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A meeting in your pocket!

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Wecovery - As AA turns 80, an app brings 12 step recovery into the 21st century


80 years ago this month, a stockbroker from New York named Bill Wilson was desperately trying to remain sober while on a business trip to Akron, Ohio.  A series of calls put him in touch with another struggling alcoholic, a local surgeon named Dr. Bob Smith.  Dr. Bob agreed to see Bill for 15 minutes, and the two ended up talking for hours about their struggles with alcoholism.  At the end of the meeting, both men were still sober and realized that they had stumbled on something truly special.  That day, Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

Today, the total membership of Alcoholics Anonymous is estimated at 2 million with over 100,000 groups worldwide.  And AA has spawned over 100 different fellowships based on its 12 steps and 12 traditions to deal with all sorts of addictions – from gambling and sex to overeating and cluttering.

When people think of AA meetings, they often think of a group of somber people sitting in a circle in a church, and that still rings true.  However, 21st century technology is changing the way recovering addicts engage with their 12 step programs.  Thanks to smartphones, addicts can now access the power of a 12 step meeting from anywhere at any time.  This is the idea behind Wecovery (, a Bay Area based startup led by founder Brandon Purcell.

“The idea is simple,” says Purcell.  “Using the Wecovery app, recovering addicts will be able to share for 3 minutes, just as they would at a meeting.  Their shares will be added to a repository of shares from other addicts around the world.  They can then listen to these and hear others recount their experience, strength, and hope just like in a 12 step meeting.”

Purcell, who thanks to working the 12 steps has been sober from drugs and alcohol for over 2 years, says that the idea came to him because many of the addicts he was in treatment with live in rural areas and have to travel many miles to attend meetings.  He also recognized his own frequent need for a meeting during a busy day at work when he didn’t have time to get away.  “An addict in a high stress job who can’t get away for a meeting can get centered by sharing and listening to other addicts’ shares in the time it takes for a coffee break,” he says.

There’s another segment of folks Purcell thinks this app will really benefit – people who don’t go to in person meetings because they’re too shy, afraid of the stigma, of just aren’t ready to take that step.  “I’m hoping this will take away a big barrier for people who really need to be in recovery.  As addicts, we’re really good at making excuses so we don’t have to do the right thing.  Wecovery has the opportunity to toss many of those excuses out the window.”

Finally, Purcell is adamant that the Wecovery app is not meant to replace in person 12 step meetings.  “Nothing can replace the magic that happens when a group of recovering addicts get together in a room and share from the heart,” he says.  “Wecovery is meant to support and enhance people’s recovery programs by harnessing the power of 21st century technology to give everyone who needs it access to a meeting at any time.”

Right now, Purcell is raising funds for app development on Indiegogo.  He plans to have the app available in October.  To contribute or learn more, please visit:

“Addiction is a global disease affecting millions.  Wecovery could offer a global solution, connecting people from around the world,” Purcell says.  “We’re all in this together.”

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