It’s almost ironic that the process of recovery would require so much time and effort when it takes so little of either to start using in the first place. Not only is the cost of recovery high on an individual level, but it’s elusive. And instead of a checklist or a road map that can offer clear, simple direction, there are many different routes to recovery.
However, we have at our disposal a very dynamic resource. A responsive and extremely malleable entity, it has become so ingrained in our lives that we often don’t give this symbiotic relationship much thought. Of course, this untapped recovery resource is our technology.
In a study conducted in 2015, it was estimated that nearly 70 percent of American adults own a smartphone.1 Since this represents a 100 percent increase from four years prior, it’s likely that even more adults have jumped on the smartphone bandwagon since this study. Some use the term “smartphone addiction” when referencing the vast numbers of people using smartphones and the amount of time they’re spending using these devices.2 Meanwhile, other studies have yielded similar results for adolescents. Approximately three in four adolescents either own or have continuous access to smartphones.3 It’s reasonable to assume, then, that the majority of the individuals who are or have been addicted to alcohol or drugs use smartphones daily. Could it be these individuals have had an important recovery resource that’s, quite literally, been under their very noses?
Connecting with Sponsors, Supporters and Support Groups
The original purpose of the mobile phone was communication, and despite the many other functions of modern tech, communication remains the central purpose. Incidentally, it’s by enhancing our ability to communicate with others that today’s technology can offer the first major benefit to addiction recovery.
Before the cell phone, we were limited to landline phones, email, postal mail and in-person communication. Some have argued that modern technology has depersonalized communication or stripped it of its intimacy. We often send brief, grammatically incorrect texts in place of long-form correspondence and may be more comfortable looking at screens than looking someone in the eye.4 However, despite the effect that current technologies have had on the quality of our communication, there’s no question that they’ve opened the door to a much greater ability to stay connected.
Take the smartphone as an example. When two people own smartphones, they can communicate in many different ways: text messages, email, tweets and comments on social media, phone calls, and video chat to name but a few. And there’s always the option of arranging to meet up in person, making the good old-fashioned face-to-face a viable option still today. For people in recovery, the smartphone and other mobile devices — i.e., tablet and laptop computers — allow them to establish strong relationships with people in their support networks in a shorter amount of time while also providing on-demand access to communication with these people, which can be a major asset to protecting newfound sobriety, especially during times of crisis or temptation to use.
“There’s an app for that” — it’s a phrase that’s become all too familiar. The mobile application, or “app,” originated as a way to broaden the utility of mobile technology, but has since become a symbol of digital self-help. Fortunately, while this one-liner might have been meant as an exposé of today’s technology-obsessed zeitgeist, there’s no arguing the fact that the utility of mobile technology has been significantly diversified by the slew of apps currently available.
For someone in recovery, another benefit of our technological landscape is the use of mobile apps as a source of inspiration, and this can be done in a number of ways. Apps like CleanTime Counter provide a running tally of precisely how much time one has spent in recovery, which can be extremely motivating and could be the incentive needed to resist cravings to use. Some of them even calculate how much money that’s been saved since going off alcohol or drugs. Additionally, there are a variety of apps available — such as 12 Step AA Companion and One Day at a Time — that offer on-demand access to 12-Step literature, inspirational recovery stories, recovery-oriented prayers and in-app access to the entirety of the Big Book. These and many, many other mobile apps can be extremely useful resources while experiencing cravings, after being confronted by a trigger, or even as a productive way to kill some time.
An Ever-Expanding Recovery Network
In the era of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it should come as no surprise that there are also recovery-centric social networks — Sober Grid is one that’s become quite popular — and online support groups that are never more than a click away. And according to some experts, social networking can actually be quite helpful in recovery.5
A number of support groups have started creating groups on Facebook or Google+, which provides intragroup communication in between group meetings. However, for something that’s a bit more focused there are countless recovery forums online, and virtually all of them are accessible by smartphone or tablet if there’s not a designated app available. There are also a number of versatile create-your-own-network solutions available, which can be implemented on a per-group basis and offer something a little more intimate than open forums.
… But There’s One Caveat
Yes, technology can be truly instrumental in one’s success in recovery. However, be advised that technology can be just as detrimental. Mobile devices store pictures or videos that could trigger cravings and phone numbers belonging to people who you associate with your former life of drug use, any of which could easily trigger a relapse. Before using technology as part of one’s recovery regimen, do some spring cleaning by removing any phone numbers or media that could pose any threat to your recovery. In some cases, it may be a good idea to perform a factory reset to erase the device completely for a fresh start. As they say, it’s better to be safe now instead of sorry later.
Despite what some may say about our reliance on technology, there’s no denying that it has become a permanent feature of our society. Instead of fighting it, let’s continue looking for innovative ways to use the technologies that are available to support addiction recovery and improve the human condition.
Written by Dane O’Leary