Sober Grid, an app that connects sober people in recovery, officially launched Thursday evening at an event in the Bowery.
The app, which had a soft release in April, already had 23,000 downloads before the launch party. It provides tools for those recovering from alcohol and drug addiction to connect with other sober people by users' locations. Users can message each other and post updates on a news feed. The app has a nearly perfect 5-star rating on iTunes.
The app is a creation of CEO Beau Mann. He said he thought of the idea one year while visiting the Sundance Film Festival. While waiting for friends, he wanted a way to connect with other people in the area.
“We didn’t have a app that was location-based to help you connect with sober people,” Mann said. He noted that other apps exist for specific communities to connect, such as dating apps for LGBT people, but sober people in recovery had few such resources.
Mann believes Sober Grid fulfills two needs for the sober people in recovery: a way to meet other people with similar situations, and a way to share personal updates -- for example, an anniversary of being sober -- that people are often reluctant to post to Facebook or other social networks.
“A lot of people don’t want everyone to know, because it’s just among your sober support group that you want people to know,” said Mann.
Joe Putignano, a writer from Chelsea who has used the app since April, sees the same benefits.
“It brings together a community,” said Putignano, “Addiction really isolates people, but here everyone’s on one network.”
One of Sober Grid’s features called “Burning Desire” lets users put a red box around their profile, signaling anyone nearby that they have a desire to drink or use drugs, and need extra support. The app allows users to remain anonymous, a factor that may encourage more people to join and speak honestly.
“That’s my favorite part,” said Putignano. Although the ability to be anonymous might encourage bad behavior or draw attention from non-sober people, he said so far, there have been little to no problems with trolling or malicious speech on the app.
In fact, the community feeling is strong whether users know each other or not.
"I can see people in recovery all around me,” Tara Conner, former Miss USA, told Metro. Conner hosted the launch party for Sober Grid.
Back in 2006 after winning the Miss USA title, she was involved in public controversey after testing positive for cocaine, crystal meth, and heroin. She was allowed to keep her crown as long as she entered a rehab program. She has now been sober for over eight years.
Conner said the app allows two recovering addicts to meet and share experiences that a non-sober person wouldn’t understand.
“There’s almost an instant friendship that can be made. They may not know your life story, they may not have grown up with you,” Conner said, “But they know what you’re going through.”
Sober Grid is available as a free download for Android and Apple iOS devices, and a paid premium version offers additional features.