I have yet to do an in-depth study of the support group known as Moderation Management, so I have no opinion on their program (except for the fact that I am wary of ANY self-help groups for substance users, because regardless of the quality of the message, people tend to use the meetings as a form of “medicine” instead of relying on themselves, or they use the meetings as a place to ride the fence and avoid deciding to change while telling themselves they’re “trying” or that they’re “doing something” about their problem). I do have opinions on the viability of moderate drinking for those we call “alcoholics”, and it goes like this: Moderation is certainly a possibility, and the data shows that the majority of those who were previously alcohol dependent eventually change their habits to a pattern of moderate drinking, thus in my opinion, it’s wrong and misleading to tell people that they must abstain or else powerlessly die in a fit of excessive drinking.
Most people in the recovery culture disagree vehemently with this opinion, and refuse to acknowledge the facts upon which it is based. They take great pride in mocking, belittling, and threatening with imminent death, anyone who has a drinking problem and would like to resolve it by simply cutting back on their use rather than completely abstaining from alcohol. It should come as no surprise then, that when a self-help group called Moderation Management (MM) popped up in the 90’s, many AA’s gave dire warnings about it, called it dangerous, and said that it would kill people.
Now we get to the myth. 12-steppers thought they’d found their smoking gun against MM when it’s founder, Audrey Kishline, got into a drunk driving accident and killed two people in the process. This has become a standard talking point for AA members who comment on any news article or online forum where the abstinence only approach of AA and treatment programs is criticized or discussed in any way. Here’s a recent comment on a Huffington Post article where Kishline is invoked to shoot down a criticism of the recovery culture:
There’s a huge market out there of alcoholics who would like to manage their drinking and drink socially. About 16 years ago there was a self help group started by a woman, I believe, called MM or Moderation Management (of drinking). Her group was receiving fair publicity and had some growth in the mid 1990’s. After all, there is a lot of appeal to the idea that one can gain control of a behavior or over consumption of a substance, even after much evidence is accumulated to the contrary. Unfortunately for the MM program, the founder was arrested for DUI, with four times the legal limit of alcohol in her. She killed two people in that accident. …Many ill people will suffer as they pursue controlling the uncontrollable.SOURCE
While it is true that Audrey Kishline did get drunk and kill two people in an accident, and this is a tasty fact, the logic of jumping to the conclusion that moderation is impossible and programs for moderate drinking are killing people doesn’t hold up. If it did, then we could just as well say that any drinking by anyone at all is deadly and causes drunk driving deaths. Of course there is no reason to believe such a claim, as there is no reason to believe this claim. It is a single incident of someone making a bad decision, but there is no evidence to suggest that everyone or even a majority of people who try to moderate their drinking will get themselves into a deadly disaster. There is only an isolated incident of this woman making a bad decision – we should keep this in perspective. I could just as well hold up one AA member who killed someone, and blame AA. I try not to do that though, because it’s not logically sound, my criticisms tend to highlight patterns of behavior, or look at a broader set of data. Any single person may make any sort of decision, people are fallible, but it’s a leap to say that a whole organization is evil based on the bad decisions of a single member.
But isn’t it pretty significant that she was the founder of MM? Well, yes, I guess it is. What’s also significant is that she started out in AA, then moved to MM, and then 2 months before her fatal accident she left MM, rejoined AA and some type of treatment program, and had concluded her drinking was “uncontrollable”. That’s right, she was subscribing to the ways of AA way when she killed two people in a drunk driving accident. This doesn’t condemn AA though, nor does it condemn MM, it just is what it is, an isolated incident which one could never use to make a full judgment on either program. I can find much better reasons to condemn AA. I just think it helps to know the full story, since the AA’s never present this part of it when they’re giving us dire warnings about the dangers of attempting moderation.
The controversy over MM, along with some research on it’s membership is documented in this study: A Research Based Analysis of the Moderation Management Controversy
And Stanton Peele discusses the case with Bill O’Reilly in this video: