Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D.

From Addiction Is a Choice

[Excerpt from Addiction Is a Choice by Jeffrey A. Schaler, Ph.D., published by Open Court Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, January 2000: Chapter 10, "Moderation Management and Murder," pp. 107-114. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher. Copyright Carus Publishing Company, 2000]

Moderation Management and Murder

The man who is . . . addicted and destined to death.
Philemon Holland, Livy's Roman History (1600)

In about 1993 I received a call from Audrey Kishline who was thinking of founding a new self-help group to promote moderate drinking rather than total abstinence. Ms. Kishline had been referred to me by Herbert Fingarette. She had read his book Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease and was intrigued by his discussion of controlled drinking.

Audrey Kishline had herself had a drinking problem, had been in AA, which she didn't like at all, and then in Rational Recovery, which she also apparently didn't like because of its insistence on abstention. She wanted to start a self-help alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous and Rational Recovery, based on the findings in studies showing that even the heaviest drinkers could moderate their drinking. She asked me for help.

Since I'd been interested for some time in encouraging the growth and development of diverse approaches to helping heavy drinkers and drug users, I agreed to help her. (I have served on the boards of Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Moderation Management.) I helped Ms. Kishline get in touch with leaders in the field of alcohol research such as Stanton Peele, Alan Marlatt, Martha Sanchez-Craig, and Fred Glaser. Audrey Kishline wrote a book entitled Moderate Drinking: The New Option for Problem Drinkers (1994), which first appeared with a foreword by me (dropped from recent printings). In addition to helping her with securing the Moderation Management service mark at the U.S. Patent Office in Crystal City, Virginia, I was able to get her featured in a film on the disease model of alcoholism produced by James Morrison of U.S. Health Productions, Columbus, Ohio, which aired throughout the U.S. and Canada in 1994-1995, marking the media birth of Moderation Management.

Audrey Kishline, her husband Brian, and I formed the first board of directors of MM. It became incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1995. In Jan 1995 I was interviewed by Leslie Knowlton who was interested in doing a story on MM for the Los Angeles Times. The story appeared on January 31st, 1995. A similar story by Knowlton came out in the February 1995 issue of Psychiatric Times entitled 'Just One? Exploring Moderation Management.'

Soon thereafter, the producers of NBC's Leeza show contacted us. Audrey Kishline and I were flown to Hollywood to tape a show entitled 'Can Alcoholics Drink?' That was taped on March 30th, 1995. It was a raucous show. Audrey Kishline was nervous and the producers of the show had planted the audience with disease-model advocates who were extremely hostile to the idea that heavy drinkers could control their drinking. During the show, to my surprise, Audrey Kishline declared that MM was only for 'problem drinkers', not for people with the disease of alcoholism.

Following that show and largely as a result of it, Audrey Kishline and MM were featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, Business Week, and U.S. News and World Report, as well as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Dateline and Oprah, among many others.

In 1996 I created an Internet mail list through St. John's University in Jamaica, New York, for people with drinking and drug problems who wanted to use the moderation Management approach to controlling their consumption. I also created another Internet mail list for the new board of directors we had now gathered together for Moderation Management, Inc.

However, I was becoming uneasy, because Audrey and Brian Kishline continued to emphasize that Moderation Management was appropriate only for 'problem drinkers', not for 'real alcoholics'. They asserted that people with the 'disease of alcoholism' should not attempt moderation, and that they should use an abstinence-oriented approach to their drinking problems. This was in direct contradiction to what I had supposed was the fundamental distinguishing mark of MM.

Critics of Moderation Management began to say that Kishline's program was dangerous for people who had the disease of alcoholism. They asked her how she could tell the difference between 'problem drinkers' and those with the disease of alcoholism. Of course, she could not, sincere there is no conceivable way to do this: alcoholics just are problem drinkers, end of story. The critics went on to say that those with the disease of alcoholism, understandably wanting to believe they could drink in moderation, were being misled into believing that they could learn to control their drinking when in fact they could not. Loss of control would be triggered because of Moderation management. This criticism is quite logical, once we accept the premise that there is such a disease as alcoholism for which MM would be inappropriate.

I objected to Audrey and Brian Kishline's view that there was a disease called alcoholism and that somehow people with this putative disease were different from 'problem drinkers'. Since neither they nor anyone else could differentiate between the two, and since the Kishlines believed that some drinkers suffered with the disease of alcoholism, their critics were in effect right to point to the conclusion that MM must be dangerous to alcoholics who were attracted to it. However, I also pointed out that they were misunderstanding the basis upon which MM had apparently been established: MM was founded because of research showing that the heaviest drinkers, that is, precisely those alleged to 'have' the disease of alcoholism, could in fact control their drinking. There has never been any research showing that controlled drinking approaches were appropriate only for non-alcoholic 'problem drinkers', whoever they are.

As more and more publicity of MM became available, the more I emphasized the importance of the false distinction between problem drinkers and those with the disease of alcoholism, as well as the fact that the most important studies on controlled drinking and loss of control had been done with the heaviest drinkers, that is, indisputably those with the strongest claim to have the putative disease called alcoholism.

Brian Kishline told me that I ought to consider resigning from the MM board of directors and I quickly agreed. I severed all relations with MM in 1996.

Getting Away with Murder

On April 30th 1998 I sat down to read the front page of The New York Times, and discovered the 'On-line Trail to an Off-line Killing' that had taken place on the Moderation Mangement Internet list, the list I had created and left to the MM organization a couple of years earlier.

Larry Froistad, a computer programmer in his twenties, a member of the MM list, and person whose home page on the world wide web (now shut down by the site administrator) indicated a significant involvement with MM, had confessed online to murdering his fiver-year-old daughter.

The Times story left the impression that MM listowners Audrey Kishline, founder of MM, and Dr. Frederick Rotgers, Director of the program for Addictions, Consultation, and Treatment at Rutgers University, wanted Larry Froistad to get away with murder. . . .

. . . I suspect that Kishline believes that criminal behavior is 'treatable', that it stems from mental disease, in this case 'addiction disease', and that her self-help group is a more appropriate place to deal with criminal behavior, such as homicide, than the criminal justice system.

Have Nothing to Do with MM

What this episode teaches us is that we should have nothing to do with Moderation Management. Its leaders' warped view of human conduct and grandiose picture of their own role has brought them into a mindset where a confession that a father has murdered his daughter causes them to sympathize with the father and try to prevent the admitted crime from being investigated. Evidently Audrey Kishline placed a higher value on the protocols of her self-help group than on assisting the police with a determination of facts about what could be (and we have subsequently learned, was indeed) a brutal, cold-blooded killing of a child. Ms. Kishline cared little for justice. . . .

. . . The MM confession story appeared on ABC, CBS, and NBC news television two nights in a row following the report in The New York Times. People have good reason to be shocked by this story. They are shocked by the heinous nature of the crime. They are shocked by the online written confession. They are shocked by Kishline and Rotgers's failure to report the confession. They are shocked that those who did right by reporting the confession to the police were then attacked by members and leaders in the MM organization.

I understand that some therapists were genuinely embarrassed by this incident, because they had given a general assurance of confidentiality to their clients, and they felt they would be betraying a trust if such an occasion arose in their practice.

I recommend that therapists, counselors, and leaders of self-help groups announce a clear written policy to their clients or members, or to the general public. Details of this policy will vary somewhat among different therapists and groups. But therapists and self-help groups are not defense attorneys, and out to keep a sense of proportion about the importance of their own role. My practice, which I recommend generally, is to state at the outset that knowledge of any felony involving direct physical harm to others will not be protected by the general presumption of confidentiality.

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