Using social media in recovery can feel like a vulnerable move for people newly entering sobriety, but it can also be the boost of confidence necessary to keep accountable. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help build the kind of digital support system that can hold a recovering addict’s hand as they embrace their recovery and become more sociable.
Though some people might say that social media discourages online users from believing they’re living good lives compared to friends’ status updates, the ease of digital communication can allow old and new friends to reach out to people in recovery and give them the support to keep being sober.
In Active Addiction, People Stay Quiet Online
It’s estimated that more than 20 percent of the world population uses social networking to at least some degree, and 56 percent of Americans have at least one profile on a social media site. The largest age group is 18 to 29, making up 67 percent of all social media users.
With the advent of Facebook, people can now keep a digital track record on their “friends,” be it their neighbor or third grade classmate. People post photos of exciting activities or new chapters in their lives, like their trip to the Bahamas or baby gender reveal parties. They share political opinions and articles from Vox or The Huffington Post. They like or “react” to funny and sad posts, and they say “interested” to every event they don’t plan on going to.
What most people don’t do is share their downward spiral into drug addiction.
In Stephanie Stark’s article, “Watching Friends Recover From Addiction on Facebook,” posted in The Atlantic, she writes about former high school classmates’ descent into heroin addiction. There’s a pattern among active users who begin to shy away from social media platforms like Facebook because they’re still in denial of their addiction, may be facing a quarter-life crisis, and compare friends’ accomplishments with the lack of their own.
A part of why people don’t share their addiction via social media mainly lies in shame. Not many people would use the word “proud” when admitting to being an addict, so it’s not likely you’ll see your childhood friend post about stealing money for pills on Facebook.
Those Who Do Reveal Addiction on Social Media Get Silence
The other issue is stigma, rather than support.
You might have a friend who posts a lot of “party” pictures, seeing their head in the toilet or seeing them wasted/high in a club scene. While in college this might have been acceptable, as the years go on past graduation, photos of reckless, drunk behavior aren’t held up to cheers and hoorahs anymore.
And while some might say social media would give more opportunities to intervene an addiction once a pattern is spotted, the opposite is true. Posting about the throes of addiction will scare people away, not lead them to reach out.
“You can’t tell people, ‘I’m so sick, I’m dying, please give me money so I don’t have to go f*** the dope boy or go rob somebody,” said “Angela,” a former classmate of Stark, in the Atlantic article.
Because the reality is, while social media can give a peek inside someone’s life, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. The intensity and logistics of addiction will not be understood online, not by someone who feels helpless behind a computer screen.
How Using Social Media in Recovery Gets People to Speak Up
But where social media fails in helping those struggling through active addiction, it can be a huge benefit for those new to recovery and eager to start their lives over.
“For heroin addicts, who must cut ties with their communities of users as part of recovery, Facebook is both a support system, connecting them back to relationships they had before their addiction, and a venue that helps others understand the fragility of the recovery process,” writes Stark.
Social media allows recovering addicts to call for help, share their struggles in recovery, and also have written accountability for their sobriety. Being able to post a status update for being 30 days sober to everyone you know is a lot more encouraging when met with an onslaught of heart-reacts and supportive comments telling to live day by day positive and brave.
People in recovery can also keep better in touch via Facebook, through scheduled events, forum groups, and live feed posts. In that, if a person didn’t have many friends to reach out to after rehab, they can easily build an online community and introduce themselves to nearby residents who are supportive of their journey.
Social media can be a way to motivate and inspire other addicts to pursue recovery, and as Stark’s friend Angela puts it, “You’ve seen that person down at their worst, and then [when] you see them looking happy, it’s like, ‘I can do this too.'”
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No two individuals are the same. What works well for one individual may not be optimal or ideal for someone else. However, addiction recovery is a very personal process. There are many ways to customize or individualize an addiction treatment curriculum to ensure that it meets one’s specific recovery needs.
If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation and assessment, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-8070. Our recovery and intake specialists are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Let the healing journey begin with just a single phone call today.