THE BLOG
07/10/2015 02:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Finding Recovery on Social Apps

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"Getting clean is easy, but staying clean is difficult," says a friend of mine with over five years in recovery from an alcohol and benzodiazepine addiction. I agree with her. However, I found that getting clean wasn't easy, and staying clean can take just as much work as it did in early recovery. In many ways, recovery can be like a diet. Many diets work. But as soon as people stop doing them, they gain weight because diets require action on a daily basis.

In my opinion, recovery programs can work in a similar way, because when some people stop participating in them, they relapse. This is why the majority of us in recovery have to create a strong support network. Those in 12-step programs call this network a "fellowship," which can be defined as a group of people who share a common goal, and that goal is, "having a full, rich life without the use of any mood- or mind-altering substances."

For many of us, our lives were absolutely destroyed by drugs and alcohol. We had to seek new ways of living and having fun, which can be difficult, because alcohol and other drug use is a part of socialization and culture. Stopping use meant we had to redefine the way we lived our lives, changing people, places, and things, which can take years for those of us who have lost everything, including our self-esteem.

Communication in recovery is an integral part of the process, and in today's culture, communication is changing. As the trend in social apps keeps climbing in popularity, those of us in recovery have found unique ways to help maintain and sustain our recovery.

I found that Facebook was an incredible way to find the people I needed and wanted to make an amends to. Before I got into recovery, and before Facebook, I knew I would probably never again meet people I had wronged. I felt horrible about what I had done, which only escalated my use. By the time I got clean, Facebook was becoming popular. This allowed me to reach out and find those people and institutions I had damaged during my addiction. The process of making amends helps many addicts in recovery to move on from their past and to live life as free men and woman. I often imagine what my life would have been like had I not been able to thoroughly express my amends to those I hurt. I would have had to carry that pain with me into my recovery, crushing me under the weight of regret and guilt.

I know that saying, "I'm sorry," and making amends to someone, doesn't necessarily make things right, but it is a step and an action in the right direction. I can't undue the harm I've done, I can only change my behavior to prevent acting that way again. Making amends is how we claim responsible for our actions and for what we have done to others and to ourselves.

Facebook isn't the only social app available to the recovery community; there is a new app called Sober Grid. It is building bridges to those in recovery by creating one mighty online sober fellowship. Sober Grid is a social networking app connecting people in the recovery and sober living communities through geo-social networking. An app of this nature was sorely needed in today's culture, because so many people spend their time communicating with one another on their smartphones.

Typically, a person deciding whether or not to quit using drugs and alcohol is going through a personal nightmare. Many who struggle haven't or won't seek recovery. People new to recovery are terrified, and this fear, coupled with isolation, can keep them stuck in a never-ending battle with addiction. With an app like Sober Grid, users can anonymously contact and message other addicts who are going through the same life challenges. Others using the app, also in recovery, can answer questions and point those seeking help in the right direction. There is also a unique feature of the app called a "burning desire," which highlights a user's profile in red, expressing to other users that they need to talk to someone or they may relapse. Sober Grid has several profile features, and if a person chooses to remain anonymous, they can, so there is no fear in joining the community. Sober Grid is the newest and most interactive app out there for recovery, but there are other apps that can also aid in sustained recovery.

The 12 Steps AA Companion app has a copy of the Big Book, a sobriety date calculator, and AA contacts.

The SMART recovery app has a section listing advantages and disadvantages of using. It allows the seeker to see how his or her choices have grave consequences.

The Sober Places app allows someone to find meetings, wherever they go throughout the world. It helped me find meetings when I was touring new countries while performing with Cirque du Soleil.

Finding and talking to another person who is going through the same difficult process of recovery can sometimes be the missing strength needed to get over the first few hurdles of early recovery. As humans, we need each other, and those in recovery are often placed in a unique social situation. These apps and others like them help put all these people in contact in the same space at the same time. They are useful in a world that is changing its mechanism of communication for the recovery community, supplementing twelve-step programs or other avenues of recovery.

Those in recovery still need to do what they have been doing to avoid using, but these apps are putting all those people together, unifying what they already know about being human: We want to be around people who understand us, who will support us, and who have experienced the same things we have.

For that one person who has bottomed out, who is lost, desperate, and terrified, the virtual fellowship offered by these apps is like finding a needle in a haystack