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MJ Gottlieb: “Addiction is a disease”

Addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or cancer. You can’t wish it away. You need to get treated in order to get better. It’s not your fault that you are addicted. You are genetically predisposed to a condition that only a spiritual program of rigorous honesty and action can resolve. You are not alone. You […]

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Addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or cancer. You can’t wish it away. You need to get treated in order to get better. It’s not your fault that you are addicted. You are genetically predisposed to a condition that only a spiritual program of rigorous honesty and action can resolve.

You are not alone. You will soon find out that by asking for help, people who were previously afraid to ask for help will have the courage to follow your lead. You will save your life and save countless others without even knowing


I had the pleasure of interviewing MJ Gottlieb the Co-Founder & CEO of Loosid, a groundbreaking new app that makes it easy to find new friends, dating, fun sober events and destinations, and groups in your community that promote sober living. MJ has been sober since March 2012, but began his first attempt at sobriety in the late 1990’s. He invariably found his way back into addiction for one main reason… to him, sobriety simply wasn’t fun.

In 2017, MJ began developing the Loosid app to offer millions of people in the sober community access to fun experiences and a place to connect and find support. He also wanted to create a full suite of recovery tools for people to connect and get help at a moment’s notice. He knew the stigma so many have reaching out to people and knew that the best way to provide that connection was through the one thing that people are never without — their phones!

In addition to starting Loosid, MJ also owned and operated six businesses over the last 23 years. Clients have included: Fubu, Phat Farm, Samsung America and lists of others in the sports, clothing, media and entertainment industries. He is also the author of How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying, a book written for the aspiring entrepreneurs of our next generation on the most important things NOT to do when starting and running a business for the first time. The foreword to the book was written by Shark Tank’s, Daymond John.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you describe your childhood for us?

I grew up in downtown Manhattan. I had two wonderful caring and loving parents. One thing that stood out was they were very overprotective and wanted to insulate me from any harm. I was told the world was a dangerous place.

While I now realize this is only because they deeply loved me and wanted to protect me, it put me in tremendous fear of everything. I couldn’t open my mouth. I was too afraid… until one night, around 14 years old, I found alcohol and suddenly everything was OK. From that point forward, I could speak to anybody, so long as I had alcohol in my system.

Can you share with us how were you initially introduced to your addiction? What drew you to the addiction you had?

I was invited to a house party in Soho. I remember finishing that first drink and instantly wanting another, then another. I was instantly transformed. I was better looking, I was the life of the party, I was wittier, I was smarter, everyone wanted to be around me… or so I thought. I was no longer in fear, I felt no danger. I had found the solution.

What do you think you were really masking or running from in the first place?

I was running away from fear and from the mental scars of being bullied and picked on. All the negative experiences of fears and resentments were weighing me down so heavily that I had to use substances to escape the pain building inside of me.

Can you share what the lowest point in your addiction and life was?

I was babysitting my sister’s 4 children, one who was in a crib, one was barely 2 years old, one 5 and one 7. I drank a bottle of Mount Gay Rum and passed out. When I came to, my sister and her family left their own home and went upstate to get as far away from me as possible. Luckily, none of the children were harmed, however, the event itself was enough to push me in the right direction.

Can you tell us the story about how were you able to overcome your addiction?

I was fortunate enough to have lost everything. There was not a person left in the world I could turn to as I had destroyed every relationship. I had lost my business, lost my friends and had run out of people to borrow money from to feed my addiction. I knew I had two previous legal charges so I was not going to break the law to feed my habit.

I crawled back into the recovery rooms I hadn’t been to in 5 years and said the three words no addict wants to say, “I need help.” It’s no coincidence that the 3 words no one wants to say is the same three words that will save their life. That, however, requires you to let go of your ego. I was completely broken so there was no ego left, just an empty shell. Recovery is like a glass of water. If you come in with dirty water filled to the rim there is no room for clean water to come in. The only thing to do is empty your cup voluntarily or involuntarily. I had involuntarily emptied my cup.

How did you reconcile within yourself and to others the pain that addiction caused to you and them?

In order to reconcile anything within myself or others, I needed to learn about the disease. I learned that addiction is a genetic bullet and was not my fault. I was not a bad person trying to be good but a sick person who needed the guidance of how to get well. It is a disease just like any other. The beauty of the disease is that unlike others, you can put it in remission on a daily basis by working the program.

This allowed me to forgive myself. It was then time to mend fences and clean my side of the street. I made amends to my sister, to my parents and all the people I had harmed. I told them I am sorry for what I did and to please let me know what I could do to make things right. It is important to never make excuses for why I did what I did. That is something I was taught that has been very important in my recovery.

When you stopped your addiction, what did you do to fill in all the newfound time you had?

I threw everything I had into recovery. I had lost everything so I had nothing else to do which was a blessing. Mind you, it was very humbling to live the life of George Costanza at 41 living back home in the same room I grew up. I took meetings in detoxes and jails and tried to carry the message of recovery everywhere.

Additionally, my father had a stroke shortly into my recovery and I was able to be of service not only to him, but to my entire family. The same person who used to tell me I was going to put my mother in the grave now would say ‘what would I ever do without you.’ This is one of the greatest gifts of recovery.

What positive habits have you incorporated into your life post addiction to keep you on the right path?

A person I met in recovery early on who was very dear to me and is responsible for saving my life used to tell me if you get the gift of sobriety and don’t give it back, you are a shoplifter. This is how I live my life. I shouldn’t be alive. I have an obligation to give back what was freely given to me. Service keeps you sober.

Can you tell us a story about how your entrepreneurial journey started?

The mother of someone I was helping was looking to open up rehab centers as her family has been ravaged by addiction. We became very close, like brother and sister. I started helping to advise her on these acquisitions.

One day, I was telling her we simply could not open up enough treatment centers in the world to help even 1/100th of 1 percent of those suffering from addiction. Even if we were to open 1,000 treatment centers we could maybe help a few hundred thousand people per year. I said to myself, the math simply didn’t add up. There are over 300 million people worldwide suffering from alcohol abuse alone. If you add those struggling with other substances, the numbers are beyond staggering. I told her if you want to help all those people, the only way is to leverage the power of digital and bring them all into one place. We also wanted to help the entire sober community as well, which in the US is 23+ million people.

We also wanted to create a platform that welcomed anyone who was sober for any reason or anyone interested in being sober.

In order to attract people to become sober, I knew it was critical to show people how much fun it can be when choosing to live a sober life. This is why we created such a comprehensive platform that incorporates sober dating, travel, events, and groups with all the different ways to engage and interact and, most importantly, have fun.

We also needed to offer immediate help for those struggling. For this reason, we built a suite of recovery tools for anyone in need of community support as well as over 14,000 treatment centers and Tele Help Guides offering professional help, that a member can query based on their location.

What character traits have you transferred from your addiction to your entrepreneurship. Please share both the positive and negative.

The biggest I can think of is I do absolutely nothing in moderation and I am never satisfied with myself and I never will be. That’s probably my greatest flaw and strength. That being said, it allows me to move the goal post further than others. If you look at the creation of Loosid, the truth is, I had no interest in saving 1–200,000 people, I wanted to save the world.

I chase helping others with their challenges the same way I chased drugs and alcohol. There is no stop button on me. No off switch. The only time I will ever be satisfied is if there is not a single human being left on Earth suffering from addiction. There also must not be a single homeless person, no racism, sexism or social injustice. I think I have a long journey of dissatisfaction ahead of me.

Why do you think this topic is not discussed enough?

There’s a saying, those amongst us no explanation is necessary, those not amongst us no explanation is possible. People see numbers but they don’t feel the numbers. It is necessary to tug on the heartstrings of the public. In order to do that and get a true understanding of what is going on, speak to an addict like me.

Speak to my partners Zhanna and Kirill, who can tell you how their entire family has been ripped apart by this disease. This is actually the main mission of Loosid. To grow the largest platform in the world for the sobriety and addiction community. To grow so large that people can’t turn their heads and our voices must be heard. We can then create change. Change laws. Change clinical models. Track success metrics and throw out all the models that aren’t working. There is so much we can do. I challenge people to get on the front lines with me because we need all the help we can get.

Can you share three pieces of advice that you would give to the entrepreneur who is struggling with some sort of addiction but ashamed to speak about it or get help?

Addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or cancer. You can’t wish it away. You need to get treated in order to get better. It’s not your fault that you are addicted. You are genetically predisposed to a condition that only a spiritual program of rigorous honesty and action can resolve.

You are not alone. You will soon find out that by asking for help, people who were previously afraid to ask for help will have the courage to follow your lead. You will save your life and save countless others without even knowing

How can our readers follow you on social media?@MJGottlieb
@loosidapp

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