Why I wrote an app that calls 911 when you can’t.
This is going to be a very personal post. Some of you that follow my blog might know I’m a musician. I only started again fairly recently last year. After I was sure I was psychologically and physically healthy. The path through which I ended up teaching myself how to develop and deciding what I feel is my most important work is long and winding.
It starts with two women and a music festival afterparty. These two women loved each other and I fell in love with them. We became a band in every sense of the word. Besides each other, music and the concept of polyamory there was something else we loved: Drugs.
Now this isn’t purely an anti-drug blog. There’s safe sane, responsible ways to enjoy drugs and expanding your mind…then there’s being called the “black Charlie Sheen”. It wasn’t even a particular drug it was a daily surreal cocktail of cocaine for breakfast, mdma like people drink coffee for that mid day perk up, and a heroin night cap just to take the edge off.
Yeah my heart hurts just thinking about it now. That’s not counting the random hallucinogens or moments of “what is this even fuck it I’ll pop it”.
Point is, we REALLY started to like the heroin. The cocaine too but that would just be long sessions of doing cocaine a few times a week while the heroin became a habit. Snorting became shooting and some times the shooting would lead to little moments where one of us would nod out and stop breathing.
Now I’m trained as a lifeguard so I know rescue breathing, CPR and could carry through those moments. Sometimes I wouldn’t be around and I’d get a text saying something like “if I don’t text back after x minutes something went wrong”.
This is the seed of a thought that would become my app but we’re still years away.
Eventually we all started to fall out. Fights over trust, so many other things, one day I wasn’t there to check up after one of those texts and this girl passed away. It’s something I still carry to this day to be honest. People say I shouldn’t, there’s nothing I could have done but I can’t let it go.
We dissolved as a band, the other girl just wasn’t cut out for that type of life. She’s very sensitive and public life would have destroyed her worse than it was at that time and even now I think the best thing she did for herself was retire, get clean and become a kindergarten teacher that lights up the eyes of her students at the piano.
I quit the hard way. I felt I deserved some kind of punishment. At that time it was like any pain I felt I deserved. I locked myself in my house with some costco sized pallets of water, gatorade and really did anything I could do to keep my hands busy when I wasn’t on the floor shivering.
Scrubbing walls, cleaning, reading. Eventually I got it in my head to try to learn how to develop games and apps.
In the beginning it was pretty much brute force until something would finally compile close to the way I envisioned it. The process felt like giving birth.(along with guessing where all the damn semicolons went and where they didn’t) My first game Polar Roller barely has any UI elements, same with my gaming news aggretation app ultragamer.
I kept trying to learn though and about a year later I became very ill. That time of illness caused me to re-evaluate many privileges in my life I’d taken for granted. Being mobile, Being a healthy strong man that never really felt fear stopping at a detroit gas station at 2 in the morning feeling that even if attacked I could fight for myself, never having fears about whether or not I would wake up if I slept or in a condition where I couldn’t pick my phone up if the worst happened to me whether I’d fallen down or anything else to call 911.
That as well as my earlier experiences with heroin as well as the fentanyl overdose epidemic and Prince’s death(not only the death but him saying we needed more black developers) are what lead me to create Distress Alarm.
During that time of illness I also had to learn how to cook. It might sound weird but I had never learned that in my adult life. I had to maintain a very specific diet and it wasn’t sustainable eating out as I always had. I began watching a lot of chefs on TV. Particularly Gordon Ramsay. Their attention to detail, presentation from the garnish to how the plate is set up those guys go for the full presentation and that was something I set out to do this time with Distress Alarm.
I could probably have slapped something together in a day that would have had similar function but I really sat down put my head down and grafted everything from UI to the icon, to extra features to try to give users that full package. To try to give something that could have saved my friends life and make it as premium as it can be at no cost to the user.
I’ve had a couple thousand downloads and some features in a couple of sites/mags but it was never about money or accolades. It’s about those days where I get a message from someone saying that the app has saved their life and they are thinking about getting clean, or the app gives them peace of mind walking home at night, or they feel better knowing a loved one has it.
I’m new to Medium and I thought I’d try sharing a personal story here. That’s mine. I’m probably going to stick to music and tech by the way if you’d like to check mine out:
and my app distress alarm:
Thanks for reading!