How social media can help folks stay sober

How social media can help folks stay sober

#Sobriety hashtags peak during the holiday season

CultureDecember 04, 2018

Twenty-three million Americans are in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. Personally, I'm approaching six years sober, partly through AA, therapy and yoga, and partly through switching from booze and stims to marijuana and ayahuasca. Sobriety, for me, is relative. 

Other folks turn to social media. Instagram and Twitter are full of posts about sobriety. It's like a community. Almost like an AA meeting online. Followers cheer the recovering addict, share their inspirational stories, and keep tabs on their journey. For many, the hashtag is the antidote to the hash, the news feed feeds their needs.

In fact, this trend is increasing. sobriety-related hashtags like #sober, #sobriety and #soberliving are on rise, more than tripling on Instagram in the last two years, from 1.8 per 100,000 users in 2015 to 6.6 in 2017. That's according to an analysis by Laguna Treatment Hospital. The center — which is trying to lure addicts to their recovery program — analyzed 135,000 Instagram posts about sobriety. They found:

* 73 percent of sobriety-related posts were positive. (Others neg it: "Screw sobriety, I like vodka.")

* Sobriety-related posts increased around the holidays. Tough to stay sober around all that free eggnog.

* The most posts per capita came from New Hampshire, one of the centers of the opioid crisis, and Utah, where, uh, we didn't even think they drank caffeine.

"Our results reveal a thriving community of people in recovery connecting across the country," wrote the authors of the study.

[Typical Instagram posts about sobriety.]

A cruise through the #sobriety hashtags on Instagram is a tour of old and young, male and female psyches. The posts usually show a happy-looking person, often outside, in the gym, or in a cozy restaurant, boasting and commiserating about how life used to be hard and fun, but with #sobriety it's calmer and better.

It's true that social media can "sponsor" someone's recovery. But social media's effect on drug and alcohol use is probably mostly negative. A different study said three-quarters of teens who saw posts of other kids partying wanted to party themselves.

And Don Grant, an addiction specialist, has written that online sobriety support doesn't work as well as face to face support, like Alcoholics Anonymous. Grant found in a study most folks prefer face to face support and were more likely to booze it up again if their main help was online.

But online help, like Amazon packages, are closeby. There are hundreds of sobriety pages on Facebook. People feel safe to admit their flaws. And it's available 24/7. With the holidays right here at our throats again, it's #time.