Alcoholics Can Recover and Learn to Drink Safely Again

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Scottish couple, Lilian and Murdoch MacDonald, two former alcoholics, have recovered so completely that they now not only lead normal lives again, but are also able to drink in a perfectly sociable manner once more. They are building two websites to help others do the same, and criticise Alcoholics Anonymous for being a quasi-religious cult that has blocked and prevented progress in the field of treatment of alcoholism for the past seventy years.

“Alcoholics Anonymous is a quasi-religious cult that has blocked and prevented progress in the field of treatment of alcoholism for the past seventy years,” claim Scots couple.

Many alcoholics CAN recover and drink safely again, if and when they so wish.

That is the message of hope offered on two Internet websites hosted by a Scots couple whose lives were devastated by alcoholism, but have now recovered so completely that they now not only lead normal lives again, but are also able to drink in a perfectly sociable manner once more.

That diametrically contradicts the teaching of Alcoholics Anonymous, and of many alcoholism treatment centres throughout the world. But Lilian and Murdoch MacDonald of Ayr in Scotland believe that the 12-step programme of lifelong sobriety is not the solution to alcoholism, as it only treats the symptoms and not the causes of the problem, and is merely a damage-limitation exercise.

Lilian and Murdoch argue that alcoholism, like other self-harming disorders including bulimia, anorexia and self-mutilation, is a behaviour problem, not a disease, often stemming from problems experienced in childhood. And if these problems can be identified and properly addressed, then the problem behaviour can be cured.

Ten years ago the couple had hit rock bottom, sleeping rough for two weeks on the streets of Cambridge, where a quarter of a century previously as an undergraduate Murdoch had received an honours degree in English Literature. They had moved there from Ayr with the idea of Murdoch doing research for a doctorate (PhD), but reverted to their old habits, started binge drinking, and were thrown out of their lodgings.

After a fortnight, and when they were just about at the end of their tether, two nurses on their way home after a Saturday night out took pity on Lilian and Murdoch, bought them a cup of tea and found them a place in a homeless hostel.

The couple spent the next twelve months there getting to the roots of their alcoholism. They tried AA one last time, before concluding that it was a quasi-religious cult whose ideas on alcoholism were inadequate and outdated.

Instead, by reading psychology, they decided that the causes of their alcoholic behaviour lay in problems experienced during childhood. And that once these problems were realised and addressed, there was no longer any need for escape through alcoholism, and they could even drink normally like other people again.

Ten years after selling newspapers from a stand in Market Square, Cambridge, so that he and Lilian could get back on their feet financially, Murdoch now writes his own regular column in the local weekly paper and also runs his own public relations consultancy.

And Lilian is so keen to pass on the benefits of their experience to others who still have problems with alcohol, that the couple are building a website to spread their message of hope.

They also have a community group website at which includes a chat room and message board where members can exchange thoughts, ideas and experiences.

And Lilian and Murdoch have just completed the first draft of a book about their experiences, and will shortly start looking for a suitable publisher.


The couple recognise that they are not the first to criticise AA and advocate that alcoholics can make a complete recovery without having to commit themselves to a lifetime of abstinence. Indeed as long ago as 1964, Dr Arthur H Cain published an article in the Saturday Evening Post in which he claimed that even then that “Alcoholics Anonymous had become a dogmatic cult that blocks medical progress and hampers many members’ lives,” and that “because of its narrow outlook, Alcoholics Anonymous prevents thousands from ever being cured. Moreover AA has retarded scientific research into one of America’s most serious health problems.”

And more recently, Dr Stanton Peele has criticised the AA movement in his books and on his website

Dr Peele is currently campaigning against the tendency of American courts of law to coerce people convicted of drink-related offences into joining AA as part of their sentence.

Lilian said: “We are campaigning to get freedom of choice for alcoholics. We are not against people going to AA if that’s what they want. But we believe in individual treatment for individual people – not one-size fits all.”

“As Stanton Peele says: ‘Oddly enough, while maintaining alcoholism is a disease, AA and other disease proponents ignore the standard therapeutic requirement that people be told of the alternatives, and be allowed to govern their own health care decisions.’”


Lilian and Murdoch find it strange that since Arthur Cain’s groundbreaking article in 1964, the media have appeared reluctant to give any significant coverage to people who are critical of AA. As Murdoch points out: “The media have traditionally granted AA a quasi-monopoly in the field of alcoholism, and those of us who want to promote a more enlightened and progressive attitude towards the subject find it almost impossible to be heard. It is as if too many AA members and sympathisers have attained positions of influence in the media, and are able to censor any opinions that appear to contradict the AA philosophy.”

The couple’s final criticism is of the private clinics that have jumped upon the AA bandwagon and peddle the 12-step philosophy at an average cost of £3,000 per week in the UK for a typical stay of 5-6 weeks.

Stanton Peele says: “The medical establishment has come to recognize the financial and other advantages of piggybacking on the AA movement, as have many recovering alcoholics. AA members frequently make counselling careers out of their recoveries. They and the treatment centres then benefit from third-party reimbursement. In a recent survey of 15 treatment centres across the US, researcher Marie Bourbine-Twohig found that all of the centres (90 percent of which were residential) practiced the 12-step philosophy, and two-thirds of all counsellors in the facilities were recovering alcoholics and addicts.”

Lilian concludes: “When our ideas about alcoholism - of which we are the living proof - gain more acceptance worldwide, and if more government money is put into preventative measures, not only will alcoholics stand a greater chance of getting back to normality, but we will also have taken the first step towards ensuring that alcoholism can be stamped out altogether.”



1.    Lilian and Murdoch MacDonald are available for interview 0900-2200 hours Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Telephone: 01292 281498, Mobile: 07833 667322. If calling from outside the UK telephone +44 (0)1292 281498 or mobile +44 (0)7833 667322.


2.    3 jpeg images of Lilian and Murdoch are attached to this press release.

3.    Also attached is a copy of the text of the article by Dr Arthur H Cain in the Saturday Evening Post dated 19 September 1964. The article can also be accessed online by logging on to:

Web links:

Lilian and Murdoch MacDonald’s websites:

Dr Stanton Peele’s Addiction Website:

AA Deprogramming site:

Issued by Fame Publicity Services.

Fame Publicity Services

10 Miller Road

AYR, Ayrshire

Scotland KA7 2AY

Telephone: +44 (0)1292 281498

Mobile: +44 (0)7833 667322



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