The recovery space has had to make dramatic shifts as far as how it provides essential needs for those that work programs to help stay sober. A large majority of citizens worldwide were quickly told to shelter in place and self-quarantine for their health and safety, and it’s difficult to determine when these suggestions will change. In response to the federal mandate deeming it unsafe to gather in groups, many 12-Step meetings shifted into an online format.
This has been an impressive and lifesaving change since the fellowship and continued sobriety that can be found in these meetings is an essential part of recovery. However, as the dust settles and the “new normal” takes shape, it’s important to recognize that the principles that are important to recovery, such as anonymity, can be more difficult to maintain online. There are a number of ways to help protect those values of recovery, even while we navigate practicing it online.
Staying Anonymous Online
One issue that has been especially prevalent when using online resources is maintaining anonymity. Social media platforms have seen a surge of recovery-related resource groups where one can ask recovery questions, hear stories of experience strength and hope, and get direction to resources. An issue with these groups is that even if they are set to secret or private, which are optional security settings, is that when a person is added to a group, even before accepting the invitation, they can see the content posted within.
The issue that exists here is that anyone can be added by any member, which means that those who are not in recovery might be added to such groups of at least be able to see the names of people posting content. The larger issue, however, is that if one wishes to protect their personal anonymity entirely, even being in one of these groups can pose a threat to that.
The best way to avoid this, should your anonymity within the recovery space be personally essential for you, is to avoid being in these groups altogether. Nevertheless, being a part of such recovery platforms can be hugely helpful, not only for personal recovery but also for the opportunity they provide to be of service for those still struggling with a substance use disorder.
The meetings and the community there provide you with the opportunity to reach out and lend experience, strength, and hope to those that seek it. There are a few things that you can do to help protect your anonymity in these situations. Make sure your personal settings limit and restrict access to information on your profile for those that are not “friends” on the platform.
You can also use your middle name, or if you have one your maiden name, in place of your last name. You can avoid using your last name in your profile, and you can keep your visible profile photo to one that is not of you personally, such as a scenic photo, a photo of an object, or a large group photo.
When it comes to using digital platforms for meetings, such as Zoom or Slack, make sure before you enter a meeting that you utilize the website and maximize security settings. You have the option to not display your last name and not include any photos. You can also keep the camera off if you feel there might be someone in the meeting that could jeopardize your anonymity.
While the hope is that others can respect our needs to remain anonymous, it’s important to remember that the person who can best protect your anonymity is you. You are also able to report people that are not using respectful conduct to the meeting host. Simply make sure your motives are clear and that you are acting in the best interest of the other meeting goers before proceeding with caution.
While it can be a frustrating experience to use a digital recovery platform and encounter others that might not be using the kind of respect normally seen at in-person meetings, it’s important to bear in mind that the only conduct we truly have control over is our own. That being said, when attending a digital meeting or using a social media group for recovery purposes, practicing the principles we learn in recovery programs should be something we individually strive for.
Honesty, integrity, brotherly love, tolerance, and service are just a few of these principles, and living in these kinds of behaviors while using digital recovery platforms should be our aim. Any behavior that you would not participate in if you were at a traditional in-person meeting should be the behavior you also choose not to participate in while you are online.
Additionally, it’s good to avoid things such as being distracted on your phone, eating, or talking with others (even if your microphone is muted) while you are using online meetings. This way you can show respect to the meeting and you can also ensure you get the message of recovery being shared.
A huge benefit of the rapid shift to online meetings is that, as many individuals are also working from their homes, there are more opportunities during the day and night to attend meetings. Even international meetings are now easily accessible. Most 12-Step recovery websites have listings of meetings that are available.
If you are able, attend your homegroup or regular meetings if they have switched to an online format in order to help establish some routine and normalcy in your recovery, but also consider the options you have to try our new meeting formats at times that you previously might not have been able to.
If you feel unsafe or at risk at a meeting, remember you can always choose to exit a meeting and join a different one. The shift in recovery access during self-quarantine has not been a simple one, but the recovery community has made quick and effective strides towards building a new sense of normal until the old one can resume. If we all work together and practice principles, we can maintain our sobriety.
Ashley Addiction Treatment believes that connection is the key to recovery, with treatment options focused on holistic, integrated, and compassionate care. We are here to help you move through recovery and explore all the options that will best foster your personal growth. Ashley helps connect you to aftercare resources that can help you find balance in your new life. If you would like to speak to someone about our care options, please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.