Questions about the disease theory of alcoholism and addiction surface quite regularly, and usually it's forgotten that it was the American Medical Association who attached the label to drunkards in the first place. AA, while certainly open to the notion has, for the most part, preferred to focus on recovery than on the causes of alcoholism.

The issue of the need to abstain totally is, probably, more important. During the show, Psychologist Marc Kern spoke rather eloquently about his success with learning to control his drinking. Apparently he can now 'enjoy an occasional glass of wine.' He also said, rather emphatically, that because he's learned to control his drinking, AA's model is open to question.

Well bully for Dr. Kern. He isn't the first, nor will he be the last, to advocate a behaviorist model of controlling excessive drinking. The thing I don't understand is who cares? If he has a family, they may, particularly is his drinking again increases ?so may his clients. But he may stick with an occasional glass of wine for the rest of his life! So what? Lots of people enjoy an occasional glass of wine. Maybe he wasn't a 'real alcoholic,' maybe he was a problem drinker. It doesn't matter ? not to me anyway.

The fact that Dr. Kern can drink wine with his meals has nothing at all to do with the fact that I continue to choose not to drink wine or anything else. His social drinking has nothing to do with me. My staying sober has nothing to do with him.

Why abstinence is considered abnormal is beyond me.

What about Richard Banton who said he'd been in the AA program for six years and felt like a social outcast during that time. Social outcast from where? And why did he stay with a group or groups that, according to the ABC press release he was " ?terrorized to fall into line . . . Anytime you say anything that conflicts with their model, then you're in denial." Sure there are Nazi groups like that out there ?they all have a door that swings both ways and there are plenty of meetings and groups where that sort of nonsense just doesn't happen.

What might we take away from all of this?

? AA and 12 Step Programs help a whole lot of people, but have never said they are the only answer
? Not drinking (using, practicing whatever addiction) is a powerful, self-affirming act
? Just because some return to social drinking (or social whatever) doesn't mean what we're doing is wrong for us.

I suspect there will be a brief outcry about all this, and much discussion in meetings. Sure, a few may try to return to social drinking as a result of the 20/20 program ?and even fewer may discover they actually can maintain that. Most of them, however, will come back to the 12 Steps and life will go on.

Author's Bio: 

Anne Wayman is the author of Powerfully Recovered! Her website is