Sobriety and Anonymity in the Time of Digital Recovery

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In the era of self-quarantine and lockdowns, nearly every aspect of our daily lives has been turned upside down. However long this crisis lasts, we have to remain adaptable to the “new normal.” Life doesn’t stop, but it does often change. Now it has changed again and for many of us, the majority of our lives are now dependent on the very technology we previously used to distract us from our lives. Work, school, and socializing have all gone digital for most.

Recovery is no different – especially for those of us who have been in recovery for a while. Meetings, time with our sponsor, and fellowshipping are all vital and beloved parts of our lives. Thankfully, though many meeting places and coffee shops have shut down, recovery has managed to flourish online.

Many recovery facilities are offering digital services, such as Jaywalker Lodge’s online alumni meetings. Thanks to internet video conferencing, our favorite meetings have been able to continue. And now it’s even easier for circuit speakers to travel across the world, right from their own living rooms, to share their message.

Adjusting to the new normal isn’t all bad. Besides being able to attend meetings we never could before, and hearing people in recovery speak from all around the world, being forced to go digital has helped many sobriety communities thrive. While being forced apart physically, many of us are responding by growing even closer electronically.

In many cases this means more meetings are attended, more phone calls are being made, and more alcoholics and addicts are keeping in touch than before. Digital recovery can have a lot of positives – though of course the downsides are real, too. As we get used to recovery being online more than ever before, there are some important things to keep in mind.

Social Media and Anonymity

For all that can be said against it, social media is being used as an effective tool to bring alcoholics and addicts together. Sobriety communities are increasing their presence online, making it easier for the newcomer to reach out for help and find a meeting, and making it almost effortless for anyone who needs a meeting to find one. Hashtags, helpful information, and meeting invites are flying all over the social media landscape. The recovery community can really unite in a crisis, but there are some factors to consider.

As we find and join new sobriety groups and social media pages, it helps to remain mindful of the anonymity principle of recovery. Meetings are a safe place for those in recovery to come and be and share. As the Big Book says, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions.” Protecting our anonymity – and the anonymity of others – helps the recovery space remain safe and open.

We safeguard those in the rooms with us from having their anonymity broken. Being sober is often the greatest gift of our lives, but there may be people elsewhere in our lives who would not understand. Though much less so today, there can still be some stigma placed on our disease. Maintaining anonymity can also be a big relief and a great attractor of newcomers, letting them know recovery is a safe, protected space.

At its core, social media is expressly designed to prevent anonymity. Our pictures, names, and information are everywhere on social media. After all, that’s how we get followers and friends in the digital world. As members of the recovery community, there are simple steps we can take to mitigate this.

We should never screenshot any part of a digital recovery meeting. People’s names and faces are often clearly displayed – just like we would never take photographs in a physical meeting room, the same rules should apply to a digital meeting. As for names, we should make sure the display name tag on our video conferencing service is one we are comfortable sharing for our own anonymity. For example, we can display our first name and last initial, or no last initial at all.

Our personal anonymity is largely left to our own comfort level, but we must also take the principle of that tradition to heart, and maintain a tasteful level of anonymity in all areas of our digital and physical lives. This is also true for when we post on our own social media accounts.

We should take care to not display pictures of other people in sobriety-related posts or “tag” them or use their names in public posts that deal with recovery. Such things can be an unwelcome breaker of anonymity. What we do is ultimately our own business – but out of respect, we should not involve others.

Safety in the Digital Landscape

Protecting and participating in the anonymity tradition of recovery will go a long way in keeping us and our sober community safe. Many of the new social media groups and online meetings are already well ahead of the curve in protecting and maintaining anonymity and digital safety standards. We can also do our part.

We can take care to not share sensitive information publicly. We can make sure to attend online meetings with password requirements and not over-share those passwords. We can join groups or meetings with good safety and anonymity practices in place. And if we want to try a new meeting, we can reach out to those who run or attend it and find out if they keep up those standards.

Ultimately, the online world of recovery is thriving. We are easier to find and participate with – and more globally connected – than ever before. By following these tips, we can uphold the spiritual principle of anonymity in this digital era.

Whether you are searching for online recovery resources or face-to-face programs, Jaywalker Lodge has you covered. Setting you up for your best life in recovery through integrated methods of treatment is our passion. We’re here for you. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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