Technology is neither inherently good or evil. It is a tool that can be used for good or bad purposes. The same technology that can be used to set up drug deals and order illicit substances online can also be used to help people in recovery as part of ongoing addiction treatment.
At least one study indicates that the use of a smartphone app specifically designed to facilitate maintenance of sobriety benefited users, especially over the long term. Here are some innovative ways that technology can be used to support and encourage people in recovery as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan.
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Mobile Apps That Have Your Back
The mobile app in the study referred to above included several key features. It periodically asked users questions via text or voicemail about how they were doing, and if a pattern of worrisome answers developed, the system would notify a counselor who would offer to help. The app also featured a “panic button” that notified peers that were geographically closest to the user and offered guidance in relaxation techniques the user could try while waiting for help.
Twelve Steps – The Companion is one of the first recovery apps and remains popular due to its being a comprehensive tool for those pursuing continued recovery. It contains a copy of the Big Book, facilitates meditation buddies, includes a sobriety calculator, and has a feature that finds meetings in your area.
Attend Virtual Meetings Anytime
If a person in recovery is ill, does not have transportation, or if the weather is terrible, virtual meetings are available online just about anytime and in many different languages. People who want to “attend” a virtual meeting but are not up to sharing can simply join a meeting and listen.
InTheRooms.com brings together online support communities and online meetings, serving nearly half a million members. There are active discussion forums for dozens of 12-step fellowships, along with video meetings. AA, NA, and Al-Anon have multiple daily video meetings.
Social Networks for People in Recovery
Beau Mann noticed how social networks existed for specific populations, from runners to dog lovers, yet no similar application existed for people in recovery. So he started Sober Grid, drawing from his own experience of entering recovery at age 23 and relying on a support network of sober peers for continued recovery.
Sober Grid empowers people in recovery to locate and connect with others, nearby and globally, around the clock. It is designed to remove barriers that keep people from finding support whenever and wherever they find they need it, so they can access support on demand right from their smartphones. It can be a particularly valuable tool for helping people suffering from isolation (either geographically or self-imposed) to find a supportive community that is ready to help.
VR Headsets: Closer Than You Think
Virtual reality (VR) headsets may seem futuristic and unobtainable to the average person, but that is changing quickly. The technology can be especially helpful for those in recovery to engage in directed role play to develop usable coping skills in triggering situations. Three-dimensional virtual environments, delivered through VR headsets, bring the real world and its temptations into the direct experience of the person in recovery. Role play can help people learn real world skills to use in the event of experiencing a trigger scenario.
Inexpensive cardboard headsets now allow people to download apps with virtual environments onto their smartphones, which are then strapped into the headsets. Virtual environments that can be used in a therapeutic role are being developed by Dr. Patrick Bordnick of The University of Houston for cost-effective, widespread use within the next year or so.
Addiction treatment can benefit from the many technological advances that have emerged in the past decade, particularly smartphone technology. Although apps and sober social networks are not a substitute for planned, individualized addiction treatment, they can help the person in recovery go about their daily lives with more confidence in their ability to access help and support whenever they need it. If you are struggling with a substance abuse disorder, we invite and encourage you to contact us at any time. It is the first step on the road to long-term recovery.