Monday, August 12, 2013

'Triumphs and Tragedies': One man's true story of how addiction claimed the lives of his entire family

The Book:


New Book Chronicles Businessman Karl McMillen’s Many Successes and Heartbreaks

Hermosa Beach, California, in the mid-1960s. Sun, surf, swanky sand castles along The Strand, and a soundtrack of "Fun, Fun, Fun." But the hang-loose life of the locals would soon be drowned out and painted black. The social storm brewing could turn even the most perfect wave into a brutal riptide.

Karl McMillen, Jr., deserved a piece of the Pacific paradise. He'd plumbed his way up from screw-fittings and sweat into mega-business ownership and multi-millions. He'd earned the azure-awesome view that he woke to every magical morning. And he'd earned the ideal family at his side. A dynamic wife and two bright, talented sons with sky's-the-limit potential.

But that storm...

He never saw it coming. It hit hard and it hit fast. The grinding gales of addiction ripped apart everything he had.

How do you go from planning exotic family vacations and evaluating real estate investments to planning prison visits and evaluating rehab centers and criminal defense pleas? How do you watch your surfer-champion sons transform into drug lords? Inmates? How do you watch your entire family die, one by one?

And yet never stop fighting.

What does it take to look in the mirror and search for the meaning of enabler? To face that you're sacrificing your own livelihood for Scotch? To ride a sheer, pounding wave of triumphs and tragedies, and then pull out and paddle back for more?

It takes a rare and special person: Karl McMillen.

Triumphs and Tragedies opens with a feral panorama of early twentieth century California; a last-gasp look at the West before it was "settled." When hard work was still a fundamental, and "entitlement" just meant you were entitled to work your tail off. Karl's success epitomizes that the cleanest hands in business are the ones that smeared the most elbow grease on their way up. Karl worked, and the system worked. Karl was said to have the "Golden Touch."

But some systems break down; especially social systems. California and all of America changed as the wild wave of the 1960s swept so much of the country's youth into the deep murkiness of drugs. Plenty of adults were plunged into realms over their heads, too. Karl encountered something his never-say-die work ethic and Golden Touch could not conquer: Addiction.

But Karl fought to apply his abilities to this strange new subject. Working hard now meant gathering data about the destructive force of drugs and analysing treatments. It was a task he had the unique mental resolve and physical resources to undertake. And he uncovered so much.

Triumphs and Tragedies: A True Story of Wealth and Addiction explores the down-and-dirty psychology of addiction through live "voices from the street." It probes the essence of enabling and the value of "rehabs" neither of which were common concepts in the sixties. It chronicles top-of-the-world success juxtaposed against a downside of life no one should have to abide. A side which proves that some things, money cannot buy.

Karl B. McMillen, Jr.

Karl McMillen, Jr., born in 1928, grew up in a young and developing Southern California. From an early age, Karl displayed a drive for greatness; working many odds-and-ends jobs and soaking up knowledge and skill sets from every available source.

Karl started his working career plumbing track houses in Southern California as a partner in Alert Plumbing. Karl went on to distribute plumbing supplies all throughout So Cal and Las Vegas as the owner of Todd Pipe & Supply, which he grew to 9 locations and employed over 400 dedicated employees. Through Karl’s hard work, dedication, and commitment to his employees and customers, the success of Todd Pipe became legendary.

Karl's life can be broken down into 3 distinct parts: The first was to study hard and get educated (Karl graduated from USC with a degree in Business Finance). Then came working hard and making a lot of money. Now, he’s giving it back.

In 2008, Karl and wife Carol started The McMillen Family Foundation, which currently supports more than 13 different organizations. To date, the McMillen Family Foundation has donated over $12 million to charities and foundations, including: Thelma’s Place (Thelma McMillen Center @ Torrance Memorial), House of Hope, Pathways to Independence, Friendly House, Beacon House, First Step, Lynn House, Shawl House, Ashland Home, Villa Center, and 3 Alano Clubs.

Karl’s amazing story of business success is counterbalanced by the emotional deaths of his first wife to cancer and both his sons who spent most of their lives battling substance abuse. Karl, too, has struggled with alcoholism and proudly carries his seventeen-year sobriety chip.

Karl may see himself as a “regular guy,” but to the countless number of employees, customers,
friends, family members and those in need that have been touched by Karl’s good will….he is anything but a regular guy.

The McMillens are proof that anyone can be destroyed by addiction, no matter the money, success or family support. Multi-millionaire Karl McMillen built his plumbing company from the ground up and provided a life for his wife and two sons that most could only dream of. But it couldn’t save them.

McMillen shares with co-authors Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas the heart-wrenching story of losing his entire family to addiction and disease in his new biography “Triumphs and Tragedies: A True Story of Wealth and Addiction” (July 2013, Final Word Press). The book is yet another brave gift provided by McMillen in honor of his family, in the 10th anniversary year of the Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment—his first major donation name after his late wife—and the 5th anniversary of the McMillen Family Foundation, which supports rehabilitation centers.

“Triumphs and Tragedies” opens in the unsettled West, when the wild wave of the 1960s swept so much of the country’s youth into the deep murkiness of drugs. Addiction was something even
McMillen himself, who was in the midst of growing a highly profitable company, couldn’t escape. Alcohol haunted him, cigarettes took hold of his wife, and drug use consumed his two surfing champion sons.

McMillen took a unique approach to the battle, using his talents from the business world of gathering data, this time about the destructive force of drugs, and analysing the treatments. McMillen explains in his book that enabling didn’t help his sons, but demonstrates how it was nearly impossible to avoid.

Their horrifying riches-to-rags journey from the serene and swanky shores of Hermosa Beach,
California, to a never-ending series of prison cells, health hewing, and eventual death shows the raw and painful moments the McMillens faced each day.

McMillen hopes the book will help others to avoid the gusts and gales of the deadly sides of existence while demonstrating that this country’s mottos about “hard work bearing success” still lives. And the current philanthropy of McMillen, generated in the face of life’s worse trials, demonstrates much on its own—that few, if any, have ever fought back so hard at the evils of addiction as he has.

Honors and Awards
--Humanitarian Award, Friendly House, 2011
--Angel Award, Beacon House, 2010
--Wholesaler of the Year, 2002

About the Co-Authors, Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas

Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas are a powerful publishing duo—Hayes, an established author; Thomas a prolific writer, editor, designer, and publisher. Their individual and collective works include the award-winning Hullabaloo!: The Life and (Mis)Adventures of L.A. Radio Legend Dave Hull and the perennial best-seller  The Original Wild Ones: Tales of the Booze-fighters Motorcycle Club.

With a degree in English Literature and three successful biker books in his saddlebags, Hayes has gained renown throughout the motorcycle culture as the “world’s most literate biker.” He received the prestigious Silver Spoke Award in 2010 for his body of literary work in the motorcycling community and has spent more than a decade as the National Press and Publicity Officer of the legendary Booze-fighters Motorcycle Club. Hayes has now achieved success with several new and upcoming biographies. Triumphs and Tragedies is his fifth published work.

Ms. Thomas holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a Specialized Certificate in copyediting from the University of California, San Diego. As the owner of Beyond Words Editing, she has edited and designed books of every genre. Thomas was Editor-in-Chief of the inspirational Butterfly Tears: Stories of Entrapment to Empowerment. As the owner of Final Word Press, she co-authored, edited, designed, and published Triumphs and Tragedies.

Both Hayes and Thomas are multi-degreed black belts, co-owning Old School Kenpo Karate Studio in Torrance, California ( and empowering women through their acclaimed Basic Yet Brutal self-defense workshops. Hayes also has a forty-plus-year “sub-career” as a professional musician.

Marissa Curnutte

Purchase Triumphs and Tragedies: A True Story of Wealth and Addiction at Amazon.

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