Hive Life speaks to Hello Sunday Morning founder Chris Raine, developer of the Daybreak app that aims to support those trying to quit alcohol.
Our love-hate relationship with alcohol may sometimes be a blurry one, but for many, it’s an unavoidable hurdle. “Drinking is part of the Australian national identity, and a readiness to drink is seen as an admirable trait,” says Chris Raine. “We’re expected to be able to ‘hold our drink’ when we drink in excess, and if we refuse a drink when offered, we’d better have a bloody good reason!” To turn this unhealthy perspective on its head, Chris founded Hello Sunday Morning in 2010, an Australian-based social movement to challenge cultural expectations around drinking alcohol. In 2017, they developed their app Daybreak, which aims to tackle the alcohol problem via smartphones. Featuring an online community support feed where people can anonymise their words of encouragement while making support more easily accessible with health-coach counselling and exercises, their aim is to make quitting alcohol a less daunting task. With over 40,000 online users and counting across Australia and worldwide, Chris talks to Hive Life about how his own story with alcohol inspired him to bring people together.
Surrounded by big drinkers at home and work, Chris decided to take a year out of drinking as an experiment in 2009. “It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he states. Seeing the impact it made on himself, he decided to spark change for others. “Our vision is for a world where everyone has access to the support they need to change their relationship with alcohol in the moment they need it.”
For Chris, our individual journeys with alcohol can start early and stay with us forever. “The pressures start early, resulting in the peaks-and-troughs binge drinking that we see in younger groups. As we grow older, those troughs can tend to disappear and the peaks join together into a continuous, habitual over-usage.” That’s why he designed the app so that it could guide you every step of the way. “Daybreak started when we realised that our Hello Sunday Morning followers needed a more direct way of changing their own alcohol usage behaviours. We felt that a smartphone-based app would allow near-instant access for an unlimited number of people, whenever they felt an urge to slip back into their old ways, and could be designed to incorporate additional resources,” he explains.
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So what does the app actually do? It has three main key functions – the main one being a community support feed where people can share their own stories. With a common goal to achieve together, the platform brings about a unique connection. “The Daybreak community is a strange mixture of people with diverse backgrounds, united by a common experience with alcohol and a shared desire to help each other through the challenges of breaking out of their habits and dependencies,” says Chris. “It’s proven to be powerfully effective. People draw strength from the similar experiences of others, and from giving back support as they face the same challenges,” he adds.
To supplement community-based peer support, the app also offers one-on-one counselling from a health coach for those who want more professional help from a qualified psychologist. And, to make sure newly-formed habits hold strong, they have an ‘experiments’ section with activities and exercises. “It’s a collection of techniques that members can try to help them through some of the common adjustments that members need to make as they change their drinking patterns, including ways of surfing your urges and avoiding triggers.”
Because making the first step to acknowledging an issue with alcohol is never easy, a perk of the community is that you don’t have to make yourself known. “Part of the appeal of Daybreak is its anonymity, so we need to be absolutely respectful about maintaining our members’ privacy,” says Chris. “It’s truly anonymous, and I think that loosens people’s inhibitions and makes it easier to be totally honest.” And, the biggest misconception he faces? “There’s this outmoded idea that you only need to take action if you’re drinking a ridiculous amount. Most people who work in this area now believe that alcohol abuse lies on a spectrum, and you don’t have to be at the far end to benefit from making a change.” Having recently just stepped down as CEO of Hello Sunday Morning, Chris hopes his message and his mission sticks. “The best value of not drinking is that it makes one’s reality super clear – both the good and bad bits of ourselves and others.”