Sober Sidekick: Redefining Addiction Recovery with the Power of Empathy and Technology

Amir Bakian
3 min readJun 5, 2023

The difference between sympathy and empathy is subtle but distinct.

According to Merriam-Webster, sympathy is, “The act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another.”

Empathy, on the other hand, is, “The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

As someone who maintains a rigid adherence to his path of sobriety, Chris Thompson is less interested in your sympathy, but has plenty to share about empathy.

Empathy, in fact, is a driving force in Chris’s life.

As the developer of the Sober Sidekick engagement platform, Chris is working as hard as he can to bring empathy into the lives of those struggling with and recovering from substance abuse.

The Sober Sidekick app revolves around the Empathy Algorithm, which works under-the-radar to ensure that members of the Sober Sidekick online community respond within seconds or minutes whenever someone reaches out for support through a post on the platform. The goal is simple: to reduce and eliminate isolation.

Chris is also working to eliminate the chance factor that so often defines the meeting of the right person at the right time to help someone facing substance abuse issues. The main objective of Sober Sidekick is to facilitate a meeting between someone who is struggling and someone who can help, rather than leaving this to uncertainty.

Sober Sidekick emerged out of Chris’s own struggles with sobriety.

He began to drink alcohol in his second year of college, and as that continued, he started to use drugs. This all got worse and by Chris’s early 20s, his life had become unmanageable.

A traumatic event reinforced and expanded his reliance on alcohol, and his isolation grew. Repeated trips to the emergency room followed and on Thanksgiving 2018, he woke up on the sidewalk for the fourth day in a row.

Chris turned to good friends who had just gotten sober, including a pal who ran something of a substance abuse halfway house. After 30 days in a treatment center, Chris entered a halfway house and, having learned coding earlier in life, was inspired to eventually design and launch Sober Sidekick.

Now, he is disrupting the billion-dollar for-profit addiction treatment industry, which is estimated to double in size to $10 billion by 2029.

Chris argues that Sober Sidekick offers a better path toward recovery because of its track record of steering users away from relapse. The addiction treatment industry, Chris said, offers no incentive for recovery, but is rather a repeated repository for those struggling to get well, but often fail to find resolution.

So how about Sober Sidekick’s proven track record?

This engagement platform has grown to 200K total users and more than 5K written reviews. The American Heart Association is lead investor, and Chris has received the NWA Innovator of the Year Award. In addition to these accomplishments, the Validation Institute has confirmed Sober Sidekick’s assertion that those who use the engagement platform are more likely to maintain their sobriety.

Put quite simply, the philosophy behind Sober Sidekick is one that is resonating loudly for many. This effort relies on the philosophy that the more support you give to other Sober Sidekick members, the more you receive in return. The anonymous posts offer confidentiality, but they are changing lives for the better.

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Amir Bakian

Social Media Marketing agent with 6 years of sales experience. I work really hard to get my clients the best representation to further their businesses.