Tag Archives: Joe Schrank

How to be invisible.

Image courtesy of Heavypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Heavypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A few years ago, the bar owners around the campus of the University of Illinois realized they were missing out on some major revenue because St Patrick’s day fell during Spring Break. Which meant there were no students around and no therefore no partying. Not wishing to miss out on such a lucrative opportunity they created ‘Unofficial.’ Which is ‘unofficial St Patrick’s Day’ to take place the week before. ‘Unofficial’ has since become a huge event with students traveling from other colleges to take part in the, um, ‘celebrations.’

When I lived in Champaign, my husband and I walked around the college bar area checking out what it was like. There is something incredible about being over 25 and being on a college bar scene. It renders you completely invisible.

Drinking is part of the college scene and after finals, a lot of kids need and deserve to cut loose. Partying is fun. I did it.
But then someone dies and the reality of binge drinking at college comes crashing home. Twenty-three year-old Jonathan Morales fell from a balcony to his death during this years ‘Unofficial.’ It is the third student death related to the ‘Unofficial’ event. Morales is just one of an estimated 1825 college students to die of alcohol related causes this year.

What do we do? Ban drinking? Ban ‘Unofficial’? It wouldn’t stop it, it would just drive it under ground. Kids would still die, injuries and sexual abuse would probably go un-reported.
But we have to do something, right? Kids can’t go to college and keep dying this way.
1825 young people is far too high a number for us to feel comfortable with.

My friend Joe Schrank has a rather controversial suggestion and I have to say I think it’s worth considering. Prohibition isn’t the answer, instead, we have to accept that young people want to party we just want to lower the risk of them doing so. Schrank’s suggestion is to ban the sale of hard liquor on college campuses and only sell beer. Of course you can still get very drunk on beer, it’s just really hard to drink lots of it very quickly in the way you can with hard liquor. Second, he suggests the legalization of marijuana, as marijuana is very hard, if not impossible to overdose on.
Of course marijuana comes with risks, there are many mental health problems associated with using it. I don’t want my kids to use it. I don’t want my kids to use anything. But is that realistic? I hope they are going to college and I want them to have fun and I can also remember what it’s like to be young adult with all that freedom and no responsibility. Most of all I want them to be safe. I would at least like a discussion on what we could do to make kids safer when they party at college.

I know there is no perfect solution here. If marijuana is legalized then it is essential that the taxes from it are plowed into drug prevention and treatment. No substance is without risk.
Right now, I’m not seeing a lot of outrage to these events or to the amount of kids who die each year. I believe they are preventable. But right now these deaths are invisible.

We need to know more about Palcohol

My (slightly sarcastic) open letter to Mark Phillips who created powdered alcohol has had a really big response. It seems that a lot of you are as concerned about the potential abuse of this, soon to be unleashed product, as I am.

Image courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Joe Schrank, interventionist, social worker and frequent contributor to Fox news, Huffington Post, Gawker and Salon also shares these concerns. Joe has many years working in the addiction field and is a strong advocate for the recovery community. He is also not shy of speaking out when he feels passionately about something.
Despite being sober for over 18 years he is not a supporter of prohibition and has in fact spoken out in support of Marijuana legalization, much to the delight of the pro-marijuana lobby and confusion of the entrenched recovery community. Joe and I both believe that keeping Marijuana illegal creates more problems than it solves and that taxation should be diverted directly to drug education and treatment. We are not pro-drugs, we are anti-abusive drug laws.

Because of his experience of abusive substances Joe is very concerned about Palcohol.
Palcohol’s website states some ‘facts’ about the product that really needs further elaborating on. If you read the FAQ’s on the site they seem to be claiming that there really is no threat of abuse by the product as it can’t snorted, it is not easily concealed, and will be really expensive so kids won’t want it. That in fact, there is simply no threat of powdered alcohol causing the same problems that liquid alcohol causes.
Um, right? We are scratching our heads about how these claims could be made as facts by the founder Mark Phillips, when he really has no idea how Palcohol is going to be used/abused if made legal.

Believing these questions should be at least debated so we can all begin to understand this product better. Joe Schrank is offering to debate Mark Phillips on the concerns the recovery community has over the product, whilst giving Mr. Phillips an opportunity to present his case as to why he feels Palcohol is perfectly safe. The debate would be put up on YouTube.

Joe Schrank - recovery warrior

Joe Schrank – recovery warrior

Would you like to know more about Palcohol? Do you think that we need to know a lot more about this product and that the founder needs to engage with the recovery community before he unleashes Palcohol into the world?

The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People

The Anonymous People

I am thrilled to tell you that I am hosting a screening of The Anonymous People in Champaign, Illinois. The Art Movie Theatre has generously agreed to screen the film.
It’s extraordinary to me, that over 23 million Americans are living in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, but we have no visibility at all.
The only stories we get to hear about are the ones where a celebrity publicly hits rock-bottom and is ushered into rehab. We don’t get to hear the other side of the story, where millions of us are going about our lives free of drugs and alcohol. The Anonymous People is a rallying cry for a public recovery movement that educates and informs others suffering from addiction, that recovery is possible!
I’ve interviewed Kristen Johnston, Chris Herren, Joe Schrank (U of I grad!) and the film maker Greg Williams about the movie, all of who are in long term recovery.
If you are in the Champaign area and would like to see this ground-breaking film then tickets are ONLY available through the Gathr website they are not available directly from The Art Theatre.
Hope to see you there.

Recovery Rocks – Joe Schrank

This weeks Recovery Rocks interview is with the co-founder and editor at large of the online addiction magazine The Fix. Joe Schrank has been clean and sober for 17 years and he describes himself as someone who really, really should not drink. In addition to alcoholism he has also battled depression and anxiety disorders which would prefer to have him isolated and alone in a room with a bottle of scotch and Dylan a CD.

Joe Schrank - look acceptably dressed for a change

Joe Schrank – looking acceptably dressed for a change

Thankfully for us, Joe Schrank is not alone in a room somewhere but instead is a large part of the recovery community. He spent years working in rehabs, detoxes and delivering interventions. He is also the CEO of the Core Company, a consultancy firm that addresses all areas of addiction and recovery from interventions and crisis management to court consultation and treatment.
Becuase of his sobriety he has the greatest girlfriend (TV Presenter Laurie Dhue) in the world who totally over looks his refusal to comply with accepted manners of dress. He is also very proud that his kids have never seen him drunk.
Joe loves journalism which is why he started The Fix in order to start a dialogue about addiction and recovery.

Note: This is an exceptional interview and I’m extremely grateful that Joe took the time to participate. The answer he gives to question 6 just blows me away.

1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
My rock bottom was very emotional, baffled at my inability to perform in the world, stuck in a cycle of pouring alcohol on depression and resentful that I could not seem to achieve anything other than verbally assaulting people and getting drunk, I somehow knew I could not feel like that anymore. I knew I had to make serious changes or it would only get worse.

2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
My first 30 days were like going to kindergarten everyday for the first time. Everyday was the first day of school, fearful, anxious, uncertain, and lost. I was also struck by how much better I felt physically, I immediately took to the gym and took up running. I was shocked by how large an impact drinking had on me

4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself that it is ok to not have all the answers or a clear path. Not everyone has the same starting line, some of us have things to overcome.

5) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
I have learned that the right number of drinks for me is ZERO, there are some people who can tolerate intoxication, I can not. I have learned that with all of my flaws there are good things about me too. I have learned that I am a totally urban person, I don’t like to be out of cities.

6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
Last Thanksgiving my girlfriend and I went to Nairobi, Kenya to meet a young boy who was being brought to NYC to attend a prestigious boys school. We were able to truly be partners in this project and to help him come here. He lives with us and is flourishing in school, on the soccer team, and in becoming an American teenager. It may be the best thing I have ever done. Drunk depressed people don’t help someone out of third world poverty and guide them through the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood. It is a true gift of recovery and not just for him. There has never been a better solution to the complexity of my struggles than helping someone else, it has been the best way for me to stand myself a day at a time. He offers that chance everyday and I am very grateful. I also have a really solid relationship with a woman I adore. She is my preferred company which is really lucky. She is also exceptionally hot (google her, Laurie Dhue) and not just in that way that all guys have to say that about their girlfriends, in that “no way you have even met her” kind of way. Aside from all of that, she could gain 50lbs and I would feel no differently about her. That is a real miracle for a guy like me.

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
I kind of hate recovery slogans, I find them trite, antiquated, and corny. The trouble with dismissing them is they are often true. The one I often apply, is not widely used for recovery, it is a quote from coach John Wooden. “Things work out best for people who make the best of how things turn out”. The other one I really like is also not a traditional recovery slogan but the Jesuit motto :Ad majorum Dei Glorium, The greater Glory of God

Joe in NYC with his dog

Joe in NYC with his dog

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because it is authentic. The authenticity of a life not distorted by intoxication is an amazing journey. Active addiction is just a pursuit of the erroneous entitlement that we can correct our feelings to our liking, when the truth is, emotions are best when comprehensive and true.