On a doldrum winter’s day in February, when my family and I were facing a reality that was both a long time coming and something we’d hoped we would never see, I went for a long, teary-eyed walk. My sister-in-law, Laura, had passed after a week in the hospital on life support after suffering a heart attack on her birthday that her 41-year-old, drug-shattered body couldn’t take. I wondered a lot about how she had gotten there.
Laura was a capable, driven woman until her addictions and mental health illness intersected with devastating times. Even with loved ones pleading with her to come home for support, the threat of prison, the community of halfway houses, and a court-mandated drug program, she was not yet in a place to accept her circumstance and allow herself the help she needed. A month before she died, she had finally admitted to suffering from addictions and wanted to get clean for good. For herself, and for her daughter. She deserved a lot better than the circumstances she’d been served. Every person does.
Yet substance misuse is a tragedy that extends beyond merely the individuals who struggle with it. Meet Natalie — a bubbly, & super imaginative 6-year-old. My daughter who never asked to be caught in the middle of the tortuous struggle her birth mother, Laura, was going through. As a parent, I get to explain things to her like her birth mother wasn’t able to keep her safe, so “you came to live with Grandma, and then Charlie (my partner & Natalie’s uncle) and me” as her “forever home”. Try answering the ‘why’ in ‘ why couldn’t she keep me safe?’ to your sweet 6 year old in a way you think will also preserve her joyful inner world. It’s a heavy feat.
I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity for the best version of themselves in this life. The gift of hope: that it exists, the resolve that they deserve it, and a community of support to light the path to work towards the future that embodies it. Unfortunately for millions of folks struggling with substance misuse around the world, these opportunities feel as though they are very out of reach — a dream promised to many but rarely achieved.
Of all the tools you have in your toolbox, do you have the ones that are improving your quality of life? Or are the tools you have helping you just survive? Can you even pay attention to the tools you have right now, given that we’re in a pandemic, you might be having a hard time at work(never mind the guilt that you have a job when so many don’t), you could be struggling with a loved one, you’re suffering from depression, or [insert yet another tough thing here].
Building habits and adding the tools towards improving your own quality of life is not something most of us were gifted as lessons growing up. How about being generous to yourself when you’re working so hard? Or believing you deserve a good quality of life?
Many people have not been granted the gift of vision big enough to accomplish big, audacious goals. Pushing against your environment, socioeconomic status, health issues, genetics, and plain bad luck puts the odds pretty low at you learning that you can achieve just one of these big goals without having the tools. Just one of the many tools you’ll actually need to thrive.
But time, research, and technology is making strides in changing how people can seek treatment. Mental health treatment is far more available and being in therapy is losing its stigma. How we can help a person suffering substance misuse has so many more options thanks to technology-based interventions that can be reviewed for efficacy, much more quickly from decades past because it’s all digital. What treatment looks like doesn’t have to be in-person at a treatment facility, which can massively reduce cost burden and time away from loved ones. The possibilities are many-it’s a paradoxically hopeful time.
Yet the problem before us as a society is not to be dismissed: it is dire.
“One day at a time, sun gonna shine”
Today there are 19 million Americans classified as needing special facilities treatment due to their level of substance use, but 95% of them don’t think they need that help. Another 65 million Americans (roughly 1 in 5) fit the criteria for problematic drinking and don’t know where to get help. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), over 23 million Americans are classified as addicted to alcohol and other drugs, only 11% received care at a treatment facility. Even once someone struggling with substance misuse acknowledges their reality, their odds of finding a path beyond just surviving are dismal — it takes an average of 10 years to ultimately find sobriety. What of all the people who aren’t quite sure where they sit with their relationship to alcohol / opioids / Xanax / cocaine? Where does that leave them?
75% of rehab patients relapse within the year, and there is little clear transitional support from acute care to long-term recovery. This leaves a recovering person set up for feeling like a failure. Instead, this phase should be a moment anticipated — to pull in the support that was built up in the early recovery period, to stave away judgement and give the person tools to continue on their healing path.
And while programs like AA and NA are lowering the barrier to access through its no cost, widely available in-person meetings, only 10% of Americans will join a program on their journey to recovery, and of those 10% only 25% will go on to maintain sobriety for 1–5 years.
They are missing the support needed to truly make inroads — leading ultimately, annually to over 92,000 overdoses, 94,000 parents separated from children due to their addiction disease, and over 100,000 incarcerated due to drug seeking.
With the reality of what my family had been facing, the acceleration of substance misuse and tragedy in the crisis of the pandemic, and the boost by technology and cultural acceptance that mental health treatment has received in the past several years-we decided that this was a problem that we could solve and there was no better time — with a background in working in addictions, building tech, leadership, and seeing what was truly missing: a personalized, no-cost digital solution to recovery with no abstinence required.
This is why we’ve created Crow & Pitcher.
“With a Little Help From My Friends”, or building a solution
The low-key, no-stigma approach to renegotiating your relationship with [insert substance(s) of choice here].
Crow & Pitcher is not a one-size-fits-all. Curated to your goals, one day at a time. Abstinence not required, because it’s just one tool in the toolbox to get you to a place of thriving and a better quality of life.
Our vision is to remove the barriers for every suffering American to get started on a recovery path. Before the spiral — helping build your belief that there is a better quality of life achievable, teaching you the power of trying (and tripping sometimes), and showing that you deserve a path to get there. And we’re there for you for the long haul if you want us in maintenance mode, to help maintain the good habits and continue encouraging you along your journey.
At no cost to the patient and a friendly onboarding experience, a primary goal at Crow & Pitcher is one of low barrier to entry and access. Cost is innovation, and if people can’t afford our technology, we won’t be making the change that needs to happen.
As we move forward in building Crow & Pitcher, you’ll hear more from us about growing this startup, working within a public benefit framework, product building and design, and how we are cultivating relationships that are contributing to the world we want to help shape — where everyone deserves their best quality of life. To that end, we’re a public benefit corporation, because we believe that our values need to be aligned towards our community and the patients we serve, and that steers our north star through accountability.
If you’re interested in joining the waitlist for our recovery app, sign up here.
If you’re curious how you can help turn the tide on the recovery of millions of Americans, whether through investing in us or working with us to build the next generation, personalized digital recovery app, reach out to me.
1: Rachel N. Lipari, Ph.D, Eunice Park-Lee, Ph.D., and Struther Van Horn, M.A.2016, September 26. America’s need for and receipt of substance use treatment in 2015. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_2716/ShortReport-2716.html
2: NIH: Alcohol Facts and Statistics. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-
3: Forbes. 2020, June 3. Inside The $35 Billion Addiction Treatment Industry. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2015/04/27/inside-the-35-billion-addiction-treatment-industry
4: Hasin DS, Stinson FS, Ogburn E, Grant BF. Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity
of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and Dependence in the United States: Results From the National
Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64(7):830-
“Overdoses “: The Deadliest Year in Drug History. January 28, 2021 retrieved from https://www.addictioncenter.com/news/2021/01/2020-deadliest-year-drug-history/
“Unfit parents”: Child Welfare and Alcohol and Drug Use Statistics. 2019. retrieved from https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/research/child-welfare-and-treatment-statistics.aspx
“Incarcerated for drug seeking”: BJS report: Drug abuse and addiction at the root of 21% of crimes. 2017, June 28. retrieved from https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2017/06/28/drugs/