The Truth Behind Carol Vorderman's 'Drink Problem'

December 1, 2009

Andrew M Brown is a writer specialising in the influence of addiction and substance abuse on culture and celebrities.

Carol Vorderman deserves sympathy for the way she’s been stitched up in today’s Express. The front page screams “Carol Vorderman: My secret fight against booze”. Turn to page three to read that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The former Countdown presenter used to drink twice the weekly units of alcohol recommended for a woman, apparently encouraged by the programme’s affable host, the late Richard Whiteley.

“I’ve now cut down,” said Ms Vorderman, “and have two or three nights a week when I don’t drink. I’ve passed those days now when I went out to get drunk. Nowadays, if I go on a big night out alcohol just makes me tired.” She goes on to say that at her age health concerns have taken over and she’s “started to worry about what I’m doing to my body”.

Ms Vorderman was promoting the ALCulator, a device which calculates alcohol intake. She is not pursuing a controlled drinking plan as a treatment for a drinking problem, and that may be no bad thing, since controlled drinking has a patchy record.

Some would say controlled drinking exemplifies the triumph of hope over experience. Take the sad history of the organisation Moderation Management, for example.

Audrey Kishline, a “problem drinker”, founded this US-based non-profit group in 1994 as an alternative to fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous, since (for one thing) she didn’t approve of the disease concept and in any case her drinking didn’t seem too bad – she’d never lost a job through drinking, for example.

MM carried on building up members, having meetings (often online) and so forth until, in January 2000, Kishline abruptly announced she was leaving to join AA and would now be trying complete abstinence after all.

On March 25 of that year, Audrey Kishline drove her brown, one-ton pickup truck the wrong way down Interstate 90, blind drunk. She collided head-on with a 1982 Dodge, killing the driver Richard “Danny” Davis and his 12-year-old daughter LaShell. A half-empty bottle of vodka was lying on the seat beside Kishline.

That catastrophe, and MM’s claims that it’s aimed at problem drinkers and not alcoholics, ignited a debate over whether it was possible to distinguish between the two categories. A “problem drinker”, in my experience, is more often than not someone who can’t bring themselves to use the word “alcoholic”. Carol Vorderman falls into neither category and it was grossly irresponsible of the Express to imply otherwise.


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