The first time I thought about building what would become Hip Sobriety, I was drunk, on the phone with a coach of mine, talking about how there had to be something better than what existed for people like me who were trying to get sober. It was months before I even stopped drinking, and it was a weird thing to behold--to be sick, to be on the floor, to see what amounts to a business opportunity in between the lines of all that. Though it wasn’t so much a business opportunity; it was more like: a reason to exist. My reason to exist.
The feeling that I was supposed to “do something with this” never really left me—it was there as I was getting sober, there in those early days, there with me on my vacation, at work; a constant companion. In Italy that summer, on a beach where I was supposed to be chillaxin, I sketched out the first wireframe of what would eventually become this website.
Those early days were such a strange time; there was so much tension. I wanted to heal and do nothing but give myself to this idea of EXTREME SELF-CARE, but I felt like I was running against the clock to start this thing; an early post on my first blog speaks to this tug. It was a daily struggle between feeling a calling to do something so grand and also deeply irrational, and a call to be present, to be where I was, to let things unfold.
Inevitably, I didn’t have to decide—my hand was forced when my job became impossible, when I found I’d too quickly outgrown my old life. The day was January 27, 2014, and without so much as a shred of a plan, I heard myself telling my boss to fuck off. Minutes later, shocked and terrified, I looped around a very snowy Madison Square Park, listening to Alicia Keys' “Brand New Me,” trying to figure out if I was up to this task. I’d spent my life hiding behind powerful men, powerful people. I wasn’t a leader, I wasn’t confident, I wasn’t strong, and here I was compelled to do something that required all of those things and more.
The question was: am I brave enough to try this?
Here is the part of the song where I decided I was.
Oh, it took a long long road to get here
It took a brave brave girl to try
I've taken one too many excuses, one too many lies
Don't be surprised, oh see you look surprised
It was that moment, and that moment exactly, I knew that there was literally no choice but to try. Some people talk about being able to see their future home or partner or baby or whatever before it shows up. In that moment, listening to that song in that park, scared shitless by what was happening, I saw “this thing”—what would become Hip Sobriety, what is about to become Tempest—built out to its potential. That was it. There was Alicia singing and the snow falling and there was—clear as day—a vision of the whole entire thing, all the way past where we are today, or where we will be five years from now or ten years from now. It was already built at some future date. I just had to be a brave girl and try.
But where to start.
The first order of business was a name for this thing. I wanted it to reflect the power of sobriety, versus the label of addiction. I wanted it to tell everyone that it knew it was ahead of its own time; I called it Hip Sobriety because it satisfied these two things.
From there, it was designing a website, building an audience on Facebook and Instagram, and eventually, working with clients: I made my first money in October 2014; $79 for an hour of coaching. I spent every day from morning until midnight working from the Union Square Starbucks or any coffeehouse that would have me, banging out business plans, blog posts, coaching programs; my skin and hair and clothes smelled like coffee, and constantly. I wanted to quit every single fucking day. Every. Day. I hated it, and it felt so hopeless; and at the same time, there was no choice but to do this. I was possessed.
I was also hustling; there were Instagram posts and Facebook posts and blogs and content calendars; workshops and coaching clients and merchandise and yoga classes and the podcast and consulting as an accountant on the side, and that’s only a fraction of it. I ran the first Hip Sobriety School in May 2015 with thirteen women. It was the culmination of every single thing I had done in my life up to that point; and it worked. It worked in a way I don’t think I could properly behold at that time, because by the end of it I was demolished. I spent the next almost three months in Italy trying to repair what felt like a lot of damage from trying so hard to serve; and from forgetting to serve myself. I never wanted to do something that hard again, which is exactly how I ended up running another school in January 2016 with 111 people in it. Because I’m a stubborn, stubborn asshole, and one who has felt--since that drunken night on the phone with my coach in 2013—that this is inevitable.
Since that second school in 2016, we’ve run eleven other schools, and I say we because as of this writing, there are 28 full-time employees, and many more contractors; we have advisors and investors and angels who have given me and us their time and expertise over the last five years. There’re the students of the program, and then there’s everyone who has just touched the website, or who reads the newsletter, and everything in between. We have built this, and all of us, and there is an army of people that made this happen.
So much has happened in so little time. It feels, and honestly, like just yesterday I was sitting in my studio in San Francisco recording my first lectures. It feels like just a minute ago I was wrapping up the first Hip Sobriety School school from my mom’s home in Fresno, or wrapping up the third from my apartment in Los Angeles, or doing a last minute fall school in late 2016 because everything I’d planned for had fallen apart. And yet, it feels like a lifetime ago, like there was absolutely nothing that came before this. I’ve aged and I sometimes wonder if I’ve made the right decision for myself, if I’ve given too much up of my own life, if I’m the right person to be sitting here writing this email. Sometimes, I think this is all a very big mistake and I tell people, and God, they’ve got the wrong girl. But then, that overlooks the part that actually makes this what it is, and that isn’t a girl. It’s us. It’s a movement. We have started a movement.
In the time between that day in January 2014, through today, over 3,000 people have gone through Hip Sobriety School, my Instagram account grew to a community of over 60 thousand people, and a few million people have visited the Hip Sobriety blog. Folks have gotten the Tt tattoo (which stands for “Teetotaler,” a term, certainly not invented, but popularized through the HOME podcast), tattooed to their bodies. People find each other across the globe to meet up and share in their stories and process with pride, out in the open in front of the world. We didn’t just build community, we built a home for ourselves and our friends. We didn’t just build a recovery for ourselves, we’ve built a sense of pride for our evolution. We have changed the fucking map. And this is just the beginning.
I have always known this thing needs to grow, and that in order to grow it, this thing needs capital. In order to enable things like in-person meetings across the globe, an ability to meet people where they are throughout their journey (not just when they are getting sober), to serve more people, to provide care-team support and crisis intervention and detox and a million other things, I started raising money from investors in 2017, and secured our first funding that December - $2.3 million. Since that first check hit our accounts, we’ve been furiously at work figuring out how to scale this beautiful beast. A lot of work has been happening for the past 17 months, most of it behind the scenes. And now we’re finally ready to show our work, and step into the next phase of our evolution.
So, what does this all mean?
1. For starters, we’re changing our name. You’ve potentially seen this somewhere on social media or maybe in a newsletter, but in case you haven’t, Hip Sobriety is becoming Tempest, and our company mission is “Putting people at the center of their recovery.” This means we exist to give you something that honors your unique needs as an individual, rather than pump you through a program that you have to conform to in order to make work. We’ve built a modern, accessible, and empowering path to recovery that’s built around you. Without the fear. Without the dogma. Without having to lose your sense of power and agency in order to recover.
A lot of you might be wondering why we would leave a name we’ve built so much into behind us. There were lots of reasons, and the main one is because it puts too much emphasis on only one facet of the journey—sobriety. Sobriety is a fruit of the labor, not a destination or a measuring stick, and it fails to capture that the work we do isn't just to free ourselves from alcohol, but liberate ourselves entirely. Tempest--which simply means “a violent storm”--made perfect sense to us, because what we do here is turn and face our storms. Here is where we stop running, start staying, and where we use the storm of our lives in order to build something from it. It is a call to action, a witness to our bravery, a reminder that everything we want starts here.
2. We’re turning our 8-week Hip Sobriety School into an ongoing digital recovery platform—Tempest Sobriety School. What the fuck does this even mean?! Well, historically, we’ve run the 8-week online course, Hip Sobriety School, just a few times a year. Because of that infrequency, people couldn’t get help right when they needed it. So with the new name comes a new program—Tempest Sobriety School—which people can sign up for whenever, and get help when they need it. (We also built our own proprietary software to run this school, so we can deliver an even better learning and navigation experience.) We’ve also added resources like a more robust aftercare program, 1:1 coaching support, and soon--in real life meetings in your local area, and so on.
Our goal is to become the number one place in the world for recovery solutions; we’re starting with building out a more robust program around drinking, which will unfold over the next few years to include a range of services and programs, and eventually to provide content, community, and care around other addictions and mental health issues. This is just the beginning.
3. Hipsobriety.com isn’t going anywhere. This site will remain in perpetuity and I will continue to use it as my personal blog—albeit less than before. A lot of the concepts I’ve discussed here over the years will show up in my new book Quit Like a Woman, coming out in January 2020 (Random House Penguin Press). I’ll also be writing on our new Tempest blog when that is up later this year, on my Instagram account as per usual, and on our multi-contributor media site, The Temper.
4. If you want to track closely, you can follow Tempest on social media. You can get a sneak peek at the new brand and follow us for updates on the Tempest Instagram and Facebook accounts. Also, we’re hiring. So if you’re interested in helping build the next generation of recovery care— check out open positions at HQ.
This last part can’t be said enough. Hip Sobriety or Tempest or The Temper—none of this—would exist without you. This is your community, your school, your stories, your movement. We are building this thing together and your input and support are invaluable to us. There will be many opportunities to get involved once we launch.
This may be the end of one chapter, but this is the beginning of a whole new journey. One that scares the shit out of me, but that I know in my heart is right. I can’t wait for us to grow, learn and continue our recovery, our return to wholeness, our rising, together.
All my love,