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[Launch] Sunflower - Rewire your brain to associate sobriety with reward 🌻

After 1.5 years of learning to code, half a bootcamp, 1150 Github commits, and one failed startup - I finally built an iOS app that people actually use. :)

Despite being a super shitty programmer, today I am proud to announce the launch of Sunflower. 🌻

Sunflower is an iOS app that uses a version of bastardized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy combined with the core tenants of progression tracking to help train your brain into associating sobriety with reward.

In this post I'm going to outline the story behind Sunflower, the product strategy that helped me build something people actually use, and the technical specs of how it's built.

Story Time

I'm a high preforming addict.

Starting from the age of 19, I smoked Cannabis almost every day for about 4 years.

I was really good at smoking Cannabis.

I started a Hippie Shop that had 500,000 followers. I started the highest rated cleaning service in Idaho. I built an amazing digital marketing agency. I became the National Advertising Director for a $500M mortgage bank.

Between society telling me "weed isn't addictive" and my own personal achievements, it took a LOT of soul searching to realize that I had a problem.

After spending enough time on r/leaves, I decided it was time to quit.

I threw away all of my Cannabis, gave away my glass... and then 48 hours later I relapsed for the first time.

Turns out, quitting Cannabis after 4 years of daily heavy 24/7 use fucking sucks. At least it did for me.

For about the first two weeks I could hardly eat or sleep. After that a heavy depression set in for about ~12 months. I continued to fail at getting sober, relapse after relapse after relapse.

After maybe the 100th time of trying to quit smoking, I painfully started to learn the core tenant of Sunflower.

It's not enough to stay sober. You HAVE to rewire your brain.

As a product manager we learn there are 3 core motivators, rewards of the self, of the tribe, and of the hunt.

Drugs are a cheat code.

They teach you to ignore these natural rewards, and to seek them through substances.

Simply stopping your use isn't enough, because even once you make it through the physical withdrawals, your brain still deeply associates your drug of choice, with reward.

The true secret to becoming sober, is learning to associate healthy activities with reward.

For me - it was a combination of exercise (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), and learning to code.

Learning things is deeply addictive. It's a good kind of addictive. The kind that triggers your reward of self, that pushes you to be a better person. Programming to me is this beautiful never ending rabbit hole of self improvement.

I was a high preforming addict, but getting sober just drastically multiplied my potential.

Programming was something I always failed at because I was high, and Sunflower is my testament that while I'm still a major noob, I'm now good enough to build a shitty product that some people use.

Building Something People Use

I built Sunflower around a few core "tasks to be done" that has resulted in a product that has extremely flat retention, and that a small core group of users actually love!

  1. Addicts need to track how long they have been sober for.
  2. Addicts need to track their cravings (and learn to overcome them).
  3. Addicts need to learn to associate positive activities with reward.

The first point is the core of the product. Every day you stay sober, you earn a new sunflower within the app.

It's cheesy, but this is surprisingly effective at helping you to associate sobriety with "reward" AND it helps create very strong retention.

If you are an addict, you never give up your sobriety chip.

Cravings are a trigger that bring people back into the app. There is a guided journaling exercise that helps to track you cravings, and identify common fallacies with your thinking.

Finally, there is a second guided journaling exercise that uses a bastardized version of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help teach your brain to associate positive activities with reward.

It's really simple, and again I'm a shit programmer, but the combination of building around these core tasks to be done has resulted in super flat retention & a strong NPS.

Tech Stack

The entire app is built using React Native! I went through half of a Hack Reactor bootcamp which helped boost my javascript skills, so while I kind of want to learn Swift, I am mainly a Javascript programmer.

I use Expo as my framework, it's honestly really amazing for building and testing mobile apps. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend. It comes with a number of libraries that I've used to add in the haptics, splash screen, "ask for review" feature, Segment analytics, and a ton more.

Expo makes it super easy to run a Simulator on my computer (or iPhone) and then I can simply expo build ios to create the build which I use Transporter to send to the iOS store.

For analytics I set up Segment and then hooked up a combination of Posthog & Amplitude. Amplitude is probably the main analytics tool that allows me to see DAU, anonymized journal usage, and retention, but I just love the funnel visualizations that Posthog provides.

If you have some sadistic desire to look at my terrifying code, you can check it out on Github here. ⭐

TL;DR Today I launched Sunflower! An iOS app that helps you rewire your mind to associate sobriety with reward through a combination of progression tracking & bastardized Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Top comments (1)

w3rafu profile image
Rafael Fu

This is great!
Any plans to port it for Android users?