To mark the ten-year anniversary of Hello Sunday Morning, we asked our founder, Chris Raine, to write a letter of advice to his younger self…
The next decade of your life will be defined by excessive drinking… but not in the way you think.
The next ten years will actually be defined by a single decision you will make at the end of 2008 to spend the whole of 2009, sober. This decision will lead you to quit your job halfway through 2009 and spend the next decade of your life growing a global organisation and movement of people looking to change their relationship with alcohol.
Strap yourself in…
You will build a team. You will run out of money and have to fire everyone and start again. Several times. You will win awards. You will lose friends. You will be supported by generous corporate and philanthropic donors. You will give up relationships for your purpose. Your board will try to fire you. You will want to quit. But ten years on, you will still be in love with this strange vocation that becomes – Hello Sunday Morning.
Let’s go back to 4 am in the morning on January 1, 2009. There you are with a bunch of strangers you collected at some weird New Year’s kick-on. In your hand is a rum and coke – you designate it to be your last drink for the whole of the following year. You pronounce this resolution loudly, to widespread scepticism… and laughter.
So you decide to make it public. Very public. You start a blog called ‘Hello Sunday Morning’ and write your first blog of the year, in the first week of January. You get three comments – from your mum, your family friend and some rando from the internet. Your friends don’t comment (to your face).
So starts one of the most extraordinary years of your life. You go out sober on weekends, sometimes half naked just to see what happens. You get way fewer dates, but enough to be heartbroken and not be able to drink the pain away. You lose a lot of old friends (but they come back later), and you make a whole lot of new ones. One of those friends asks you, about halfway through the year, if they can join in by taking their own three months off drinking, and blogging about it. You resist for a month (‘no way man, this is my thing!’) before relenting and then, next minute, there are five of you on the Hello Sunday Morning blog.
Some media pick up the blog and it gets public attention. At this point, there is no going back, because that’s when you start getting the messages, the letters, the calls, the one-on-one chats that still happen today.
Everyone has a story about drinking problems. Either their own drinking, or that of someone they love. Everyone. They share the tragedies in their life and the lives of those they love caught in a vicious circle of alcohol dependence, but unable to get the help they need, or find the right help. Even ten years later you still have mixed feelings about this, especially because your own relationship with alcohol isn’t always perfect (nor abstinent). But you settle on the philosophical foundation that as long as you don’t tell people how to drink, you can navigate a sticky sense of hypocrisy.
You take the perspective that what matters more than how people drink, is that if people want to change their relationship with alcohol, they should get all the support they need to do so. Because, sadly, the opposite is true. You learn that in Australia, right now, there are 200,000 people who need treatment and really want it, but don’t get it. There just isn’t enough resources to support the demand for it. This seems like a problem big enough to spend your career on.
You start a non-profit to focus on this issue. You quit your job in advertising and do a lot of hustling to get someone to pay for you to focus on it. In the first two years, most of your revenue comes from getting universities to pay you to come into their colleges and give speeches to convince a handful of students to take three months off drinking. It’s a tough gig, but you cut your teeth on how to sell a very tough message.
You get funding from Harold Mitchell (who later will become Hello Sunday Morning’s Patron) to build a better website so that people can share their experiences and support each other in a safe and non-judgemental environment.
In 2011, you receive your first big grant and naively think that these will just keep rolling in. They don’t. You hire five people to do all the work, and stop fundraising. But the money runs out and you have to fire everyone. Sitting in that empty office, with the walls covered in photos of the team you have failed to keep, breaks your heart and teaches you the hard financial reality of building anything – the money side of things doesn’t look after itself.
It is at this point you meet Jamie Moore, who joins the wreckage of the team as its financial controller and becomes the greatest thing to happen to Hello Sunday Morning. Over the next seven years you form a business partnership that becomes one of the most successful relationships in your life. Together you co-lead Hello Sunday Morning through the inevitable daily challenges all organisations face.
One of the major challenges occurs because you choose to stay as CEO while you do your MBA at Oxford. This is a mistake (but not a regret), and the organisation suffers as a result. Jamie holds the fort but the board steps into the operations to support him, more and more, while you are away. By the time you return from your year of intellectual indulgence in Oxford the board no longer believes in you.
By the end of 2015 you find yourself in a painful argy bargy with the board and you offer your resignation to the chair. You think that your journey as the CEO of Hello Sunday Morning has come to an end. But at the eleventh hour you receive an email with the resignations from the board.
There you are again in one of those empty-office moments. But this time you have Jamie next to you and this time there is another feeling. A feeling of possibility – of making a fresh start. You make a commitment to each other to go big or pack it up. You decide to focus on two things: building a great culture and building great partnerships.
With pioneering financial support from Macquarie Bank, Vodafone and Google, the Hello Sunday Morning team develops ‘Daybreak’, a phone-based app designed specifically to help our system edge closer to supporting those 200,000 people who need clinical support but don’t currently get it. The Australian Government gets interested, provides a pilot grant to support 20,000 Australians to register with the program – your team manages to support 28,000 a year ahead of schedule – a community larger than Alcoholics Anonymous in Australia.
At this point the organisation has to make a choice: do we keep the emphasis on challenging the culture of drinking in our society, or do we drill down deeper and focus on providing people with practical tools that they need to make individual behaviour changes? It’s not an easy choice, but in the end you figure that we have the ability to help more people at greater need by developing Daybreak into a bona fide health service, rather than talking more generally about alcohol in society.
With that decision, a whole series of consequences unfolds for Hello Sunday Morning. You re-engineer Daybreak, tightening up data management and company governance, and raising the bar clinically so that it meets the standards required to make it accepted by healthcare professionals and regulatory bodies. You change the make-up of the staff, bringing in IT engineers, user-interface specialists, clinical researchers, and you put the development of Daybreak under the control of a psychologist, not an engineer, to ensure that it’s a digital therapeutic offering right down to the core.
Things are looking great for the Hello Sunday Morning team, now 27 people strong and an incredible suite of partners with The Paul Ramsay Foundation, Ian Potter Foundation, nib Foundation added to the list. It’s time to step aside. After some hard but important conversations with the chair and the board, you decide it’s time to find the next CEO of Hello Sunday Morning to take it forward into the next decade. You set the date 12 months away and you step down in May.
When you tell people you are leaving, they will invariably ask, ‘how do you feel about leaving your baby?’ but you know in your heart of hearts, that the real baby is you. Hello Sunday Morning has grown you up, not the other way round. As the date nears you become more and more confident in the decision and most importantly, the team you have built, and know the organisation will have an even bigger impact than you ever imagined.
What a decade. What an incredible ride it has been.
You’ll need to keep that same sense of curiosity and excitement that was there when you clicked ’post’ on that first blog in January ten years ago.
Good luck on the next ten. If the last decade was anything to go by, you are going to need it!
34 CommentsAdd a comment
From Bonnie Scotland . Thank you ❤️
A really good thing you’ve done Chris, good luck for the future.
This is just brilliant. And inspiring. Thanks for sharing your honest reflections and some very personal memories. Rock on!
Hi Chris, such a wild and at times rocky ride and thank you so much for your tenacity. It is a truly inspiring story and I thank you for everything you have done for me, Australia and the wider community of people wanting to change their relationship with alcohol. Perhaps it’s time for you to concentrate on you, which you so richly deserve? I think the older Chris will be extremely proud of the younger Chris! It has been a pleasure to meet you and again, I thank you for your inspiration and leadership. Take care and all the best. Sheridan Johnston.
What a brilliant article, it gives a genuine picture into the sacrifice it takes to create something you believe in!
What an amazing ride it has been Chris. I remember commenting on your posts back in 2010 and mostly I was the only one, I remember Jill Stark was there too. I was Shine I did an HSM and 8 years ago I gave alcohol away. The best thing I have ever done and it is all thanks to you. I moved on before Daybreak but it seems to be a great initiative. I am now dealing with isolation without the need for alcohol and I am so grateful. I know you will accomplish great things in the future and I wish you well
Chris I can never thank you enough for ‘Hello Sunday Morning’ I joined up for a ‘stint’ 7 years ago and that 3 months eventually, years later lead me to be completely alcohol free. Christmas 2018 I said ‘done’. I became friends with a woman in the UK through HSM and we have kept in touch and supported each other over many years. I love and appreciate the weekly messages. All the very best with your future ventures and thank you for the support. I honestly couldn’t have done it without you and you quite possibly have saved my life.
How truly inspiring and what a legacy … can’t wait to hear about your next 10.
Readingthe highs and lows you have weathered gave me goose bumps. Thank you and all the best for whatever comes next xx
Thank you for sharing the REAL STORY i.e. the ups and downs, the disappointments, the hard work. How easily we forget what it takes to make a positive change and contribution to the world. ALSO, thanks for creating a forum that is welcoming to moderates. HSM,and now DB , has improved my relationship with alcohol and if it was an abstinence only site, I would have never taken part and seen those changes. Cheers !!
Congratulations on an epic decade and for starting something so meaningful and positive. You must be so proud of the impact and ripple effect you created. All the best for whatever lays ahead.
Chris, I owe you for saving my life and those around me from the heartache that would have caused them. I know I’m not alone. Your incredible inner strength and vision will always be visible in Hello Sunday Morning and the Daybreak App. The legacy you have created will inspire other entrepreneurs to selflessly reach out to help others in so many positive ways, creating a much better world in the process. You’re an icon and a beacon for those with similar passion for the good of all.
Hello Chris , I found HSM shortly after my drinking had gotten way out of hand . I joined HSM August 11 , 2014 . I know I could become a moderator;however, i also knew i had a lot to learn about why i drank. I quit drinking for 7.5 months .i learned so much about myself I could write a book. I spent hours writing and reading posts . By the time HSM shut down , my new life was ingrained in me. I made some wonderful friends who I still keep up with to this day . I have moderation rules in place that I live by .I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for HSM . Thanks so much . Good luck and thank you from the bottom of my heart for creating such a wonderful platform. I’ll be forever grateful. CHRISTINE
One word – THANK YOU – for HSM and DB. Good luck in your future ventures. I know we will be hearing more .
I’m in awe of your strength and resplolve. And for having the courage to go against the grain and highlight the dangerous drinling culture in Australia.
What a story of inspiration! Thank you Chris for what have done to create a better society here in Australia and across the world. Thank you for creating an organisation which I was able to engage with in my moment – and now moments – of desperation. And thank you for all the day-breakers you have inspired and the way we support each other. May your next chapter be as rewarding. DDG xx
Chris, it has been such a pleasure working with you, Jamie and the HSM Team…. You can proudly tell Younger Chris that building a great culture is certainly something you achieved in spades. The comments here alone give a glimpse into the impact you have made and the legacy you have left. I can’t wait to see your next adventures 🙂
To convert your awareness with such profound effect for so many is truly unique Chris. Brave, creative, tenacious! Enjoy the next chapter Mate! Cheers, Chapo.
Thank you Chris great job! All the very best for your future.
Thanks Chris for all your efforts. I started a 12 month stint 6 years ago, that turned into 5 years of no alcohol. Nowadays I have more respect for myself. Full respect to you mate!!
Chris I joined HSM while living in London in 2010/11 I stopped drinking for over 12 months and chronicled my experience on the blog in the early days. It was an amazing experience and changed my life for the better. Thank you for devoting ten years of your life to this. It has helped so many people.
You are an true inspiration. Good luck with your future endeavours.
It was this website that saved my life. I got help after reading the blogs. Thank you. Paul in ireland
Chris, Thank you for who you are and all you have done for Hello Sunday Morning. Best wishes with your future endeavors.
Thank you Chris, what an amazing thing you have done for the world! All the very best for your future.
Chris, you are a rockstar and what a great pleasure to have got to know you. Wishing you all the best for the new chapter!!
Congratulations on such an epic venture that has truly saved lives. Good luck with whatever comes next, I’m sure you’ll make it a huge success, Dr Chris x
Fantastic contribution and legacy. Well done and best luck for the next decade.
I’m proud of you xx
Thanks Chris for your courage and determination. I have blogged about your organization, and sent many your way. I love what Hello Sunday Morning has been doing for the planet. I am so very grateful for your perseverance. May the next leg of your own personal journey be full of joy, wonder and discovery.
Great work Chris and the team. I have recommended Daybreak to so many people as it is a wonderful way to assist without implying people/friends/family are alcoholics.
Fantastic article, so inspiring to read about the highs and lows.
Good luck with the future, I’m sure it will be epic.
I can never thank you enough for lighting the spark and tending the flame that changed my life forever! Eternally grateful.
Thank you for creating and inspiring the support that has kept me sober for 83 days, and curious about the next 83. There is something so sane and accessible about HSM that gives me gives me the kind of support I need and the permission to change my own life. The fact HSM comes all the way from Australia to me in Inverness without fail every week is part of the magic. All the very best going forward in your own way Chris, I applaud your spirit, Nola.