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From Addiction to Entrepreneurship: The Addict's Mom and Dsquared Media LLC Announce New Collaboration
(April 21, 2017)
From Addiction to Entrepreneurship: The Addict's Mom and Dsquared Media LLC Announce New Collaboration

Dsquared Media LLC, a design company, and The Addict's Mom, an online support community, will be collaborating on a campaign to use SEO and web design to raise awareness about substance use disorder in the United States.

It started with Barbara Theodosiou, a mother of four who resides in South Florida. When she discovered that two of her sons were suffering from drug addiction, she was thrust into the desperation that comes from loving and raising people who struggle with a chronic, progressive, and potentially fatal disease for which there is treatment but no known cure.

The story of addiction came to a tragic climax for Theodosiou and her family when her son Daniel drowned in the intercoastal after a long battle with mental illness and addiction. Prior to his death, Daniel had ingested a large amount of substances and was facing incarceration at 77 days clean. Like many people with the same condition, Daniel was treated as a criminal rather than being offered the mental health treatment he so desperately needed.

In response to the depth of pain Barbara felt, she channeled her emotions into the creation of an online community called The Addict's Mom. With over 80,000 members and regional chapters in every state, The Addict's Mom is a forum for loved ones to share their stories, their hope, their losses, and their words of encouragement for other people who are suffering the unique pain of loving someone with an addiction.

Between the years of 1999 and 2014, nearly half a million Americans died of a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rising tide of addiction in the United States is fueled by rampant opiate use. In fact, six out of ten of all fatal overdoses in this period of time involved opiates like prescription painkillers and heroin. For the past five years, heroin use and overdose has significantly increased. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has referred to this trend of addiction as “one of the greatest public health crises of our time" in a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Addict's Mom is one of few platforms for people who have had firsthand experience with this crisis, and offers a way for parents in particular to contend with addiction in the lives of their children.

On the surface, Danny Donovan does not appear to have much in common with Barbara Theodosiou. Danny also lives in South Florida, but the “on paper" similarities seem to end there. Donovan owns and operates Dsquared Media, a digital design and marketing company based in West Palm Beach, Florida.

However, Donovan and Theodosiou's lives intersected in a profound way. Donovan, who has been in recovery from addiction since 2006, met her son Daniel at a twelve step fellowship meeting a year prior to his death. When the two identified the connection, they began to collaborate on a project to spread the word about two divergent paths- one in which addiction steals the life of a beloved son, and one in which someone recovers with the help of treatment and community support.

Part of the problem with addressing addiction is that in contrast to most other diseases, addiction carries a stigma. Although it follows the “disease model" with regard to progression and physical and behavioral changes, including in the structure of the brain, it is still widely regarded as a series of poor choices or immorality rather than as a mental illness. Sharing personal stories can help reduce that stigma- when an addict is no longer an anonymous stranger but a son, a friend, or a coworker, it is easier to approach with compassion rather than cries for a solution based on criminal justice.

So, Danny did something uncommon in the world of twelve step recovery. Anonymity is a principle upheld by many who participate in these groups. The decision about whether or not to go public is generally personal. Despite the fact that this choice is unique and individual, many shirk at the idea of breaking their anonymity on a public platform.

Donovan chose to shed his anonymity in collaboration with Barbara on a project to erode the stigma of addiction and reach more members of the community. Behind the scenes, Dsquared updated a secondary site for The Addict's Mom and did a pro bono redesign. Publicly, Danny shared his story with The Addict's Mom community and was featured on their Facebook page.

It's rare for community organizations and recovering individuals to mix, at least in the public arena. Twelve step fellowships are unaffiliated with outside organizations by design. This collaboration does not represent a fusion between the two, but rather a connection between two human beings with vastly different experiences of the same condition.

It's perhaps even rarer for a mother and activist to collaborate with a thirty year old entrepreneur on something so deeply personal. However, Theodosiou and Donovan found common ground in the understanding that addiction touches every aspect of life, and that although it may not come naturally, vulnerability is one of the keys to connection- and connection is one of the keys to effectively confronting addiction.

Out of this connection, The Addict's Mom and Dsquared Media have launched a new collaboration. In addition to redesigning The Addict's Mom site, Dsquared will be producing content focused on addiction, recovery, and family relationships for the online community. The company will be directing SEO strategies as well as design principles toward reaching a wider audience on behalf of The Addict's Mom. Through the marriage of personal stories and online marketing, the goal of this new project is to drive traffic toward the online community based on relevant content. Through blogging and design, the two organizations are attempting to build more grassroots support for family members of addicts and alcoholics.

In order to stem the tide of overdose deaths, despair, and broken families caused by addiction, the disease must be approached from many angles. The work that Donovan and Theodosiou will collaborate on is an attempt to clear the stigma, to reach those who suffer, and to call for comprehensive and compassionate treatment for addiction rather than the criminalization of a disease. By sharing their stories- one of pain, one of healing, both of hope- Theodosiou and Donovan are taking a step toward changing the conversation and directing it toward solutions.

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