June 30, 2000
My academic and intellectual interest continues to be focused on the relationship between liberty and responsibility, and public, clinical, and legal policies based in the idea that the person is a moral agent. I'm neither for nor against AA or MM. To me, it would be like saying I'm for or against a particular religion. I think people should have the freedom to worship as they see fit, and those who want to go to AA and/or MM are no exception. Both programs, as are all forms of "treatment" for behavior, have more to do with moral management and secular ethics than science and medicine. I have long maintained that since addiction is not a disease, it cannot be treated. People who want to attend these programs have a right to attend them, and to delude themselves, just as they should have a right to take drugs. Harming oneself may be a vice. Harming others is a crime.
I could care less whether AA or MM or any of the "recovery" groups live or die, just as I could care less whether any particular religious program lives or dies. I am opposed to coercion. My main concern is that people be allowed to do whatever they want as long as they do not harm others in the process.
I think it's important to focus on personal responsibility in this case, not on any treatment-approach responsibility. Instead of getting defensive about any one approach I think people should focus on the personal responsibility issue. Blaming one approach avoids this central issue: Audrey Kishline the person is responsible for her behavior and the consequences of her behavior. Period. Also, there is no point in speculating about the reasons for her behavior. The fact is nothing caused her to do what she did. She drank for reasons that will likely remain unknown. As Tom Szasz has always emphasized, things are caused, behavior has reasons.
The issue of Kishline's renouncing of MM -- or any approach -- is, in my opinion, a red herring. It's an issue only if one is intent on blaming one approach or another. Blaming anything or anyone other than Audrey Kishline is a way of absolving her of responsibility for her behavior. Her announcement in January is irrelevant. There is no reason to explain, justify, or rationalize Kishline's behavior.
If one is to engage in a debate about whether such-and-such a treatment is to blame, I think the bottom line is obvious: Treatment or "recovery" programs, regardless of their orientation, don't work. Period. The defense attorney's and prosecutor's continued faith in treatment for her, again, regardless of its orientation, is outrageous and should be criticized. They are risking the public's welfare and safety by encouraging Kishline to be in treatment for addiction.
Kishline's behavior is a criminal justice matter, not a medical or recovery matter. Society needs to be protected from Audrey Kishline. She is a threat to society and should be put away for a long, long time. My inclination is to criticize the prosecutor for suggesting anything less than a life sentence in prison.
I support a life sentence in prison for Kishline. Another option would be to give her the opportunity to commit suicide. I know the state won't give her this option, but I think it is a viable one.
If Audrey Kishline tries to commit suicide, as she may very well attempt to do given the opportunity, her behavior will immediately be diagnosed as an expression of mental illness. This, most likely, will be used to divert her into psychiatric treatment.
The idea that anyone would listen to what Kishline has to say about "problem drinkers" versus "alcoholics" is ludicrous. It is a way to achieve moral exculpation in the public eye, a way to portray herself as a victim. As I wrote in my book, Addiction Is a Choice, in the chapter entitled "Moderation Management and Murder," this is why I separated from MM years ago. The distinction between problem drinker and "alcoholic" with the disease of alcoholism or "dependency" is nonsense.
People can control their drinking. That's a fact, not an opinion. Whether they will control their drinking or not is another matter.
Finally, let's be clear about the tragedy here: Kishline is no victim. The father and daughter she killed, their family, and Kishline's family are victims of Audrey Kishline. There should be absolutely no doubt who the victims in this tragedy were/are, and by the same token, who the predator was/is.
Silver Spring, Maryland