June 29, 2000
3:52 PM   Subscribe

Audrey Kishline, a founder of the "moderation movement" and author of "Moderate Drinking: The Moderation Management Guide for People Who Want to Reduce Their Drinking," in march drove her pickup truck the wrong way down Interstate 90, smashing head-on into a car in an accident that killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter. at the time of the accident she had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, and has since been charged with vehicular homicide. so she's taking it all back. now she's saying that the moderation movement "is nothing but alcoholics covering up their problem," said her lawyer.
posted by palegirl (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
um... Duh.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 7:06 PM on June 29, 2000

Not so fast, Joe. There's a lot of precedent to support the notion that people who aren't physically adicted to alcohol can benefit from moderation programs. We live in a puritanical society that preaches abstinence as the only way. Is there no room for moderation?
posted by Fenriss at 8:08 PM on June 29, 2000

Fenriss, you're entitled to your opinion, but I think you're wrong.

I was never physically hooked, but I did a lot of binge drinking.

I've been dry for five years and I will never take another drink, because I know that slowly but surely I'd fall back into the original pattern.

Maybe moderation might work for someone else. I know it would fail for me. See, I tried it once.

9 years ago I stopped drinking and was dry for nearly a year. Then my girlfriend at the time started coaxing me to do a certain amount of moderate social drinking, and within 6 months I was back into my old pattern again.

No, I will never take another drink. "Moderation" failed for me. And the evidence is that moderation usually fails; it simply becomes the first step down a slippery slope.

In a perfect world, it would be nice. We don't live in a perfect world.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:19 PM on June 29, 2000

Kishline's an interesting character. Her Moderation Management mailing list was the one where a member openly confessed to murdering his daughter a couple of years ago. She didn't turn him in because she was worried it might make MM look bad.
posted by aaron at 9:27 PM on June 29, 2000

We do live in a puritanical society, it's true. But it's also true that alcoholics can't drink safely, and the "moderation movement" is mainly selling one more phony dream of "normal drinking" to alcoholics who are still in denial about the true nature of their dilemma.
posted by Zeldman at 11:50 PM on June 29, 2000

The main use that I see this has is against some of the more extreme positions taken by AA. There was a whole Dateline about this recently, especially focusing on the critics who believe that it was just plain wrong to categorize alcoholism as a disease rather than a failure of character. The thing is, AA /does/ treat it as a failure of character, not as a disease. MM, if you will, still sees it as an issue of character and personal control.

So I'm not sure that either movement is in line with the medical view. The question of which one has helped more people is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by dhartung at 3:28 AM on June 30, 2000

Fenriss, have you ever had a substance abuse problem of any kind? Ever gone to AA or one of its sister orgs for help, like NA, Al-Anon, etc? If not, you don't know whereof you speak. Who decides who is a heavy social drinker and who is "addicted to alcohol"? How about the family of the man and daughter Kishline killed? You? How about me? Sober for 4 years, I know exactly when I went over the line from casual drinker to alcoholic (1983) and it took me 13 years to arrive at the truth and quit (cold turkey, no AA or anything). Too many people being endangered by my drinking, too many lives and loves. I say the so-called precedence for moderation is BS.
posted by Lynsey at 8:06 PM on June 30, 2000

I might mention that I didn't use any kind of program either; I just got sick of the lifestyle.

See, that was the problem. For some people beer is a beverage. For some people beer is a drug. For me, beer was a lifestyle, and I finally decided I had enough. I don't even know exactly when it was that I stopped -- more or less April of 1995 -- but it wasn't any kind of formal event or pledge or "one last big binge and then I'll stop"; I just stopped.

But I know that I can never take another drink, not even a sip. My favorite restaurant locally is a microbrewery, and occasionally they offer me tastes of their latest brew. They smell superb. (I allow myself that.) I always turn down tastes. I won't even take a sip; that's the line I won't cross. Because then I'd have a glass, and then I'd have a lot of glasses, and then I'd be hooked again. And I won't allow that.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:37 PM on June 30, 2000

Look, just because Fenriss has different views from AA doesn't mean she has to actually go to AA to have the right to say so. Similarly, she doesn't have to actually be an alcoholic or a binge drinker to say what's on her mind. You can express an opinion on a subject without being personally involved. Both my mother and my father were alcoholics, and I have indulged in drinking in my life, but I'm not an alcoholic and I haven't sworn off alcohol. I have an occassional beer at a bar with friends now and again, or at cookouts and the lot. It's possible to just moderate your intake for some people. I don't think my father could do it, but I think I didn't inherit that particular addictive trait (I have others, of course, but not that one) to any degree.

Alcohol's a rather savage drug, anyway. Not many other drugs are chemically addictive, psychologically crippling, a euphoric, a hallucinogen and a major depressant all in one. Alcohol's effects are so widespread that no two people can be said to have the same reaction to it, and that's without factoring in differing doses of the drug. Frankly, cannibis is much more predictable, short-lived and controllable than alcohol, but this thread isn't about drug legalization and I don't smoke pot, so I'll move on.

I used to work as a bouncer, and I saw the effects of alcohol on a daily basis. It turned average twentysomething males into arrogant asswipes who threatened and bullied everyone in sight, took away the caution of young women who didn't realize how easily their dates could go awry, lowered inhibitions in dangerous combinations, and provided a perfect cover for other drugs like GHB to be slipped to people. I had to act to prevent situations from occurring, but paradoxically it was almost preferred to just let them occur, as long as they occurred outside. Once, when I prevented a woman from leaving with a man who'd doctored her drink (I saw him do it, which is why I stepped in) my boss threatened to fire me.

Alcohol's the only fast acting mind altering euphoric we allow without a prescription anymore, so I'm not arguing we should ban it, or anything like that. I'm just saying it's a complex issue, filled with pitfalls, and perhaps everybody should be moderating their intake for a while, if not cutting it out entirely. As I get older, I find myself drinking less and less...for me, it's simply not worth it anymore.
posted by Ezrael at 6:21 AM on July 1, 2000

I can offer my opinion about what it feels like to give birth to a child, but, since I'm male, my opinion will not be worth much. I can also share an opinion about being black in America, but I'm not black, so, again, my opinion will not be worth much.

This hasn't stopped white people from spewing opinions about the black experience. It hasn't stopped men from trying to define and control what women are. And it obviously won't prevent non-alcoholics from holding forth on alcoholism, AA, or life on Mars if they want to.

These are all extremely emotional issues, and when emotion goes up, word count goes up with it.
posted by Zeldman at 10:00 AM on July 1, 2000

Well, actually, I'm just a wordy bastard most times. I don't know if I need emotion or not, although it sure helps. Look, if only the people who have had an experience can discuss the experience, then by that logic, only murder victims can discuss what being murdered does to people. Obviously, one can have an understanding of a topic without going through total immersion...we don't ask our doctors to infect themselves with diseases, our therapists to go insane, our lawyers to commit the same crimes we are accused of. Believe it or not, one can use one's mind to come to grips with an experience, or at least that experience's effect on others. Alcoholism affects people who have never taken a drink in their lives.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I know what it's like to need alcohol. But I do now what it's like to grow up in a house headed up by two people with that particular problem. So I suspect I clear the arbitraty life experience bar here. Not that I believe I should have to.

I was never placed in a death camp by the Nazi's, and yet I find that concept repugnant and will say so. The value of your opinion does not solely rest on how much you have experienced an event, but rather on how much thought you have put into comprehending what experience you have.
posted by Ezrael at 1:32 PM on July 1, 2000

That does make sense.

Still, if someone who did not go through the Holocaust stated the opinion "Holocaust victims really didn't suffer that much," you'd be skeptical - and the fact that the writer had not gone through the experience himself/herself would probably lead you to question the value of the opinion.

As a principle, it bothers me when men legislate abortion laws. (That doesn't mean men can't think about the issue and have strong feelings.) And, as a principle, it bothers me when people who have never participated in AA (or needed to) discuss its merits, based on theories or books they've read.

But enough from me already.
posted by Zeldman at 7:30 PM on July 1, 2000

as a principle, it bothers me when people who have never participated in AA (or needed to) discuss it merits, based on theories or books they've read
Thanks, Mr. Z.
I joined AA in 1982, because I had to get sober and there wasn't any obvious other way for me to do it. I couldn't quit drinking on my own. Actually, I tried my own program of moderation management, and it was a feeble attempt to control the uncontrollable.
I can say that AA is many things to many people and that the role that it plays in an individual's life probably changes over time, as that individual changes. I've known many people who have tried to get sober and who weren't able to, AA or no AA.
Among other things, AA is a folk culture with a wide degree of regional variations. Heck, within one town, the nature and sense of meetings can vary widely. If someone really wants to stop drinking, he or she can probably find help in AA. And there are other places and other programs for people who cannot tolerate what they feel to be the "God stuff" that is intrinsic to the 12 steps.
I need to respond to dhartung and say that AA does consider alcoholism a disease and not a character failing. But I will spare you any page references from the Big Book ;)
posted by elgoose at 8:14 PM on July 1, 2000

I'm not an alcoholic. Does that mean I have no opinion about this?

About a year or so ago a doctor explained to me that if I didn't remove cholesterol from my diet, I was risking a heart attack within a year's time, due to my high triglycirides. It wasn't easy, but whereas I used to be an all beef and eggs kinda guy, I'm now all white chicken and lightly cajun seasoned fish. Salads are my appetizer instead of cheese covered potato skins.

I don't know what it's like to give up alcohol. I do know what it's like to give up practically everything I've ever eaten before, in replace for stuff I used to hate. I've adapted very well, considering.

A few weeks ago I lost my voice, and anyone who knows me knows how much I use my voice and how important it is for me to be a big mouth. It was due to an upper respiratory infection, but the doctor also strongly insisted I quit smoking. He said since I've smoked a pack a day for fifteen years, my health was just more susceptible to these kinds of infections, and they were going to continue to happen and get increasingly worse until I lost my voice entirely.

So now instead of smoking a pack a day, I'm down to two packs a week, and eventually I'll quit altogether.

So I don't know about AA. I don't know about whether it's a public health issue or a disease or a psychological instability or just people unable to pull themselves from a tempation that grips them pretty hard. I don't know if drunk driving that leads to an accident and death should be considered murder or just a terrible unfortunate thing.

I do know that with one's actions come consequences. You continue to smoke, you will eventually aquire cancer and die, or emphysema or worse. You drink and drive, eventually you're going to hit something pretty hard with heavy machinery. What you put into your body is what makes your body work, or not work as the case may be. You are what you eat. It's all about cause and effect.

I do know what works. Fear works. AA is a nice social gathering of people with similar experiences. Wanna quit cold turkey? Try fear.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:58 AM on July 3, 2000

Zach: man, that is bad news. I'm glad you got the news in time, and I'm glad you're taking care of yourself. Good luck with that.

Fear doesn't work for alcoholics, heroin addicts, or cocaine addicts. An addict is perfectly capable of saying to himself, "If I have one more, I will lose my job," or "If I do it again, I will lose my family." And going ahead and having one more anyway - knowing the terrible consequences, fearing and regretting them, yet being powerless to stop.

An alcoholic can get behind the wheel of a car, filled with terror, knowing he is too drunk to drive - and step on the gas. An addict can go into a place where she knows she is not safe, risking her life because she has to get high.

That's the reason AA considers the affliction a spiritual, emotional, and physical disease.

Moderation doesn't work for people in the grip of a physical or mental illness like that. Any more than "reason" or "logic" work for someone in the grips of a schizophrenic episode.

In AA and NA, many people have found the help they need to stop.

There's really nothing to discuss about these recovery programs. They work for many people. It's like debating religion. I'm not (pick a religion) but that faith works for millions of people, and why would I debate their beliefs?
posted by Zeldman at 10:55 AM on July 3, 2000

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