I Needed Help To Stop Drinking, So I Built My Next Startup
By Mike Russell, CEO & Co-Founder of Monument
This story is reposted from Monument. Monument is an online platform for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol.
My Drinking Years
Most people don’t know I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Friends, employees and even my parents didn’t know that I struggled to control my drinking until I told them. Some as recently as a few weeks ago.
After working in finance out of college I entered the party promotion business with pretty instant success. Partying and drinking became my livelihood, and I was good at it. I would only drink when going out, but I was going out all the time. My binges and 48-hour hangovers came and went and came and went, and no one seemed to be bothered by it.
“Was I addicted to alcohol? I didn’t know where I fit on the spectrum of people with alcohol use issues, or if I qualified at all.”
After seven years of promoting I decided to transition out of that business and ‘settle down,’ but the drinking behaviors followed me into my next chapter. I founded two startups, married my incredible wife, had two beautiful kids, and continued to binge drink. I would only drink once every week or two, but I would find myself out until the morning and sleeping through the days as my kids stirred asking why their dad was so sleepy.
Was I addicted to alcohol? I didn’t know where I fit on the spectrum of people with alcohol use issues, or if I qualified at all. But I knew I wanted to stop drinking and needed help doing it. I knew I felt deeply embarrassed. I searched for support only to find myself feeling more adrift and alone than ever.
I reached out to outpatient centers and the first one to get back to me took three weeks to respond, only to tell me there was a two month waitlist until they could speak with me. I didn’t feel comfortable in the group meetings I tried but desperately wanted to regain control over my life by controlling my drinking.
“That’s why I’m making treatment to help people change their drinking my business. Because while there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to changing your relationship with alcohol, people deserve to have options...”
(See more about personalized treatment options at joinmonument.com)
My breakthrough happened in February of 2018 when I had given up on my online research and group meetings, and asked a sober friend for his advice. He recommended a medication he had been taking that reduced his desire to drink. I learned there were FDA-approved prescription medications to help people moderate or stop their drinking, and that’s when my treatment journey began in earnest.
I saw a glimpse into what my life could be like without alcohol: showing up to a 3-year-old’s birthday party at 11AM instead of sleeping through it, missing work only for family vacations and the occasional fishing trip, being the attentive, high-energy, family-over-everything dad my kids deserve.
I haven’t had a drink since the first day I began my prescription. And there have been moments of weakness and temptation. When I stopped drinking I had to face what I was drowning out with alcohol, and that’s a challenge I confront every day.
No one told me about the anxiety, anger, and impulses that might come with getting sober, and I work through that with therapy. Counseling has helped me develop coping mechanisms and understand those negative feelings. Even through the more trying days and nights I have found that the combination of medication, therapy, and peer support has more power than my drinking. I have found early morning weekend hours are some of my favorites. I have found I’m a pretty awesome dad.
That’s why I’m making treatment to help people change their drinking my business. Because while there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to changing your relationship with alcohol, people deserve to have options. People should be able to get support as soon as they’re ready to take the leap.
They should know about the medication that might have saved my life. They should understand that working with a therapist can transform their recovery. They should know they don’t have to go it alone. Finding other ‘I don’t drink that often but can’t stop once I start’ drinkers in online forums has helped me work through many of my feelings of isolation and shame.
And after hearing stories of people driving hours to free group meetings, lying to their manager about leaving work for therapy, or skipping therapy altogether because of cost or inconvenience, I decided I had to find a way to make treatment accessible and affordable. I did the research, dreamt up my ideal treatment program, and put together a plan: Monument was born.
Monument is an online treatment platform for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol. Designed to support sobriety or moderation, Monument plans are personalized to members’ goals, lifestyles, and preferences.
While I’m proud of my journey, I’m a work in progress. I built Monument for myself as much as I did for the 38 million problem drinkers in the US, and the friends, family, parents, and children of those people. You can find me posting my triumphs and challenges in the Monument community, where our members are encouraged to ask questions and share experiences throughout their journey.
To me, success means getting as many people as possible the help they need whenever they need it, because life shouldn’t have to stop for recovery. Success also means changing how the world views alcohol dependence. I want people to feel proud to share their story and to make the decision to seek treatment. It’s a decision that has given me so much more out of my life.
If you think drinking less can give you or someone you know more, I would be honored if you’d consider joining Monument. And to anyone in recovery, I’m proud to be on this journey with you.
Mike Russell is the co-founder & CEO of Monument, an online treatment platform for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol. Mike is a member of the founding teams of Paintzen (Acquired by PPG Industries), Bombas, Zipdrug, and MyClean, four successful New York City technology startups still operating today. Mike is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor and has dedicated much of his time towards raising money to help children with cancer.