Addicts and alcoholics often enter recovery with a limited support network. After all, one of the first things we are told in early recovery is that we need to change our play pals, our playpen, and our play things. If you are anything like me, that doesn’t leave many people. As a result, early recovery can leave addicts feeling isolated and alone.
The aspect of recovery that is often most beneficial for newly sober addicts is the social support that becomes available at the very first meeting. It is this human connection that is often the difference between recovery and relapse. Establishing healthy relationships, although difficult for many, is one of the most important tasks in early recovery.
Along Came the Cell Phone
The advent of the cell phone in 1973 was initially designed to help people stay connected without being tethered to their homes. Fast forward 45 years and the cell phone has invaded virtually every part of our lives. At first glance, these advances may look like positive tools that should make recovery easier. In reality, however, your cell phone could be standing between you and your recovery.
Cell Phone Use: What's the Big Deal?
A recent report commissioned by Informate Mobile Intelligence found that Americans check social media accounts via their cell phone a staggering 17 times per day. Even more troubling is the discovery that these same people spend an average of 4.7 hours per day, almost 1/3 of their waking time, on their phones. Before you say that this is a problem for young people only, consider the fact that the highest average usage was found to be between the ages of 25 and 54.
You might be wondering, “Why is this a big deal?” or “What does this have to do with my recovery?” Well, we have already recognized that establishing personal relationships can make or break one’s commitment to sobriety. Cell phone communication, however, does not count.
The result of our society’s obsession with cell phones is that interpersonal skills have been dwarfed, and the quality of our relationships has decreased. Texting has largely replaced face-to-face communication, which can enable addicts who are unwilling or unable to develop a support system to not do the recovery work they ought to do.
In addition, a study held at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that cell phone use can negatively affect your body as well. Participants that admitted to high cell phone usage were found to have higher blood pressure, higher levels of stress, and a higher risk of depression. In terms of relationships, the study states, “The use of the internet was associated with a decline in participant’s communication with family members, a decline in the size of the social circle, and an increase in depression and loneliness.”
What Does This Mean for Those in Recovery?
This isn't to say that people in recovery should not use cell phones.
These findings simply point out the dangers of relying on these devices to communicate rather than to build a social circle of healthy and sober friends. While it may do a good job of connecting us to other people in recovery by way of forums (such as SoberRecovery's forum section) or other online group conversations, it should never encompass our entire recovery life. A recovered life shouldn’t equate being alone in a dark corner staring into a phone screen and waiting for your online friends to reply. While that may be helpful, it can’t be all there is for you from here on out.
We cannot afford to replace our play pals, our playpen, and our play things solely with the brick in our pockets. These three items are integral parts of a full-life. We need to continue to nurture these aspects of our lives because when they’re lackluster, we’ll begin to resent the new path we’ve chosen and put ourselves at risk for a relapse.
Instead, we must go through the process of finding face-to-face sober relationships, real places and things to do that are not tethered to our addiction. Remember that our cell phone is merely a tool to help you find or sustain those things. Don’t allow the addicted mind to trick you into believing it is more any more than that.