Audrey Kushline believed in moderation. Abstinence from alcohol was not only impractical but unnecessary and absurd! In 1993 she thoughtfully organized Moderation Management to provide an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. Fourteen local chapters eventually organized.
Through attending Moderation Management (MM) sessions, problem drinkers were taught to reduce their drinking rather than totally abstain, as recommended by AA. Moderation Management recommended no more than nine drinks per week for women and fewer than fourteen for men. They insisted drinking was a learned behavior rather than a disease … until Mrs. Kushline found herself facing the Judge in an Ellensburg, Washington court room.
She faced two counts of vehicular homicide that resulted when a young father and his twelve-year-old daughter died as a result of her moderation. Her charges followed a head-on collision with a second vehicle, while driving the wrong way on Interstate I90. At the time of her accident, Audrey’s BAC (blood alcohol level) was three times the legal limit.
Weeping while making her courtroom appearance, Audrey pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and causing a wreck that killed two people. Following that unhappy experience, Mrs. Kushline disavowed the Movement she had organized. She resigned as the spokesperson and candidly admitted, “MM. . .is nothing but alcoholics covering up their problems.”
As a result of incidents like this, new voices now publicly promote abstinence from alcohol. The Smithers Addiction Treatment and Research Center of New York became one more of the pro-abstinence voices when they issued a public statement reaffirming an earlier commitment they had made to abstinence as the only viable treatment for an alcoholic.
Thinking people do understand that sober people generally think before they act. Bill’s clouded mind, however, no longer comprehends this fine line of thinking. His claim of “moderation” enables him (in his own mind) to deny what everyone else knows is “his problem.” It reveals to both his friends and his family his inability to think clearly; thus, betraying his insistent claim and his flawed condition.
Life offers many experiences that allow us to freely indulge ourselves without harming ourselves. Some other activities call for moderation. There are also those things that are best left alone--except at great risk. We can freely indulge in alcohol only at great personal risk to our health and to our relationships. Phengsene learned his lesson the hard way. The forty-four year-old Laotian emigrant to Minneapolis made the mistake of drinking and driving.
Margaret Zack, Staff Writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, sadly reported Phengsene drove his vehicle the wrong way of the southbound lane of Highway l00 in nearby St. Louis Park. His vehicle struck a second vehicle driven by Kevin Garnett. The impact killed Garnett‘s companion--Malik Sealey, then a guard on the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team.
The County Attorney argued that Phengsene made the decision to get in the car and drive the wrong way. The Judge, following state guidelines, sentenced Phengsene to four years in prison. His sentence received the same time given to Lynda Jackson a few months earlier, after she drove the wrong way on the Mendota Bridge and killed Lynda Frein. In addition, Phengsene faced the terrifying possibility of being deported back to Laos.
Whether or not one agrees with abstinence as the right response, one thing is certain: alcohol is a depressant. That means it reduces one’s inhibitions with the very first drink and after that there is no definable point at which a person becomes legally unaccountable for behavior (emphasis added). In other words, that first drink reduces one’s decision-making ability. It greatly reduces one’s ability to say “no!” to that second or third drink. And since alcohol has no definable line by which impairment can be judged, abstinence automatically becomes the one and only logical choice, simply because one loses more controllability with each drink taken.
In September 2002 Michigan’s 91st Legislature consequently eliminated the so-called voluntary intoxication defense by passing House Bill 5398. In the meantime, ten other states have also taken action to clear some of this legal fog, thereby effectively slamming the door shut on “too drunk” as a legal defense.
Simply stated, moderation management, or moderate indulgence in alcoholic beverages, does not work. It effectively puts too many roadblocks into place and seriously threatens personal health, family relationships, and public safety. Abstinence is not the only choice I have, but it becomes my “thinking man’s choice.”
It is my choice, but abstinence remains my only safe choice. It remains my most cost effective choice, and the most ethical choice - thus,my only responsible choice!