My name is Beau Mann, and I am in recovery from addiction.
As anyone who has struggled with drug or alcohol addiction knows, it isolates you. It separates you from your friends, your family and your goals. And it especially isolates you from yourself. Even if you begin drinking or using recreational drugs with others in social situations, at the end of the day – or in the cold light of morning – you are left alone with your addiction. It's a toxic relationship that can seem impossible to escape.
I found myself in that situation a little more than a decade ago. I was 24 years old, and I was ready to break free from my addiction. I entered a 12-step program, became part of a supportive community, and began my journey toward recovery.
Socializing while sober
My newfound sobriety was put to the test when I traveled to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. As someone who has always appreciated film and the fine arts, I found the atmosphere to be electric and energizing. As someone in recovery, I felt like I was navigating a minefield.
Being newly sober was hard enough, but being newly sober at a film festival, which is essentially a non-stop party, was torture. I was there with friends, but they weren't sober; and none of them were part of my recovery support network. I was lonely, and I wanted to meet people without going to bars and other risky social venues. It was almost impossible to connect with other sober people to grab a cup of coffee, go skiing or catch a screening.
It was then that I had an epiphany: without a support system in place, recovery can be just as isolating as addiction.
Moving recovery support networks online
After struggling to connect with others through existing social networks at Sundance, I realized how beneficial a sobriety-based social networking app would be for individuals in recovery. That's when Sober Grid was born; and since then, I've been working to make this app a success.
Shortly after I returned from Sundance, I moved from Houston to Boston and immersed myself in the startup and software communities there. Before that, I had been working primarily in the art business, so I took care to cultivate relationships and build networks that would help me transform my vision for a social networking sobriety app into a reality. I also worked closely with addiction recovery specialists to ensure that the app would meet the needs of individuals in recovery and help prevent relapse. It was a collaborative effort that took years, but it was worth every minute of work.
When Sober Grid launched in 2015, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Since then, we have helped nearly 80,000 people connect with a community dedicated to sobriety. The app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, uses geosocial networking to help users connect with sober people nearby. It also includes a newsfeed, a sober counter and daily quests to help keep people connected to their sober community.
Perhaps most important, people who feel that they are in danger of relapsing can activate the "Burning Desire" feature and receive immediate support, no matter where they are. And every day, the Sober Grid team is working to improve our app and its features to better support individuals in recovery.
As I know from experience, becoming and remaining sober is anything but easy. Without support networks in place, it almost feels impossible. That's why I'm incredibly proud to have built a platform that connects individuals with a community dedicated to recovering from addiction.
About the author: Beau is the founder and CEO of Sober Grid. Beau has served as Vice President of Sales at Renaissance Art Associates in Houston, President and Owner of Mann Fine Art Galleries in Houston and Vice President of Marketing for the Association of Talent Development in Boston. Beau was previously a Business Development Executive at Omniplex, a leading UK-based e-learning software where he drove their expansion into North America markets. Today, Beau is providing a virtual sober support system to help people stay sober after treatment through Sober Grid.