Let me say upfront that I know little about the moderation management program. I have read some of their literature, and I have read and seen some news stories about it. My opinions of it are based solely on my personal experience of trying to drink moderately, as well the countless number of alkies I have seen try and fail to revert back to “normal drinking”.

Personally, I think it is a bad idea for someone with a drinking problem to try moderation. I have tried it myself, and I found it to be a lot of work, no reward, and each time I eventually fell back into my routine of drinking myself silly. I personally see no point in having only one or two beers. If I’m going to drink, I want twelve or sixteen, but I prefer to have none. As for the program of Moderation Management, I do not have an opinion on its effectiveness. It may or may not work for some, but I would be hypocritical not to hold them to the same standards of proof that I do for AA, and I have have not seen a peer reviewed study showing its efficacy. In the world of science, the burden of proof is on the one making the claim, and until they show it is effective as a treatment program, I would err on the side of caution. My guess is it would not work for me. On the plus side, they don’t exhibit the same cult characteristics as AA, so if you want to waste your time on an ineffective treatment, it may as well be something that doesn’t shut down your thinking, or advocate you worship a Furby.

Audrey Kishline is the founder of Moderation Management, and she infamously killed two people in a driving accident a few years later. This was a tragic accident, and has been used as an example of the ineffectiveness of moderation as a treatment objective. One case means nothing in looking at the overall effectiveness of a treatment program, but it is tragically ironic that this happened, and it shows that moderation did not work for Audry Kishline.

Many AAs are quick to jump on the bandwagon, and use this tragedy as reason why AA’s method of complete abstinence is a better approach. Google the name, and you will find plenty of comments from AA forums and blogs stating why Audrey would have been better off stepping, and not moderating. One AA wrote:

How about Moderation Management? What about Audrey Kishline and the 38 year old Richard Davis and his 12 year-old daughter that she killed when, while following her own little anti-AA MM program that promotes “moderation”… to the tune of .26 bac…? How is that program less dangerous than A.A.? If you’re an alcoholic and you give a fuck about society, you would be going to a God damned A.A. meeting and drinking coffee instead of booze, you stupid fucktards! Fuck all you fucking fucks. Why don’t you just go for a swim… all of you.”

As serene and unresentful as this paragraph was, one can still detect a slight tinge of frustration here, and how passionate this AA is that someone like Audrey Kishline be in a program like AA, so maybe this tragedy would not happen.

The problem with what this AA is saying is, Audrey Kishline was actually in AA, not Moderation Management, at the time she killed those two people. She had actually left Moderation Management a few months earlier, and had begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous. She wrote this email upon her departure:

Hello Everyone, fellow MMers,

I have made the decision recently to change my recovery goal to one of abstinence, rather than moderation.

As you all know, Moderation Management is a program for beginning stage problem drinkers who want to cut back OR quit drinking.

MM provides moderate-drinking limits based on research, and a fellowship of members who work the program’s steps together. Some of our members have been able to stay within healthy limits, some have not. Those who acknowledge they cannot stay within moderate guidelines have always been encouraged to move on to an abstinence-based program.

I am now following a different path, and to strengthen my sobriety I am attending Alcoholics Anonymous, but will also attend Women for Sobriety and SMART Recovery. I am sure I can learn much from all of these fine programs.

Initial results from a National Institutes of Health funded study on MM out of Stanford University show that indeed members of MM are highly educated, have jobs, families, and most of their resources are in tact. It is also very unlikely that they would define themselves as “alcoholic” and in fact shun any program that would label them as such. But they are concerned about their drinking. They are attracted to MM because they know they will be allowed to take responsibility for making their own choice of recovery goals.

For many, including myself, MM is a gateway to abstinence. Seven years Ago I would not have accepted abstinence. Today, because of MM, I do. Whether abusive drinking is a disease or a learned behavior does not matter. If you drink too much and this is causing problems in your life, you need to do something about it. We’re intelligent people, but sometimes we need to quit debating in our heads, and look at what’s in our hearts.

If you, like myself, find eventually that you cannot stay within our guidelines there is no shame in admitting this. In fact it is a success.

A big success, because you have found through our program what you need to do to really live life to its fullest. As Dr. Ernest Kurtz, one of the foremost experts on AA who wrote the forward to our handbook, once predicted “MM will one day refer more people to AA than any other program.”

He may be right!

My heartfelt best wishes to each and every one of you as you discover Your own recovery goal.

This is when she started attending AA. Obviously, AA failed her, just as her very own program failed her. It is interesting that the same people who quickly jump on the bandwagon to point the finger at MM, and in advocacy of AA – and hold this tragedy up as an example as to why – are not so quick to point the same finger at themselves upon learning that it was, in fact, an AA who caused this accident. Instead there is silence, just as there is silence for the many other driving deaths caused each year by those who try AA and fail. The Audrey Kishline case is well known, but it is not unique. Press an AA about Audrey Kishline or any of these tragedies, and the person involved will quickly be dismissed as someone who did not work the program properly, and therefore did not get sober. It isn’t AA’s fault. It never is. They have no accountability, and no desire to refine or regulate their own ineffective program. I’m sure the family of those two people killed by Audrey Kishline wish they would.

Moderation Management

A Call for Unity