In 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, each of the 12 steps…
Can You Get Sober Online?
Using online communities as support and accountability for getting sober is a growing trend. Addiction is a serious disease, and most experts would say that online support groups and forums just aren’t enough. You need real treatment with experienced professionals. But what if you’re not addicted yet? What if you are in that gray zone between responsible drinking and binging every night? Could you use online communities and your own strength of will to cut back or go totally sober? The answers to these questions depend greatly on you as an individual, but learning more about what the Internet has to offer addicts can help.
Online Support Groups and Forums
Online support groups are nothing new. They have been around for some time and provide a great resource for anyone who is too far from an in-person support group to be able to reliably attend meetings. This is a definite bonus of using an online group. Some groups may meet at specific times, but forums are always open and available, which is another benefit. You can access support and talk to someone online at any time. Online groups are also good for reaching people who are less likely to attend traditional support group meetings. These include teens and adolescents as well as women of all ages.
On the other hand, communication online has some challenges. There are no visual or body language cues, and misunderstandings are more common than with in-person communication. It is also troubling that there has been little research into the effectiveness of online support groups. If you are counting on an online group to be your only form of treatment or support for addiction, there is no evidence that it will work for you.
Addiction and Recovery Apps
Apps for your smartphone or tablet are another way in which you can harness the power of the Internet for recovery. The number of apps available for addiction and recovery has exploded in the last couple of years. As with online groups, most apps have not been studied for effectiveness. One that has been tested was created by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Called A-CHESS, the app uses forums, peer messaging, relaxation techniques and access to addiction counselors to help addicts. The app can even alert you if you are too close to a trigger spot, like a bar you used to frequent. The app was designed with alcohol addiction in mind, but it could be useful for any kind of addict. In a study, the app was found to help people drink less.
Few other apps have been studied beyond asking users if they were helpful. The results show that people do find the apps useful in that they provide tips and social connections. What is important to understand when it comes to online support groups, addiction and recovery forums and apps is that none of these are replacements for true addiction treatment. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you need professional help. Where these online tools can help is if you are not addicted yet and feel that you can cut back with the right amount of support, or if you have already been through treatment and are looking for tools to help you stay sober.
Hopefully the future will bring more research to help us understand which of the available online tools can be the most helpful for recovering addicts. If you think you can quit or cut back using online tools, but fail to make improvements, you need to seek professional help. Get into rehab or outpatient treatment and then consider using online tools as support only, not as your main treatment.