Some of the most important components of your recovery process are the social elements of it. These include group counseling, group therapy, and 12-Step support meetings. Due to recent regulations to enforce social distancing, you likely have had to find alternative ways to socialize. Among those alternative ways are joining online support group communities. You might be hesitant to venture into online communities because you fear that it will lack the personal touch that comes with face-to-face interactions. However, by being open to the idea, educating yourself, and knowing what to look out for, you might discover that online support groups can offer many advantages for your recovery.
Advantages of Online Communities
One of the great advantages of online communities is their accessibility. If you rely on transportation to get to a meeting or have a physical disability that makes getting to a meeting harder, online meetings eliminate each. The ease of being able to connect with people from home will alleviate the stress that comes with having to coordinate travel arrangements.
In addition to being easily accessible, these communities are always available. It is common to want to engage in conversation long after a meeting has ended. This, too, is one of the benefits of support groups—however, conversations could be cut short because of other contributing factors; there is no place open to go and talk, or that ride arrangement limits the amount of time you have to talk after a meeting. Online chat rooms and message boards are there for you 24/7. Given the current circumstances, more people are up and around to populate these chat rooms. Despite the uncertainty that the world is facing, there is an opportunity here. The opportunity is the ability to reach out and have longer, more meaningful conversations with people. This does not have to be limited to new people you are meeting online, but friends from your support groups who have transitioned to the online communities.
You can find the room that is right for you. While support groups are great, your town might not offer as much diversity. Online, people of all cultures can congregate to share their stories of addiction and recovery. This is great if you have any language barrier among your current support groups, or if you are just needing or wanting more cultural diversity to offer different views and perspectives surrounding recovery. This is another opportunity to broaden your scope of discovering different ways to solve problems. Certain cultures view addiction as taboo, and because of this, support groups might not be available in your area. Online communities can offer you the safety necessary to talk about it with people who will not judge you.
What to Look Out For
While you might not encounter any negative downsides, it is good to prepare yourself to handle certain situations, should they present themselves.
One of the major dissensions online is a result of miscommunication. Sometimes it is hard to detect a person’s tone in an email or text, and this might be the biggest sacrifice when transitioning from face-to-face interactions to online interactions. The primary way to avoid this is by utilizing video chat platforms such as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts. However, if you happen to encounter a message that seems to convey something other than support and friendliness, try not to take it personally, because it might not be the case. Online confrontations are often escalated because one party misinterprets something (therefore making assumptions about the intent) and responds back before they have a chance to think about things. Exercise communication instead of confrontation. Think about how you would respond in a face-to-face situation.
Online bullies are another troubling aspect of online communities. Because there is less accountability online, some people feel more comfortable exercising reckless abandon. Online bullies disrupt a chat room by spreading misinformation in an attempt to encourage you to stoop to their level. In recovery, their actions could act as a trigger for relapse. Remember, they do not know you like you know yourself; therefore, you do not have to engage with them. A good way to defend against online bullies is to know beforehand who to reach out to in the chat room that could handle the situation. This could be a live chat room monitor that you can report to, or an email associated with the chat room or group where you can report the bully. If there is no apparent way to police such a person or situation, then you can give others in the space a heads up. The more people that are aware, the more they can avoid interaction with the bully until the bully becomes bored and leaves.
Prepare for Changes and Cancellations
Online meetings are often prone to cancellations, and sometimes support group leaders will change. There is also a chance that group members will come and go because there is a lack of commitment that comes with online meetings. This is a result of not having to motivate yourself to get to a meeting, thus making it harder to build commitment to the meeting. This can be both disheartening and frustrating for you. You might want to prepare yourself by looking for other outlets to help get you through, in the event that you encounter such a situation. Understand that this might happen, and prepare yourself. Have a list of reliable friends and family that you know will be there for an online video chat or a phone call. This way, you will still have people to talk to, no matter what.
You Are Not Alone
When venturing into any new social environment, online or otherwise, remember that your recovery comes first. When you put your recovery first, you are choosing to be accountable for your actions. Your commitment and accountability will help disengage any obstacle that comes your way. Also, remember that you are not alone. You and the rest of the world are having to make these sacrifices and adjustments in your daily schedules.
For further information and/or guidance, True Recovery is always here to help you through difficult times. At True Recovery, we believe that everybody’s road to recovery is different, which is why we offer multiple options for treatment to fit your needs. For more information please reach out to us today by calling (866) 399-6528.