What Is Moderation Management?

Moderation Management has been around for almost 20 years yet few have heard of it, as it is more or less shrouded in mystery. But lately the program has picked up traction again after a shaky and tumultuous past. What is moderation management and how does it differ from similar recovery programs?

What is Moderation Management?


Similar to its counterparts like Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step groups, Moderation Management is a program that is geared toward people addressing their problem with alcohol. The primary difference being, MM is geared towards “problem drinkers” instead of true alcoholics, leaving the decision to moderate or abstain from drinking entirely up to the individual. Moderation Management tries to move away from traditional treatment programs, distancing themselves by not calling their members “alcoholics” which can have a lot of stigma attached to it.

Moderation Management and its Dark History


Moderation Management has been around since 1994, but it was living more or less in the shadows from 2000 to 2012, mired in controversy over its founder, Audrey Kishline. After starting MM, Kishline left the group, realizing that she could not moderate her drinking after all. She returned to AA, then fell off the wagon, drunk-driving in March 2000 and killing a man and his 12-year-old daughter. She was released from prison in 2003, and in 2014, plagued by guilt and other demons, Kishline killed herself.

In the year since Kishline’s death, MM has had something of a resurgence, bolstered by the launch of the US National Institute of Health’s Rethinking Drinking program and a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control calling out “excessive drinking” as something both independent of alcohol dependence and a major public health issue that is not being addressed by currently available tools and programs. (via The Guardian)

Does Moderation Management Work?


Moderation Management offers a lot of seemingly positive characteristics that would appeal to many people who may have preconceived notions regarding other 12 step programs. The interesting fact of the matter is that as many as 30% of MM members go on to abstinence based-programs.

Though MM claims that moderation and abstinence programs have higher success rates than those that offer abstinence only, their criteria for this claim leaves something to be desired and seems to be more of a conjecture than a statement based on fact. That being said, even though 12 step programs will suggest abstinence, the only absolute requirement to attend meetings and participate is a mere desire to stop.

The bottom line is, that each person has his or her own experience in recovery. Though 12 step programs are predominant, they are not the only option. What are your experiences with programs outside of 12 step?


  • Andy
    Posted at 11:01h, 20 May Reply

    I’ve had great luck with Moderation Management (never tried out AA)… I was a heavy, heavy drinker and MM helped me pay attention to each drink, rather than seeing drinking as a series. The meetings are great, fun, dogma-free, and the honesty is amazing.
    The science backs up that a return to moderate drinking may work for SOME people.. not everybody.

    * Twenty years after onset of alcohol dependence, about three-fourths of individuals are in full recovery; more than half of those who have fully recovered drink at low-risk levels without symptoms of alcohol dependence.
    * About 75 percent of persons who recover from alcohol dependence do so without seeking any kind of help, including specialty alcohol (rehab) programs and AA. Only 13 percent of people with alcohol dependence ever receive specialty alcohol treatment.

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 11:08h, 20 May Reply

      Andy –

      Thank you for the statistics! It’s great to hear that MM has worked for you and many others.

  • Mary Reid
    Posted at 19:58h, 28 May Reply

    I joined MM 8 years ago as a heavy, round the clock drinker. I mean getting up at 2 am to chug wine to get rid of the palpitations. I tried to moderate my drinking for a year with the support of MM and didn’t make much forward progress, but in that year, because of the recommended abs periods, I grew comfortable with and lost my fear of living an abstinenet life. I have remained 98% abstinent with the support of MM for 7+ years now. I have the occasional sip or half glass of wine at Thanksgiving but because I haven’t bought into any self-fulfillling prophesies of “next drink, next drunk” I have not experienced relapse. The MM community supported me in my choice without pressure to “try harder” at moderation. Several MM members have gone on to choose abstinence but they may have never been able to make that choice if it had been the only option for support available to them in the beginning.

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