Largely due to the emphasis that has long been placed on it by Alcoholics Anonymous, the concept of anonymity is an important one in the world of recovery. When AA was founded in the 1930s, of course, the internet was still a far-off dream. Today, AA members and others in recovery are increasingly turning to social media to share their stories. Which approach is better, then: Maintaining anonymity while overcoming an addiction, or being open about its ups and downs online? Moreover, are you even allowed to be open about such matters when completing inpatient treatment?
Anonymity in Inpatient Rehab
For the safety of patients, most inpatient treatment centers have strict rules about publicly sharing information about what occurs within their walls—and about who is there seeking treatment. Such facilities are bound by HIPAA, which protects patients’ confidentiality, so the programs themselves are not permitted to share information about patients with the world at large. Therefore, while still a patient at an inpatient treatment center, you must use discretion when using social media and other public forums. Even so, there is nothing to stop you from sharing your experiences online—you just need to do so without naming names or places.
Recovery and Anonymity in the Real World
Inpatient rehab acts as a cocoon that shields patients from the outside world so they can focus on their newfound sobriety. For continued success, it is important to seek additional help, like outpatient treatment, to help you to adjust to life in the real world. For many, this means participating in a 12-step program like AA, where the importance of anonymity is highly stressed. As a result, it is easy to emerge from rehab with the impression that it is wrong to share your recovery with the world—but nothing could be further from the truth.
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The Tradition of Anonymity in AA
There is a lot of confusion about why anonymity has long been such a crucial tenet of 12-step programs like AA. The program does not discourage members from openly discussing their addiction or recovery. Rather, it suggests that people not identify themselves as members of AA because no single member is supposed to act as a spokesperson for the group. Therefore, even if you elect to use a 12-step program like AA to help with your continued sobriety, you don’t have to clam up about it on social media. Avoid ruffling feathers by simply omitting the fact that you’re using that exact program, and you will be good to go.
Recovery Blogging: Reducing the Stigma of Addiction
Long before social media came along, blogs were the primary way in which everyday people shared their personal experiences on the internet. From the earliest days of the internet, people in recovery have taken to blogs to share their journeys. Slowly but surely, these efforts have been chipping away at the stigma that has long been associated with substance abuse. Today, someone who is new to recovery can go online and quickly find others who are going through the same things and openly sharing their struggles and achievements.
Benefits of Sharing on Social Media in Recovery
While in active addiction, it’s easy to feel completely alone. What many don’t realize is that recovery can be every bit as isolating. That’s mostly due to the unfortunate stigma that has long been associated with addiction; for a long time, people in recovery have felt too ashamed to share their stories openly due to fears of being judged and labeled by society. One of the top benefits of sharing your recovery on social media is that it allows you to connect with others who are going through the same thing. You’ll quickly see that you are far from alone.
Another benefit of sharing your recovery on social media is that doing so allows you to truly embrace it as a way of life. Rather than compartmentalize your recovery by only discussing it at, say, 12-step meetings, being open about it on social media shows that you’re not ashamed and that you believe in what you are doing. Life is easier when you don’t have to be secretive about such a big part of it. As an added bonus, sharing your story could prompt someone you care about to seek help for their own addiction.
Recovery and social media can and should coexist, but care must still be taken. If you participate in outpatient or inpatient rehab, for example, know and obey their rules regarding social media. Know that while social media can be a powerful tool in sharing your story, it has significant downsides—especially for people who are still fragile and in the early stages of sobriety. In particular, sites like Facebook can make it look like other people’s lives are way better than yours, and that can be rough. Spending too much time on social media tends to be isolating, and that can be dangerous for people in recovery.
Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly in Recovery
Finally, here are a few tips for using social media responsibly in recovery:
- Limit how much time you spend on social media
- Avoid name-calling or other negativity
- Unfollow or block social media contacts who you know are in active addiction
- If you are participating in outpatient or inpatient treatment, obey the program’s rules regarding social media use
Of course, many of these tips are helpful whether you are in recovery or not! For tips on how to manage in recovery or other news in addiction treatment, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!