Crashing and burning

By Caroline Knapp

By Salon Staff
July 18, 2000 11:07PM (UTC)
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Caroline Knapp writes a story that supports Alcoholics Anonymous and in doing so breaks one of the traditions that has helped to ensure the successful continuation of that very same group. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are to remain anonymous at the level of press, radio and film. Knapp identifies herself as a member of AA. Please, let it be known to all those non-AA members reading Salon.com that Knapp is not a representative member of AA. Her actions in no way reflect on AA as a whole. The reason it is an anonymous program is that if Knapp goes out and kills someone with her car, after drinking too much, then no one will write a story about the failure of AA -- only about the failure of Caroline Knapp.

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-- Keven V.

There's a wee logic problem with Caroline Knapp's religious diatribe: People in AA also fall off the wagon and drive drunk, killing people. Scientific studies may tell us whether some alcoholics can return to drinking in moderation; anecdotal evidence tells us nothing except the unsurprising fact that all methods of treatment fail on occasion.

-- Laura Burchard

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I find it interesting that Caroline Knapp believes Audrey Kishline's tragic story illustrates the failure of the moderation approach to alcoholism. As Knapp herself admits, Kishline had rejected moderation and joined AA months before her unfortunate relapse. Neither AA nor MM should find blame in this situation; this is the story of an individual battling problems that she may share with others, but are unique to her.

Moderation may not be the answer for everyone, but abstinence may not be either. In fact, many drinkers who try moderation end up using it as an interim step toward abstinence. Some people lack the willpower or the courage to even attempt abstinence, and moderation offers a route which may help them to build up faith in their ability to conquer alcoholism.

The crux of it is this: Why disparage a movement which may incrementally add to the number of recovering alcoholics? Common sense dictates that an approach that works for one person may not work for another. The corollary of this is that a more varied set of treatment options is more likely to serve the largest number of people.

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I agree with Knapp that alcoholism is a terrible, and sometimes tragic, problem. However, I disagree that one isolated case of relapse can somehow discredit an entire treatment theory. Perhaps Knapp should more carefully examine her personal bias next time.

-- Julian Tan

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I think that the author is missing an important point to this whole story, or purposefully obfuscating this point. That is that Moderation Management has never purported to be a program for alcoholics. It has ALWAYS urged a program of abstinence for those who are unable to moderate their drinking. Kishline herself is a case in point, having publicly admitted her failure to moderate and announcing her return to abstinence-based programs two months prior to her tragic accident.

But if Moderation Management does not work for everyone, it still works for many. Articles such as yours serve to dissuade problem drinkers from reaching out to a program that could change their life immeasurably for the better, and stop a problem before it is chronic. MM is a program that is saving lives. I wish your author had pointed out the many successes of this excellent program. But then that requires an open mind, not exactly what AA is all about.

-- Karen Hookailo

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A thousand thank yous to Caroline Knapp for her courage and honesty in revealing what so many alcoholics are loath to confront: Moderation is merely denial of the fact that we are self-destructing before the 150-proof gods. Knapp shows what the "moderation" movement truly is -- a selfish, weak excuse to avoid the ugly face of alcoholism. It's tragic that once again, innocent lives had to be sacrificed to bring that message to the fore.

-- Garrett Stasse


Salon Staff

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