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The Power of Community to Combat Addiction - Chandler Rogers on How the Relay App Repels Porn

Posted by tonyoverbay

Tony gives a "state of the union" address on working with people struggling with turning to pornography as a coping mechanism. He then interviews Chandler Rogers, CEO of Relay, an app that helps people stay connected and accountable on their recovery journey. Relay makes it easy to connect with a shame-free support group, an essential tool helping access recovery tools. 

Chandler personally overcame a struggle with compulsive pornography use and then used his experience to give back to others by creating a group-based recovery app called Relay for people seeking freedom from unwanted sexual behavior. He built what he wished he had during his healing journey - tools to manage recovery goals, an SOS button to reach out when feeling triggered, and a system for accountability with peers, all in a private safe space.

Learn more about Relay and try a recovery group for free today:

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After completing the course material, you'll have a new, highly effective anxiety treatment tool that can be used with every anxiety-related disorder, from OCD to panic disorder to generalized anxiety disorder.

And follow Tony on the Virtual Couch YouTube channel for a sneak preview of his upcoming podcast "Murder on the Couch," where True Crime meets therapy, co-hosted with his daughter Sydney. You can watch a pre-release clip here https://youtu.be/-RkRq8SrQy0

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You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program, The Path Back, by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs and podcasts.

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Chandler Rogers Relay Transcript

Tony: Chandler Rogers, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you doing?

Chandler: Great. Happy to be here. Thanks, Tony.

Tony: Yeah, and Chandler and I were talking off the air. That's the official term, right? Like what the kids call it. And I, and the platform I'm using right now, which I'm not talking about openly just yet, because I had one bad experience, but other than that it's been amazing and Chandler has been a part of one experience where it didn't go so well. So, there's a part of me that is gun shy. We're gonna probably spin some gold and then the file's gonna be corrupt. 

Chandler: Let's pray for some good luck today.

Tony: There you go. Let's just go for it. So Chandler, I think it's kind of funny, the way that you and I met was through the co-founder of the company that you work with named, Jace. And then Jace, talking about the way back machine, I think is like a nephew or something. To some friends of mine from high school, and I'm a very old man. So when they reached out to me and said, hey, we want to put you in contact with our nephew, honestly, I'm so used to people saying, because he needs therapy, right? And so then I half read the message and I think that's why I didn't get back quick because you know, I thought, oh, bless his heart, I don't know if I can help, but man, once I started reading why we're talking, it's kinda exciting. So maybe, why don't you tell my listeners, why are we talking, what are you guys, what are you doing?

Chandler: Yeah, so, you know, struggling with pornography was something that was always kind of a theme for me growing up, and one of the big lessons that is key to my story is realizing that not only was I not alone, but it is so much more effective to work through this not alone, to band together with other people who are in the same boat and to find a strong support system. We can talk, you know, more about this later in the episode, but Jace and I served, you know, in the same mission together for the LDS church. We went to New York City, we were out there and actually a big part of what we spent time doing those two years was helping a lot of people overcoming various addictions. And so it resonated with me a lot with my personal story and he and I came back to school and we were both in a coding class together, and I basically pitched him on the idea, like, let's build an app. And everyone was building kind of these random things that like no one was gonna use whatever people were building. It was just a project. But I was like, hey, what if we build something that actually could be meaningful? 

And then built something actually totally not related to addiction. So we were like, maybe it would be, maybe it'd be cool to have an app that makes it easier for long distance family members. So kids that have gone off to college or moved outta the house, or even extended family, like grandparents. What if there's a platform better than other social media that was tailored towards families, helping them stay connected. And I think it was an interesting idea, but just didn't really get any, you know, traction to it, but I continued to think about some of the pain points and things that I had experienced and talked to a lot of friends who had experienced with overcoming pornography and continued to come back to a few themes. And we just realized we wanted to try to help make a difference, particularly in making it easier for people to find a good support system. That's what we ended up doing. 

Tony: How long does it take to, this is kind of cool, how long did it take to build?

Chandler: Yeah. So we were total noobs at the beginning. We had no idea what we were doing. We were not like these engineering wizards going into this. Okay, I won't say we're engineering wizards now, you know, hopefully the users on the app don't know that, but no, it probably took us six months to get the first version out there, so it wasn't terribly long. But we learned a ton along the way. Tons of fun from a learning perspective, but meaningful at the same time because we were trying to actually get something that worked and actually worked really well into people's hands. 

Tony: So was this the classic, this was the project that you were doing for school and then you end up getting a bad grade, but go on to make millions of dollars? I mean, are you starting with that? 

Chandler: Well, the end of the story still has yet to be written. So millions of dollars, definitely not, you know, haven't paid ourselves anything from it yet, but, it quickly transitioned from just a project to, we were graduating and we had other job offers, like Jace was gonna go to Apple and do much cooler things there, probably. But, you know, we had started to actually see some really good signs of traction. And we had launched the app like six months before we graduated, and I think we had five or 600 paying users on the product that were interacting in these small, tight-knit teams. And they were getting, you know, results.Like we weren't necessarily, you know, nailing every aspect of it. And the way we look at it is like, we wanna continue to improve this thing for years, so it's not done, but we were really excited about what we were seeing so far, and we realized that we care a lot about helping people more than going and, you know, working for big tech companies. And so we decided this is what we wanna do. And so we didn't show up to our other jobs and instead we're doing this now full-time. 

Tony: Okay. And so then the, and it's funny, full transparency, I didn't read the material initially and then I had a client where he was looking for something from an accountability standpoint, and then I was trying to sound really cool and I said, oh, I think I've got like a really cool, brand new thing that nobody knows about. And then I, and then when I started reading about it, then I really did feel like I could see how interesting or important this could be in the world of addiction, because the connection is so important. And I feel like I've facilitated 12 step groups forever. You know, I've worked with, I don't know, I think 1500 plus individuals trying to overcome pornography or other unhealthy coping mechanisms. And I feel like there's that part where the one-on-one concept of an accountability partner sounds great, but then I find that, man, it's one of those things where it sounds good until it doesn't, until they can't get ahold of somebody until they feel like the person's gonna, you know, they're just checking a box until they feel like they're bothering somebody. Or, I mean, so is that kind of some of the things that you guys ran into? Or why you created it?

Chandler: I remember from my story growing up, like I, you know, for many years thought, you know, let's try to do this on my own. Right? And so this is even a step before what you're talking about and quickly realize, I think that it just, A, sucks to try to get through this alone, it's really miserable. And then B, I just realized that it wasn't very effective. Like they, there's a, I think things about trying to work through a personal challenge like this and, and even other, you know, challenges not pornography, I think human beings I don't believe are designed to just navigate these personal trials alone.I think even like between us and God, like from a faith perspective, I think God wants us to leverage each other and work together. We're placed on this world together for a reason, I believe, but yeah, I think, you know, when I started adding just my bishop, my church leader as my one accountability person, just my therapist at another point in time, or just my wife, you know, in our marriage. None of those setups worked very well, and all of them actually were really tough for me personally because I had an existing relationship with them. So for me, the shame factor was magnified. Because I was like, yeah, it was, it was either kind of checking the box or there was a little bit of extra barrier to be honest, just because I hated letting them down and I felt like I was letting myself down when I let them down. 

Because I think what I struggle with internally really with this challenge growing up was like, from the outside, people saw Chandler Rogers as this kid who was like doing well in a lot of things and did well at school and sports and like, and career stuff, right? And, at least I thought like no one would know the side of me and think that I'm the same person. So I struggle with this concept of self-worth, but I think a lot of people can struggle with this and still be a good person, still be a good follower of God, husband, like whatever it is, career professional. And, I think I had this light bulb moment as I realized I needed to expand my support system. Like at the same time I realized that it's not how many days in a row that I haven't looked at pornography that defines how solid of a person I am. We're all struggling with really difficult things and it's okay to be working through compulsive behavior and it's okay to need a wider support system to help them through it.

Tony: So tell me about how, I mean, I really am curious, I was joking with you beforehand of okay, I really wanna hear your story, I won't get into the nitty gritty of the product, but I really like this a lot because I do feel like, I always talk about, you know, you got your trigger. And with porn, I think it's more, it's typically, I call it crimes of opportunity. Somebody's bored or they just can, and so then, you know, you have the thought I could do this, and then the action, and I always say it's putting distance between thought and action. So I feel like that's where this could really come in handy of just to try to make a connection period that it isn't, hey, I'm struggling or, so what does it look like? What do you do? What's your group look like? How do you reach out to people within the app?

Chandler: Yeah, totally. So when I come into the app, the first thing that it will help me do is get matched with four to eight other people that are in the same boat as me working through the same thing in a way that's not scary and awkward. So it's not me having to go to my roommates or my buddies from work and having to open up. But these are people who are actively working towards the same goal. So I go through a little questionnaire and it helps first, find a team for me. Or if I'm already with an existing group, we have a lot of people in the app that are meeting, you know, Wednesday nights and they're using the app with their existing group because they realize, and this was my experience with the 12 step group or other programs that our group based the other six days of the week, we largely did not leverage that group and it was super dumb on us.

Tony: No, I think, and I think this would be amazing because the group, I do have my Path Back men's group is just growing and I feel like we all dig each other so much, but then people talk about, they look forward to yeah, the one hour on Wednesday and then there's this just, exactly.

Chandler: Yeah. It's like unsurprisingly, you know, WhatsApp and GroupMe weren't built to help recovery groups stay connected and accountable in an effective way. You know, they're good chat, you know, messaging platforms, but so, so this theme of like, what, what really is, it's more than a group chat. There is the group chat component, but once I'm in the group, we actually, on the connection component, we try to help make it easier for you to stay connected with your, whether it's like more than just that Wednesday night group or if it's a group that you're, you know, not meeting with live, we just help facilitate connections. So for example, we have some guided conversation prompts that will get auto generated or, or we'll help people select meaningful conversation prompts that we've worked with other clinicians to help, you know, generate different ways in which we can help people go deeper and form connection that's not just based around guys talking about how are you doing with porn today, but actually like what we were talking about, like, more substance than that. And also focusing on, you know, higher up the chain, I think on what's helpful. 

But then what's really helpful, I think a lot of people have found about the app is this red flag feature. So a lot of people, I remember we'd come to group and we'd be like, hey, I had a setback or relapse this week. The guys are like, why didn't you reach out in the group chat? And I'm like, I have no idea. And so we tested this out early on and we didn't actually think this would be the thing people loved about the app, but it's really simple. It's literally just this button that's a flag that you press with one tap instead of having to type out a message and say, hey, I'm not doing well, or I'm feeling tempted right now. It can send a notification and it just lets the group, it doesn't even have to be like that you're tempted right now, we're trying to help train the emotional awareness piece like you were talking about, like I'm feeling bored. And I'm feeling stressed or anxious or whatever it is. That'd be a red flag. And then what's really cool is people want to respond to the red flags. So people I think are just as excited about how do I give support through Relay and not just get support. And I think that's helped a lot of people too, as we're trying to reduce the friction so that, you know, I can turn outwards a little easier than having to, you know, go through my phone and text people and ask how they're doing. There's a little bit more visibility in the app there. And so there are kind of like these daily check-ins too that I can schedule and customize that are more emotional oriented to help me understand that I am feeling bored in the first place so that I can raise the red flag and even if I don't raise that red flag, we have kind of some transparency and we're still maintaining user privacy and making it so it is, it is your personal journey, but for example, let's say, Tony, that I log this morning that I'm feeling stressed or tired cause I didn't get good sleep and you're in my group, you could actually come in and see, even if I didn't throw that red flag, that I was feeling stressed and tired and you could reach out to me and be there for me.

Tony: So could you even say, hey, what's the, what's up with the sleep? I mean, is it literally like, you can see, it looks like Chandler slept three and a half hours? 

Chandler: Not that level of detail. Just like it's kinda logging, I'm feeling tired, I'm feeling bored. And usually, that's sparking conversations like, hey man, you've been putting that you've been feeling bored every day for the last few days you know, do you, do you have anything meaningful going on with work right now? Getting engaged in these different areas of your life. It's helping draw that awareness for people. The other component, kind of on the flip side of the coin is maybe you already have some things that you are trying to work on. So I am trying to spend, you know, time journaling every day to help me, you know, be more aware or I'm trying to exercise to be engaged in that area, my physical health, users can track that in the app. It's not just logging your sobriety with pornography, it's tracking those types of things. And then we're helping also surface that as a group so they can hold each other accountable on those types of things. And I can say, hey man, like how's your exercise going? I know you've been wanting to get more engaged in that area. 

Tony: So okay, I'm thinking through this from the therapist lens of, we need, you know, I tell people all the time, all right, we need to go from not needing external validation to validating yourself internally, but then the reality is we still want, we sometimes want the attaboys, the kudos, and I feel like this is the challenge when somebody's accountability partner is their spouse or their bishop or somebody like that of where, I don't know it, sometimes it can almost seem pretty clingy or needy to then say, hey, I'm, you know, I'm exercising, you know, and I know that if the spouse is having a struggle or if they feel like if I don't give him praise and then he acts out, then he's gonna turn it on me, or, so I like this concept of we got a group of people and maybe it's a little easier to say to a group of guys, hey, I need some, I need some attaboys today. Because I feel like if you got a bunch of guys that want the words of affirmation as a way to connect that they're probably more willing to give it in other than a spouse that's saying, okay, if I don't respond or I respond the wrong way, for some reason, you know, maybe in the past it's been turned around and put on that spouse because you know, I think I see that all as a therapist.

Chandler: It can be super hard. I think, you know, tons of therapists that I've talked to have all sorts of thoughts about why the spouse is kind of the primary accountability is hard for both people. And so I think spouses actually have loved Relay, maybe even more than the dudes themselves, because they're like, okay, because I remember my wife asking me early on, she was like, so you've been open and like went to groups and stuff. She's like, you have all these people in your phone as contacts that you could be working more proactively with staying accountable to just connecting with more. But it sounds like I'm like your only accountability partner. Like I was being open with her, you know, what she wanted. And we talked about what was gonna work for us, but she kind of nudged me and she was like, why are you not like, I need it to not just be me essentially. And I think that's been really helpful for a lot of spouses.

Tony: It's funny too, part of when I started my group and no, I mean, 12 step groups work for so many people. They've been around for such a long time. But the part with the no crosstalk, and I understand that that's protecting people from the, you know, the grizzled sea captain in the corner that's saying, you don't get a kid, you know, or that kind of thing. But I feel like I kind of want some crosstalk from time to time with people. What's working for you? What's not working for you? And I even feel like in my, in my men's group, I've got some stuff I want to share. We've got some questions or prompts. And so I even feel like at times there's not enough of that, tell me about a victory or tell me what's working for you. So I'd imagine this would probably give a way to facilitate more of that too. 

Chandler: Yeah. Maybe we're a little rebellious, it is more of the latter and not kind of the traditional avoiding crosstalk. But I mean, those are things that for me personally and as I've talked to tons of other guys, I think they feel kind of energized having that. And I don't think it's absolutely, it's not a silver bullet, right? Like it's not, you know, it's not something someone's gonna say as a brilliant idea of what's working for them. That's probably gonna change the game for me, but I think having that environment can be really helpful. 

Tony: No, I like what you're saying because I do, one of my go-to lines is when somebody comes in and they've worked with other people in the past and I will often just say, hey, are you expecting that I've got some magic pill or secret phrase that once you learn and this thing's gonna be easier. And I've been talking a lot lately too, Chandler, about, I feel like it's, I've been calling it an individualized customized treatment program for each individual because I feel like my path back program is gold and if people adhere to it, then it's gonna change their whole life. But, I know that everybody's got their own stuff they bring to the table. And so anyway, I'm now, I feel like I'm now singing your praises, I just like that idea of a connection with a small group or even a larger group of people. I like the idea of hitting a red flag instead of even saying I'm struggling. And then I like the idea that you can have a variety of ways to respond because I like, and so I'll have clients from time to time. I'll say, you can text me, I might end up just sending you a meme or something. And I dunno, so can you guys do that within the app? 

Chandler: That’s been one of our most requested features, Tony. I didn't realize that the memes were gonna be a huge part of it, but they were like, hey, we need to send these gifs, however you pronounce it, right? We're working on that right now actually.

Tony: Okay, so then do you guys have, and not that you have to have data or results or it shows that it helps you know this much more, or do you have that kind of data behind this as well? 

Chandler: One of the things that we've actually been tracking that we are interested in is people's perception of how they feel like things are trending because we can't see and they're logging, you know, if they are logging it, there's sobriety data, right? Like how are the results going from an outcome perspective? And then we can see, which I think is even a little more interesting, how are people doing at those input type goals and systems and habits? Like I'm tracking my exercise, my sleep, my journal, spiritual habits, whatever it is, but we're asking people in a weekly reflection how they feel about the level of connection with their group because really one of the main outcomes we want is to help people feel more connected. And then we're asking them how they feel, do they feel like things are getting better, staying the same or getting worse? And 79% of our users report feeling like things are getting better within the first month of using the app. So that's kinda the main, you know, data we've found so far. And it's still early. Like we launched this thing a year ago but we're really excited and one of the things that I believe in to keep improving the results there is I want our users to talk to me. And so I make my phone number and my email very available because I just want to understand what people find really effective in the app and what they wish was different. And that's how people are like, yeah, I wanna send memes. And we're like, okay, we can go add that. 

Tony: I noticed on the website too, Johann Hari, I dig, yeah, that, so that Ted talk, I mean the connection's the opposite of addiction. So is that a lot of what this, the whole concept is based off of? 

Chandler: Yeah. And it, I would say too, like that that talk was one of the things that really connected the dots for me. And he really just talks about a few studies that they'd done. Even with substance abuse, so not just pornography addiction, they found that connection.

Tony: The rat amusement park, isn't it? Do you know that one off the top of your head, Chandler? I was just telling this in one of the groups. 

Chandler: I’ll try to summarize this so I may butcher it. 

Tony: I literally just had somebody text it to me a couple days ago, so no, let's talk about this before we wrap up.

Chandler: So I believe what happened, they had these rats in a cage, right? And I can't remember what the substance was. It was essentially they laced the water with…

Tony: They said it was cocaine, I believe it was. Is that what it was? 

Chandler: Yeah, that sounds right. So they laced the water with cocaine and of course, essentially they found the rats wanted the cocaine water but the thing was that these rats were alone. They were individually contained like in their own cages. And then they set up the second test essentially with the rats together. So they had companionship, they had other rats with them. And what they found is actually that they stopped choosing the cocaine water and then said they essentially were choosing socialization and connection. And they reviewed the study multiple times and concluded there was something about connection that helped. I don't know if it is, you know, scientifically rewiring or just helping the healing process of overcoming compulsive behavior, and so that, you know, whether or not that's kind of a, I don't know, like a really clear cut principle or how that actually applies or what exactly that means for it to work. I don't know. But generally I think about the principle connection, helping and actually being central to the healing process. Not just trying to figure out, how do I stop a behavior? How do I get more meaningfully connected in my life and in my relationships and I think even connected with the things that I'm doing in a good way. Like you were talking about, whether it's my work or my family or other things.

Tony: Well, I was gonna say before, and that was before we jumped on, I told Chandler, and I think most of the people that listen to my podcast, if I tell them I don't do enough, I don't talk enough about this, but, yeah, I say that turning to porn is a coping mechanism when you don't feel connected in your marriage or your parenting, your health, your faith or your career in a nutshell. And I pulled up this study and I do, I love it. He says, Rat Park. They don't drink the drugged water. It was everything the rat could want food and other rats to befriend and colored things, shiny things. And then both water bottles are there, one with water and one with the drugged water, and they don't drink the drugged water.They hardly used it. None of them overdosed and so he talked about how addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment. And so I just, I think that's so fascinating because I often say even when people accept the fact that they can maybe drink the water or they can turn to porn, they would rather make a connection or do something that is of value because then they feel a greater sense of purpose. I like that a lot. Okay. So where do people find you? Where do we go? 

Chandler: It's join relay.app.

Tony: Join relay.app. So, okay. Chandler, anything else that you want to share? I mean, I just, first of all, can I ask you, can you tell if you or Jace are the better coder? I mean, is that, is that a thing?

Chandler: Well, I'll give that title to Jace for sure. He has a lot more of it these days than I do. I've, you know, I stepped away from doing that a ton. Jace is great.

Tony: I was gonna say real quick, I just remembered, any on the streets of New York stories? I mean, did you guys have to get scrappy or throw it down at all, or did you get really good at, I dunno, what'd you see there?

Chandler: Man. I love New York. We didn't see too many sketchy things. I don't have that many funny stories. Some kind of wild things that just, you'd expect to see, you know, people peeing in random places and stuff like that. But Jace and I, I remember, we had a really fun day together out in the Hamptons, like the end of Long Island. So it's not probably what you're thinking of with like the city. We did both spend some time there, but yeah, I remember even when I met Jace that like, I don't know, we just clicked really well together and we were both just really passionate about trying to help the people out there, and I think we, we were both Spanish speaking, and so we saw a lot of people who were very isolated. So it again ties back to this theme of connection. We're trying to work through all sorts of personal challenges and just like realized how important, I guess that theme was as we were out there in New York together. So, no, no crazy stories. I kind of wanted more, I remember leaving being like, I hope, like I get shot at, but I live like that would be cool.

Tony: And do you miss any of the food?  

Chandler: Yeah. I was telling my wife I'd love to move back there for the food.

Tony: What do you miss in particular? What was your favorite food? 

Chandler: I mean, the Dominican food is really good. Just all, all of that, all of their types of food is really good. I also love Pupusa from El Salvador. It's hard to describe. They're like these little tortillas, filled with beans and meat and cheese, but it's a little thicker, like, okay. Anyways, it's super good. You're in California, right? You should go, they definitely have them there.

Tony: Oh, I'm sure they do. Okay. No, that sounds good, alright, Chandler Rogers, thank you for coming on the Virtual Couch, I look forward to seeing you maybe in the app and we can share a meme or two. 

Chandler: For sure. Let's do it. Thanks, Tony. 

Tony: Okay. All right. Thanks Chandler. 

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