Recent news on Palcohol—booze in a powdered form—gets those alcoholic wheels turning, no matter how long you've been sober.
In case there were any doubts in my mind as to whether or not, after almost 24 years away from the booze cruise that was my life, I’m still really an alcoholic—well the advent and near legal actuality of Palchol is my defining moment. Everyone says it’s a stupid idea and everyone is probably correct, but stupid ideas were my calling card for 20 years before I got sober, and more years than I’d like to remember after. And this is a stupid idea I cannot stop thinking about.
It’s a headline making miracle of the highest sort. Jesus turned water into wine? Not such a big a deal anymore. Mark Phillips, the genius behind Palcohol, has gone one better, and figured out how to turn water into vodka. And rum. He’s one-upped Jesus with a powdered and portable Mojito. And that’s saying something.
Despite the fact that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has—for the moment at least—revoked the label license, Palcohol is out there and everyone has an opinion. Doctors. Educators. I’m sure booze manufacturers from Smirnoff to Schlitz have opinions as well. I’m sure the airlines and concert venues are already trying to figure out how to handle this stuff once the paperwork finally goes through. And idiots of every order have commented on articles of every standpoint. It’s good. It’s bad. It’s fun. But has anyone asked a real alcoholic? Has anyone taken the pulse of the You-wouldn’t believe-the-things-I’ve-done-to-get-stoned-community of addicts?
Well, here I am, to fill in those gaps.
Finding new ways to get various kinds of mood-altering substances and liquids into your body is nothing new. A Texas man died after ingesting 1.5 liters of sherry in what frat boys call butt chugging, and the rest of the world knows affectionately as an enema. I’d have been surprised when I read that if I hadn’t remembered being advised in the 80s by a lawyer to shove Tuinals up my ass for the quickest result because the blood vessels are so close to the surface the drugs get into your system lickety-split, no pesky waiting for digestion and metabolizing. He also pointed out that I was wasting my cocaine by snorting it, that the smart money would bend over and let someone blow it up my butt with a straw. I should mention he was a disbarred lawyer, although not for anything having to do with drugs, just the mob. So nothing directly related to drugs. Oh, nevermind. Amazing, considering how little I remember of the 80s at all, that this stuck in my head. This is what is known as an “alcoholic obsession of the mind.”
Someone thought of using a nebulizer to “smoke” booze. Vaporized alcohol was now more than just the bad booze breath of the bum sleeping next to you on the E train, it was moving on up. The upside was you could consume all you wanted and there were no calories. No worries of that horrible alcoholic bloat and belly.
Bypassing the liver and going straight to the bloodstream through the lungs, you didn’t have to worry about hangovers. Which also meant there was no way to monitor how much you were actually consuming, so no one could point a finger and say, “I think you’ve had enough young lady,” but there was also nothing to vomit up when you’d gone passed enough and entered into the realm of too much. So what if you’ve increased your chance of alcohol poisoning—did you not hear me when I said 'no calories'? Fancy pants people bought Vaportinis and kids used bicycle pumps and like any good drunk eventually will, vaporized booze fell flat on its face. It was a novelty for people who simply couldn’t live up to their alcoholic potential and drink straight from the bottle.
Then there are all the candy-flavored boozey things that appeal to kids and drunks who can’t stand the real taste of booze. Boones Farm Apple Wine and Strawberry Hill in the 70s. Marshmallow and Glazed Donut flavored vodkas in the 2000’s. Vodka-infused whipped cream for the foodie crowd. Four Loko for the Jolly Rancher munching crowd. Or actual Jolly Rancher cocktails. And every homemade candy-flavored-liquor-in-a-glass concoction you can think of. Were I still drinking, my candy-booze of choice would be the Double Bubble Gum vodka, because while I may struggle to walk and chew gum at the same time, with that, I could easily drink gum. Drinky, drinky, drunky, pop!
But maybe not. I’ll admit I carried a wine skin of Boones Farm with me in junior high school, but that was a short lived romance. Real 100% dyed in the wool, down to your bones alcoholics do not waste time screwing around with baby drinks. Or alcoholic vapor. I wanted my booze straight, and strong, and long-lasting. I trained myself not to pee when I was drinking, the theory being that I paid for it, and as long as it was in my body, it was doing the job I paid it to do. Bladder and liver damage be damned, full steam ahead. We want the fastest, most potent, easiest, most direct and easily accessible method of getting booze into the belly and the bloodstream.
Enter Palcohol. Mix it with water and it’s vodka. Mix it with water and it’s rum. And I can’t stop thinking about it, how ridiculous and how miraculous. Alcohol. In powder form. Everyone says it’s a bad idea, but is it I wonder? As I tear open a packet of artificial sweetener and shake it into my tea, I picture a sugar bowl filled with Palcohol powdered rum to add to my morning tea and start the day off with a mellow. I spent a year working in an Italian restaurant sipping Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry in a teacup with a used tea bag on the saucer to fool people. While I’m pretty sure I fooled no one, I can picture myself carrying a packet of Palcohol in my purse to add to my tea, or bottled water for that quick pick me up, much the way skinny girls do with Crystal Light on the Go.
One of my first thoughts when this hit the news stream was, “Hey, this is booze you can snort and remember how much fun you had with that snorting thing?” This is the upside of alcoholic memories, most of the really bad stuff—and unfortunately some of the good stuff—happens while you’re in blackout, so voila! No pesky memory! But the company has already muddied around with the manufacturing, adding volume to the powder “so it would take more than half a cup of powder to get the equivalent of one drink up your nose.” Which is a shame, because right after thinking “I can snort that!” followed by “I can mix it with cocaine, and snort a Palcospeedball!” I thought, “Snorting booze isn’t drinking booze, so I’d still be technically sober, right?” This is the workings of an alcoholic mind at its finest. This is the working of an alcoholic mind that has not had a single drop of booze in almost 24 years.
I’m sure someone out there is already thinking of how much you’d need to inject. Needlefreaks and idiots will put just about anything in a syringe. Jackass’s Steve O was not the first person to mainline vodka. Or the last. Couldn’t one set up an IV drip of vodka much in the way one would morphine?
Why even bother with the water? Isn’t my body 98% water already? Sure, that’s my inner teenage alcoholic screaming for what is, in essence, vodka pixie stix. But sober or not, I’m still a real 100% dyed in the wool, wind up in the gutter, cirrhosis hopeful, blackout having, car losing, heartbreaking and heartbroken alcoholic with dreams of literary greatness, and Hemingway wouldn’t be caught dead drinking powdered Mojitos. But Bukowski. You bet your liver Chuck would “fortify” his boilermaker with a packet of powdered vodka. Because in the logic stream of 'if one is good two is better,' in the alcoholic quest for more of...well, just about anything, you know you’ve already thought to yourself 'Why would anyone bother with water when you can mix vodka Palcohol with vodka?'
Disclaimer: The author is not condoning the use of Palcohol in any way it's not intended, or even in any way it is. The author has spent years trying to live down bad ideas and bad decisions and is not suggesting that any of this is a good idea. The author would not know a good idea if it walked up to her in a bar, slapped her in the face, and dragged her out. Which may or may not have been the way it happened 24 years ago.
Author: Jodi Sh. Doff has written for Bust, Cosmopolitan, xoJane and Penthouse among many other publications. Her last piece for The Fix was about non celebrity overdoses.
Date: April 28, 2014