Moderation Management Gives Drinkers an Alternative to AA
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One size doesn’t fit all. That’s the approach of Moderation Management, a behavioral program for drinkers seeking to change their habits that doesn’t require abstaining from alcohol completely.
The program typically starts with 30 days off booze altogether, called “doing a 30,” followed by setting moderate drinking guidelines and limits. The organization is behind “Dryuary,” a campaign encouraging people to take a month off from drinking in January.
At meetings, there is no therapist present, just a moderator, which, at a meeting observed by a Guardian reporter, was a two-year MM “veteran.” Members listened to each others' stories and shared ideas on how to control their drinking.
“The current status of the addiction field is based 97% on this black and white idea that you're either an addict or you’re not, and if you’re an addict the only path is abstinence,” said Marc Kern, MM’s director and author of the book the program is based on, Responsible Drinking.
“The notion of figuring out if you can moderate, rather than going straight to abstinence as step one of dealing with an alcohol problem, is pretty universal … But before MM there was no book or guidelines or anything, so people would just go out and try moderation naively on their own, and without any support a lot of them would fail.”
MM has been around since 1994, but is making a resurgence in 2015, even after the death of its founder, Audrey Kishline. In 2000, Kishline announced to MM members that moderation wasn’t working for her, and returned to Alcoholics Anonymous. Two months later, she killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter while driving drunk, igniting a huge controversy. In December 2014, Kishline committed suicide.
Despite the tragic events that followed Kishline, MM is growing in popularity, especially abroad. MM meetings are held in England, Scotland, Ireland, Thailand, Germany, Belgium, and Canada.
Kern said other cultures are more open to the idea of moderation. “The British have been struggling with over-consumption for so many decades, and they’re not so religious-based as we are here, so they’ve really welcomed MM,” he said. “They are much more open to a harm-reduction approach, and the idea of incremental steps and adopting a strategy that doesn’t make the threshold of getting treatment so high.”