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Day: January 25, 2016

“When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain” by Giles Milton


When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain” by Giles Milton

c.2016, Picador
$16.00 / higher in Canada
272 pages


What’s done is done.

You can’t go back and erase the past, as much as you might try. You can alter its affects, make excuses for it, or pretend it never happened, but what’s done is done. And as you’ll see in the new book “When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain” by Giles Milton, more was done than you think.

Every good historian knows that history’s filled with dates, battles, and facts that can be mind-numbing for the average person. Those are things your high school history teacher tried to make you memorize – but there’s a lot that textbooks never tell.

Did you know, for instance, that Adolph Hitler might’ve had a love child that would “quite possibly still” be alive?  Or that Hitler’s brother joined the U.S. Army in World War II and fought against the Germans?

There are things in history that we know, almost. A corpse’s clues suggest how explorer George Mallory died, but nobody knows if he made it to the top of Everest. After the Titanic sank, a kitchen worker survived hours in icy water, perhaps due to the two bottles of whiskey he drank earlier. And that Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days is a fact; why is her biggest mystery.

But unknowns aren’t the only surprises from the past: in this book, you’ll read about history’s “most prolific murderess” and a monk that wouldn’t die. You’ll learn about a nine-year-old who dedicated his life to an Emperor in a very drastic way, and you’ll see stories of the most unsavory meals…

And then there are history’s little-known but astounding people: the man who survived two hydrogen bomb-drops and lived to be ninety-three. The captain who chose cash over “chattels” at sea. Men who talked in code to foil the Japanese. And the Polish Catholic woman who single-handedly saved more than 2,000 Jews.

There’s a lot of good reading inside “When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain.”  And a lot of fun, too.

Half the enjoyment in this book comes from the quick, short tales that author Giles Milton has collected: tales that lean heavily toward World War II, but are still varied throughout history and the world. The length of these stories is perfect for this kind of book: each can be read in a few minutes’ time and you won’t feel guilty for jumping in, mid-book, for a good-at-the-moment browse.

The other great thing is that Milton invites readers to look at the past with curiosity and even a little humor. While it’s true that some of the chapters you’ll read here are made of serious stuff, Milton also includes stories that are on the lighter side.

I enjoyed this book with the consternation that comes when you know something’s going to end, but you don’t want it to – and that’s the feeling I think you’ll get, too, when you read “When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain.” Start this book, and you’ll want more when it’s done.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Heroin: A devious liar with a powerful pull

Samantha Nixon (right) and her mother Elizabeth Smith. (Submitted Photo)
Samantha Nixon (right) and her mother Elizabeth Smith. (Submitted Photo). Chasing Dark is an ongoing series looking at heroin abuse in Keizer. For past stories, please visit

For the Keizertimes

Editor’s Note: In a recent Chasing Dark story, Elizabeth Smith talked about her daughter Sam Nixon’s struggles with heroin. This is Sam’s first person tale of what she went through and what she wants others to know about heroin.

I’m sure people who have never tried heroin think, “Why would anyone ever want to?”

We hear stories about overdoses, arrests and beautiful souls’ transformations into unrecognizable individuals all the time.

We’re in the midst of an epidemic, and I want to say first and foremost: heroin does not discriminate.

Some of us are more susceptible to becoming enslaved in the throes of addiction due to a complex combination of genetics, circumstances, mental illnesses and social factors. But heroin does not care about the superficial differences that trick us into believing the lie that we or our loved ones are immune to her reach.

Heroin is a liar. She lies to families.

She tells them, “It won’t happen to my family.” “My child/mother/father/sibling/friend would never do something like that.” “I have to give them money or they’ll die.” “I’m keeping them alive by providing somewhere for them to live.” “If I set boundaries, they will hate me forever.” “It hurts me too much to see them in pain, so I’ll enable them to continue to use.”

She also lies to the person using.

She says things like, “I’m not as bad as them.” “I can control this.” “I’ll only try it once.” “I can’t live without it.” “I deserve to live like this.” “Nobody understands what I’m going through.” “I can’t live without it.”

Heroin lied to me. Heroin lied to my friends and my family. I can only speak from experience, so here is my story of becoming a prisoner and, thankfully, breaking free.

So why try it?

At first it was a test, a sample, a “who cares, why not?” moment based on a belief that dependency and addiction couldn’t happen to me.

Besides, why worry about your life, consequences and eventual, long-term effects when you don’t really care about yourself anyway?

I was not lacking knowledge. I was not lacking support. I was not lacking a plethora of accomplishments, academic achievements and superficial successes.

I came from a good family.

I was lucky enough to live in a nice house, in the nice part of town, with a family who loved me and provided more than I needed. We had a boat. We had a cabin. We had a hot tub and a fire pit and a gigantic TV. I had a collection of designer clothes and pretty little things. I was not lacking anything on the surface.

So what was I lacking?

I was lacking the ability to think ahead, to weigh the decisions I made against the consequences. But most importantly, I was lacking self-esteem, self-awareness and self-worth.

I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t understand the underlying issues that were contributing to my perpetual feelings of gut-wrenching agony and unhappiness.

I wasn’t lacking self-centered thinking and a desperate desire to escape my reality.

Inside I was dying, and what’s worse, I didn’t know why. I needed to find a fix; I needed to find a cure for the pain.

She finds me

When I was introduced to heroin, I found a way to self-medicate that had the potential side effect of death, which was honestly my passive intention. I found a slow way to kill myself – an easier, softer way to go away.

But initially, the decision to try it was impulsive and without much thought.

I thought, I can try it once. I’ll be fine.

Upon my first ingestion I was catapulted into an alternate universe where all of the sudden, everything was going to be okay.

My body was flooded with warmth and contentment. Nothing scared me anymore. All my fears disappeared and my worries and cares and feelings were completely eliminated.

I was numb to everything, which was exactly what I wanted.

I thought, I want to do that again.

And thus, the imprisonment began. I was tied to Her, a beautiful seductress who whispered in my ear: “You need me. I take away your pain. You want me. Come visit me again.”

And I did. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again… Again…. Again…

The destruction of things worthwhile

I shattered my family’s trust. I shattered what was left of my identity. I lost everything superficial, everything worthwhile, everything I loved and my interest in basic needs like food, shelter and water.

My family decided, very intelligently, to stop enabling me and kicked me out of their house. They refused to support me as I killed myself.

I didn’t care. I rode my bike around with my belongings on my back, caring about only one thing that consumed my mind completely, obscuring my sight, creating tunnel vision that led to one thing:


I ran out of money. I overdosed. I lost everything I’d worked so hard for – college, transportation, financial security and, above all, my relationships. I lost it all. Her power made none of it matter.

My solution stops working

Soon, heroin’s “healing” magic lost its power. I needed more and I didn’t have a way to get it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to means that many people who are trapped in Her sickening cycle of self-destruction and complete dependence have to do to stay well.

But only by the grace of something bigger was I spared, because I was no better and no different than them. I would have gotten there quickly, because I would have done anything for Her. But I was spared. I received help; I was given another chance.

Saving grace

By the grace of whatever power is out there, my family (bless them) intervened and I was removed from Her clutches. I am proud to say I haven’t used heroin in 1,292 days and I never plan to do so again. I escaped Her power and found another as of July 8, 2012.

In the time between then and today, I have seen countless other people who were bound by addiction recover. I have also seen beautiful, kind, joyful, hilarious, sweet, dear souls lose the battle and move on to whatever is waiting for us on the other side.

I want everyone to know that it is not impossible to stop. Heroin is a liar. Don’t believe her. Don’t get involved with her. And if you already are, I promise, I promise, freedom is out there. You can be freed.

I was freed. People with more difficult circumstances and less advantages than me have been freed.

It doesn’t have to be your demise. It doesn’t have to be the end.

To families: I am so sorry for the pain that comes with battling a loved one’s addiction. There is support out there for you, too. There is always hope.

To everyone: Stop believing heroin’s lies. You are worth much more than anything she could ever offer. Hope is not lost. Help is out there.