A few years ago I was a successful professional working in the Health IT sector in SF, working to disrupt care delivery and fix the health care system at large through innovation and patient centered care delivery. So when I turned to the Healthcare system as a patient - the same system I had dedicated my life to fixing - and discovered first hand how ill equipped (not equipped?) it was to guide me out of a condition that was CLEARLY impacting my health - alcohol addiction and drug addiction - I set out to not only fix myself, but to fix the problem in general.
And that problem in general…holy shit. It's not a problem. It's an epidemic. Addiction and substance abuse is a massive, soul-sucking crisis that is eating away at the core of our society without us even realizing it. It is an everyone problem. An everyone problem that costs our country $225 BILLION dollars a year. Alcohol ABUSE (read, NOT just addiction but ABUSE) alone counts for 1 in 10 deaths in this country and is the fourth leading cause of preventable death - more than traffic collisions and firearms deaths combined. More than 1/2 of Americans aged 12 or older consume alcohol, or 131 million, and of those, some 40% abuse. That is 52 MILLION people in this country with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, a number I suspect is understated and know is trending up right alongside anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Life is not getting easier, and our coping mechanisms are not getting healthier. And our number one treatment modality for addiction to alcohol? Is a privatized organization founded in the era of the Great Depression by a stockbroker and a surgeon and exists outside the US Healthcare system (FACT, some 90% of treatment centers use 12 steps).
Huge problem, right? Hip Sobriety in no way aims to fix all of that. Uh uh. Too much. What it does aim is to fix the parts of the problem that significantly impacted my own personal experience. The parts that would have made my life so much easier had they existed not only when I was in the throws of addiction, but much earlier on, when alcohol first entered my life. Before alcohol entered my life.
1. Create a concept of pre-addiction. Because we believe as a society - and wrongly so - that there are such things as "addicts" and "normies", we overlook the truth of the matter: addiction to alcohol and drugs is progressive and can happen to anyone. Like weight gain. Like heart disease. Like diabetes. Like cancer. People are not born addicted. People become addicted. And because there is such a gross stigma around addiction and a fear of being addicted or labeled an "addict" (I quote it because I refuse the label, see point 5), people wait until it's become a significant problem to seek treatment - if they even do. The problem with this whole scenario is once it actually becomes addiction, it's a much harder problem to solve (though ENTIRELY solvable) because we devolve into our survival self and become physiologically addicted, not just habitually. My number one goal is to insert the idea that if it feels like a problem, much like if you see yourself gaining weight or your cholesterol inch up, that it will most likely become worse, and to put measures of prevention in place. In other words, I want to stand in FRONT of the trapdoor, not catch people as they fall through. Fix the leak. Not put a bucket under it.
2. Individual, Personalized, Holistic DIY Sobriety. Because the medical system at large is wholly unequipped to handle addiction (and doesn't - your doctor is NOT trained in addiction medicine, though they will prescribe you addiction-forming prescriptions…), and because our choices are either church basement meetings that follow ONE set of rules, or cost prohibitive treatment centers, I am building a site meant to overflow with holistic-based information/tips/tricks/recipes and the like that work within a framework I've developed within the Integral Recovery and Integral Life Practice modality (more to come on that), offer in-person and online workshops, coaching, yoga classes, web series and forums, and bring you the most hip and modern ways to either support your exploration of sobriety, path to sobriety, or your existing sobriety. Individualized. Not institutionalized. I look at sobriety so much more like weight loss than I do life sentence, and just like weight loss, I believe in putting the power of sobriety and total clean living into the palm of your little hands and empowering you to make it accessible through inspired life choices.
3. Make sobriety accessible to everyone as a desirable lifestyle CHOICE. Not a CONSEQUENCE. In my wide network that is centered in the Health and Wellness community, I see it time and again. The things we do for health. We'll try cleanses and veganism, run marathons and ultra marathons, and Crossfit and Yoga. We drink kale and refuse anything that is GMO or not organic. We'll oil pull, acupuncture, go herbal, go local, go fluoride free, and we will No-poo. We literally do anything to transcend the limits of our health. But no fucking way will we give up our alcohol. I see this all around me, I can smell it. It was me. I would go to any length to be clean and glow and gain control in my life, so long as I could still have my Jameson neat. On this side of things, 18 months without the stuff, I can say with certitude that I wish I had stopped drinking sooner. I wish I had seen sobriety as a life improving option and not a feared consequence when alcohol first started creating problems, back in high school and college. I wish I had learned the coping mechanisms and practices I learned in my own recovery much earlier in life. I wish I had known how bright life is without hangovers or numbing agents. I wish I had known how much YOUNGER I would look, how much weight I would lose, how much time and energy I would gain, how much money I would save. Sobriety was the living I was seeking. Clean, empowered, full, happy living. Needing alcohol for my social life, my anxiety, my escape, or as a reward was not happy, and not full living. It was deterring it.
4. Create heroes in this space (ESPECIALLY girl heroes). When I started my journey, I had a conversation with a friend's dad who was in AA, and a friend's fiance. Two dudes. AA did not reveal further inspiration. I made friends with a 70 year old woman who called me at inappropriate hours. I was totally grateful for these people. They WERE my heroes and I felt blessed. But I couldn't help but wonder where my people were, and where the role models that appealed to me were. I found Gabby Bernstein and that changed everything. She was 10 years sober, she looked like me, and she knew what it meant to binge and purge Subway in secret. But even she didn't talk about her past struggles with substances in a way that made me feel less alone or appeal to what I was going through at that moment. She was too far ahead. I decided somewhere along the way I'd become her, but in the addiction/abuse space. I would stay put here and Martha Stewart the SHIT out of sobriety. (I realize this is a contradicting statement to my Martha Stewart piece but you get it.).
5. Blow out the stigma, the fear, and encourage above ground community. Yesterday, I watched a TEDx video where Jacki Hillios of Phoenix Multisport was giving a talk on what people need to escape the shame of their addiction. She started her talk with "I work with people who many of you stereotypically loathe. They are alcoholics, they are boozers, and they are drunks. They're addicts, they're pill poppers, and they're junkies." I sat in disbelief, seeing the same theme over and over again: Perpetuation of stigma in the same sentences that aim to end it. Those addicts. Those other people. Total lack of acknowledgment that those "addicts" were abusing prior to addiction, and were using prior to abusing, and that MOST OF US USE. "Have compassion for those other people." We are all those other people. We accept in this society that there is an us vs. them when it comes to addiction, and we forget that ALL of us are addicted to something. The shame that persists in being different and subject to such names keeps the 52 million+ who abuse in fear of looking at our problem, and when we do look at our problem and own it, it keeps us silent, anonymous, and below ground. Shame and stigma equals silence, and silence equals death. We MUST eliminate the labels that exist, we most promote a non-anonymous community, a community where it is safe to say "I have a problem with alcohol" and NOT achieve a new label. Either the word Addict applies to all of us, or we entirely reject it. End of story.
6. Sobriety And The City. It's HIGH time that we had a society that promotes sobriety and sober events. I am so sick of going to bars that only serve club soda and lime or if I'm lucky a diet coke. Searching the underground scene for likeminded friends is exhausting. There are enough of us that have chosen sobriety, and it's time we created an above ground scene. Sober bars. Sober clubs. Sober restaurants. Where EVERYONE in the space is high on themselves. Yes, Please. It's time. If you are in San Francisco, you can also check out Sobriety Club for Girls, a social network for ladies who are interested in sober-centric community.
7. Raise Awareness. I recently attended Health 2.0 (and worked on the production team), and was both deeply moved in the right way by how much heart, love, innovation and money is being spent to create better more affordable patient centered health outcomes. I was also acutely aware that among the trends for Healthcare IT and Healthcare in general in 2015 not one was substance abuse or addiction prevention or treatment. We must as a society and a Healthcare system stop leaving addiction and substance abuse to AA, the private sector, and the legal system, and we must innovate on finding scalable, effective, individualized, and holistic treatments that live within the Healthcare ecosystem. Or at the very least, start talking about it.
So there you have it. The 7 areas Hip Sobriety aims to change (Hip Sobriety is very type A, and a bit of an over achiever). If you are called to do this work and are interested in contributing or supporting the Hip Sobriety mission as either a business partner, intern, associate, etc., if you have comments or request for content or programs, or if you are interested in seeking services as a client, please either use the contact submission form, or email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org. And please have patience while I build it! So much exciting stuff is coming, I do promise you that <3