Improving Addiction Recovery

About 1 out of every 7 young adults in the United States have a substance use disorder - nearly double the percentage of adults over age 25. Addiction takes the lives of thousands every year, while the stigma of addiction further isolates those that endure living with it.

As part of our Master’s capstone, my team worked for our clients -- Oasis Recovery Center and Biomotivate -- to conceptualize LiveLine, a live streaming platform providing accessible support and resources for people with addictions. LiveLine creates communities for those that don’t fit into the current system of addiction treatment.

8 months

Product Designer
Project Manager

Angelina Thomas, Ben Stone, Connie Chau, Paul Myers


Today’s addiction treatment isn’t sufficient

  • 1
    It’s difficult for young adults to find recovery communities for their age group.
  • 2
    People struggle to manage cravings, withdrawals, and triggers when recovering from an addiction.
  • 3
    COVID-19 exacerbates the inaccessibility of addiction support for young adults.


LiveLine supports people in recovery anytime, anywhere with live streaming

Find commonalities with others that go beyond a shared addiction

With LiveLine, communities aren’t limited by physical proximity. Instead, they can form over special interests, demographics, and beliefs, all while having the option to maintain anonymity.

Receive support 24/7 with different options for different situations

At any hour of the day, LiveLine users can talk on a hotline, get signs of an overdose, or reach out to your community judgement-free.

Identify triggers and root causes of substance use

Journaling and mood tracking can give people the self-awareness that will help them plan for encountering triggers, avoid them when possible, and even heal from past traumas.

Process overview

How we arrived at this solution

We explored the domain, defined the problem, ideated, and refined the solution. During the 8 month span of the project, I helped lead the project’s UX and UI designs, did project management for the first half, and contributed to research throughout.

Exploring the domain

Familiarizing ourselves with current treatment methods

Our team went to a drug court session, sober living home, treatment center, and 14 different peer support groups to familiarize ourselves with the domain.

❌ Two-Pane Exploration

This layout makes it easier to click between and compare candidates. This view works best if the job and stage selection was made on a prior page. I chose not to pursue this direction since it complicated the flow and made it harder to focus on an individual application.

❌ Two-Pane Exploration

This layout makes it easier to click between and compare candidates. This view works best if the job and stage selection was made on a prior page. I chose not to pursue this direction since it complicated the flow and made it harder to focus on an individual application.

Content Warning

Drugs, death, relapse, depression, withdrawal

Below are screenshots taken of posts in addiction-related Reddit communities. They contain imagery and stories that may be triggering to readers.

Turning to Reddit to hear from people that aren’t being helped

Once we understood the current system of treatment, we turned to Reddit to hear from people that aren’t being helped. We went to Reddit because of the large, anonymous addiction communities it hosts (over 100,000 people are in r/opiates alone). I started digital eavesdropping (aka lurking) on these sub-communities, including r/opiates, r/heroin, r/opiatesmemorial

We made our own posts to interview people about their addiction

We conducted interviews over Zoom and didn’t collect any identifying information.

Defining the problem

Mapping the journey and focusing on 2 key moments

We synthesized our research through a journey map and chose two key moments to focus on. This helped us identify a specific problem and target demographic.

Many people don’t feel comfortable attending peer support groups despite their benefits

Those who have a positive experience at their first meeting can form life-long communities. However, attendees are mostly older men, and most groups are 12-step programs, which emphasize giving into a higher power. For people such as young adults, women, and atheists, it can be difficult to feel comfortable attending with strangers for the first time.

Design Decision: Help people join or form communities

Learning to manage relapses and the triggers that cause them is key to long-term recovery

Relapses are hugely destructive - especially in isolation. The fear and despair caused by relapse further feeds into the hopelessness that makes recovery seem impossible. Relapses can occur even after years of sobriety, especially when a stressful event occurs, such as a death, change in job, or divorce.

Design Decision: Provide immediate access to short and long-term support for managing triggers

Young adults are the hardest hit but most underserved

Despite the fact that young adults are nearly twice as likely to have an addiction than those over 25, only 12% of Alcoholics Anonymous members were under the age of 30 in their latest survey. Many of the young adults we spoke to were often turned off by the religious language of 12-Step programs. These programs also often have dated websites, and sometimes require making a phone call to get more information, a huge obstacle sell for a younger generation used to modern tech.

Design Decision: Create a digital touch point flexible to different beliefs


Rapidly ideating sketches and storyboards

We narrowed down our concepts first internally, and then by sharing them with our target demographic for feedback.


Initial sketches




Feedback Sessions

Idea 1

Helping people join a recovery group with a “meeting buddy”

This “buddy” would be matched with a person based on their preferences, such as a matching age or gender, and guide them through finding and attending a support group meeting that was a good fit for them. We hypothesized that this would help young adults overcome the initial anxiety and discomfort of joining a recovery community. We verified this need and interest in this solution through interviews with our target demographic.

COVID-19 hit the US, shutting down meetings

COVID-19 forced support groups that bonded over in-person socializing during and after meetings to move to Zoom, making it even more difficult to join such communities. We pivoted by re-focusing on online community building. To ideate ways we could facilitate online community building, we started looking at existing social media platforms and reimagined them so they were made specifically for people in recovery from addictions.

Idea 2

“Twitch for Recovery” – Creating online recovery communities

Live streaming was popular amongst our research participants for the way its long-form content mirrored live support group meetings. It allows people to watch and participate in recovery content while staying anonymous, making it a much lower barrier to entry. This format also makes it easy to access relatable communities that resonate with one’s unique recovery goals and treatment methods.

User Testing

Gathering feedback

We conducted moderated usability tests on our rough prototype to gather feedback and co-design future iterations. Through these tests, we tested and got ideas for different features. For instance, we verified an interest in journaling, with even a couple people noting that the peer support group they attended recommended they journal. We also heard enthusiasm for the possibilities for recovery communities bonding over special interests, like art and gaming.


Live streaming, journaling, and SOS addiction support

User feedback & Next Steps

“It’s interactive, it’s modern, it has a balance of public and private - it really hits all the marks.”

- Anonymous research participant

This concept has gotten overwhelming positive feedback through user testing sessions with over a dozen people in recovery. We’ve passed on our research and design to our clients, Oasis Recovery Center and Biomotivate.

Screenshot of the team


This experience taught me how I can co-design with a community as an outsider

As someone who hasn’t been directly impacted by addiction, it was important for me to learn how I can involve those that are affected into the design of the platform. If I were to do anything differently, I would have narrowed our specific target audience earlier into the process to focus our research efforts and give us more time to explore our solution. But all in all I learned how to juggle competing client interests and collaborating long-term with my team.