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It Helps, and It Hurts: Social Media and Addiction Recovery

Alongside many other areas of our lives that have been complexly affected by social media, addiction recovery has been wading through its muddy waters in recent years. Social media has become a huge part of our day-to-day lives: it is where we hear our news, find our information, remain connected to friends and family and seek out new communities of like-minded people.

For addiction survivors, social media and new apps have provided pathways to immediate help. Feeling hopeless, and on the verge of relapse but can’t get a hold of your sponsor or counselor? Visiting a new city and feel like you need to attend an AA meeting? That information is now instantly accessible. People suffering in recent years weren’t so fortunate.

As such, when used prudently, social media can help individuals in recovery in various ways. Whether or not somebody living in sobriety is attending regular counseling and group therapy sessions, there are many times when their new life feels very lonely. To remain sober, one typically must cut off a specific set of individuals with whom they used to spend a large amount of time. During active addiction, they may have alienated other friends and family members.

Today, thousands of support groups have popped up on social media and online forums dedicated to sobriety and recovery. Connecting with other people in recovery via online resources or social media can be very beneficial. Isolation during recovery can be detrimental to one’s mental health – but connecting with others in similar circumstances and available support systems can enhance mental health and even help prevent potential relapse.

Other positives? Treatment program reviews, published scientific research, and recovery meetings are easily accessible online for families and loved ones seeking help for somebody suffering – or for the sufferer themselves. Common myths about addiction and recovery can also be quickly checked out online and dispelled, thereby reducing stigma.

However, as we’ve all come to know: social media can also be non-therapeutic, upsetting and unsafe. Many users on social media tend to glorify substance use, which can be difficult and triggering for those in early recovery. Another potential disadvantage of social media is that it, too, can be addictive. Addictions such as this still activate the brain’s reward system and may lead to behavioral and self-destructive problems. Recovery is a fragile state, and takes daily focus and continual effort.

And, of course, social media should not be seen as a replacement for in-person support. It is essential that, upon leaving treatment, relationships with outpatient centers that provide individual and group therapy sessions are established and maintained.

If you or somebody you love needs counseling for living addiction free, visit one of Spectrum Health Systems’ many outpatient treatment centers across Massachusetts. You can get in touch with us 24/7 at: (800) 464-9555. If you are an alumni of Spectrum Health Systems or the New England Recovery Center and would like to be added to a private alumni Facebook group to connect with your sober peers, request access here.

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