No longer helping from the sidelines

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View from the sideline...

I know many people who have suffered from alcoholism; young, old, educated, and ignorant. This proximity has given me a unique perspective on the challenges and an inherent desire to help those people.

The question has always been... what can I do?

After thinking about it for a few weeks, the answer became clearer. People trapped in addiction have a difficult time seeing an alternative, a future without their captor. The future is murky and unless those goals are written down and reinforced daily they are easily forgotten. Sobriety goals are good but they must be something more, they must be personal and powerful to the individual. 

Enter Don...

Don is an iPhone app designed to help people overcome alcoholism. 

The Inspiration

 Don was inspired by Mad Men. Image credit: AMC

Don was inspired by Mad Men. Image credit: AMC


The Technology

The core idea behind Don is to provide a consistent partner in your journey to sobriety. A partner who won't judge and won't get tired but is already ready to be helpful. Since most people carry their phones daily, an app is a logical place to have this partner. 

Sobriety Counter

Don tracks your sobriety day by day. Creating an intuitive desire to keep up the pattern of success by not breaking the pattern. This repetitive desire to not "return to zero", is a strong battle march in the short and long term.


Don unites personal goals with the user's length of sobriety by having them write a goal for each sobriety milestone. What would you accomplish if you were sober for 1 day? How about 3, or 7, or 14? You might think, "Well, not very much". But even these small goals have value. A 1 day goal may be an important task like throwing away all the beer in the house or simple reading a book and going to bed earlier. Now imagine 14 days... Could it be to go back to the gym. How about 90 days? Now imagine, 365 days. As your goals get bigger and further out into the future, you can start to think of the fundamental things that could change in your life without alcohol

By writing these goals out, the user is openly saying to themselves that they can have a future beyond alcoholism and they know what they want when they do. These goals are then reinforced at every opportunity to remind the user why they are choosing to be sober.

Practical Help

Don goes beyond psychology and gives practical ways to help with sobriety. Since temptations may be associated to location, having the ability to leave is extremely important. Don does this by building Uber right into the app. Press the button and an Uber will come and get you. 

On a lighter side, if you're feeling a little tempted, press the Distract Me button and Don will open up a random web link for you to read. 

Don also helps you connect with your accountability partners, AA sponsor, or caring friends by always having their numbers close at hand to call or text.

Help with Setbacks

Having setbacks is an unfortunate part of the journey but Don makes the experience more about growth than failure or disappointment. If a person has a setback and drinks, the sobriety clock restarts and the user is guided to read their goals again and put themselves back on the train to success. By returning to the goals, it reinforces just how important these are to the journey of overcoming alcoholism. 


Lean startup approach

Don was created with the minimum number of features that I believed were necessary to make the app useful. This means that with every new update, Don will get better. To make this possible a feature request and voting system was built into Don so users could communicate what they thought might be helpful and how it could impact their journey.



Overcome alcoholism like a boss