Interview by Chris Heide
Chosen Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Daniela Luzi Tudor about WEConnect, an innovative tool looking to impact the world of recovery.
Chosen: Tell us a little about how you decided to start WEconnect:
Daniela: I co-founded a start-up in the music-technology-art space, and it started going south due to my substance use. My co-founder, Adrienne Trewolla, who is my best friend today, showed me unconditional love for the first time in my life and helped me see that I needed help. Going through that process of trying to stop my addiction to drugs and alcohol alone and failing, headed for suicide, losing everything I had, and finding recovery through a variety of tools and methods built my purpose to start WEconnect.
Chosen: What does WEConnect do?
Daniela: WEConnect, the mobile app, helps those in recovery to schedule all of their recovery activities of mind, body, and spirit. Anything that has a timeframe and location, the individual can accrue points for completing those activities; whether it is the gym, 12 step meeting, or sponsor call. When there is a decline in completing these activities, automated notifications get sent to the support network they are connected too in a gentle way, giving their peers, counselors, and loved ones the opportunity to reach out in a meaningful way and deter relapse. When the individual is completing their activities, they can accrue points for healthy rewards that encourage human connection: fitness classes, coffee coupons, and in the fall we will be releasing a much broader experience based rewards system!
Chosen: Can you explain how the app emphasizes communication, clarity, and sober support?
Daniela: These are the three categories that make up a wholesome recovery. Sober support includes all meetings and events such as 12-step meetings, therapy of all modalities, church, and all modalities of coaching. Clarity encompasses activities that help one build a relationships within themselves or spirituality such as meditation, prayer, exercise, and creative activities. The last section, communication, encourages the individual to add their support network and schedule in app calls / meetings with them: counselors, P.O's, peers, sponsors.
Chosen: How can the use of technology and social media be useful to individuals in recovery?
Daniela: Why is it an important tool? It can be a vehicle to relate and connect with others which is a contradiction to how isolating the chronic illness of addiction truly can be. It's an important tool to move information, human connection, and resources quicker and better than ever before to help people anywhere, anytime; or more importantly, just in time when it matters the most.
Chosen: What are the pratfalls of the use of technology to individuals in recovery? How does WEConnect counteract those potential pratfalls?
Daniela: The pitfall is that using technology could foster disconnection and encourage isolation if built incorrectly. For this reason, we built the app in a way that it increases awareness between individuals of what is actually happening in the recovery, communicating that as quickly as possible with the people that matter the most and empowering them to communicate. Before our app, someone could disappear from a support group after a whole week has gone by, but with our app peers can notice a decline in recovery activities instantly and give a positive nudge and call to get a friend back on track!
Chosen: Do you feel the principle of anonymity is at risk when individuals rely on social media and technology to booster their recovery?
Daniela: Technology was and always will be a vehicle for boosting recovery. The difference is that in the 1930's it was a book, paper, and meetings. Today, the mobile phone is that vehicle. Even though my philosophy to de-stigmatize and allow people to get more access to care is to be open about it, we also understand that anonymity is important to others. Due to this, on our app, the individual is empowered to connect to only persons they know and want to stay accountable to. No one is searchable on our app and we are HIPAA compliant.
Chosen: Is it possible that using applications such as WEConnect can lead to possible further addictive behaviors, such as an over reliance on social media and technology?
Daniela: YES, they COULD... but we are very strict, mindful, and obsessive about building it in a way that it yields reward and engagement based on human connections and true involvement in one's recovery not in a highly gamified, unhealthy manner.