Monday, April 21, 2014

Powdered Alcohol: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Over the weekend I saw a link on Facebook to a post on Gawker talking about a new powdered alcohol product called "Palcohol." To be totally honest, I thought the post was a joke. Maybe a gag left over from April Fool's Day. But upon further review, I soon discovered it wasn't a joke. Palcohol was indeed a real product and the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau had just approved it.

WTF? Seriously???? I was beyond outraged when I found this out.

I was even more outraged when I looked at the cached version of Palcohol's website. The version that was up on the web for everyone to see before the government approved the product, but which was quickly edited to a "nicer" version after approval was granted. It's almost like the company wasn't expecting government approval. Unfortunately, that cached page has vanished now. But I took screenshots of it before it went bye-bye:

I don't know if the above photos will open large enough so that you can read them, but let me help you out with some of the wonderful things said on that page.

The initial text on the page says: "Palcohol...because liquid alcohol isn't always convenient." The text then goes on to say, "Imagine the possibilities" and proceeds to list seven things. Among them:

2. Maybe you're a college football fan. So many stadiums don't even serve alcohol. What's that about; watching football without drinking?! That's almost criminal. Bring Palcohol in and enjoy the game.


5. Have you ever gone to a movie theater and wished you had a drink? I know!


6. We've been talking about drinks so far. But we have found that adding Palcohol to food is so much fun. Sprinkle Palcohol on almost any dish and give it an extra kick. Some of our favorites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on your eggs in the morning to start your day off right. Experiment. Palcohol is great on so many foods. Remember, you have to add Palcohol AFTER a dish is cooked as the alcohol will burn off if you cook with it...and that defeats the whole purpose.

And the final item in the list...

7. Let's talk about the elephant in the room...snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you'll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.

Nice "possibilities," huh? Here's the way I interpret the items I listed:

1.) Use Palcohol so you can drink where you ordinarily wouldn't be able to.

2.) Use Palcohol on food items so you can get drunk while you eat and no one will notice.

3.) Palcohol can be snorted. (Sure, they're saying it's not a good idea; but they already let the cat out of the bag.)

When I went to the Palcohol Facebook page and posted what I thought of their product, I got a very interesting response. You won't be able to see it on their Facebook page, because they deleted it shortly after I posted it, but again...Here's a screenshot that I think you'll be able to read:

So, the original wording on their website was "just a draft and not meant as our message." Oh, really? That kind of surprises me since the website--and the initial copy that went along with it--was out there for everyone to see while the government was deciding whether or not to approve the product. It was only after approval--and after Gawker called them out on it--that Palcohol changed the text on their website.

What bothers me most about the original words on the Palcohol site is the flippant tone of the message, which is pretty much--in my opinion--"Look at the ways you can use this stuff to get yourself messed up in ways you really shouldn't."

Enough with the company, though. I "get" that this is America and that people have a right to dream and create products in hopes of striking it rich. And to a lot of people and businesses it doesn't matter if you end up screwing people up or killing them in the process. Like Puff Daddy said, "It's all about the Benjamins." That's sad, but so true.

What gets me incredibly pissed off about this whole Palcohol thing is that a United States government agency approved it. Maybe it's just another "alcoholic beverage" to them. But I wonder if anyone actually stopped to think about the opportunities for misuse and abuse that this product brings to the table.

I can see people--and by people I mean those of legal drinking age AND minors, because I think this product will have loads of appeal with teenagers--adding this crap to their already alcoholic drinks. "Hey, let's see what happens when we add Kamikaze to a beer!" Let's face it: a lot of kids will think of this product as a novelty, a sort of alcoholic Kool-Aid; and they will experiment with it.

I can also see people using it on food as a way of disguising the fact that they're "drinking." Kids could take this stuff to a high school football game, sprinkle it on their hot dog or nachos, and voila! They're getting drunk without anyone noticing it.

And what about people sprinkling this garbage on other people's food and in other people's drinks...without their knowledge? Did anyone on the government bureau think of that possibility when considering whether or not to approve Palcohol?

Perhaps the most disturbing possible misuse/abuse of this product is people snorting it. Snorting a drug--even powdered alcohol--is a quick and easy way to get it into your blood stream for a maximum high. That's why some people snort heroin, or cocaine, or crushed up prescription pain killers. The dangers of snorting this powdered alcohol would be huge. Quite simply, alcohol is not meant to be snorted. And again, I realize the Palcohol people are saying not to snort their product (wink, wink); but they certainly put it "out there," didn't they? (FYI: One person posted in a Facebook thread last night that if they were still using they would probably inject Palcohol.)

I could go on and on about this shit. (Pardon my language, but that's what this stuff is: shit.) There are so many products already on the market that are trying to grab hold of teens and get them to drink (think flavored vodkas, for example). Do we really need yet another product to entice our young people and possibly lead them down a wrong path? I think not.

Because I so strongly disapprove of this powdered alcohol product, I've done a couple of things.

1. I've started a petition to try and convince the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to reconsider their approval of Palcohol. I know this is an uphill battle, especially since the approval has already been given. But you can't change anything if you don't try, so I'm at least trying. I started the petition yesterday and 189 people have signed it as of the time I'm writing this post. That doesn't sound like very many, but I'm hoping people will share the petition on their Facebook pages, tweet it to their Twitter followers, and email it to their friends and relatives. If you agree that Palcohol is a garbage product with potentially awful "side effects" for society, please sign the petition and share it. (Note: Every time someone signs the petition, an email is sent to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.)

2. I've also started a Facebook page called "We Oppose Palcohol." As I type this post, the page has 75 "Likes." Again, not many. But if you're on Facebook and like the page, then share it with everyone you know, maybe we can bump that number up a bit. There is definitely strength in numbers.

If you think a campaign like this can't be successful, please think again. I worked hard on a campaign to get Urban Outfitters to stop selling prescription-drug-related merchandise in their stores and on their website; and it worked. I also worked tirelessly on a campaign to get a Los Angeles boutique to stop selling jerseys with the names of commonly abused prescription drugs on the back of them; and it worked.

Sometimes if enough people make enough noise, they can change things. So how 'bout you come make some noise with me? Let the Palcohol people know what you think of their product and see if you can get yourself blocked from their Facebook and Twitter pages, too. And sign and share my petition, and like and share my We Oppose Palcohol Facebook page. Together, maybe we can at least shake things up a bit.

Thanks in advance.


UPDATE (4/21/14, 8:21pm)

News broke late today that the previously issued government approvals for Palcohol "were issued in error." That came from Tom Hogue, a representative of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. However, no further details were released. The Palcohol people seem to think it's just a matter of having to resubmit labels. But that's not clear. In any case, I believe we need to keep fighting this powdered alcohol product. This means continuing to sign and share the petition and Facebook page. We can't assume this product is "dead." Because it may just be delayed.

Click on this link to read an Associated Press article about the erroneous Palcohol approvals (via ABC News).

"It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result." --Mahatma Gandhi

I have no words.

An Interview with...Me

I was very humbled when Cathy Taughinbaugh--the amazing woman behind the website Cathy Taughinbaugh: Finding Peace After Addiction--asked to interview me a couple of weeks ago.

Who, me? Really??? Of course I agreed to do it. It was a great opportunity to get some of my thoughts out to a wider audience; and get some excellent publicity for this blog.

Cathy is highly respected in the area of addiction and recovery and she does great things. It was an honor to be interviewed by her. You can read the interview at the link below. After you read it, please check out the rest of Cathy's site. It's full of great information and super helpful resources.

How One Father Survived His Son's Addiction: Meet Dean Dauphinais


Final "Beyond Addiction" Book Winner

Hi, all. My apologies for not announcing the final winner in the Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change giveaway until now. I got caught up in cooking/eating Easter dinner with my family last evening.

The winner this week is Kathy E. I will email her today and send her book out to her.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the drawings for this wonderful book. And a big thank-you again to the great people at the Center for Motivation and Change for donating the books.

Again, I highly recommend Beyond Addiction to anyone who has a loved one going through addiction. I think it could be your life preserver.

I will leave you with one simple line from the final section of the book, entitled "Live Your Life":

"You don't have to deny the problem at hand in order to take care of yourself and enjoy other parts of your life."


Friday, April 18, 2014

Last Chance to Win "Beyond Addiction"

When the Center for Motivation and Change sent me four copies of their fabulous book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change, my initial plan was to give away one copy each week in April.

I've given away two copies already, and this week I'll draw a name at random for copy number three. But I have decided not to give away the fourth copy on my blog. Instead, I am going do what my friend Ron Grover--a fellow Partnership at National Parent Partner and author of the terrific blog "An Addict in Our Son's Bedroom"--did with his extra copy of the book: I am going to donate it to my local library.

I live in a community that, for the most part, likes to pretend it doesn't have a drug problem. Unfortunately, I know differently. My son was a part of this community and walked just a few blocks from our house, across the Detroit border, to buy his heroin. He bought pot from someone in our community. And when he first started using drugs he told my wife and me that he could buy any drug he wanted from kids at school.

Just because people in my community don't want to acknowledge or talk about our drug problem doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So maybe my last copy of Beyond Addiction will be able to help a parent who is experiencing something they feel they have no one to talk to about. Maybe someone who has a loved one struggling with drug or alcohol abuse will go to the library looking for help and actually be able to find some.

In any case, this week's drawing--which will take place on Sunday evening--will be the last chance you have to win a copy of Beyond Addiction on my blog. If you want to put your name in the hat, send me an email through my blog using the "Contact Form" that appears in the column on the right-hand side of my blog (between the "Most Popular Posts" and "Blogs I Follow" sections). If you entered any of the previous drawings, you are already entered for the final drawing; but you can get a "bonus" entry by emailing me again.

Thanks to everyone who has participated; to the Center for Motivation and Change for donating the books; and to Ron Grover for the idea of giving a copy of the book to my local library.

I will wrap up this blog post with a couple of lists from Beyond Addiction. Both of these appear in the book's introduction, which is entitled "Hope in Hell."

Ten Evidence-Based Reasons to Have Hope

1. You can help.

2. Helping yourself helps.

3. Your loved one isn't crazy.

4. The world isn't black-and-white.

5. Labels do more harm than good.

6. Different people need different options.

7. Treatment isn't the be-all and end-all.

8. Ambivalence is normal.

9. People can be helped at anytime.

10. Life is a series of experiments.

And, finally, what I consider to be a great list for anyone, whether you have a loved one with a substance abuse problem or not. In fact, I printed out a copy of this list and stuck it in my wallet:

Things You Can Change

How comfortable you are right now
How optimistic you are in general
What behaviors you encourage
How much you argue
How often you smile
How much you sleep
How strong you feel
Your habitual reactions
Your tone of voice
What you pay attention to
Your point of view
The atmosphere in your home
How isolated you feel
How you deal with stress
How much you worry
Your heart rate
How you spend your money
How you express concern
What substances you use
How you help
How you get help
What kind of help you get
The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning
Whether anything good happens today
How much you enjoy life

That last one is a doozy. I suggest we all remember it.


"We're optimistic because the evidence supports many ways to help, and we're optimistic because there's plenty of evidence that optimism helps. People don't try what they don't think they can do. This book is about what you can do." --From the introduction of Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Can Help People Change

(Note: Excerpts from Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change are Copyright © 2014 by Psychological Motivation and Change Group, PLLC. All rights reserved.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Wife Shares Her Story with Heroes in Recovery

Just a quick post to let you know that my amazing wife has shared her story--actually a "Top 10" list--on the Heroes in Recovery website.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that my wife is my rock. I couldn't have navigated through our son's addiction without her help. It was a team effort, but she was definitely the team captain. I'll never be able to thank her enough.

To read her story, just click on this link:

Read my wife's story of recovery here.

Also, if you have a story of recovery to share--either your own or a loved one's; or how you recovered from a loved one's addiction--please contact me through my blog. I can walk you through the process of getting your story published in the "Heroic Stories" section of the Heroes in Recovery site. I will even do a phone interview with you and write your story for you if you'd like.

Real recovery begins with real stories from real people. Let your story help someone who needs it.


"The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace." --Fawn Weaver

My beautiful wife (hiding under a cool hat she made for my nephew, who loves fishing). 

"Beyond Addiction" Book Giveaway: #3 of 4

This is the third of four chances to win your very own copy of the Center for Motivation and Change's fabulous new book, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

While reading this book, I wondered how my situation with my son might've been different if I had even a few of the tools outlined in its pages available to me at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think things in our family--especially early on--would've been much calmer if Beyond Addiction was around seven or eight years ago.

To get in on this week's drawing, send me an email via the "Contact Form" that appears in the column on the right-hand side of my blog (between the "Most Popular Posts" and "Blogs I Follow" sections). Simply tell me you want to be in the drawing. At the end of the week (Sunday evening), I will put the names of all the entrants into a bowl and choose a winner at random.

One more thing: If you entered a previous drawing and didn't win, I will leave your name in the bowl for the next two drawings. But you can also email me again and get an extra entry in the next drawing. It's a little "loyalty bonus."

(Note: I understand that some of you may be reluctant to share your name and email address with me, but it's the only way I can get in touch with you to let you know if you've won. I assure you that I will not share your information with any individuals or organizations.)

Now, on to this week's excerpts from Beyond Addiction.

Today I want to share excerpts from two chapters of the book: Chapter 10--entitled "Reinforcement: The Driver of Change"; and chapter 11--entitled "Consequences." Believe me, there is so much thought-provoking information in this book that it's very difficult to choose what to share. So I'm really just pulling out highlights that I think will give you a taste of what Beyond Addiction is all about. The book goes into way more detail on these topics.

That said, here's some content from the "Reinforcement" chapter:

"Reinforcing constructive, non-substance-related behavior is the core strategy of CRAFT [Community Reinforcement and Family Training]. You can choose to respond to your loved one's positive, nonusing behaviors in a way that will increase the likelihood of these behaviors reoccurring. At the same time, you can choose how to respond to his negative behaviors, including but not limited to substance use, in a way that reinforces it or not.

"The two most powerful things you can do to help promote change are:
  1. Reward your loved one for positive behavior.
  2. Ignore or withdraw a reward for negative behavior."
"Reinforcement is happening between people every second, consciously or unconsciously, planned or unplanned, with more and less positive results. We are social creatures and we influence each other in every interaction we have, whether we mean to or not, and whether or not we succeed in the ways we meant to. . . .If reinforcement is happening all the time anyway, why not harness it to change things for the better?

"Currently, you may find yourself in a cycle of punishment, nagging your loved one to stop using, giving him the silent treatment, slamming things around, yelling, and so on. Unfortunately, these (understandable) responses create a negative reinforcement loop. As you carry your distress around with you and fixate on the problem, you naturally end up nagging, withdrawing, and otherwise punishing . . . even during the times when he is not using. Still mad about the last time he was high, you’re punishing him two days later. The situation often deteriorates to the point where people with substance problems get the same punishing reaction from those who are worried about them whether they are intoxicated or sober, using or not.

"Not only does this pattern not work to decrease the substance use, it can indirectly influence your loved one’s decision to continue using. Seeing that he gets yelled at when he uses and yelled at when he doesn’t use, he may decide to go and use because 'it doesn’t make a difference anyway.' Meanwhile, the substance itself continues to have a powerful reinforcing effect on your loved one and his choice to use. Reinforcement got you into this loop--and it can get you out."

And from the "Consequences" chapter:

"Reinforcement is the currency of behavior change. On one side of the coin is positive reinforcement: rewarding your loved one’s healthy, connected, constructive, and sober behavior--the strategy of the previous chapter. In this chapter we look at the other side, or what to do with the behavior you don’t want. What can you do when there seems to be nothing to reward--when he comes home high, or she sleeps through her alarm, or he turns loud and belligerent after too many drinks at a family dinner?

"You can apply the same principles of reinforcement, but in reverse. That is, just as you paired positive behavior with positive consequences to encourage it, negative behavior paired with negative consequences will discourage it. The combination of these strategies is more powerful than either alone. Negative behaviors don’t simply vanish by themselves; they tend to come up even during the process of positive change. It takes time to learn to stay sober instead of using, to work out instead of stressing out, to go home instead of going all night. Given a mix of behavior that you don’t want and behavior that you do, it helps to learn to work with both to effect change."

"Families that we work with usually fall into one of two camps. Some are reluctant to let their loved one have any negative experience, while others think their loved one is 'getting away' with too much, or 'has it too easy,' and isn’t experiencing negative consequences enough. While both of these perspectives are understandable, neither is particularly accurate or helpful. People learn from negative consequences, and it’s helpful to let them do so (within reason). On the other hand, even if you and others have been insulating your loved one from the negative effects of his behavior, swinging the opposite way to punishment isn’t the best strategy either. You can suppress behavior with punishment, but this doesn’t eliminate it; it usually just goes underground."

Allowing Natural Consequences

"With this strategy for dealing with behavior you don't want, you don't do anything, but just step out of the way and allow it to happen. . . .Allowing natural consequences channels, or rather avoids diverting, any negative consequences to maximize their naturally deterring effects. Even more than withdrawing rewards, allowing consequences helps your loved one understand his behavior as his choice. He learns that changing his behavior is his choice, as opposed to something you are pushing on him all the time.

"Natural consequences are the direct outcomes of your loved one’s substance use that he would experience if no one interfered. They’re the costs he naturally incurs by using. They can be emotional costs, such as depression, anger, shame, or feeling out of control; physical costs such as sleep disruptions, agitation, or injuries; and what we call structural costs: loss of relationships, financial problems, legal problems, and so forth. The costs of using may range in severity from mild headaches or embarrassments to deep shame and major deprivations like getting fired or losing custody of a child.

"For most people, using or overusing substances results in negative consequences that pretty quickly convince them to limit use to moderation or no use at all. For most people, the costs just don't seem worth it. For others, the benefits of using are greater and/or more numerous, and the negative consequences are fewer and/or less--because their brains are more rewarded by a substance, or life feels more painful to them in one way or another that a substance relieves, or their social group uses more heavily, or any of the other reasons people use. But you would not be reading this book if there were not also significant negative consequences to your loved one's use, and the goal here is to let those consequences speak for themselves. In cost-benefit terms, you aim to not get in the way of or prevent the costs from occurring."

Definitely food for thought, right? I wish someone had fed this information to me years ago!

Thanks again to the Center for Motivation and Change for sending me books to give away. If you're interested in winning your own copy, shoot me an email. Good luck!

(Note: Excerpts from Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change are Copyright © 2014 by Psychological Motivation and Change Group, PLLC. All rights reserved.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

This Week's "Beyond Addiction" Book Winner

Congrats to Jessica V., whose name was randomly selected as this week's winner of a copy of Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

Check back here on Monday for another excerpt from the book and another chance to win a copy. I have two more copies to give away!