What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? Let’s Continue the Conversation

Let’s continue the conversation about what a community can do about addiction started by Maia Szalavitz ‘s visit to Blacksburg, Virginia!

Continuing the Conversation:
What’s a Town to Do About Addiction?
A Community Discussion

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
7:00 PM
Blacksburg Library
200 Miller Street
Blacksburg, Virginia

The event is free and open to the public.

Blacksburg conversation on addictions begins!

If you’ll sign up on the Facebook event page we’ll know how many chairs to set up!

If you’d like to prepare for the conversation, feel free to try any or all of these:

For more information, please contact Anne Giles, [email protected], 540-808-6334.

. . . . .

Handshake Media, Incorporated was honored to present “What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? A Conversation with Maia Szalavitz, Author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction” on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, at New River Valley Community Services in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Anne Giles made the introduction, Mike Wade of New River Valley Community Services filmed the presentation, and Shawn You and Daeshaun McClintock of Mor11 Media photographed the event. Laurel Sindewald transcribed the presentation, with almost 9000 total words spoken in about one hour.

In her presentation, Maia Szalavitz mentions initiatives in Ithaca, NY. We’ve compiled a report here.

Photos from the event are on Facebook here.

The invitation describing the August 3 event is here.

For more information about local efforts to organize an effective response to local addictions challenges, please contact Anne Giles, [email protected], 540-808-6334.

A page with the above information, the video, plus a transcript of the presentation, is here.

The Best of Maia Szalavitz

Maiz Szalavitz has written on the neuroscience of addiction for more than a quarter of a century, synthesizing and illuminating that work in her most recent book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

Maia Szalavitz in Blacksburg, VA

Since publication of Unbroken Brain in April of this year, Maia has written more than 30 additional articles which have appeared in multiple news sources including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian.  She has been interviewed numerous times, including by Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air and by Johann Hari with VolteFace. I have attempted to curate Maia Salavitz’s prolific work since April, 2016 here. Maia released a series of pre-publication images via Twitter that we have curated and transcribed as 5 Addiction Myths Challenged by Maia Szalavitz in Unbroken Brain.

Maia Szalavitz will be speaking in Blacksburg, Virginia on August 3, 2016.

For those who haven’t yet read Unbroken Brain, but would like an orientation to Maia’s work, I offer these suggested highlights.

If you only have time to read one article:

If you only have time to listen to one podcast:

If opioid addiction is of interest:

If addictions treatment is of interest:

If addictions recovery advocacy is of interest:

If an interview with Maia is of interest:

And if you want to have what you thought you knew about addiction torched, try these:

. . . . .

Handshake Media, Incorporated is honored to present “What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? A Conversation with Maia Szalavitz, Author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction” at 7:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Thanks to its generous donation of meeting space, the event will be held in the New River Room at New River Valley Community Services, 700 University City Boulevard, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Directions to New River Valley Community Services (NRVCS) in Blacksburg, Virginia

The event is free and open to the public and will include time for Q & A with author Maia Szalavitz.

Can’t attend? NRVCS will be livestreaming the event on its Facebook page on Wednesday, August 3, 7:00 PM EST.

Read the full event details here. For more information about the evnt, please contact Anne Giles, 540-808-6334, [email protected]

Author Maia Szalavitz to Speak in Blacksburg, VA on August 3

Maia SzalavitzHandshake Media, Incorporated is honored to present “What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? A Conversation with Maia Szalavitz, Author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction” at 7:00 PM EST on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

UPDATE: Video and transcript are here.

Thanks to its generous donation of meeting space, the event will be held in the New River Room at New River Valley Community Services, 700 University City Boulevard, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Directions to New River Valley Community Services (NRVCS) in Blacksburg, Virginia

The event is free and open to the public and will include time for Q & A with author Maia Szalavitz.

No time to read Unbroken Brain prior to the event?

Here are our top picks from her most recent publications.

Read Author to lead conversation on the science behind addiction by Luanne Rife for The Roanoke Times.

Unbroken Brain braids together three narratives: Maia Szalavitz’s personal story, what the science reports about addiction, and a call to action to change belief-based addictions treatment to evidence-based treatment.

The author will be available to sign audience members’ previously purchased copies of Unbroken Brain after the conversation. Here’s a link to multiple ways to buy Unbroken Brain prior to the event.

Can’t attend? NRVCS will be livestreaming the event on its Facebook page on Wednesday, August 3, 7:00 PM EST.

To learn more about why Maia Szalavitz was invited to Blacksburg:

If you would like more information about Maia Salavitz’s visit to Blacksburg, Virginia, please contact Anne Giles.

. . . . .

Maia Szalavitz will give a public lecture on drug addiction at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Wise, Virginia on Thursday, August 4, 2016, 6:00 PM at the Banquet Room in Cantrell Hall. The lecture is free of charge and open to the public. Persons with family members or loved ones with addiction are especially invited to attend. For additional information, contact Hugh O’Donnell, 540-395-3926 or 540-762-0590.

Directions to Cantrell Hall in Wise, Virginia

. . . . .

Community Discussion of Unbroken Brain on August 31

Let’s continue the conversation after Maia Szalavitz’s visit to Blacksburg!

We’ll Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitzgather for a community book discussion of Unbroken Brain on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room at Blacksburg Library, 200 Miller Street, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The book discussion is free and open to the public.

We invite you to prepare for a lively discussion by considering these questions.

No time to read the book?

If you’ll sign up on the Unbroken Brain discussion Facebook event page we’ll know how many chairs to set up!

To learn more about author Maia Szalavitz:

If you would like more information, please contact Anne Giles.

Last updated 7/28/16

What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? A Conversation with Maia Szalavitz

In 1996, Blacksburg, Virginia was deemed the Most Wired Town in America. In the 20 years since, the Town of Blacksburg has made dozens of “best of” lists for business, retirement, living and learning.

My dream for Blacksburg’s next accolade?

Most Recovered Town in America.

Why in the world would we want or need such a designation?! We have our street festival, Steppin’ Out, just around the corner! We’re fine! Right? We’re fine. Aren’t we?

Over 16,000 people 18 and older in the New River Valley area have alcohol and other drug problems. According to local officials I’ve interviewed, the majority of local criminal and traffic cases involve substance use. These numbers include a larger trend in Virginia, considered epidemic in the U.S., involving opioid addiction.

We, like other towns in the U.S., are not fine. The state hardest hit by the opioid crisis, West Virginia, is right next door.

Stephen Covey urged leaders, “Begin with the end in mind.”

What would be the “end in mind” for the “Most Recovered Town in America”? How would we know if we had achieved that end?

Maia SzalavitzTo begin to answer those questions, Handshake Media, Incorporated is honored to present “What’s a Town to Do About Addiction? A Conversation with Maia Szalavitz, Author of Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction” at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, August 3, 2016.

Thanks to its generous donation of meeting space, the event will be held in the New River Room at New River Valley Community Services, 700 University City Boulevard, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Read more about Maia Szalavitiz’s August 3 talk in Blacksburg, VA

. . . . .

In Blacksburg, Virginia, we’ve been reading Maia Szalavitz’s Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addictionsince it was released two months ago on April 6, 2016.

To prepare for Maia Szalavitz’s visit to Blacksburg, we’ll Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitzgather for a community book discussion of Unbroken Brain on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room at Blacksburg Library, 200 Miller Street, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The event is free and open to the public!

We invite you to prepare for a lively discussion by considering these questions.

If you’ll sign up on the June 22 Facebook event page, we’ll know how many chairs to set up!

For more information about Maia Szalavitz’s visit to Blacksburg, Virginia, please contact Anne Giles.

Last updated 6/18/16

So People Can Hear, Too


Anne recording a podcast episodeThat’s me in the photo! I’m recording my very first episode for my own podcast channel!

Honestly, I was reluctant at first. How would I have time to both create episodes for a podcast show and co-launch podcast services in our locale with Laurel Sindewald, Handshake Media’s podcast producer? Sure, I could write the talk – I wrote how to prepare to podcast myself – but who had time to record the talk?!

Laurel said people need to be able to hear what I have to say, not just read it.

Look at her face.

I said okay.

I dragged my feet. The task seemed too huge. Laurel broke it down for me. I said, I don’t know what to say. Laurel said, looky, here’s what makes a good podcast. I read her list casually, then intently. I thought, oh, I could do that. And I’ve got that…

I sequestered myself with our recording device over the weekend. I did nothing. I finally tried early Monday morning but couldn’t remember how the buttons worked. I posted an update in our project management software, Basecamp, whining that it was just too hard for me.

Laurel sent an update back (I have her permission to share): Would you like to try doing your podcast recording together? We could feel our way forward on podcast content one bit at a time, recording together and working together on what you might want to say. Perhaps dialogue is an easy way for you to hit upon your truths.

I got tears in my eyes.

We co-created how we’ll price creating podcast channels and the list of needed items for creating a podcast channel. I provided these to Laurel then she she sent me very own podcast URL:


I felt thrilled!

The photo of me in this post is taken by Laurel as she listened to me record my very first podcast episode.

I think I am not alone in needing help to get started with a podcast. When I’m alone, I don’t talk to myself or to my cats. I contentedly observe silence. But when I’m with others, I readily talk and listen.

To start a podcast, I needed help with the technology, a listener for my talking, and an audience for my show. Laurel was stellar at all three.

And now what I have to say can be both read and heard.

. . . . .

If you live in the New River Valley of Virginia and my experience appeals to you, get in touch with me, Anne, [email protected], 540-808-6334. We’ll help you start your own podcast channel so you can be heard, too.

. . . . .

I wrote about getting “podcaster’s block” and more of my personal experience on starting a podcast channel in What I Learned About Myself from Creating a Podcast at annegiles.com.

. . . . .

In this episode from my podcast channel, I am reading the preface to Phoenix Rising. My plan is to release the book by chapter in a series of podcast episodes, then compile the entire recording into a single audiobook.

This episode was edited and mastered by Laurel Sindewald and produced by Handshake Media, Incorporated.

What Makes a Good Podcast?

Zoom-H1 by Handshake Media, Inc.A podcast, much like other media, is most popular when it entertains or enriches the listener’s life in some way. In answering the question of “what makes a good podcast,” we decided to take a peek at what people are already enjoying, and investigate why these podcasts have captivated listeners. Other articles have listed popular podcasts, but in this post we break a handful of different podcasts into the elements that make them engaging.

Serial by This American Life and WBEZ Chicago“One story told week by week”

Serial began as a true crime story of a girl who was murdered in Baltimore in 1999. Much like a TV show, listeners were kept in suspense as the host, Sarah Koenig, interviewing local people, family members, and dug deep to document what happened. The full story is told through Season One. A dedicated audience awaits a new story in Season Two.

Serial features:

  • Several musical themes to introduce the episode, ease transitions, and to cue the listener into important parts
  • A brief, compelling introduction with music telling the listener who is producing the show, who is speaking, and what the podcast is about
  • Interviews with many different people
  • Interesting, true subject matter
  • A common theme and a question to answer
  • An engaging storyteller
  • Professionally edited audio (no filler words such as “um,” and no background noise)

Embedded by NPR – “Takes a story from the news and goes deep”

Kelly McEvans chooses a story she finds intriguing and investigates the story further. Stories are varied and shocking, including coverage of an HIV epidemic due to prescription opioids in a small town in Indiana, a recent biker shootout in Waco, and how gangs stopped buses in El Salvador. Kelly asks the hard questions, such as what is it like to experience withdrawals from pain pills. She takes a story and makes it personal.

Embedded has some of the same features as Serial:

  • Music to introduce the episode, for transitions, and for emphasis
  • A brief introduction of the show producer, the speaker, and the topic
  • Interviews with people involved in the story
  • Interesting, true subject matter
  • A common theme
  • An engaging storyteller
  • Narrated parts are carefully edited (no filler words or background noise)

Freakonomics Radio by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt – “The podcast that explores the hidden side of everything”

Covers the enormous economic relevance of ideas that may have been obscure or unpopular in the past. The show is hosted by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, who supplement their own research and insights with excerpts of recordings and interviews with the major players in each topic. Examples of the subject matter they have investigated include whether the world is ready for a guaranteed basic income, the economics of sleep, and the real-world effects of payday loans.

Stephen and Steven’s initial partnership yielded a book first, described on their About page; “Levitt and Dubner wrote Freakonomics, a book about cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing Realtors, and crack-selling mama’s boys. They figured it would sell about 80 copies. Instead, it took up long-term residency on the Times best-seller list, and went on to sell more than 5 million copies in 40 languages.”

  • Music backs the entire episode, with a variety of excerpts of songs from artists the hosts enjoy.
  • Each episode is introduced with music, the episode’s sponsor, speaker, a little bit about what the show covers before introducing the episode’s topic.
  • The hosts interview relevant people and leaders for each episode.
  • Hosts have vibrant, engaging speaking styles.
  • Topics are highly relevant to modern professional Americans.
  • The channel has a common theme.
  • Voice tracks and interviews are clearly edited and mastered to remove “ums” and improve audio quality.

The Joe Rogan Experience by Joe Rogan

Joe Rogan, an actor and comedian, hosts long conversations (two hours!) with various prominent people, including “comedians, actors, musicians, MMA instructors and commentators, authors, artists, and porn stars.” According to his about page, “The Joe Rogan Experience was voted the Best Comedy Podcast of 2012 on iTunes.”

  • Podcast is introduced with episode sponsor and the speaker. The channel, as well as each episode is sponsored by multiple companies, who are introduced at length before the podcast starts.
  • The entire show is videotaped, presented as audio and video on the podcast site. The video is also available on YouTube, while the audio is available on iTunes.
  • Episode audio is professionally recorded and mastered, but fillers such as “um” are not removed.
  • Though the show has a wide variety of content depending on the guest, it does have a common theme: two different personalities and minds chatting casually about the world

Radiolab by WNYC

“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Various hosts from Radiolab interview experts and prominent figures sharing stories on interesting topics, such as two prominent scientists discussing the earliest evolution of multicellular life. The Radiolab website also has a blog and a collection of videos.

  • The episode begins with an introduction of the show, the host, the guests, and the topic.
  • Episodes are professionally recorded and mastered.
  • Diverse, theatrical music and sound effects are added in different places to illustrate the topic being discussed.
  • Guest speakers and hosts are tonally expressive and playful with their speech.
  • The show has the feel of a performance rather than simply an interview.
  • Sponsors are showcased at the end of the podcast.

2 Dope Queens by WNYC

Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams have made their show popular with their incredibly funny and vivacious personalities and relaxed repartee. 2 Dope Queens is an increasingly popular comedy podcast featuring primarily Phoebe and Jessica, “with their favorite comedians, for stories about sex, romance, race, hair journeys, living in New York, and Billy Joel. Plus a whole bunch of other s**t.”

  • The episode begins by introducing the sponsors, a joke, music, and the hosts.
  • Jokes and pop culture references are continuously woven throughout their content.
  • A live audience is present for their show.
  • The show is professionally recorded and mastered in a studio.

Common qualities from all of these great podcasts are clearly great content, professional quality audio, and reliable, themed content. Podcasts reviewed here also bring in a variety of voices and minds, indicating that the best podcast shows, while consistent in content and hosts, keep things fresh with new personalities and human voices.

For more great podcasts, take a look at Buzzfeed’s review of podcasts in 2016, Time’s analysis of the best podcasts in 2015, and podbay.fm’s top podcasts.

Inspired? If you would like to start your own podcast channel, take a look at Handshake Media’s Podcast Services.

How Does Handshake Media Price Podcast Channels?


Zoom-H1 by Handshake Media, Inc.

Handshake Media considers a number of variables when we draft an invoice for a new podcast channel. Creating a channel can take a great deal of time depending on how you want your channel to look and what features you want. The start-up fee for creating your channel includes:

  • creating your channel on Libsyn where it is stored or “hosted,”
  • customizing your channel’s appearance with images, logos, and text,
  • customizing where your channel’s RSS feed is sent, such as your website or blog, and
  • setting up an iTunes account and/or syncing your Libsyn account with your iTunes account if you wish to sell your podcast episodes.

We use Libsyn for podcast channel hosting, and storage costs vary depending on:

  • how often you wish to post,
  • how long you want your episodes to be, and
  • whether you want your episodes to be available for download in .mp3 or .wav format (.wav files are much larger than .mp3).

We may need to charge more for episode production and editing if you would like to add music or other elements to your podcast episodes because it will take more time to create each episode.

We drafted an example invoice for how these variables play out in pricing a podcast channel with weekly episodes of up to ten minutes long: Anne Giles Podcast Channel Invoice.

To see prices of all of our available services, visit our Pricing Page! If you have any questions, please feel welcome to contact us.

Invitation to Take Our Podcast Survey

Handshake Media has been in the publishing business since 2008 – blogs, books, and, most recently, mobile applications. We’re excited to expand to publishing podcasts and would welcome your feedback and guidance as we move forward!

If you would please take this quick survey for us, that would be fantastic!

Sarah Beth Jones

A podcast is a way you can tell your story in your voice to reach your
audience and target market. It’s your show. Listeners can hear you anytime, anywhere, on a mobile device or computer.

Many people want to do podcasts. But they don’t have the equipment,
tech savvy, and editing skills to make it happen quickly, even at all.
We do.

Here’s an example of how your podcast might be featured on our
site. You can also embed the podcast on your website or blog. Thank
you, empowerment coach Sarah Beth Jones, for helping us create our first demo!

Note the quality of Sarah Beth’s recording – with an audience present! We have top equipment and Handshake Media’s Laurel Sindewald is a musician and professional soundtrack editor.

If you care to offer suggestions as comments on this post, those would be welcomed.

Thanks for helping us explore how to best meet your needs with our new podcast production services!

With appreciation,

App Contest Provides Guide to Medication-Assisted Treatment

In her post What the Opioid Epidemic Means in Virginia, Handshake Media’s Executive Director Laurel Sindewald writes, “Latest science informs us that the best approach to treating opioid substance use disorders is medication-assisted therapy. Suboxone and methadone keep people stable enough in recovery to live more normal lives. People with substance use disorders are more than twice as likely to stay in treatment and not relapse if they are receiving medication than if they are not.”Smartphone apps help with recoveryAs we do research to prepare to develop an updated release of our free addictions recovery smartphone app, New2Recovery, I was fascinated to read the clear definitions and terms used in this opioid addictions recovery mobile app development contest from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. Those who suffer from a substance use disorder need help to change their behavior and learn new strategies to maintain health. They can get this help with treatment – with the care of doctors and substance use disorders treatment providers. Treatment can help people stop using substances. It helps them get through withdrawal and cope with cravings. Treatment also helps address other harmful behaviors that are not conducive to recovery.

Just as important, treatment helps people address life issues they might have that can trigger relapse, such as feelings of low self-worth, a bad situation at work or home, a co-occurring mental disorder, or spending time with people who use drugs. In short, treatment helps people move into healthy lifestyles – into a new way of living which is referred to as recovery.

Treatment may include medication. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is treatment that includes the use of medication along with counseling and other types of support. Treatment that includes medication-assisted treatment is an important option for opioid use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment can reduce problems of withdrawal and craving. Research also shows maintenance treatment typically leads to reduction or cessation of illicit opioid use and its adverse consequences, including cellulitis, hepatitis, and HIV infection from use of nonsterile injection equipment, as well as criminal behavior associated with obtaining drugs. These changes can give the person the chance to focus on the lifestyle changes that lead back to healthy living. People in outpatient MAT could benefit from a mobile app for smartphones that provides features and information that supports their maintenance in recovery.


Insight 1. Patients receiving Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) need information about possible side effects and drug interactions in a format that is easy to understand and access.

Required Features:

The app must provide information on common side effects that patients receiving Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Naltrexone treatment experience, how to deal with side effects, and when they are expected to subside.

The app must include information on drug interactions with Buprenorphine, Methadone, and Naltrexone.

The app must provide information on the potential adverse effects of combining Methadone, Buprenorphine, or Naltrexone with Benzodiazepines , Benzodiazepine Analogs or Barbiturates. These side effects include, but are not limited to, decrease in breathing ability and blood pressure as well as death.

Insight 2. Patients receiving MAT need education and psychoeducational materials for opioid recovery support, e.g., time management, parenting skills, effects of drug use on family, etc.

Required Features:

The app must provide educational tools and materials including broad and general resources, especially resources that encourage users to discuss content with a recovery coach or clinician, including the resources in the Asset File.

Insight 3. Individuals in MAT need support to reduce risk for relapse, e.g., increase participation in healthy activities, and avoid people, places and things that might trigger drug use.

Required Features:

Meeting Location Finder: The app must provide opportunities for users to find mutual aid meetings and peer support groups.

Insight 4. Individuals in MAT need support in relapse prevention such as warning signs, trigger alerts, and motivations for recovery.

Insight 5. Individuals in MAT maintenance are often juggling their work, personal, and treatment schedules.

– Excerpted from SAMHSA’s Opioid Recovery App Challenge, submission deadline 5/28/16

I share this because the writers of the app contest have inadvertently created a lovely, concise, simply-worded description of what addiction is, what medication-assisted therapy is, what challenges people need help with, and straightforward guidelines for recovery.

Anne Giles is President of Handshake Media, Incorporated, publishers of the free addictions recovery smartphone app, New2Recovery.

A New Vision for Handshake Media

On December 5, 2012, my intention as a presenter at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C. was to outline best practices in mobile health entrepreneurship.

I thought I knew of what I spoke. I’ve been working online since 1996. My father’s only requirement for my undergraduate education was that I take FORTRAN in 1978, setting me up for decades of skillful if-then thinking. I can’t remember Jay’s last name but when he taught me HTML in 1996, he ignited passion in me for lines of code and what they can display on screens.

Awareness gives me a chance to change

The mHealth Summit presentation was based on extensive trial-and-error learning about mobile application development. With Alex Edelman, then with Jim Schweitzer, and with the help of other developers, we had released our own portfolio of mobile applications and our behavioral health software platform Cognichoice. (Here’s our press release about the mHealth presentation on PRWeb.)

We explored the mobile app development business model (how do we pay for software development costs when users want their apps for free?!) , disclosed transparently how much a mobile app really costs to develop, including sharing the numbers for one of our own apps, and revealed the extensively detailed work that goes into creating a mobile app before the first line of code is written. We did our market research on health apps and found enormous competition.

We believed powerfully in our software and plowed determinedly ahead.

But here’s the rub for health apps. Health apps aren’t asked to just be useful or helpful.

“Does it work?”

“Does it do no harm?”

The medical profession and the health care industry demand definitive answers to those questions before they’ll recommend a product or service to patients or customers. The gold standard for a definitive answer in health care is a randomized control trial, or RCT.

We were able to collaborate with a health care entity to attempt a lesser standard – a pilot study – with our software. The entire process is confidential so I wrote with circumspection about the steps required to do health app research here.

Whether you think your health app is a treatment or not, the health care industry thinks an app is a treatment and it will require you to conduct research to prove that your app works and does no harm. An mHealth developer needs to know that research takes time and costs time which is antithetical to the lean startup model and burns most startups’ thin capital like tissue paper.
– Anne Giles, mHealth Zone Live interview, May 2, 2013

. . . . .

The night before my presentation at the mHealth Summit, the most important thing for me to do was not review my notes, not arrange my business suit on a chair for the next day, not start to unwind to prepare for a good night’s sleep. What was most important for me to do was get glasses of wine. Not a glass. Glasses. No mind that at the convention center bar cabernet sauvignon cost $15 per glass.

Twenty-three days later, on December 28, 2012, I got sober.

. . . . .

Terrified by the stigma surrounding addiction, I didn’t tell anyone, including my business partners. Sick from going without alcohol, I still attempted to lead a crowdfunding campaign to further develop Cognichoice, agreed to between the end of the mHealth Summit and my sobriety date. I wrote of my growing  unease about the process two weeks in.

Missing from the rah-rah about contributions-based crowdfunding is the news that a percentage of the funding received will pay taxes. In my mind, my for-profit startup is a cause, but cause or not, people buy products and services from for-profit companies. If it’s not from investors, what is the term for money given to a for-profit company? A contribution? A donation? I have attorney Ken Maready’s permission to quote his answer: “Whether you call it a contribution or a donation, the IRS is going to call it revenue.”
– Anne Giles, Lessons Learned from Two Weeks of Crowdfunding, January 30, 2013

I was so grateful to the sweet people who contributed! However, I wrote about bitter lessons learned a month after the campaign ended. (My adamant advice to startups about crowdfunding? Don’t.)

. . . . .

By the time I presented at the Virginia Counselors Association Convention on November 8, 2013, our mHealth entrepreneurship could be summarized in one word: failure. The audio recording at the mHealth Summit didn’t work so no one other than the hundred or so in attendance heard it. Our crowdfunding campaign failed (we netted about $3K, $97K short of the standard $100K needed to fund serious app development). Our pilot study failed. (I can’t say more than an insufficient number of participants were enrolled to even test if the app “worked,” i.e. resulted in measurable, positive outcomes.)

For the Virginia Counselors Association Convention, I prepared so thoroughly to lead a round table discussion on mobile health technology for mental illnesses.

One person attended.

Quit, right?! Just quit! Too much uphill battling, too much failure!

. . . . .

I cried most of my first year of sobriety. I finally told my business partners and received their kind and full support. Resigning myself to the shame of alcoholism, I had banned myself from writing about my struggles so, when my mind could work, I pondered mobile health app research and by early December of 2013, I had worked out the beginnings of a way to use the fundamentals of our software platform, Cognichoice, in a simple mobile application to help people like I am, people who struggle with addiction, and need 24-7 help to not drink or use.

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Alex and Jim, in an unprecedented one-month-from-idea-to-product, we were able to release our free addictions recovery mobile application,  New2Recovery, on January 6, 2014. (Here’s the New2Recovery press release on PRWeb.)

I was 1 year and 8 days sober.

Drinking and using is one kind of hell. Abstinence is another. I sobbed most of the way through the development of New2Recovery and remain in awe of Alex’s and Jim’s patience with me and belief in the project. Years 2 and 3 were intermittently anguish-filled and I pretty much withdrew from society and from business, although I did share publicly on April 28, 2014, that I was in recovery from alcohol abuse disorder. I’ve only started recently to feel better for longer periods of time.

For 23 years, I lived in Tampa, Florida, home of an average of 246 days of sunshine per year. That bounty of bright days was like my creativity prior to beginning to drink in 2006. After 6 years of drinking and 3 years of abstinence, for me, feeling better in recovery from alcohol use disorder is like lightning bugs on a summer night. I feel tiny bursts of inspiration.

One of those bursts is to relaunch Handshake Media, Incorporated, founded in 2008, but with very little activity from 2013-2015. For the rebirth of Handshake Media in 2016, I hired Laurel Sindewald as Executive Director on January 1 and we’re exploring possibilities with delightful synergy.

Another of those bright bursts gives me longing to issue an updated release of New2Recovery. We have generous, specific feedback from users about what they’d like. We still haven’t figured out how to make money from mobile apps, but there’s just enough in the business account to cover a few enhancements.

I’m moved to new tears that our original New2Recovery team members – Alex Edelman and Jim Schweitzer – are willing to consider the project again more than 2 years after the original release, and that they will be joined by Laurel Sindewald.

So, no, I’m not quitting – not at sobriety, not at life, not at business. I also have no inspirational, meme-worthy adages to offer. This has been quite a thing.

Awareness gives us a chance to change. We’re becoming aware of opportunities for Handshake Media, Incorporated and its new vision is evolving. Here’s what we’ve got going so far:

For their support and patience, we thank our past and current clients, and friends and fans of Handshake Media’s 8-year effort to become a useful and profitable company, and welcome suggestions and guidance as we begin anew in 2016.

With gratitude,

Anne Giles, M.A., M.S.
Handshake Media, Incorporated
Since 2008

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If you’re interested, my presentation for the mHealth Summit 2012 was entitled “The Entrepreneurial Clinician: What Clinicians with Great Ideas for Health Care Mobile Apps Need to Know” and I was one of about half a dozen panelists in a session entitled “What Goes into Making an Extraordinary mHealth App?” Since the audio recording setup didn’t work during my presentation, I came home and recorded my slide presentation in this YouTube video.