PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — When Chip Hafford decided to give up alcohol, he had no clue he’d be supported by people from around the country.
Within days of posting his first segment on TikTok, his videos have gone viral. He has amassed 47,000 followers, 1.3 million “likes” and millions of viewers.
Hafford’s decision to share the deeply personal journey toward sobriety has garnered an overwhelming amount of support from strangers. He has seen comments from actors and sports celebrities. But what has most surprised him is that other people are following his example.
Hafford, 38, decided to share his videos because he was quitting alcohol for himself, he said. He woke up feeling terrible after a “bender” the night before, and realized he didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He just hoped for some support from followers and wanted to help others along the way.
The Presque Isle resident started drinking in his teens, but ramped up the alcohol when he was 21 and could legally visit bars. Drinking has been part of his adult life, and he has experienced many ups and downs over the years.
“Like many others, I have used alcohol to mask my anxiety and frustrations,” Hafford said Wednesday. “I’m at the age where I know I have to listen to the signs my body is telling me before I’ve pushed my body too far and it’s too late.”
He woke up one morning feeling saturated with alcohol and horrible in a way he never had before. He knew then he had to make a choice.
He made his first video about a week ago. A message asked him to do a TikTok “story time,” which means viewers find the topic interesting and want the rest of the story.
“And I was thinking to myself, why would anybody want me to do a story time about my life?,” he said in the segment. He said he knew it was time for him to quit alcohol and invited others to stay with him as he expanded his story.
That video now has nearly 212,000 views. His third video, in which he dumped a growing number of cans of beer — what he said he would have consumed on an average night — has been seen by 5.5 million people.
Now, hundreds have tagged him in videos of themselves dumping out alcohol, thanking him for the encouragement to start their own sobriety, he said. Others are sharing messages of inspiration and support, cheering him on.
“I was flooded with complete strangers with the same issues telling me their story, and I instantly realized I was helping them as much as they were helping me,” Hafford said.
Though he had tried to quit before, he said he had never done it for the right reasons. He decided to change for the better and to seek sobriety for himself, and no one else.
Knowing that others are opening up and talking about their own addictions in response to his videos is important, because admitting the problem is the first step toward recovery, Hafford said.
He finds the attention rewarding but ultimately humbling.
“It makes me feel proud to have such a great online family — a big family,” he said.