Over the course of the last several years, I’ve written repeatedly about the ways in which technology can both facilitate and exacerbate addictions. For instance, drug addicts can purchase and abuse “prescription” medications through the Internet, set up buys with local dealers via text messages, and learn about certain parties – events at which drugs are likely to be prevalent like raves, ragers, and smoke outs – on social media. Meanwhile, compulsive spenders avoid the mall (where friends and family might see them overindulging), choosing instead to shop secretly on Amazon, Overstock, eBay, and other online shopping meccas. Similarly, compulsive gamblers often skip the casino and the track, preferring to engage with their addiction in private via online poker sites, digital bookmakers, and other gambling outlets. And then we’ve got sex and love addicts, nearly all of whom struggle with online porn, social media, dating sites, hookup apps, and all sorts of other digital sexnologies.
Whatever the addiction, addicts can (and often do) find what they are looking for online. Put simply, digital devices have greatly increased the affordability and mostly anonymous accessibility of both addictive substances and addictive behaviors. This, of course, might cause one to think that recovering addicts should, as a part of the healing process, get rid of their laptops, pads, smartphones and the like. That is not, however, a feasible solution, as nearly everyone in today’s world – addicted or otherwise – relies on these devices for work, learning, healthy socialization, communicating with family, and more. As such, these technologies cannot easily be discarded, even in the name of sobriety.
So what is the solution?
Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, recovering addicts can flip the script, finding ways to incorporate technology into their recovery (much as they found ways to incorporate it into their addiction). For instance, they can set their ringtone to a voice or a song that reminds them of what their addiction might cost them, and they can change their desktop imagery to photos of their family or even the iron bars of a jail cell, again to remind themselves of what they stand to lose. They should also install a “parental control” software product such as Net Nanny. These products can filter/block access to problematic content and contacts, while also providing an “accountability partner” with regular reports about the ways in which the addict is using (and possibly misusing) his or her digital devices.
Additionally, recovering addicts should also download a recovery/sobriety app or two. There are many such apps available, including the recently released Cassava App, developed by Elements Behavioral Health, for whom I serve as Clinical Director. The Cassava app, currently available for iPhone and iPad, is free to download, and it comes with a variety of useful features, including the following:
- Meeting Finder. Cassava currently lists over 150,000 current meetings in a variety of 12-step programs. If an addict is struggling and needs a meeting right now, all that he or she needs to do is consult the app.
- Meeting Feedback. Not every meeting is the same. Thanks to its feedback feature, Cassava can help users decide which meetings seem most likely to help at any given time.
- Daily Reflections. Cassava provides over 1500 daily meditations, tagged by keyword (gratitude, acceptance, relationships, etc.) So if the user is struggling with a particular issue, he or she can find inspiration on demand.
- The app has a journaling feature, allowing addicts to write about their recovery experience while on the go.
- Personal Feedback. Cassava offers a daily survey that helps users track various aspects of their life (nutrition, sleep, stress levels, meeting attendance, etc.) Users of this feature receive a regularly updated sobriety score – a barometer for how they are doing in their recovery, and what they may wish to improve upon.
Of course, Cassava is just one among many excellent apps designed to aid the process of recovering from addiction. A few of the more commonly utilized apps include:
- 12 Steps AA Companion, available for iOS and Android ($2.99 and $1.99, respectively). This app offers a sobriety calculator, the first 164 pages of the AA Big Book, a selection of personal stories from the book, various AA prayers, and more.
- AA Big Book and More, available for iOS (free). This app offers the text of the AA Big Book, a sobriety calculator, and daily meditations.
- AA Speakers to Go, available for iOS and Android ($4.99). This app is a collection of over 400 speaker tapes, dating from the early days of AA to the present.
- Joe and Charlie – Big Book Study, available for iOS and Android ($2.99). This app includes 34 audio tracks (over ten hours of recordings) featuring famed AA members Joe M and Charley P discussing the 12 steps.
Again, these are just a few of the dozens of recovery apps that addicts of all types can use to aid their personal journey toward long-term sobriety and healing. For instance, in almost every 12-step recovery program the general literature is available on the program’s main website, and also via apps. Furthermore, there are literally dozens of generic daily meditation apps that many addicts find useful. Some are ethereal, others are more grounded. Addicts simply need to find one that they connect with and utilize it. My point here is that yes, technology can be used to facilitate one’s addiction, but it can also be used to assist recovery – and there is no reason that people should not take advantage of this.