While being a very active member of the group, Moderation Management, I have heard different versions of the founder, Audrey Kishline’s story. Some facts have always been agreed upon; that she created MM as a solution to problem drinking rather than total abstinence, drove her car while intoxicated, crashed and killed a man and his 12-year-old daughter, served several years in prison, and eventually took her own life. Where different versions of the story emerge is when people discuss when Audrey’s problem drinking began. The problem drinking that led to her killing two innocent people. The truth is, Audrey’s problem drinking started when she was a young girl and only stopped when she was incarcerated and then when she took her own life. The reason these facts get blurry is because none of the members of Moderation Management want to believe that the founder of the program couldn’t follow the rules herself, but the truth is, she couldn’t. This isn’t to say that moderation isn’t possible, it just wasn’t possible for Audrey Kishline. While Audrey’s life story can already be considered a tragedy, it would only add to the tragedy if we continue to hide the truth so no lessons are learned. If you are considering a life of moderation, there are a few very important things you must learn from Audrey’s story; always be honest with yourself and others about your drinking, supplement your goals of moderation with some type of therapeutic modality, and never ever ever drink and drive.
I first became interested in Audrey’s story when a fellow MM member called me out for having admitted that I sometimes drank more than Moderation Management permitted while simultaneously promoting The Mindful Drinking Challenge that I created. I became somewhat obsessed with learning everything I could about Audrey because, we have a lot in common. We both created controversial programs with the intention of helping problem drinkers gain a healthy relationship with alcohol and neither of us were flawless when it came to following the programs we created. In realizing these similarities, it became very clear that if I didn’t learn from Audrey’s mistakes, my story was at risk of have a similar tragic ending.
One very important lesson I learned from Audrey’s story is that as people striving to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, we must be always be honest with ourselves and others when we slip up. This may have been the very first mistake that Audrey made leading to her downfall. As the person who pioneered this new approach to alcohol abuse, she failed in admitting what she was doing, wasn’t working. Had she admitted that, she would have been in an excellent position to tweak the program she created making it better. It was a new program, and I don’t believe it would have been unreasonable for her to say that changes needed to be made. However, Audrey’s guilt and desire to be perfect kept her from telling the truth (common traits of alcohol abusers). She failed people who were probably making the same mistakes by not learning from her own setbacks and making the much-needed improvements to her own system. Moderation is possible, MM just recently released a book called, “Moderate Drinking Success Stories and Lessons Learned”about the many people who are achieving moderation. The problem is, many of these people had to learn how to moderate on their own. They had the support of the MM community which is invaluable but each person’s journey and solution is unique. This unfortunate problem makes the road to successful moderation much longer for those trying to get there. Audrey could have avoided this if she had only been honest with the many people following in her footsteps and had she been honest with herself, she may still be alive.
This brings me to the next important thing I learned from Audrey’s story, there needs to be a therapeutic method or modality when learning to moderate. This wasn’t actually a mistake that Audrey made. When Audrey wrote her first book, “Moderate Drinking: The Moderation management Guide for People who Want to Reduce Their Drinking” She suggested that people achieve moderation through cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This is a method of challenging and changing unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes which helps emotional regulation. CBT is a very popular therapeutic modality, one that I really enjoyed learning about when I was studying to be a therapist and it has a proven success rate. Whether emotional regulation is achieved through CBT, mindfulness, or one of the many other therapeutic modalities, this is an aspect of Moderation Management that can’t be ignored. I have said time and again that alcohol abuse is rarely if ever the main issue that the user is facing, it is just the most prominent symptom. It is extremely important that we address the root cause of our problem drinking or it will show its ugly head in another way or cause us to reach for alcohol’s temporary quick fix.
The last and maybe the most important thing that we who strive to be moderate drinkers can take away from Audrey’s story is to never drink and drive. This is a mistake that many who consider themselves responsible drinkers sadly make every day. Audrey herself never believed that she would get behind the wheel when she was drunk. As you know, she did and so do the millions who are arrested for drunk driving every year. The book that Audrey was court ordered to write was intended to bring awareness to the dangers of drunk driving. I found this book very difficult to get through as I was constantly tearing up whiling reading it. Afterward, I bought two blood alcohol concentration (BAC) calculator keychains one for each of our cars so that my husband and I would never make that mistake again because we too have made it in the past. If you take nothing else from Audrey’s story, understand how easy it is to make that mistake. Alcohol is a legal substance that impairs our ability to make good decisions. I have said for years that BACs should come standard in every car like seatbelts. The sad truth is that far too much money is made from people who drink and drive if you do the math it is more than 5 billion dollars a year! That’s money it seems our government isn’t willing to give up, even if it costs thousands of lives. So, we need to do everything we can to make sure that we don’t make that mistake.
I truly believe that moderation is possible for most people however, alcohol is a very dangerous legal substance. Every drinker should pay close attention to how much of the poison they are consuming before it becomes a problem that they can’t fix. Joining Moderation Management is an excellent way to remind yourself to be aware. If you already experiencing trouble with moderation, utilizing a therapeutic model like CBT, or mindfulness is necessary to successfully reach moderation. Finally, do everything you can to avoid making the same tragic mistake Audrey Kishline made when she took the lives of two innocent people, one of which was a child, don’t drink and drive!