The COVID-19 pandemic has saw to it that all aspects of medical and behavioral care that CAN be offered digitally ARE offered digitally. Within the context of addiction care, this virtual transition has extended to practically every element of treatment and recovery, from more direct interventions, like virtual therapy sessions, to recovery maintenance resources, like online support groups for addiction. While it’s wonderful that the treatment and recovery community was quick to adapt to the unforeseen contact risks associated with coronavirus, many are missing the sense of closeness and support that they’re used to receiving at in-person meetings.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with alcohol or drug use, the important thing is that you get help and support however you can. To assist you on your journey, here are some pros and cons of online support groups to consider:
Pro: Online Support Groups are Good for Social Anxiety
About 20 percent of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. Many of these individuals experience social anxiety that makes it incredibly hard for them to take the first step toward joining a group. Online addiction support groups offer a comfortable distance for initial involvement until you or your loved one become more comfortable with sharing in person.
Pro: Greater Accessibility to More People
Let’s say you live in a town or community where addiction is often looked upon as a failure or moral issue. It can be very hard to overcome these social stigmas to get the help you need. Online support groups offer opportunities to interact with more diverse people who have a wider range of experiences. They can open up a whole new world to you and make you feel less alone.
Pro: Greater Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
People who struggle with addiction very often experience overlapping physical disabilities that can impede their mobility and inhibit their ability to get around. Whether or not these two conditions are related, online support groups represent a lifeline for those who are not able to go to an in-person group.
Other important advantages of online addiction support groups include 24-7 access through message boards and the comfortability to share without feeling like you are exposed.
Con: Lack of Closeness
As convenient and intuitive as they’ve become, online addiction support groups don’t offer the same level of closeness that many people equate to emotional protection. It’s still easy to feel like you’re alone, even though you’re not, when it’s just you in front of your computer or smart phone.
Con: Potential for Miscommunication
Very often, when you’re trying to convey something important, tone can be everything. If you’re not able to physically articulate your tone or mannerisms for emotional context, someone can misinterpret your messaging. This can be dangerous and destabilizing when it comes to addiction recovery.
Con: Potential for Online Bullying
Unfortunately, there’s greater potential for bullying and harassment in online support groups than there may be for people in person. People are often able to post abusive messaging without being disciplined or stopped in real time. This type of behavior can be significantly damaging for someone who is new to recovery and trying to get their life together.
Other potential cons can include lack of stability and consistency, as well as the inability of members and leaders to directly intervene if someone is thinking of using again.
Getting Help Is the Main Priority
Whether you’re more comfortable in an online addiction support group or in an in-person setting, you or your loved one need to take the first step toward treatment, recovery and a better tomorrow. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can provide context, comfort and confidence as you move through your recovery journey. Start exploring the addiction support groups in your area right now.