Further Reading

Will I become like Audrey Kishline if I try controlled drinking?

Dear Stanton:

I have been a fan of your ideas, books and website for years. My problem is that I have been in treatment for drug and alcohol "addictions" many (about 8) times from age 16 to age 23 when I finally stopped using entirely. I haven't drunk or used drugs in almost three years. I would like to try controlled drinking but I have the AA "bugaboos" stuck firmly in my head. My therapist does not think I can drink moderately, I like her a lot for other issues, but not this. Now I am entirely too scared to even try. I am flying to England next week and need (truly need) Valium for the flights, which she is considering the beginning of a "relapse." I am only 25, I don't want to be a 12-Step junkie forever. How can I tell if controlled drinkiing is appropiate for me? I have completely changed careers, residences, values, friends and am going to college again with firm plans for my future. I tell people that I believe in a change in "values, lifestyle and habits" to recover from addictions, but I guess I don't.


Dear M.:

It's scary to try something people are warning you against. Are you still actively involved in AA? I'm guessing not. So, they told you you couldn't maintain abstinence without AA, and you did that, now didn't you?

If you want to and believe you can be a controlled drinker (and especially if your motivation is to demonstrate sovereignty over yourself, rather than because you are craving alcohol), these are positive signs for accomplishing it. Likewise, your youth is a positive sign you can drink moderately again. Where do you live? You might find an MM group nearby, or else a facilitative therapist (probably a psychologist).

Your current therapist seems to be setting you up for a fall. And you seem to be partly believing her. I'm not in the business of persuading people they can become controlled drinkers or not, however. I can only say that many do. You are gong to have to sort this out for yourself.

Of course, do you really believe that you can return to the "you" who was in and out of treatment all those years? In other words, you seem to be arguing, not that you fear you can't become a controlled drinker. You seem to be worried that, in making the effort, you are going to lose everything that you have gained in your life and descend back to your old out-of-control lifestyle. That seems very unlikely. If you find yourself slipping where you don't want to go after trying controlled drinking, you can quit all over again, and I'll be the first to help you.

Recently, the founder of Moderation Management, Audrey Kishline (who had been through AA and abstinence treatment earlier in life), announced she had decided to strive for abstinence and to attend AA again. A few months later, she got in an auto accident in which two people were killed while she was highly intoxicated. I can't say what drove Audrey to worry about her drinking, and then to act in such an out-of-control manner and do such a tragic and foolish thing (even alcoholics can make sure they stay out of cars when they are drunk). According to her attorney, Audrey believes MM was at fault (although she had shifted from that group to AA months before). But I don't believe life works that way. I believe that people only descend back into that kind of alcoholic hell when their life is pressing them and they are experiencing psychological distress. When you are in a good place, you can regain your equilibrium, whatever critical life choice you feel you must make.

So, I can only throw the ball back to you — and tell you not to build this thing into a bogeyman.

Please keep me informed.