How Online Communities Can Support Young People in Recovery

Addiction recovery requires connection.  Support groups and recovery centers can provide the support of peers that have similar experiences, and allow you those in recovery to vent their frustrations without fear of judgment.  For people between the ages of 18 and 25, however, it can be difficult to find in-person connections in the recovery community. Because addiction is often thought of as a disease that develops over many years, young adults may also face a lack of support from their friends who don’t believe they have a problem.  While the internet can be problematic at times, it does provide a great resource for young adults in recovery. There is a growing online community of young people who have either experienced addiction, are choosing a sober lifestyle, or are simply curious about the perks of sobriety. The online environment may not offer as much structure as groups like AA, but these sober communities can be a helpful addition to a holistic treatment plan.

True Anonymity

One of the foundational values of groups like AA and NA is the promise of anonymity.  While this rule is sacred and generally respected among members, the fear of exposure can still prevent some young people from attending meetings.  They may fear they will see someone they know, or that other members won’t take them seriously because of their visible age. By discussing addiction and recovery online, individuals seeking support and advice can maintain absolute anonymity if they so choose.  Additionally, recovery and sobriety pages on social media platforms such as Facebook are usually set to conceal members’ identities, so that people you know won’t be able to see your activity in these protected spaces.

Fighting the Stigma

Young people are at the forefront of destigmatizing addiction.  Young people in recovery may feel they often encounter old beliefs and attitudes in support groups, and might be looking for refreshing new perspectives that are science and research-based, rather than morally accusatory.  Addiction has long been considered a personality flaw or used as a label to identify morally corrupt people. We now understand that substance abuse creates brain changes that have nothing to do with the quality of an individual’s character, and that treatment should focus on the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of addiction.  Online sober communities tend to focus more on science and research-supported methods of recovery, and this approach can be especially attractive to young, educated adults.  

Changing the Culture

One of the greatest obstacles young people face when choosing sobriety is the prevalence of substances, especially alcohol, in almost every aspect of a young adult’s life.  Alcohol is seen as a necessary social lubricant for party culture and dating for most college-aged people. For those that choose not to drink, or seek treatment for addiction, sobriety can feel like walking around with a target on your back, inciting prying questions and endless peer pressure.  There is also a common misconception among many young people that drugs or alcohol are just a part of having fun, and that being sober is boring. Sober young adults are seeking to change this perception, and the active lifestyles of sober enthusiasts tend to attract huge followings on social media.  

Young people in recovery along with those that label themselves “sober curious” are leading the movement to change the culture surrounding drugs and alcohol.  The online community and social media pages advocating for sobriety are beginning to normalize this lifestyle, making sobriety more common and easier to confidently proclaim.  There is an increasing demand for non-alcoholic beverages and alcohol-free bars from millennials and younger, and these shifts are removing the shame and social isolation that once came from being a non-drinker.

Becoming Informed

Lastly, the online sober community is smarter and more knowledgeable than ever about addiction, and they are passionate about informing others.  Young people who appreciate facts and research can find a plethora of information online regarding specific addictions and mental illnesses, and how mental health and substance abuse interact.  Of course, there is a concern about accuracy when it comes to online information, but young people are more capable than any other demographic of differentiating between quality data and biased opinion.  Thanks to the internet, college-aged adults are informing themselves about their disease and finding the resources they need to heal. Many college campuses lack on-site help for mental health and addiction, and the online community has set out to supplement what young adults aren’t able to access in person.  

While online resources and support groups can be a great starting point for young people battling addiction, recovery requires quality treatment provided by competent addiction experts.  If you believe you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree West, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals who specialize in helping young adults struggling with addiction and their families.  Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives in a way that fosters lasting sobriety. We believe that practicing recovery doesn’t have to mean an end to educational or career goals, but instead can become a fundamental part of a successful and fulfilling life.  For more information on how we can help, call us now at 972-962-7374