One of the big helps in 12-step programs is the existence of sponsors: people who are willing to take your call anytime, so if you find yourself at the brink you can get a boost of willpower from a friend.
(Say you’re super-depressed after losing a love one, or having a relationship break up, or getting fired. You desperately want to ease the pain with your drug or alcoholic drink of choice. Your willpower is spent, and you find yourself at the convenience store, a six-pack of beer in your hand, approaching the register.
You remember where this leads for you. So you call your sponsor – a friend you made at Alcoholics Anonymous – to ask for strength to not buy your fix.
They answer, though they’ve been asleep now for an hour. They talk you down. Remind you of how much better sobriety is. You find the modicum of strength to return the beer to the fridge, and leave the store.)
Now, if you’ve never been to a recovery meeting, or gotten a sponsor, maybe you could call a friend – but maybe they don’t understand why you’re calling so late, and figure they can call you back in the morning. Or, maybe, you don’t have a friend you think you could call. Now what? You’re alone, on top of everything else, and you just know the beer will fix everything.
So, how about this for an app idea? A button that’s labeled “HELP” – you push it, and it connects you to somebody else with the app, opening a chat session, with the alternative to place a call.
Yeah, it’s a stranger, but it’s a stranger who understands your battle. They’re battling the same forces themselves. They generously take the time to talk you down.
You like this stranger, so you click “SAVE CONTACT,” and now you have an anonymous (unless they gave you their name) friend you can contact directly next time, building up an address book of potential sponsors.
If you’re on the receiving end of a request for help, you won’t always be able to help. So, you can click “PASS” or “CANCEL,” and the app looks for another person who could help. The original asker doesn’t see this process, necessarily – they might just notice it takes a minute or two longer to get a response.
When setting up the app, you can put in your zip code, and choose to find sponsors near or far, depending on how frightened you might be of losing your anonymity.
You can both click “CALL” if the chat isn’t working well for this emergency, and the app’s home server makes a call to both phones and connects them. Or if that’s too technologically expensive, users just opt to give out their number to the sponsor they’re chatting with, and the sponsor clicks it and calls the person directly.
You also put in your gender, so that it matches you up with people you won’t end up in an affair with. (An important feature for people struggling with sex or porn addiction.)
I don’t know how this app can pay for itself – I wouldn’t trust ads that might be in and of themselves triggers for whatever the addict is fighting. But I don’t want people to have a purchase as a barrier to entry. Maybe rehab clinics pay to be sponsors, and can encourage folks to come in? But that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe we just find some altruistic sponsors for the server load on the back end? Dunno.
Any recovering addicts out there want to chime in on what they think? Would you use it when you’re fighting temptation?