Is Bode Miller an Alcoholic?

Bode Miller, an alcoholic who cut back, won three Olympic medals, then one more.

Posted Feb 16, 2010



(February 16, 2014): When this was originally written four years ago, people still regularly referred to Bode Miller as an alcoholic.  Now, due to his lifestyle change (he is a settled family man), no one even remembers that -- but we must always remember when people shift out of the alcoholic/addict mode, as, for instance, Drew Barrymore has.

Miller has had what might be considered his greatest victory of all time in these 2014 Olympics, winning a bronze medal at age 36 to set a U.S. lifetime record of six medals:

Miller, who sat out all of last season recovering from knee surgery, hadn't won a race in more than two years and had bombed out in Sochi in the downhill and super-combined, placed unusual (for him) emphasis on the results of the men's super-G Sunday.

"If it's not the most important race of my life, it's right there with it," said Miller, who throughout his long career has emphasized skiing excellence and feel over results. "I had a lot to show today."


Original post (2010): Bode Miller won a bronze medal for the United States in downhill skiing - a breakneck sports event that only the fearless can even attempt. In an impossibly tight contest, he finished a split second behind the Swiss gold medal winner, and was a split-split second from winning silver.

That's downhill ski racing.

Bode's medal marked a personal comeback - from a drinking problem. Miller was a 24-year-old sensation in the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, winning two silver medals. Then, in 2006, in Turino, he failed to medal despite being considered the best skier in the world.

Instead, Miller boasted about his late-night partying, claiming he performed several times while intoxicated. In a notorious 60 Minutes interview, Bode quipped that it's not easy "to ski when you're wasted" (a comment for which he apologized profusely).

He had alcoholic written all over him, right? When you impede your performance in your principal life endeavor due to drinking - Houston, we have a problem.

But the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has announced that "Alcoholism Isn't What It Used to Be."  They meant their research shows that most alcoholics don't go to AA or to treatment, but that most recover anyway - while continuing to drink.  And Miller is the poster boy for this narrative. He veered into excessive, unhealthy drinking - perhaps he would have qualified for a diagnosis of alcoholism (or "dependence").

Then he veered back. He never entered AA, or declared that he was an alcoholic. In fact, in his interviews, he claims he hasn't changed at all. Instead he changed his approach to his profession and, at the age of 32, he was the first one on the course every morning.

He also had a child between Olympics.

But he didn't give up drinking, to judge from headlines like, "Bode Miller Girlfriend, Get Ready to Party."  However, pointing out he has several more races he is entered in, Miller himself said after the race that he was going to bed early.

What is the message from the Bode Miller story? Pick one:

  • You are the master of your own destiny.
  • Focus on your purpose in life.
  • Don't make wise-ass comments on national television.
  • Get up earlier than your competitors.
  • Stay true to your true self.
  • But make needed adjustments.

Stanton Peele has been at the cutting edge of addiction theory and practice since writing, with Archie Brodsky, Love and Addiction in 1975. He has developed the on-line Life Process Program, and has now written (with Ilse Thompson), Recover! Stop Thinking Like an Addict and Reclaim Your Life with The PERFECT Program. He can be found online on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.

P.S. (February 21, 2010): Miller subsequently added a silver and a gold to total three medals at these Olympics, the first American Alpine skiier to do so.  From the Times: "Bode Miller won his first gold in a career that has seen a surprising resurgence at the (2010) Games."

P.P.S. (February 15, 2014): Flash forward. Miller, now happily settled down with a beautiful woman and two wonderful children (NBC shows him snuggling with his family before practice), had a disastrous 2014 Olympics, not getting close to medal in his first three races.  [Then, voila!]  Of course, to everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.  And my, the man has staying power -- a presence at four different Olympics, something only a handful of people have done.  Now, to ask if he's an alcoholic -- well nobody mentions it any more, typical of people who mature out of addiction.

P.P.P.S.  A commenter notes:"Disasterous [sic] 2014 Olympics?"

Bode Miller just won a bronze medal in the Super-G, at 36 years old becoming the oldest Alpine Skier to win a medal. He'll contend in Wednesdays Giant Slalom as well you nitwit.

Sometimes I think I'm not getting my point across.

Another comment to the original post:

I am sorry that you are so angry and mean spirited. I hope that you find some peace and love in your life, sooner rather than later.

I'm familiar with much of the research and I do not agree with your assessment of it. Indeed, I believe your assessment is not only wrong; it's intentionally wrong in order for you to foster your agenda. However, given your rancor and anger, I know that it would not be worthwhile to debate with you the relative merits of AA or other modalities.

For others, I offer the observation that AA has helped very many people abstain from alcohol for long periods of time and thereby attain better lives. It might work for you, as it has worked for so many others. While there are miscreants everywhere, the primary purpose of those in AA is to "stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety."

Because Mr. Peele will spin and dance and misrepresent the actual material, you can see for yourself what the science shows. For example, George Vaillant has compiled a remarkable study on alcoholism and recovery, which you can find in online bookstores.

A comment from another post, and my response to it:

Hazelden Graduate School

Submitted by counselorchick

Dr. Peele,

Ed Frigo and Marvin Seppala hire (for a tidy sum) these guys like Vaillant to present their findings with a clear bias towards the dangerous cult religion known as the 12 steps, Vaillant's intellectual honesty in non-existent.

After attending and graduating from this school, even those students who were not in 12 step groups before being accepted into the program, were completely brainwashed upon graduation. It's all about keeping them coming back - both to the grad school AND as clients. In fact, quite a few of the students spend time on the units as clients and then stay for the 'education.'

I responded:

Very interesting to have this on the record

Submitted by Stanton Peele February 16, 2014

(see my review of Vaillant's book, which shows that he is intellectually dishonest):

As I wrote there

Submitted by Stanton Peele February 16, 2014

Foreword (1996) – Stanton’s review of George Vaillant’s “The Natural History of Alcoholism” revealed that the emperor was naked, and that the book was intellectually dishonest. Vaillant systematically created summaries that disputed his own data, while citing cases selectively to try to support what he perceived to be the safe positions to take. As a result of Stanton’s review, Dr. Vaillant has for over a dozen years systematically attacked Stanton in speeches and workshops he gives around the nation, trying to square the circle by compulsively reinterpreting his (Vaillant’s) data to show that alcoholics never resume controlled drinking.