Breaking Bad: Triumphs and Tragedies


rWaxman_Boards-285x100As the 10 days of awe begin, I wonder about good and evil and what is the moral thing to do. As Breaking Bad comes to an end, I wonder “How Can We Empower All People to Fuel Their Passions and Choose Reality Over Drugs?”

Triumphs and Tragedies recounts the life story of Karl B. McMillen. The opening, written by Mr. McMillen, was the most moving to me. As he said,

I can only hope that the triumphs and tragedies I have experienced will inspire, guide, and even frighten those who have, or may encounter, any connection to drugs, alcoholism, addiction, or enabling. I survived the tragic deaths and lives of my sons and wife.

His honesty about his own addiction and seventeen years of sobriety as well as the drama in his family is stirring and depressing. He is now using his wealth to assist others so they do not lose family members to years of drug abuse and time in prison.

At times, the third person narrator telling the life story of Mr. McMillen felt a bit distant and overly-filled with early details. The stage was being set for McMillen’s many successes and golden touch in business, but it created an all-the-more tragic backdrop to the fall from grace of his two surfing-champion sons who went “from positions of popularity, potential, and affluence down into the dead end of prison and pity.”

McMillen is sharing his story to reach out to others in a way he could not grasp his sons to pull them out of harm from insidious drug use. As the narrator tells us: “Problem-solving in business doesn’t always translate into problem-solving on the most intimate of personal levels.” While McMillen “understood what people require in the way of marketed consumables and what they need to be productive as employees and partners,” his sons growing up on The Strand Hermosa Beach “succumbed not only to normal adolescent life experiments and peer pressure, but to a high tide of social change never seen before in modern Western culture.”

Mark and Chris were good-looking wealthy tan surfers in California and started not only using, but also selling drugs. When their funds got cut off, they stole the television from their own home! McMillen wondered about his responsibility in his sons’ fall: “Did the boys do drugs because we drank, or are we drinking because they do drugs?” Their lives became: “Endless Summer meets yet another episode of The Amazing Race — and Celebrity Rehab — long before the tide of reality TV shows came rolling in.” They wondered, “how did two young men with world-class athletic talents, surfer-god bodies and appearance, intelligence, morals, and loving, well-to-do parents drift into the lair” of drugs? Maybe that is the wrong question.

One son, Chris, recounts feeling unworthy and while it seems he had the easy rich life with so much to take advantage of, he followed his older brother into the den of iniquity. Why would he choose the path of drugs, dealing, stealing and jail? How can we empower all people to fuel their passions and choose reality over drugs?

Friends and family convince McMillen to stop drinking and smoking as his addictions are hurting his business. He learns in AA that “The reason most people drink is because they’re restless, irritable, and discontent.” This is after his oldest son dies, his second son is in prison and his wife has cancer.

At one point, Chris writes about his father, Karl:

Fathers always forgive their children and want what is best for them. A father is someone you respect, like an old oak tree — solid, firm, strong, and unwavering throughout the storm of life. The father is someone you can always depend on. It is a constant; always there.

After years of addiction, jail, broken bones and cancer, he and his father are able to find love and forgiveness together.

“Do you use the triumphs to make life better for others as well as yourself? Do you look at tragedies as lessons, taking what is learned and, once again, making life better for others?” McMillen and his family struggled through many hard times and have chosen to create the Thelma McMillen Center to help others.

At times in American society, it seems that drug use and prison time are blamed on poverty. This story clearly states that drug abuse can happen in any family, rich or poor, and to those of any color and background. In this tragic tale, money can buy you better treatment in jail or rehab, but until someone chooses to change their life, those around them may suffer for a long time.

Families all around the world want the best for their children. No one wants to see a loved one suffer from drugs, addiction or a lifestyle of pain and jail time. Hopefully, McMillen’s honesty in sharing his troubles will inspire others to rise to their full potential and to take advantage of each day to the fullest.

More about the book and Ken McMillen: Tragedies and Triumphs
About the Author of this Review which first appeared on the Huffington Post: Lisa Niver Rajna is a teacher, traveler and co-author of Traveling in Sin. She is a social media ninja on sabbatical in Asia with her husband. Follow their journey at We Said Go Travel.

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.6 million views. After three months on TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts, she had over 500,000 (1/2 million) views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.6 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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