How HAMS Split Off From MM

“Breaking up is hard to do.”

It was quite inevitable that the harm reduction faction within Moderation Management (MM) would eventually split off from MM and move on to do its own thing. The events of the summer of 2006 merely served to hasten things along.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for the MM program; MM was the only place for me to go when I was seeking support for the changes which I was making in my drinking. However–MM was never a good fit for me–although MM is a good fit for many people.

My other great source of support and learning was needle exchange where I worked as a volunteer–however since my drug of choice was alcohol and I didn’t do any illegal drugs much less shoot drugs there was limited support available to me via this avenue as well.

First let us look at some of the things that the MM program is about:

The following is from MM’s website (, accessed Oct 4, 2009)

What if moderation does not work for you?

After completing 30 days of abstinence (step two of the MM program) and then starting the moderation part of the program, you may discover that it is more difficult for you to moderate your drinking than to abstain. In this case, consider a self-management goal of abstinence. Some members of MM who choose abstinence remain in our program; others find an abstinence-only group to attend.

MM’s definition of moderate drinking is as follows according to the current MM trifold ( accessed Oct 4, 2009)

For Men:

No more than 14 drinks per week or 4 drinks per occasion.

For Women:

No more than 9 drinks per week or 3 drinks per occasion.

For All:

3-4 non-drinking days per week.

Current statements by MM are actually somewhat milder than the ones found earlier in MM–for example those found on this earlier trifold of MM’s which reiterate statements in the Kishline book ( accessed Oct 4, 2009)

MM is not for alcoholics, chronic drinkers, or those who experience significant withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. MM is also not intended for former dependent drinkers who are now abstaining. Chronic drinkers should consider contacting an abstinence-based support group. MM is intended for problem drinkers who have experienced mild to moderate levels of alcohol-related problems.

What I learned by volunteering in needle exchange was that it was essential to foster and encourage every positive change rather than to think about who was a “problem user” and who was an “addict”. Indeed–it would be nothing but bizarre to offer clean needles only to people who shot heroin in moderation but to tell those who exceeded some sort of imaginary moderate limit that they would not be allowed access to clean needles or other harm reduction resources because they were addicted and therefore needed an abstinence based program!

My harm reduction goal with alcohol was to drink a fifth of booze (17 standard drinks) safely at home one night a week and to abstain the other six nights per week–clearly a harm reduction goal when compared with the fact that I had previously gotten this intoxicated 4 nights per week–but also clearly at odds with MM’s definitions of moderate drinking.

I spent around four years from 2002 until 2006 working as an administrator for MM and during this time I introduced many harm reduction concepts which I had learned at needle exchange into the MM online community–these concepts were received with great enthusiasm by those who were unable to “toe the line” of the strict MM limits and who also did even worse if attempts were made to impose abstinence upon them.

Then around August of 2006 a faction arose within the MM online community which proceeded to viciously and sadistically attack anyone who failed to be either perfectly moderate or to be perfectly abstinent. I say a faction but it was primarily a single individual. Rather than banning these sadistic attacks the MM administration decided to ban swear words.

September 13, 2006 I created the modsabshr yahoo group as a subgroup of MM for people who wanted to escape the sadistic attacks and the censorship that was occurring on the main MM email group. I also resigned as administrator of the main MM email group at this point in time.

In December of 2006 I decided that it was a bit ridiculous for me to continue working a 40 hour work week running MM’s chat room since I had neither job title at MM nor even a nominal stipend from MM for doing so.

Therefore on January 15, 2007 I created the hamshrn yahoo group and thus founded The HAMS Harm Reduction Network as an entity independent of MM. HAMS was incorporated in the state of New York August 21, 2007 (the same date as our first live meeting by coincidence) and we were granted 501(c)3 status by the IRS November 15, 2007.

This is the first time I have spoken publicly about what happened since we split with MM way back in 2006. That is because I have finally calmed down a bit and can now speak objectively without flying off the handle and acting like an asshole.

MM is a good fit for a lot of early stage problem drinkers and many people have benefited from MM–if you are an early stage problem drinker then you may find that MM is a good fit for you, too. SMART is a good fit for rational abstainers and even the dreaded AA can be a good fit for some people who want to abstain and who have the right kind of personality type to fit with a 12 step program.

HAMS is a good fit for a lot of us who want to define our own programs and who want to make positive changes which might be quite different from moderation–HAMS also fits those of us who want to abstain or moderate in our own way.

Copyright © 2009, The HAMS Harm Reduction Network

About Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson is the author of the book How to Change Your Drinking: a Harm Reduction Guide to Alcohol. He is also the founder and CEO of The HAMS Harm Reduction Network.
This entry was posted in alcohol harm reduction, alcoholics anonymous, hams harm reduction network, harm reduction and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How HAMS Split Off From MM

  1. giadamarie says:

    I enjoyed your blog pork and learning of some of your history with MM ands HAMs.

    My first experience with MM was brief, approximately 4 years ago, and those who were online, possibly off nite from moderation, appeared lost. I was with the group last year for four months and found it had grown and evolved.

    Two meetings per week utilize ideas from a book, and are moderator led. I’ve found people more willing to participate in the meeting and less likely to follow a set program on any given night I’ve attended.

    The after meetings deal with issues at hand, socialization and a personal plan outside the MM program.

    When I left AA, I did so with a group of women who needed to move beyond what AA had to offer. We formed a WFS meeting and from there one that was private.

    I’m pleased to see more options today, beyond abstinence only.

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