the GOOD for you (Global Organization of Open Data) is a non-profit startup that aims to apply the power of big data research and analysis to solving problems that affect the human condition.
I’m still a musician, maybe now more than ever, but in 2009 musician was my primary job title. I had spent years honing my craft, waiting for the day I’d be able to tour full time, and was finally starting to realize my goal.
I lived in bars, partied hard, and took any drink or drug I was handed. I had just been married in July of that year, and when my wife, Megan, became pregnant, I was both overjoyed and scared out of my wits. I knew I had a problem with substance abuse, but her pregnancy finally snapped me into the “acceptance” stage, where I admitted (first to her, later to everyone else in my life) that I not only had a problem, but also that I couldn’t manage on my own. I had tried to quit (smoking, drinking, drugging) cold turkey, only to realize that I couldn’t last more than a couple days without some kind of crutch.
I quit the bar circuit during this time, but when Megan was diagnosed with cancer six months after the birth of our daughter, I went into a tailspin. It was stage IV tongue cancer, and the thought of losing her at a time while I was completely unable to stand on my own scared the living shit out of me. I knew I was incapable of raising my daughter at the time, and couldn’t stand the thought of her being with anyone else besides her mom and dad (as an adopted child myself, I’ve always struggled with abandonment issues).
In AA (alcoholics anonymous), they call what I did for the next couple years “white knuckling”, that is, to try to stay sober by sheer force of will. I can assure anyone out there that it doesn’t work. Megan went through heavy chemo and radiation, she’s now in remission, and I did a poor job of trying to support her while healing myself.
I read everything available about cancer, and addictions, attempting to glean some insight into why we were both affected the way we were, and what we could do not only to heal as individuals, but to help anyone else suffering from the same issues.
On the cancer side, I was shocked to see how much money was spent on duplicate research and administration, while the survival rates for cancer hadn’t improved in 50 years (and in fact had gone down for some cancers). It especially bothered me to see that the current cancer treatments – slash, burn, and poison – are about as barbaric as we would have expected to see in the middle ages. I though “why has all this research not found a better method?”.
For addictions, I was crushed with the realization that there was so little funding and such a stigma attached to the issue, that when I tried to get into detox on three separate occasions, I was told the beds were full, and once I was sober for a couple weeks, that detox wasn’t the place for me. Rehab is even harder to get into here (in Saskatchewan). If you’re not willing to pay for private detox ($13000 for one month), you’re on a six week wait list. People die in six weeks. I gave up.
In April of 2013, however, I had a breakthrough. Despite the pain and negativity, I view this period as my saving grace. I went on a two month long bender, drinking every day. At first I was closet drinking, to hide my shame at having fallen back into my habit, but eventually I exposed myself to Megan and left. While I knew that all I wanted to do was drink, both Megan and I agreed that our daughter shouldn’t see me that way. In time I admitted my loneliness and begged Megan for help.
We called the local detox facility. They had an open bed. I went in that day. Still hungover, and with my brain working at about 10%, I sobered up. I made lasting friendships. I meditated. I exercised. I ate. And on day two, I started journalling excessively. I knew that if I could barely form a sentence, my brain, and especially my memory, weren’t to be trusted. I wrote down every time I ate, how I felt, when I exercised, when I meditated, what movies I watched and how they made me feel, my bathroom breaks, what I was learning in group sessions, everything. I wrote down everything that happened so that I could learn about myself in ways I never had before.
When I got out of detox, I continued this detailed journalling, and started looking for a simple mobile app to help. Why not have a method to simply tell the computer what I was doing, and let it recommend life choices to me, rather than have to try to figure it out myself, with my drug-addled brain. For anyone feeling excited by this idea, I need to mention that nothing exists.
I gave up on my journalling after a couple months, realizing (by reading my logs) that I was spending more time logging than doing the things I was logging about. I wished so badly that there was an “app for that”.
And so, I thought, what if there were such an app? What if it could not only show me my day to day progress, but also use the information I gave it to help others? What if we could create a system of information sharing that could use the power of the internet to share research results, to help addicts, to cure cancer?
There currently is no program that does this, but I say “Why can’t we build it?”. And thus, I present “the GOOD for you” (http://thegoodforyou.org/manifesto)