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Sober Sidekick: The Empathy Algorithm That’s Changing Lives

Chris Thompson is a grateful guy.

He’s grateful for the success he’s found with Sober Sidekick, the app and healthcare engagement platform he designed to help people struggling with substance abuse maintain their sobriety.

Chris is also grateful for his own sobriety, which came only after years of struggle.

“The toughest climbs,” Chris said, “lead to the best views.”

Using the Empathy Algorithm designed by Chris, Sober Sidekick empowers a community of people who can empathize with each other, regardless of one’s emotional or physical state, by connecting through modern technology.

Sober Sidekick is driven by messages posted on the engagement platform, and private messages sent through the app, all of which strengthen the fabric of this online community.

The philosophy behind Sober Sidekick is simple—the more support you give to other members, the more you receive in return. All posts are anonymous, but they all carry tremendous potential to change lives for the better.

Chris said it all comes back to overcoming isolation by hopefully meeting the right person at the right time. Both of these things, Chris added, were crucial to his recovery and he hopes to help others through his engagement platform.

“For years, I had thought that the best case scenario for me was a quick and early death,” Chris said, “I was hopeless for years and now I get to be part of the solution.”

Chris grew up in the Philadelphia area and started drinking alcohol in his second year of college. From there, through college, his substance abuse continued with alcohol and drugs.

During college, Chris launched his first startup, an app where undiscovered musicians could gain feedback on their music by providing feedback to other musicians. Splash Flood went viral on Twitter the day it was launched, with 40,000 downloads. But things stalled because of a lack of tech people needed to perform fixes.

“The app kind of epically crashed and burned,” Chris said.

But not long after the crash and burn, Chris started learning how to code.

“I wanted to try again, at some point in the future,” he said.

Chris continued to engage in substance abuse during college, and things got progressively worse afterward.

“By the time I was 21-22, it had become very unmanageable, “ he said.

Then Chris experienced what he described as “a major incident in my life…a traumatic event where, after that, alcohol became my only solution. I didn’t know how to talk. I was isolating. It was overnight that I didn’t know how to handle my emotions.”

He added, “I tried my best to not feel anything but it was a steep cliff I went off.”

Chris made repeated trips to the emergency room. He was incapable of finishing anything. He pushed people away and experienced suicidal thoughts.

“It was three years of going down a really dark path,” Chris said.

Then came a day he would always remember—Thanksgiving 2018.

“I woke up on the sidewalk for the fourth day in a row,” Chris said. “I had nowhere to go, no phone, no wallet. I was just like, ‘How did it get to this point?’

“That is now what I call day one of my comeback story. It’s the day I committed to myself in recovery. I have not had a drink or drugs since that day. But that was definitely a rock bottom that I never thought I would hit.”

Chris had a couple of good friends who had just gotten sober. And he had a friend Bill who ran something of a substance abuse halfway house.

“I just walked in and said, ‘I need help.’”

Chris spent 30 days in a treatment center, got out, entered a halfway house and was very grateful to have known, “the right people at the right time.”

This entire experience got Chris to maintain his sobriety. He was also moved to harness the power of community through technology.

“I got to thinking, ‘How can we build technology that would create a world where meeting the right people, connecting with the right people at the right time is no longer left to chance?’” he said. “I was realizing that I wouldn’t be alive had I not connected with the right people at the right time.”

So the first day Chris spent sober was also the day he embarked on the path that prompted him to launch Sober Sidekick.

“The empathy algorithm popped into my head,” he said. “I hit the ground running and started coding that night.”

Thirty days later, Chris was 60 days sober and his Sober Sidekick engagement platform was live in the Apple app store.

Since then, the platform has grown to 180K total users and over 5K written reviews, many of which claim—“Sober Sidekick saved my life.” The American Heart Association is the lead investor in Sober Sidekick, and Chris Thompson recently won the NWA Innovator of the Year Award.

Now, Chris and the Sober Sidekick team see a clear path to scale to millions of members and disrupt the $43B substance abuse industry; while leading all toward a model that is human-centric and outcome-driven.

“Our core thesis is that the opposite of addiction is connection and isolation is the real enemy here,” he said. “I’m so glad to be part of the solution.”

Visit sobersidekick.com to learn more.

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