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How Tempest is Closing the Gap Between Excessive Drinking and Treatment

Photo credit: Matteo Vistocco via Unsplash

Why does it take so long to quit drinking? That is the question on the minds of everyone who deals with alcohol use disorder (AUD), which can take a major toll on just about every aspect of our lives. To explain, let’s start with a story: 

Meet Jane. Jane has been drinking since she was in high school when it was exciting for her friends to get together and sneak alcohol. She found alcohol immediately turned off the critical voices in her head and made her feel excited and less shy. Entering college, she continued to party hard, which was also fairly acceptable. 

After college, most of Jane’s friends found jobs and started cutting back on alcohol. Jane thought her friends were lame, so she found a new group of friends who liked to have a good time and drank as much as she did. Her nights got longer and her days got shorter as Jane stayed up drinking at night and stayed in bed hungover in the mornings. She told herself that maybe she would try cutting back. It worked for a few weeks and she was able to drink a couple of drinks and not be hungover the next day. I got this, Jane thought. 

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After a few months, she slipped back into the old pattern as she realized she needed more and more alcohol to feel buzzed. The hangovers became worse and lingered as she dragged herself to work Monday morning. After a big weekend of partying, Jane woke up Sunday and started to feel really concerned about her drinking. She started Googling “problem with alcohol” and saw a bunch of alcohol-related scales and quizzes. Her face flushed as she saw that each scale she took indicated she did have a problem with alcohol. 

She Googled, “how do I get help for alcohol use?” which only created more anxiety. Suddenly inpatient treatment centers that required a 30-day commitment or outpatient centers that would require attending their program 3-4 days a week popped up. There was no way Jane had that kind of time—she worked a full-time job. Nor did she have the thousands of dollars to cover the cost of treatment. And on a more personal note, she couldn’t bear the shame of being labeled an “alcoholic.” This is a phase, she thought. It will pass, she thought. Only it didn’t. 

So what does Jane do now? Unfortunately for people like Jane, the current recovery landscape isn’t addressing the sheer number of people who struggle with excessive drinking. To address this gap between excessive drinking and treatment, Tempest is publishing our Q1 members’ outcomes report that shows how our welcoming, shame-free, and evidence-based approach is empowering people to quit drinking and live the alcohol-free life they love.

An Overview of the Problem

Nearly 15 million people meet the criteria for AUD, but only 7.3% of adults with AUD received any treatment in the past year. Alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, after tobacco and poor diet. Numerous public and private initiatives have supported measures to tackle tobacco use, increase exercise, and stick to a better diet—you don’t have to look very hard to spot local and national campaigns.

But there isn’t an equivalent campaign to get people to cut back on alcohol or stop drinking entirely. In fact, during the COVID pandemic, alcohol consumption increased by 14% across the board, with women increasing heavy drinking episodes by 41%.

More importantly, there’s a major gap in the number of people drinking problematically and the amount of people seeking treatment. It’s not too often you see a significant health condition that affects tens of millions of people in the US, yet only 7% of them receive some form of treatment. Often, by the time people enter treatment for alcohol use disorder they have reached the point of facing devastating consequences.

The average person takes 10 years from the onset of alcohol use disorder to seeking any treatment. After surveying approximately 2,500 Tempest members, we found it took them an average of 11.2 years from when they recognized that alcohol might be a problem in their lives, to when they started to seek any type of help. The average number of years that alcohol had been a problem for them when they entered Tempest was 18 years. 

How Tempest is Closing the Treatment Gap

It’s our mission to help people stop or prevent problematic drinking, regardless of where they are on their recovery journey. Therefore, we have no expectation that people should be at “rock bottom” or label themselves as alcoholics before enrolling in membership. (Unless of course this is helpful to you.) 

We believe that if alcohol is getting in the way of the life you want, you have a right to do something about it. By using a combination of evidence-based treatment methods and weaving them together with personal recovery stories, we empower folks to build a sustainable alcohol-free lifestyle. Our educational content was created by clinicians and coaches who are in recovery themselves. And our Recovery Coaches, support group calls, and identity-based support groups create a space where members can share their experiences, celebrate milestones, and process their changing relationship with alcohol. 

About the Tempest Q1 Member Outcomes Study

Tempest is the only digital recovery program that’s clinically proven to help people stop drinking because 1) we use clinically validated treatment methods in our content, and 2) we rigorously study our program’s efficacy. 

After surveying members who completed our 4-week Intensive (available as an add-on to our Core Membership plan) and found that our unique combination of lived experience, expert-led lessons, and peer support has had a positive impact on our members. 

Results Showed that Our Members were Drinking Less, Less Often

  • Average number of drinking days over the past 30 days declined from 15.5 drinks to 5.4.
  • Average percent of days abstinent in the past 30 days increased from 48% to 82%.
  • Average drinks per day declined from 4.1 drinks to 2.1.

Although there is no requirement to be abstinent during the Intensive program, 58% of members stayed abstinent throughout the 4 weeks. 

In the second month, after members completed the Intensive program, the reductions in their drinking stayed consistent.

  • 56% of members reported over a month of continuous sobriety at Month 2. 
  • Another 35% reported they are drinking less than when they started the program. 

These declines in drinking days are better than results shown in large-scale studies of traditional outpatient treatment methods (CBT, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and 12-step facilitation).

Providing a Shame-Free Option for Folks Who Want to Quit Drinking

We realize that shame and stigma are major barriers to entering and thriving in recovery. In a research study of 1,008 participants with alcohol use disorder who were not in treatment, shame was the 2nd most common reason for not seeking treatment (29%) after “lack of problem awareness” (55%).  

Addressing shame is a big part of what we do here at Tempest, because we know how important it is to a sustainable path to recovery. Quitting drinking is hard enough. We’re here to embrace who you are, where you are right now.

* * * 

Everyone’s path to recovery is unique—we all have different experiences and we need different approaches to healing. As our Q1 outcomes have shown, our members have benefited from structure, easy-to-understand information, and an accessible, supportive community.

It shouldn’t have to take years for a person like Jane to get help for their drinking. We hope that as Tempest continues to grow, more people can find the care they need to heal and live alcohol-free.

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