
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Really?

  35. 35
    muddy says:

    @CaseyL: Indeed. His mother was always able to behave properly in front of witnesses, otherwise she didn’t waste her time.

  36. 36
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yes, Really.

    Care to cite an infective fungi/bacteria/virii that causes addiction?

  37. 37
    J.Ty says:

    Random side note, that episode (as well as ~90% of the other good X-Files episodes) was written by Vince Gilligan, of “creator of Breaking Bad” fame. He met Brian Cranston during his X-Files years when Cranston was playing a white supremacist whose wife would die if he stopped driving West and had kidnapped Mulder. Or something.

    Also RIP, PSH.

  38. 38
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Care to offer a cite that says all disease results from infection?

    ETA: Because to a layman, disease, illness, and disorder all convey more or less the same meaning.

  39. 39
    catclub says:

    “but at some level, there is just something about him that I knew.”

    John Goodman for me. Probably just a good actor, and I had not paid attention to PSH.

  40. 40
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: HPV infection causes cervical cancer, HIV eventually causes AIDS, EBV cause mono, etc. etc.

    Addiction does not follow the disease model.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    You do not catch addiction like influenza or HIV.

    You don’t catch major depression or schizophrenia like influenza or HIV, either, so I guess people who claim to have them just need to straighten up and fly right.

  42. 42
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: You don’t catch arteriosclerosis like HIV of the flu either. But the heart attack will get you

    Brain tumors? Not contagious – still a disease. MS – not contagious – still a disease. Addiction – currently understood as a brain disorder, not a “personality type” with a biological basis.

    I do recognize, however, that we are likely talking past one another on this topic.

  43. 43
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    So lupus is not a disease? Crohn’s Disease? After all, you don’t “catch” them from somewhere — your own immune system turns on itself.

    ETA: Diabetes — also not a disease, because there is no virus or bacteria that causes it. I guess diabetics just need to will themselves to produce insulin.

  44. 44
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s correct: it’s a disorder.

  45. 45
    the Conster says:


    I’d include him with my list above, and also William H. Macy. Everything they’re in is worth watching.

  46. 46
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Hey, you are the one who made a claim. The onus is on you. Is your view that no mental illness is a disease? Can I call schizophrenia a disease? If not, what term is proper?

    @Howard Beale IV: Ah, pedantry. Okay.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    You’d better call up the Journal of American Medicine and tell them to change the name, then, because every doctor in the world is incorrectly referring to it as Crohn’s Disease.

  48. 48
    J.Ty says:

    Jesus christ, is somebody actually arguing that addiction is a fucking choice? To use the old standard, yes, one would love to ignore one’s type 2 diabetes and hope it goes away, but the feet one loses will be all too real. And there’s even a causative argument you can make there–it’s (partially) due to lifestyle ‘choices’! Just stop acting so diabetic, it’ll go away.

  49. 49
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: How about Huntington’s chorea? Illness, disorder or disease?

    I get that you’re being clever on the semantics of some medical terms. Fine, though ultimately pointless. What source(s) do you cite for the proposition that addiction does not follow the disease model. Do you believe then that all brain disorders are not medical?

  50. 50
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    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Oh, wikipedia! I’ll be sure to ask the next doc who presents on addiction at Grand Rounds for the College of Med psych department how best to counter that thoughtful scholarship.

  52. 52
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Oooh, a Wikipedia stub.

    ETA: Here is an online definition of disease that would include addiction.

  53. 53
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Hutnington’s Chorea has specific genetic markers that have been identified.

    Addiction, OTOH, has not.

  54. 54
    J.Ty says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I hate the way we use the language to call somebody an “addict” or whatever. Neal Stephenson has a good take on it in Cryptonomicon, where one of the characters is talking to a morphine addict (what can I do, we’re still using English here). He says that he much prefers the German Morphiumsüchtig, roughtly ‘morphine-seeky’. He describes it as the difference between a ‘leaking roof’–a roof which is currently leaking–and a ‘leaky roof’, a roof with a tendency to leak at times. The German adjective describes the addict; the English noun obliterates him.

    Still, this is meaningless pedantry, and also way to link to a wikipedia article about one of many interpretations of addiction as if it’s a definitive work.

  55. 55
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    Dude. Willpower has been totally debunked when it comes to weight loss. It doesn’t do any more good when the problem is heroin or alcohol instead of Oreos.

    Willpower is not only overrated, it’s a cruel lie that sets people up for failure over and over again.

  56. 56
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): If they’re angling to join the scam known as the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Stanton Peele and decades of counterfactual research will be waiting for them.

  57. 57
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    Addiction, OTOH, has not.

    Factually wrong.

  58. 58
    sw says:

    Thank you John.

  59. 59
    Howard Beale IV says:


    Mice != humans. I refer you to the Rat Park study at Simon Fraser University.

  60. 60
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Howard Beale IV: How about Heart Disease? Got disease right in the name.

    ETA: Neighborhood is being invaded by raccoons.

  61. 61
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Thanks for posting that. When you mentioned parasocial relationships I wasn’t sure at first if you meant in reference to the one between you and him, (or any of us and him) or the one between him and the character that he was describing playing and taking on his traits.

    The psychiatric “folie à deux” has always fascinated me, it’s a real condition, a “shared psychosis… or psychiatric syndrome, in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another.”

    What I remember reading about it is that one of the pair is often considered as sort of the carrier, and they know this because when they separate the two, one seems to improve, or at least change, and the other doesn’t.

    Entering into a folie à deux with a character you’re playing, who almost by definition is crazy due to being fictional, must be another kind of parasocial encounter, and extricating yourself from it must be incredibly hard.

  62. 62
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: First, you misspelled < >. Second, please get back to us when all of your evidence takes the form of double-blind studies done only on humans, or wherever your arbitrary goalposts happen to sit right now.

  63. 63
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    Mice != humans.

    Well, then, we’ll have to start 99 percent of all genetic research over from scratch, then since mice are not humans and we can’t learn anything useful from them.

  64. 64
    Angela says:

    @Mnemosyne: The article you linked to also staes this:
    Dr Quentin Anstee, Consultant Hepatologist at Newcastle University, joint lead author said: “It’s amazing to think that a small change in the code for just one gene can have such profound effects on complex behaviours like alcohol consumption.
    “We are continuing our work to establish whether the gene has a similar influence in humans, though we know that in people alcoholism is much more complicated as environmental factors come into play. But there is the real potential for this to guide development of better treatments for alcoholism in the future.”

    In the book I mentioned above, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate, MD explores the intersection of nature and nurture in the develpoment of addiction. I’d highly recommend the book for a look at where addiction treatment is going, based on neuroscience and experience.

  65. 65
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA: Heart Disease is commonly accepted.

    The idea that addiction is a disease is contested-usually by the abstinence/12-step crowd.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Have you ever seen Heavenly Creatures? One of Peter Jackson’s first movies, and based on a real murder case in New Zealand.

    There was a minor scandal when the movie was released and it turned out that one of the girls had become a well-known mystery author, Anne Perry.

  67. 67
    Geeno says:

    He was an awesome talent, and I am extremely sad over the great performances that won’t happen now.
    That’s really about it for me. I recognize another addictive personality and am sad he couldn’t make it, but I feel that whenever I hear someone has succumbed to their demons.

  68. 68
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: I’m actually surprised to hear that. I assumed the “I am powerless before (substance of choice), I submit my will to God, better not ever use (substance of choice) again forever” group would totally agree with the disease theory. Since they think you can’t change.

  69. 69
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Mnemosyne: Oh no but I’ve heard about it. My mother being a big Anne Perry fan. Was there a folie à deux diagnosis at some point? Now I’ll have to see it.

  70. 70
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @J.Ty: I see you don’t speak the ancient tongues, padawan.

    Much you must learn, yes.

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:


    Oh, nature and nurture are absolutely intertwined in any mental illness, including addiction. Nature may put the tendencies in your brain, but nurture determines how it gets expressed.

    To complicate things even more, you have people who use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their mental illnesses who aren’t addicted to them, but they don’t get the right kind of mental healthcare because it’s assumed that the addiction is their primary problem, not that the addiction is masking a different problem.

  72. 72
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @J.Ty: It’s contested by those who are against the 12-step gulag – like me.

  73. 73
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: Early Kate Winslett, wasn’t it? And Melanie Lynskey (sp?)?

  74. 74
    Angela says:

    @Howard Beale IV: I’ve read Dr. Stanton Peele too. His work is interesting. And makes a lot of sense. But very few want to hear about an alternative to programs that they think are tried and true.

  75. 75
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    I think they were officially diagnosed as a folie a deux. One of the conditions of their release years later was that they were never allowed to contact each other again. Also, it’s just a damn good movie, with a great early performance by Kate Winslet. Peter Jackson manages to do that very difficult filmmaker’s trick of making the ending suspenseful and terrifying even though you know from the very first shot of the film how it all ends. (of all places) had a couple of bizarre stories, too, like a pair of identical twins who went insane together and started walking out in front of cars and becoming violent.

  76. 76
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Angela: Lance Dodes’s work dovetails with Peele’s work as well, and he’s been in practice quite a while as well-both are complimentary; Peele’s written work takes a more macro view while Dodes’s is more micro focused and also deals with ‘process addictions (gambling/sex/internet)’

  77. 77
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    The idea that addiction is a disease is contested-usually by the abstinence/12-step crowd.

    @Howard Beale IV:

    It’s contested by those who are against the 12-step gulag – like me.

    There seems to be a contradiction between these statements.

  78. 78
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: My NOT gate wasn’t working at the time-fixed now.

  79. 79
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Oh, I just use that whenever somebody does any version of “doesn’t equal”. There’s plenty to go around. I’m actually a != man myself.

    And I’m gonna have to agree with @Omnes Omnibus: Seems like quite the contradiction.

  80. 80
    Mnemosyne says:


    Well, this is where we get back to my much-reviled statement of a few weeks back where I said that we really need to develop a screening test to figure out which people have a true “addictive personality” (which may be a form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and which people don’t. People who don’t have the true personality type probably won’t benefit from an AA approach, but people who do have it seem to benefit a lot.

    Just from being friends with people in AA (not in it myself), there does seem to be a specific personality type that doesn’t have a natural “off” switch. If they have one beer, they have to have two, and then three, and then finish the whole 12-pack. If they have one shot out of a bottle, they have to keep drinking until the bottle is empty or they pass out, whichever comes first.

    And it’s a compulsion that shows up in multiple areas of their lives — this same person got sober and decided to become a vegetarian. Then she became a vegan. Then she became an anorexic. Because even though it wasn’t alcohol, her brain still didn’t have an “off” switch to tell her when a habit — even a healthy one — had crossed the line into a compulsion. That’s why she needs to constantly monitor herself with the group therapy she gets in AA.

  81. 81
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: But addiction as a disease is “commonly accepted” by the actual medical crowd – men and women with MD after their name, many of whom practice and teach psychiatry and neurology – often in joint departments at med schools.

    Stanton Peele(the world’s foremost expert in addiction) provides a treatment program that’s:

    Delivered online in a truly anonymous environment
    Successfully used in residential addiction programs in the USA
    Only a fraction of the cost of an expensive residential program
    Overcome Your Addiction For Only $99

    I’m impressed. Not in a good way.

  82. 82
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Then that’s your problem-not mine.

  83. 83
    Mnemosyne says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    AA meetings are free. Just sayin’.

  84. 84
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @J.Ty: That’s my PL/I coming through-tells you what kind of a greybeard I am.

  85. 85
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Mnemosyne: It’s not a personality type. It’s a brain wiring issue, both structural and in terms of the neural connections. My view is of course heavily influenced by the psychiatrists and their researchers who can demonstrate these differences with fMRIs.

  86. 86
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: I’m curious – really – about the approach of behavior modification without addressing any of the physical issues. And there are brain formation/neural connection issues implicated in all the addictions. Psychiatry as a treatment approach recognizes and values cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, but that doesn’t exclude the biological basis.

  87. 87
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: respect for your length and presumed depth in the industry! But I still gotta be on the “you’re being meaninglessly pedantic” side of the discussion here.

  88. 88
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: I think there is some truth in that. I can tend toward being an adrenalin junkie. If I am in car or on a motorcycle, at some point, I am going to see just how fast it can go. On skis, I want to go as fast as I can. The speed and danger give me a rush. I am, I believe, a skilled driver and rider, I am not an F-1 caliber guy though. I protect myself, by not buying vehicles that are faster than I can handle. A Triumph Bonneville T100, yes. A Suzuki Hayabusa, no fucking way – I would try to see what 200 mph feels like and I would die, but I would be thrilled just before I hit that little pebble that wipes me out.

  89. 89
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): Just because someone has an MD after their name doesn’t mean they’re God, let alone competent-far from it. Hell, some of them are scatterbrained as all get-out. And heaven help you if you live in Texas and wind up with an MD that got kicked out of another state….

  90. 90
    Mnemosyne says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    I don’t know the neuroscience (and I don’t entirely trust fMRIs), but I’m more trying to get across that alcoholics who stop drinking don’t magically stop developing compulsions, and the easiest way to explain that is to say it’s a personality type since we don’t really have a way right now to easily say which person drinks too much because they feel a compulsion and which person drinks too much because they’re trying to drown out the voices in their head.

  91. 91
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: ugh, I just can’t help myself: look no farther than Chrichton’s (MD, Ph.D) “State of Fear” to see that degrees don’t confer expertise outside of their own limited bounds.

    ETA: or within, see Jurassic Park

  92. 92
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    See, and that’s the thing. You have an “off” switch that says, I think that bike is going to be more than I can handle, I’d better try a different one. At least in my (non-clinical) experience, the kind of people I’m talking about don’t have that switch. They genuinely don’t have an innate sense of self-preservation and have to try and learn it. I’ve seen it in alcoholics I know, but I also saw it when I was working at Weight Watchers and we would sometimes have compulsive eaters who could not stop eating until they made themselves sick. Not because they wanted to, but because they could. not. stop.

    (Again, I have zero clinical or medical experience with this stuff, so this is all anecdata from personal observation.)

  93. 93
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Howard Beale IV: I’m far from considering MDs G*d(s). And I certainly know there are some horrific practitioners. But I do put faith in faculty and researchers at a pretty prominent dept of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at a college of medicine. My problem, however, as you noted.

    @Mnemosyne: I have the medical bias, as I mentioned. But I dislike the description of “personality types” as it connotes – to so many – an element of choice that can be overcome by will isn’t accurate in so many (most?) cases.

  94. 94
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne: I still want to know what that 200+ feels like and, if offered the chance, I can’t guarantee that I won’t think, “Hell. I can do this just once, ” and then try it. If it works out, I would readjust my capability calibration (currently 100 mph on a bike and 140 mph in a car).

  95. 95
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @J.Ty: I don’t think it’s really being pedantic, it’s just that when you really look at the research that’s been done, the studies just don’t show that addiction fit the classical model of being a disease. During the Vietnam War lots of solders took heroin in the theater but when they came back they didn’t take it nor did they seek it out.

    As M. Scott Peck (“The Road Less Traveled”) once said on one of his audio tapes, Addiction is a ‘sacred disease’-by that, he meant it was a psycho/socio/physio/spiritual disorder, and he said that we’ll die of some psycho/socio/physio/spiritual disorder or another.

    Then again, Peck wasn’t no saint, either.

  96. 96
    J.Ty says:

    @Mnemosyne: honestly I feel like I see that in the gay community regarding exercise. Anorexia is a well known thing, obviously, but the magical mixture of low self esteem, social pressure, and (for lack of a better word) porn, seems to sock the gay guys (at least in SF) enough that they compulsively exercise, and half of it is just to signal to us other gays that they exercise. It’s not quite patholigical, but still interesting to see.

    I feel like it’s maybe analogous to the difference between the addict (anorexic) and the merely unhealthy (runs ten miles a day).

  97. 97
    Mnemosyne says:

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):

    Ah, okay. I come out of a therapy background (as a patient, not a practitioner), so I’m thinking more along the lines of identifying people who might be prone to depression or OCD or ADHD by answering questions on a screening test. It would be enormously useful if we could develop a similar test that would help us distinguish between “real” addicts/alcoholics and people who are using for other reasons and need a different kind of mental healthcare.

  98. 98
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Dude, in common parlance, disease and disorder are basically synonymous. If you want to be technical and/or pedantic, I don’t have the chops to argue it. OTOH, if you ever say guilty instead of liable in a legal discussion of a civil case or forget to append “alleged” to an accused, you shouldn’t expect to have any sympathy if someone is dickish to you.

  99. 99
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    During the Vietnam War lots of solders took heroin in the theater but when they came back they didn’t take it nor did they seek it out.

    Which is pretty much what you’d expect if we were talking about a genetic predilection that only certain people have, which would mean that some of the people who used would be able to stop using and not want to use again, but people with a genetic predilection towards addiction would keep using until there was a successful medical intervention or they died.

    But you’ve already claimed that there is no such thing as a genetic predilection to addiction, so what’s your explanation? Other than “willpower,” that is.

  100. 100
    J.Ty says:

    @Howard Beale IV: I say pedantic because you’re arguing that it’s not so much a disease as it is a different word that most people assume is a synonym for ‘disease.’

  101. 101
    Mnemosyne says:


    I feel like it’s maybe analogous to the difference between the addict (anorexic) and the merely unhealthy (runs ten miles a day).

    Pretty much. There are people who have drinking/drug problems, and there are alcoholics/addicts. Right now, we lump all of them in together, but that doesn’t do much good for the problem drinkers who aren’t really alcoholics and need a different kind of intervention.

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    xian says:

    I kind of always hoped he’d play Jerry someday. Or Jack Aubrey.

  103. 103
    xian says:

    @Howard Beale IV: you don’t catch cancer either

  104. 104
    J.Ty says:

    @Mnemosyne: we have BYOB interest groups, and we have sober interest groups, but we don’t have “2 drink max” interest groups. I could get behind those.

  105. 105
    xian says:

    @Howard Beale IV: are you some kind of internet doctor?

    Disease: a definite pathological process having a characteristic set of signs and symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of its parts, and its etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. See also illness, mal, sickness, and syndrome.

    Disorder: a derangement or abnormality of function; a morbid physical or mental state.

    your distinction is bullshit

  106. 106
    xian says:

    @Howard Beale IV: are you some kind of internet doctor?

    Disease: a definite pathological process having a characteristic set of signs and symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of its parts, and its etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. See also illness, mal, sickness, and syndrome.

    Disorder: a derangement or abnormality of function; a morbid physical or mental state.

    your distinction is bullshit

  107. 107
    xian says:

    @Howard Beale IV: are you some kind of internet doctor?

    Disease: a definite pathological process having a characteristic set of signs and symptoms. It may affect the whole body or any of its parts, and its etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown. See also illness, mal, sickness, and syndrome.

    Disorder: a derangement or abnormality of function; a morbid physical or mental state.

    your distinction is bullshit

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    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @xian: It is pedantic, but it appears HB4 has a dog in this fight. For us medical laymen, I am not sure that HB4’s distinction matters.

  109. 109
    eemom says:

    @Howard Beale IV:

    Just because someone has an MD after their name doesn’t mean they’re God, let alone competent-far from it.

    Just because a few other commenters rise to the bait when a smug ass know-nothing hijacks a blog post expressing heartfelt emotion over a tragic death with meaningless word games, doesn’t mean the smug ass actually knows jack shit about addiction or disease. Or anything else. Far from it.

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    Angela says:

    @J.Ty: I think they’re called moderate drinking interests groups. They do exist.

  111. 111
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @eemom: For me, it is this and listening to some live Vampire Weekend stuff I have. I alternate my attention. Giving up the Gun is next. Don’t mock just because they went to Columbia.

  112. 112
    Angela says:

    @Mnemosyne: that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. There are therapists, Docs and neurologists who are doing great work on the nuances in substance abuse and co-occurring diagnosis. But the 12 step program model has such a strangle hold on treatment it has taken them years to be heard.

  113. 113
    aangus says:



  114. 114
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Angela: My guess, is that many are seeking something like the sensation I talked about above. Being on the edge, for some, can be as close to worship as one can come. Experiencing the danger is wonderful and celebrating later with those who also did it is a great bond.

  115. 115
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @aangus: People riff off stuff said by others. It is a sad form of jazz commentary.

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    hamletta says:

    For me it was his Lester Bangs in Almost Famous.

    All I’d read from Cynthia Heimel and Jaan Uzheleski was brought to life.

  117. 117
    J.Ty says:

    @Angela: I’ll have to give that a look-see, I always just assumed that’s what me and my college friends were :)

    But yeah, sorry for my part in feeding the troll. PSH was a treasure and his death sucks. Addiction sucks, depression sucks, it’s all terrible. There but for the grace of FSM and so forth.


  118. 118
    Mnemosyne says:


    The 12 step model is a lifesaving one for people who are true alcoholics/addicts. The problem, if any, is that it’s a self-help program created by alcoholics themselves that came along in the days when doctors couldn’t be bothered to figure out why people became alcoholics/addicts, so there really aren’t any scientific criteria to figure out who benefits from 12 steps and who doesn’t.

    I know people whose lives have literally been saved by 12 steps, so I’m not going to badmouth it. But not everyone who uses drinking/drugs to excess is a true alcoholic/addict, and it doesn’t do much for people who aren’t.

  119. 119
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @J.Ty: HB4 isn’t a troll. HB4 is someone who cares about his/her issue and most disagree with his/her take. Long time commenter – not a troll. Just saying.

  120. 120
    Angela says:

    @Mnemosyne: the 12 step model works for some addicts/alcoholics. But it doesn’t work for all. There needs to be different modalities for different people. It’s not ever going to be one size fits all.

  121. 121
    Angela says:

    @J.Ty: yeah addiction sucks. And I don’t think HB4 is a troll at all.

  122. 122
    Mnemosyne says:


    Again, though, this is kind of the problem: no one can say exactly who is an alcoholic/addict and who is someone with a drinking/drug problem that falls short of that.

    I got into a weird internet argument one time over disorders that mimic the symptoms of autism but are caused by something else entirely (in that case, it was a metabolic disorder triggered by a high fever that causes the child to act very similarly to an autistic child). The person I was arguing with was livid at the very idea of trying to distinguish between children who are actually autistic and children who have the same symptoms but a different disease or syndrome. She thought they should all be treated the same and there was no point in trying to figure out if different cases had different origins. ETA: Obviously, I though her stance was stupid, which is why it still bugs me. ;-)

    That’s kind of how I feel about alcoholism/addiction. There is obviously a specific population of alcoholics/addicts who are helped by 12 steps, and we shouldn’t rush to take it away from people for whom it works. But we need a better way to identify which people are helped by 12 step programs and which need different treatment.

    Last anecdata: my nephew’s father is a gambling and drug addict who’s been in and out of prison his entire adult life. All of this man’s known children (from different women) have been diagnosed with severe ADHD, and yet he never has been and probably never will be, because he’s too deep in the criminal justice system. Doing 12 steps will help him to a certain extent, but unless he gets treatment for his underlying mental health issues, the 12 steps will always fail him in the end, because they can’t treat his underlying mental health issues.

    (And, no, he’s not in the criminal justice system because of the drug war. He’s in the criminal justice system because he thought armed robbery was a handy way to get some quick cash.)

  123. 123
    Mnemosyne says:

    Very last anecdote, I promise:

    I was talking to my alcoholic co-worker who has almost 10 years of sobriety under her belt about a trip G and I took to Las Vegas. I bought a frozen margarita that was disgustingly sweet, so I only had three sips and then threw the rest away.

    She looked at me in disbelief and said (half-joking), “If it doesn’t taste good, that just means you drink it faster.” She literally could not conceive of having a drink in her hand that didn’t have to be finished, no matter what. And this was after 5+ years of sobriety. That was what first made me start wondering if there was a link between alcoholism and OCD, because it really sounded like a compulsion, not a decision.

  124. 124
    John Cole says:

    @Mnemosyne: Email me. Your address is not working as listed here.

  125. 125
    J.Ty says:

    Coming in too late, but still wanting to say:

    I did figure HB4 wasn’t a troll after a bit, and now I feel like a dick. If he/she is present, sorry. Otherwise if anybody else is present, forward this apology?

    The apology being: Sorry. It sounded like you were dismissing legit diagnoses for a little bit and I took it the wrong way and then continued to run with it.

    So, sorry.

  126. 126
    Amir Khalid says:

    Another random note: the guy in Folie à Deux wasn’t deluded. His colleagues really were infested with some kind of insect-zombie thing. Mulder couldn’t see them himself until he believed the guy; and even Scully saw one herself, after she’d seen the evidence when she did an autopsy on of of the people the guy killed.

  127. 127
    WereBear says:

    We think we know actors because that’s their job. Good ones can pull you over in seconds and get you invested in them.

    Likewise, politics; the person who can convey overwhelming warmth and interest in a five second hand pump will go far.

    Charisma is a talent which can be developed, as far as I can tell. People can get over shyness but no one can learn charisma. And in our “ordinary” lives, we don’t meet many people like that. Most are guarded, and we sense the distance.

    When someone melts the distance, even through a screen, we melt, too.

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  129. 129
    Elizabelle says:

    @Ted and Hellen:

    Your link is not working. I’d be interested in seeing what you did.

  130. 130
    elftx says:

    Thanks for the link. He said it all at the very beginning and the finish was just as obvious. We can’t protect the children.

  131. 131
    DFH no.6 says:

    Late to the thread (as usual). And sorry for the lack of brevity.

    On PSH – I loved his performances in everything I saw, but Synecdoche, New York was the pinnacle, for me. He had the lead role in that (very) strange movie, and I remain profoundly moved by it to this day (top-notch writing, acting, and directing throughout).

    One of my all-time favorite movies, cuz I love surrealistic postmodern shit and I’m all dark and morose and filled with existential angst, I suppose. If you haven’t seen it but loved PSH as an actor, then be sure to check it out. For me, his very best performance.

    He died with a needle in his arm, another heroin addict (I believe that is the correct assessment, whatever “addiction” actually is) destroyed by what – so I hear – is the most amazing-feeling drug around. So I don’t judge.

    I’ll stick with the occasional weed, BHO, molly, and acid myself (in decreasing order of partaking) for my altered states self-medication/recreation. Very unlikely to kill myself that way. Never tempted to even try anything I could OD on (ok, “molly”, but I always use test kits and dose low and infrequently, so very, very little chance).

    And I easily did without any of that at all for a couple decades of my middle life while my kids were growing up (no more than the occasional couple beers or glasses of wine during that time). I’m lucky – I enjoy some drugs, but I can live without them, so I’m not prone to “addiction”, apparently. I’m old now, though, so sort of re-living my youth, I guess, and having fun doing it (until I’m busted and go to jail, so my wife worries).

    “Addiction”? I don’t know. My dad was an alcoholic all his life, but a fairly functioning one. He had the potential to do “better” in his life (more education, higher income) that I think was definitely short-circuited by his drinking, but he did ok as a working stiff; well enough to provide for his large Catholic family (I’m the oldest) the whole time we were growing up. Drinking made him kind of an asshole (not unusual, right?) but when he wasn’t drinking he could be a cool guy to be around. Eventually ruined his marriage to my mother, and made him less hail and hearty than otherwise, but it didn’t kill him (he died in his 70s of prostate cancer) or even cause him to lose work. He never tried to quit; not that I (or any of my family) know of, anyway.

    My one baby brother was also an alcoholic, and it first ruined his life (divorces, lost jobs, lost contact with his kids, jail) and then it killed him in his 40s a few years back (he died in an accident while drunk, not long after getting out of jail for his last DUI). Like Brad Pitt’s character in A River Runs Through It my brother seemed destined from a young age for early destruction due to his “addiction”. He tried to quit, we did the family “intervention” thing a few times, but to no avail.

    Complicated and difficult shit, whatever the hell drug addiction is (very much including alcoholism). RIP PSH, my brother, and all the rest destroyed by it.

  132. 132
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @DFH no.6:
    Sorry about your brother. Losing someone sucks – it seems to suck worse when it was “preventable,” even if it did seem destined. (Recently lost a brother to a heart attack, and it turned out he may not have been taking his heart medicines, or at least not all of them.)

  133. 133
    Ted and Hellen says:


    Try THIS.

    The first one worked for me, though.

  134. 134
    Trinity says:

    What a powerful interview! Thank you for sharing it John.

    The death of PSH has hit me in a way that I cannot define. Of course, I never knew the man in person but I feel like I “knew” him in the esoteric sense. Obviously he was hurting. I get that. I also get that he passionately loved those in his life. I have been there. I have loved and felt such pain that I wanted to end my life. How do you reconcile that??

    I do not know.

    He was an extraordinary spirit. That is obvious.

    I did not “know” him…but I loved him just the same.

    I hope he has found and enjoys some peace. I believe he deserves it. He was honest in this life and emotions…and he beautifully shared that with us. That is the most powerful epitaph of all.

    RIP PSH.

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