This past year has been a difficult time for America -- and, safe to say, most of the world.
And especially for addicts and people in recovery, being in isolation, or quarantine, can be a life-or-death situation.
With a vaccine becoming more and more available to the masses, hopefully the worst is behind us when it comes to the pandemic. But for many, there’s still some waiting to do, as the world returns to some form of normalcy.
“This (period of alone time) can be absolutely fatal,” said MJ Gottlieb, a co-founder and CEO of Loosid, an app that serves as a sobriety and recovery community. “A big no-no (for those trying to get or stay sober) is isolation.”
Gottlieb would know.
He struggled with addiction for years. In fact, that’s what led him to create the app.
“I’d been trying to get sober for many, many years,” Gottlieb said. “I’d find myself at diners and coffee shops. And I thought to myself, ‘If this is all there is, (I’m never going to make it).’”
He was accustomed to a life that was a bit more ... fun. So he wanted to create a platform heavy on experiences -- and the unbelievable experiences you can have while choosing to live a sober lifestyle.
Loosid launched in November 2018. It includes sober dating, travel information, community groups, booze-less guides, where to find the best mocktails; you name it. The list goes on.
The app is kind of like Facebook, Gottlieb said, but it’s “sober Facebook.”
“(We wanted) to show (people) the amazing life they can have, and show them they don’t need a social lubricant to socialize. Because it’s not just diners, coffee shops and church basements.”
And that brings us to today.
Quarantine over the past year has meant big life changes for many.
We spent more time at home, we cooked more, we were with our families (at times) 24/7 -- -- or for people who live alone, perhaps it is, or it was, a bit isolating.
And who knows how long things could stay virtual.
“(For addicts), 12-step meetings have moved to online meetings,” Gottlieb said. “Still, you can only go to so many per day. Now it’s the other 23 hours that you need to think about.”
Even for people who don’t consider themselves addicts, maybe some started drinking more than usual because of the anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and all the unknowns.
There does seem to be a community of people who are examining their lifestyles and trying to get healthier -- or using this time to recalibrate. Gottlieb said there has been a lot of interest in Loosid’s “sober curious” groups.
That’s the other thing about the app: It’s not just for those who’ve struggled with drugs or alcohol or people in recovery. It’s all-inclusive. Some people are sober for religious reasons, some do it for health and wellness, and everyone is truly welcome, Gottlieb said. Anyone with an interest in becoming sober can pull up a seat.
When this story was first published, in mid-April 2020, Gottlieb said he has seen 93.8% growth when it comes to app users since March 7.
There had been a lot of activity specifically in chats, hotlines for help and people who need support -- perhaps because they lost their jobs or “they’re going out of their minds because they can’t get to 12-step groups,” as Gottlieb put it.
App creators also saw seeing a huge increase in the number of dating messages sent.
“People are lacking intimacy as well as connection,” Gottlieb said.
Events are a big part of Loosid, as well. Although for now, they’ve obviously moved to virtual events, events are still an option. It’s all about building a community.
Users were diving into groups as well, digging into the concept of mindfulness, focusing on meditation, learning about sobriety and depression; again: you name it and there just might be a group for it. Sober night owls, LGBTQ; people can pick the groups that appeal to them, and immediately start connecting and engaging.
How can the app help?
It’s all about building those connections. There’s even a sobriety help section in which you have different buttons you can choose from.
For example, select “I just relapsed and I need help” or “Weekend and holiday support,” and you’ll be linked with people and resources.
If you need professional support, you can learn about treatment centers in your area.
“Some people are coming out of the hospitality industry -- people with no money, who need help now,” Gottlieb said.
They can find a comprehensive list of centers and information on telehelp, which is professional treatment over the phone. The app is whatever you want to make of it.
You don’t have any interest in dating? Toggle that option away. If you only want to see events, you can easily set that up. If you only want to chat, go for it. It’s a one-stop shop, but you can set up your preferences in the way that best suits your needs. It’s free to download and use.
Gottlieb said he wanted to do this because he was watching too many people die.
“Too many people were isolated,” he said. “Too many people weren’t reaching out, and then I’d be at their funerals.”
If he could get one message across to anyone who’s struggling right now, here’s what Gottlieb shared: “Sadly, our numbers have gone up, and that’s because people are in such desperate need. But this doesn’t cost you anything. We urge people who feel like they’re alone to jump into the community and get engaged.”