Alysse Bryson

Embracing Change: How The Sober Curator Thrives Under New Management in the Recovery Community

As I inaugurate this Diary of a Sidekick, it is prudent to cast a backward glance over the events of the last year that have steered me to my current juncture. If you’re acquainted with me, you’ll be aware that I bid adieu to the realm of conventional corporate media in the summer of 2022, just after stepping into the role of a homeowner for the first time and making a suburban migration to the land of the crows. Fun fact, I now reside in Auburn, WA – which has the second largest crow population in the country. Something I don’t recall reading about on the real estate flyer.

A dear friend and seasoned mentor presented me with an irresistible opportunity at his company WORKP2P. Without delving into the minutiae, suffice to say, he offered me a chance to create something remarkable alongside him while simultaneously nurturing The Sober Curator, an online lifestyle brand that was birthed during the summer of 2020 – my pandemic progeny.

Today, my pandemic brainchild is a sprightly 3.5 years old. She blossomed abundantly in her formative two years, but, in the spirit of candor, I must admit that her growth from year 2.5 to 3.5 didn’t quite meet my aspirations. Indeed, we experienced a surge in visitors in the spring of 2023, which painted a rather misleading picture of organic growth. Certainly, new Sober Curators joined our ranks, infusing fresh content. Our existing members also honed their unique voices through their writings and podcasts, which were undeniably positive developments. However, the project was still far from self-sustainable, and I found myself spread dangerously thin. It felt as though I was attempting to mount five steeds with a single posterior, and despite being generously endowed in that department, one can hardly straddle five saddles simultaneously.

Dan Rogers, my “fross” (a delightful portmanteau of friend and boss, made up by my friend, fellow coworker, and Sober Curator Tamar Medford), who bestowed this opportunity upon me, consistently nudged me beyond my comfort zone. Between August and October 2023, life took on a turbulent hue. My vision was clouded, and I neglected my physical and mental wellbeing. Simultaneously, I found myself falling down conspiracy rabbit holes on TikTok, sparking panic and anxiety given all that is going on in the world around us. As someone grappling with long-term recovery, depression, and suicidal ideation, this was akin to walking on thin ice, particularly when playing fast and loose with my prescribed medications and honesty. Striving to be all things to all people is a futile endeavor when running on fumes.

Following numerous heartfelt discussions, fervent disagreements, and cathartic tears, I recognized the need to step aside, to entrust the daily operations of the online magazine to capable hands, affording me the freedom to pursue endeavors that align more naturally with my talents. This was challenging, given my ongoing battle with imposter syndrome and the gnawing sense of failure. Dan offered a different perspective, suggesting that while I might excel in one area, my true potential could lie elsewhere. He firmly pointed out that I was focusing on the gap, when I should be celebrating the gain. Upon realizing that his words weren’t intended as an affront, I began to comprehend the implications. A favorite quote sprang to mind, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

The turning point in this tale arrived over an intimate dinner at a bustling New York City bistro, on the eve of attending #UGLYCRY, an off-Broadway production by our mutual friend, the talented katie MACK. Across from me sat Alexandra Nyman, a friend and industry veteran whose indomitable spirit and unwavering dedication to the recovery community were awe-inspiring. As we exchanged stories and aspirations, the puzzle pieces began to align. Alex, I realized, was the perfect successor to my role as Publisher of The Sober Curator.

I first crossed paths with Alex at the Break Free New York Fashion Week show two years prior. Kate Vitela, our fashion columnist (Walk Your Talk) and nurse coach (You’ve Been Selected) at The Sober Curator, had the honor of walking the runway. As I sat in the front row, cheering her on like a proud and fashionable mother hen (or “Mommanger,” as she affectionately refers to me), I gained insight into the remarkable work Alex was doing for the recovery community.

Alex, a clothing designer by trade, organizes two runway shows during New York Fashion Week annually. Her shows are unique; they feature real people as models, and all participants are either in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders or grappling with behavioral mental health challenges, including eating disorders. The net proceeds from these events help individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford treatment. Alex’s deep-rooted commitment to partnering with nonprofits and her love for fashion resonated with me.

Since then, Alex has founded the Break Free Foundation, now an official 501c3. Over dinner that night, she shared her desire to take on more projects. I discovered that her talents extended beyond fashion design; she was an SEO, website, graphic designer and social media wizard – the unicorn I had been seeking to fill my sober sneakers. What’s more, she had previously managed Soberocity, an online community bearing striking similarities to The Sober Curator.

After two months of meticulous meetings and planning, I am overjoyed to announce to my inner circle that Alex will officially take the reins of The Sober Curator as of January 2024. This shift will allow me to concentrate on community development and monetization, as we need to become self-supporting at a minimum. Anything more than that is up to the boss. And by boss, I’m referring to what some of you may think of as the “big guy upstairs” or others of you might think the goddesses in the sky.

A formal press release outlining our partnership will be disseminated in the coming weeks. The Break Free Foundation will serve as the nonprofit arm, while The Sober Curator will remain a for-profit entity, with an emphasis on providing more services and opportunities to the Sober Curators we serve. This transition was made possible by a generous investor who was willing to take a leap of faith, empowering me to spread my wings and soar.

To those in my inner circles and the recovery community, I implore you to follow our journey and cheer us on. We strive to eradicate the stigma surrounding addiction and provide hope and motivation to those in long-term recovery. Getting sober ranks second only to raising my son Jakob as a single mom on my list of proudest achievements. It would be a thrill to add The Sober Curator to this list. I refuse to let fear of failure hold me back any longer. I hope you will support me as I embrace mistakes at full speed. 2024 promises to be a year of significant change, and this public diary will document my journey every step of the way. Every sidekick needs a sidekick, and I am thrilled that Alex has graciously agreed to become mine.

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