WeConnect is an app to support addiction recovery




Keeping close, quantified track of personal progress is absolutely imperative for one group of people: recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. And it’s this often isolated segment of society that the startup behind the WeConnect app is aiming to help.

The team was chosen as today’s wildcard battlefield startup here at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016, plucked from silicon alley to present their product on stage. They also won theTechCrunch Seattle Meet-Up this summer.

Their app-based support platform includes context-sensitive notifications to encourage timely communication within support groups; a dashboard view that structures the user’s day with activities they view as beneficial to their wellbeing (such as prayer or meditation); and ongoing tracking of their personal progress at attending recovery program meetings — including using geofencing to determine they really attended a particular meeting and even how long they spent there.

It also includes an SOS button a user can press to send a message requesting specific pre-slected contacts get in touch — for moments when they’re feeling really low or in need of immediate support.

The startup behind WeConnect, which describes itself as a social purpose corporation, is using technology to try to combat the sense of isolation that can cause addicts to relapse, says co-founder Daniela Tudor.

Tudor, a former addict herself, came up with the idea for the app during her time in rehab after realizing she wanted a way to stay in contact with the people she met during her recovery program — and who helped her stay on track.

“There’s three components to recovery,” she explains, demoing the app. “One is communication. So adding your connections; the second is clarity — so that’s whatever activity you consider part of your recovery, that keeps you centered and a good connection in relation with yourself. The third party of the recovery, which is probably the most crucial, initially especially, is what your in person support routine is — so that’d include any of these 12-step or CBT cognitive behavioral therapy sessions.”

There’s also a rewards element built in to the app, with users able to earn things like coffee coupons and yoga lessons as they build progress towards their goals. She notes the team intentionally stayed away from loading too much gamification into the app to avoid making the technology itself potentially problematic.

“We give rewards that feedback into your recovery loop, like yoga, fitness classes, coffee coupons. We didn’t want to gamify it too much because we believe that triggers another addiction — which is technology. So we’re giving only activities out or rewards that feed the person’s soul or their connection to their community or their own recovery.”

Unlike other recovery or wellness apps she says WeConnect is private — pointing out there’s no way to search for other users on the app; it’s necessary to have a fellow user’s email and phone number in order to add them as a contact.

“They have to confirm that you want them as part of your network. We’re also HIPAA compliant,” she adds.

As well as helping former addicts to keep on track, the team is also providing data to the treatment providers who are working with them. They’re intending to monetize via this route in time, although their primary mission is a social one, to support as many addicts as possible, says Tudor.

“For the treatment providers the huge value adds that we are is obviously improving outcomes gets them more referrals. The other part is that we provide them valuable data. Insurance companies are starting to cover treatment less and less — they’re looking for actual data-centric tools that can measure the success rate of programs, and how effective the approach,” she says.

“The data’s out there that relapse rates are extremely high… It’s actually an opportunity for them to take that data and improve, and keep also centres and other providers accountable to a healthy treatment program that actually saves lives and reduces relapse,” she adds.

Tudor has been working on the app since 2014, meeting one of her co-founders at a Startup Weekend event.

The closed beta of WeConnect was launched this June — it’s currently being used by in-patient treatment/rehab centers in Arizona, Washington and California as the team gathers more data to be able to prove their app can reduce relapse rates. After that, they intend to make their pitch to insurance companies.

Beyond the initial focus on drug and alcohol addiction Tudor says they see potential to expand the support tech to address a broad spectrum of recovery needs, such as eating disorders and even people on domestic violence rehab programs.

They’ve raised a $525,000 seed round of funding thus far, from strategic investor Steve Moak of Benevolent Ventures — and are now looking to raise a $3 million Series A at a $15 million valuation.


Judges Q&A

Q: Have you tested this and do you have evidence of success and efficacy?
A: We just started our early adopter program but we’ve had clients that have been using the platform who’ve told us it has definitely improved their accountability and communication. And we also track data on a daily basis to see how much people are on the app, what they’re interacting with on there, and what they’re staying accountable to.

Q: One thing I was wondering is can individuals who use WeConnect find someone else to connect to on the app?
A: When they’re on-boarded they have to add a minimum of two connections… but that’s up to the individual to be empowered and create that accountability community around them.

Our app is very private so you’re not searchable. And we’re also HIPAA compliant so you create your own circle of accountability on there.

Q: I see why you’re going to treatment programs first. It is a smaller market but you have a better chance of having people fully engage with the product… But what use cases could you potentially just use parts of the product for? Is it an all or nothing thing? Or is there a partial way that still has value for a potentially larger market.
A: We’re planning to also go for eating disorders, domestic violence recovery, and create another standalone product for tech recovery. And then there is potentially even larger markets beyond that.

Q: The people who were facing these programs before you had this app, it was all paper and phone calls? Tell me more about that? And from your tests what is the most valuable feature people have said they found in the app?
A: When I walked out of treatment 28 days sober I had to get out of a bad relationship and go to meetings… all of that is extremely overwhelming… This creates a tight accountability and instant support network in your pocket… That’s how we’re solving that problem.

The second question, they’ve said there’s two things: one, just seeing their progress from the past week when they’re getting down on themselves has been rewarding. And then the rewards themselves, they’re motivating them to do more activities than they would do in the first place.

Q: Is it too early to tell or could it dramatically increase results in recovery?
A: Yes, that’s our goal.

Q: What’s the business model thinking?
A: Currently we’re in the early adopter program. That price point is $365 – so $1 a day for a 12 months subscription per patient that we provide to the patient treatment center. That’s just our early adopter program pricing because it’s new. So we’re going to determine a different pricing model after that. But b2b.

Q: So the treatment provider pays not the patient?
A: So it depends. Some treatment centers are footing the cost themselves and some of them are taking that cost and putting it within the aftercare plan that they have for their patient – which also includes outpatient and check ins and a couple of oher features. So it depends. It’s a personal choice for the treatment center. But we bill the treatment center.

Q: Do insurance companies or medicare cover addiction programs?
A: They do. And we were approached today by two insurance companies and they’re really excited about what we’re doing but again the reason we want to be patient first is to get that data to give a really robust presentation to insurance companies.

Q: What’s your specific advantage? The technology is not difficult right so anyone could potentially do the same thing. Is your advantage in your experience?
A: I come from tech but I’m also in recovery. And my business partner also came from that space but having relationships in the recovery community that are really important to have. He does strategic partnerships and we both have experience in this space… Not anybody can just do this.


BOOK: Between Breaths by Elizabeth Vargas

From the moment she uttered the brave and honest words, “I am an alcoholic,” to interviewer George Stephanopoulos, Elizabeth Vargas began writing her story, as her experiences were still raw. Now, in BETWEEN BREATHS, Vargas discusses her accounts of growing up with anxiety-which began suddenly at the age of six when her father served in Vietnam-and how she dealt with this anxiety as she came of age, to her eventually turning to alcohol for relief. She tells of how she found herself living in denial, about the extent of her addiction and keeping her dependency a secret for so long. She addresses her time in rehab, her first year of sobriety, and the guilt she felt as a working mother who had never found the right balance.

Honest and hopeful, BETWEEN BREATHS is an inspiring read.

How I Live With Addiction Every Day: Amber Valletta

from: MindBodyGreen

Supermodel, actress, and fashion icon Amber Valletta opens up for the first time ever about the daily struggle of living with addiction.



Can a pill cure alcoholism? Film looks at how prescription drugs can fight addiction


Between one and 10 per cent of Canadians receive evidence-based treatment.

Mike Pond,Vancouver psychotherapist and an alcoholic, and his partner, Maureen Palmer, set out to make a film exploring the latest science on addiction treatment.


VIDEO: http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=2680839377

Research shows that addiction is approximately 60 per cent inherited and 40 per cent environment.

Their documentary Wasted by Bountiful Films, airs Jan. 21 on The Nature of Things on CBC-TV


VIDEO: http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=2680642946


People with a substance abuse problem are three times more likely to have a mental illness.

In this segment The Current spoke to:

  • Mike Pond,  psychotherapist in private practice.
  • Maureen Palmer, filmmaker and journalist.
  • Dr. Evan Wood, professor of medicine and Canada research chair at UBC.  He’s also an addiction physician and medical director for Addiction Services for Vancouver Coastal Health.

If you, or a loved one, have struggled with alcoholism and getting treatment, or if you have experience with the medications for alcoholism, let us know how effective they were for you.  

Send us an email. Reach out on Facebook or on Twitter@TheCurrentCBC.

This segment was produced by The Current’s Liz Hoath.

Professional cellist reveals she hid her alcohol addiction by sipping vodka on stage from a water bottle

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3397499/Professional-cellist-reveals-hid-alcohol-addiction-sipping-vodka-stage-water-bottle.html#ixzz3xKTka6KF


Rachael, pictured performing Scala at London, recalls how she would perform on stage at venues like The Royal Albert Hall and lean down to have sips of alcohol from her water bottle in every break


An award-winning cellist who has been on tour with London Grammar and worked with Beyoncé and Alt-J has revealed how her life was nearly ruined by an addiction to alcohol.

Rachael Lander, 31, from South London has been sober for eight years after realising she was risking her career, health and happiness with her dependency.

At the height of her problem, she was decanting vodka into water bottles first thing in the morning in supermarket toilets so she could sip the alcohol in secret on stage.

‘I was doing some high powered stuff playing in professional orchestras but I was doing it drunk,’ she admitted, sharing her story in a new Channel 5 documentary on alcoholism airing this evening.

Rachael recalls how she would perform on stage at venues like The Royal Albert Hall and lean down to have sips of alcohol from her water bottle in every break in her performance.

She said: ‘I would think “I just have to get through to that sip”, that was how I was living.

‘I spent a lot of time in the public toilets of supermarkets putting own brand supermarket vodka into water bottles and then wrapping the glass bottle and putting it in the Tampax bin quietly.

‘I would see myself from above and think “what is wrong with this picture? How did this happen?”‘

She believed her high-pressured career was to blame after she discovered her love of the cello at the age of eight and followed in the footsteps of her parents to become a professional musician like them.

‘I really fell in love with the instrument, I really wanted to be the best cellist and I worked really hard, sometimes I think it was my first addiction, it gave me an escape from myself,’ she said.

She attended the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester and then joined the National Youth Orchestra where she would take part in the BBC Proms led by world-class conductors.

But as much as she loved the cello, she said performing under such pressure in front of large audiences with renowned conductors caused her to feel anxious and nauseous.

‘When I was sitting in orchestra sections my heart would start beating and I could feel adrenaline like a chemical,’ she said.

‘I was really conscious of the fact there was lots of people there looking at me and I had to keep my s**t together otherwise everyone would know.

‘I was angry with myself all the time, I thought “pull yourself together”.’

Teenage heartbreak then led her to discover that alcohol could banish her feelings of fear and anxiety.

She said: ‘I had a break-up when I was 17, I felt awful and I drank a brandy and it took the edge off.

‘I thought, “hello that’s it”, from that minute the link had been made in my head, you don’t have to take it anymore, you can feel like this, I used to take it like medicine.’

Rachael said she started to carry vodka in her handbag ‘just in case’ she needed a sip to calm her nerves ‘and be able to function’ and this led to her drinking it throughout the day.

Like many alcoholics, she didn’t think she had a problem.

‘The real tragedy of alcoholism is you are the only person who doesn’t know you have got it,’ she admits.

As she continued to feel unhappy, she believed her career was to blame so she decided to give up playing the cello and become a waitress.

‘I thought there is no way I will drink like this as a waitress because I won’t be scared all the time,’ she said.

However she admits it was then ‘bewildering and depressing to find on her way to work as waitress I would feel panicky and need a drink and then I would be a drunk waitress.

‘I remember thinking “f*** it is not the cello, it is me”.’

Rachael shares her story in the Channel 5 documentary along with other alcoholics who reveal how they became addicted and then finally found the road to recovery after realising they had a problem.

As she kept losing jobs because of her alcohol addiction she knew she had to get help as ‘I couldn’t live the way I was but I couldn’t live without the alcohol either.’

After confiding in a therapist, Rachael was referred to group therapy sessions with other addicts which helped her deal with her problem.

She said speaking to others who knew exactly how she felt made a huge difference.

‘People would say “just cut down” they didn’t understand,’ she said.

‘At the meetings I met people who did understand and they didn’t judge, they weren’t even sympathetic, they just said “yes”.’

It was also at the meetings that she met her husband, Rob, and they now have a baby together.

Rachael has been sober for eight years and picked up her cello again with her career going from strength to strength.

In recent years, she has recorded with artists including Beyoncé, Rudimental and George Michael.

She also appeared on a Channel 4 programme Addicts’ Symphony in 2014, where ten classical musician – whose lives had been blighted by addiction – were brought together for a special concert.

However mother Rachael admits she is ‘terrified of falling off the wagon’ and now won’t touch alcohol at all.

She said: ‘I don’t think I am recovered alcoholic. I am a recovering alcoholic. If I have a drink I know all the good stuff I have done will be gone.

‘People say “you will have a drink eventually right?” But now I feel would rather have my leg amputated than have a drink.’

Speaking about how she has managed to kick the habit, she said: ‘To get to that point of realising I could never drink again it had to sink in.

‘I had to realise I am an alcoholic, I am powerless over my desire to drink and when I start, I can’t stop drinking.

‘Sobriety has been an exercise in feeling difficult stuff and not using anything on it.’

I’m An Alcoholic: My Name Is is on Channel 5 this evening (Wednesday) at 10pm 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3397499/Professional-cellist-reveals-hid-alcohol-addiction-sipping-vodka-stage-water-bottle.html#ixzz3xKUMYGEQ

THE LAST HURDLE: How chef Matty Matheson beat alcoholism

Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 01, 2016 1:59PM EST
Last updated Friday, Jan. 01, 2016 2:27PM EST

The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail

What does it take to vault a personal obstacle? This is part of a collection of stories in which five Canadians reflect on leaping over the barrier that was holding them back. Read the other stories here.

I have been a psychopath since forever, an all-or-nothing kind of guy. I remember going to concerts at an early age. I would sneak into bars at 16, and I got my first tattoo at 17. I got kicked out of high school for fighting. I beat up a kid pretty bad.

Me and my friends would drive around on the hoods of our cars. We were the kings of bush parties. We’d bring out drums and have big fires, and the after-party was always at my house.

Eventually, I got into culinary school at Humber. It was the only college I got accepted to. I had a natural ability, and I instantly loved it. After, I got a job at Le Sélect Bistro. That was where I learned to make classic French food, where I fell in love with everything.

Then I worked at La Palette, and that was debauchery. You want to talkKitchen Confidential? That was us drinking every night, doing drugs, partying. It was an actual pirate ship. I’ve never listened to more Tom Waits in my life.

When I opened Oddfellows, it was just an extension of that. All I had to do was cook good food, and I could party. You drink till 6 a.m., you sleep till 11. Then on your days off, you drink really hard.

When Parts and Labour hit, it got crazy. There were no rules. It was the craziest restaurant, the loudest restaurant in the city. I could party even harder, because I had a team, and I didn’t have to cook cook any more. I was doing drugs and alcohol every day. We had the perfect space for it. I’d do anything. I loved coke, I loved MDMA, ecstasy, K. I’d take any pill. Smash three Ms, do an eight-ball.

Then, when I was 29, I had a heart attack. Everything kind of caught up. I woke up with this crazy pain. It was like something was gripping my heart, and I couldn’t make it stop. It was something I’ve never felt.

Doctors said I was lucky to be alive. I was in the hospital for five days, back to work in 10. I was supposed to take time off, but restaurants don’t stop. I quit partying for about three months. Then I had a drink, and all of a sudden, I was back in the grips of partying.

My friends, my girlfriend, everyone was worried about me. I didn’t care that I’d had a heart attack, but everyone else did. I had drug dealers that wouldn’t sell me drugs. I started going to different bars, and I started getting different drug dealers.

I didn’t want the party to be over, but everyone was getting off the party. Everyone was growing up, and everyone was trying to make Parts and Labour a really good restaurant. And I kept on being the kid. Everyone was just tired of Matty fucking everything up.

I kind of had an intervention. It was three friends, and they just said, “You’re done.” And I said, “Okay, I’m done.” I haven’t had a drop in two years. It’s still an ordeal every day. I travel the world, and I can’t drink wine. I miss drinking really good wine and beer.

My identity was the party guy. Any chef that came from out of town would come and want to party. Chefs love living well, but there’s a fine line between living well and going past excess. Like why are you chugging champagne? I was the loudest, the craziest. I was the showboat.

Everything has changed in those two years. I’ve filled up with other shit. I oversee four restaurants. I’m working on an international show with Vice; I’m working on a cookbook. I’m about to have a kid. I can do everything, because I’m never hung over. I wake up in the morning, and I get a lot done before noon. I never used to wake up before noon.

This has given me everything I ever wanted. Now I’m at the beginning of who I actually am. The best version of me is this. It’s not the party guy, it’s not the drunk funny chef. It’s me.

How Much Alcohol Is Safe? Perhaps Less Than We Thought


JAN 8, 2016 @ 01:00 PM

The British government has just updated its guidelines for how much alcohol is safe to consume, based on the latest research. The recommendations are stricter than earlier ones, which had been issued back in 1995, and were due a tweaking. And interestingly, they come in the same week as the U.S. issued its new and somewhat vaguer dietary guidelines, which sparked serious controversy in the other direction–with critics arguing they were far less strict and scientifically grounded than they should be. So should we follow the more sciencey lead of the Brits? Possibly–but remembering that moderation is generally good advice for most things.

Photographer: Martin Divisek/Bloomberg

The major change in the U.K.’s new guidelines, issued by Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, is that both sexes should follow the same advice: Men and women alike should stick to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which is the equivalent of five to six pints of beer, or six to seven glasses of wine, per week. The previous upper recommendation for men had been 21 units per week, and 14 units for women. So what’s really changed is that the recommendations for men have been reduced to what they’ve been for women for a long time. The hope is that the risk of disease, cancer in particular, will also be reduced with the new recommendations.

The authors add that there’s really no safe level of drinking–any level, they say, carries some health risk with it–except for women over 55. “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone,” said Davies, “but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low.” For women over the age of 55, five units per week offers some heart benefit, but over this amount, the benefit disappears.

And for pregnant women, a glass here or there won’t do. Although total abstinence during pregnancy has in the U.S. been somewhat more a subject for debate in recent years, the new recommendations in Britain make clear that abstinence is best. “I want pregnant women to be very clear that they should avoid alcohol as a precaution,” said Davies. “Although the risk of harm to the baby is low if they have drunk small amounts of alcohol before becoming aware of the pregnancy, there is no ‘safe’ level of alcohol to drink when you are pregnant.”

Finally, a person shouldn’t “save up” their drinking all for one night of the week. That is, 14 units on a Saturday night is much more hazardous to one’s health than having two units per night. Binge drinking has in recent years had some damning research behind it, as at the same time it’s become clear that more people binge drink than previously thought.

Some critics have condemned the new recommendations for being too strict and serving as an example of government fear-mongering. But as Davies told the BBC, this isn’t scare tactics, it’s science. “If you take 1,000 women, 110 will get breast cancer without drinking. Drink up to these guidelines and an extra 20 women will get cancer because of that drinking. Double the guideline limit and an extra 50 women per 1,000 will get cancer. Take bowel cancer in men: if they drink within the guidelines their risk is the same as non-drinking. But if they drink up to the old guidelines an extra 20 men per 1,000 will get bowel cancer. That’s not scaremongering, that’s fact and it’s hard science.”

Whether other countries will follow suit remains to be seen. The new U.K. recommendations are now the tightest in Europe–and given how fuzzy the new dietary guidelines in the U.S. are, we may not jump on the strict-and-sciencey bandwagon any time soon. But if nothing else, maybe the U.K.’s move will make policy makers in the U.S. and other countries think about putting science first, and standing behind it.