Tools of Recovery

This is a list of tools that our members have used to overcome their internet and technology addiction. You may find that some of these are useful for you as you embark on your recovery. Different members have found different tools to be helpful, and often the tools we use change over time. If you have questions about any of these, please feel free to send a message through the contact form.

Spiritual tools

Joining a fellowship

Joining a fellowship means to join a community of like individuals who are seeking relief from the affliction of internet and technology addiction. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop compulsive internet and technology use. In ITAA, we have found this to be the most significant factor in our recovery.

Attend meetings regularly

Schedule in meeting times and make a point of regularly attending every meeting you that is in your time zone. It can be very helpful to make every single meeting for the first 90 days of recovery.

Working with a sponsor

A sponsor is another member with experience in stable recovery who can guide you through your recovery process. Generally, a sponsor will have weekly phone calls with you about your progress, listen to your struggles, and share advice.

The 12 step model

The 12 step model is a plan of recovery that suggest a spiritual path to healing. 12 step groups are distinctive in that they don’t treat addiction as a behavioral, physical, or mental problem, but also as a spiritual and emotional one. You can read more at the 12 steps page.

Explore the idea of power greater than yourself

The 12 steps center around the concept of a power greater than yourself. For some members this power is a deity, for others it is the fellowship, and for others it is the simple admission that we are not the only source of power in the universe, and that there is power outside ourselves. Connecting to power greater than yourself can offer connection, solace, strength, humility and guidance, and it helps dispel the isolation that addiction thrives on.

Admitting powerlessness

Paradoxically, the first step in the 12 steps is to admit that we are powerless. It can be helpful to admit that you are actually not in control of your problem, that you cannot recover on your own, and that you need help.

Service

Providing service to others, inside or outside the fellowship, is a truly productive way to strengthen your recovery and find a sense of meaning outside your internet and technology use.

Literature

There is a large body of 12 step literature that has been written as resources for recovering addicts. You can find some examples on the literature page.

Mental tools

Three Circle Model / Bottom Lines, Middle Lines, Top Lines

The three circle model (also called bottom lines, middle lines, and top lines) is a way of gaining clarity about your addictive behavior. It is often helpful to write these down, and to say them out loud to another member.

Into your red circle go the things you absolutely want to avoid, the things that mean you are not sober, and would constitute a relapse. What goes into your red circle will be different than what is in somebody else’s red circle, but items could be websites or apps (e.g. youtube, reddit, instagram) or problematic behaviors or feelings (e.g. staying up past a certain hour, feeling out of control, watching pornography, obsessively gathering unnecessary information, watching videos, television or movies when you are alone).

Your orange circle has your triggers, or the things that are likely to lead you into your red circle. Because of the slippery nature of our addiction, many members find it is safest to avoid their orange circle unless absolutely necessary. Some examples of orange circle items could be being HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired); needing to buy something online or look something up; being around others who are watching videos, television, or movies; having to spend a considerable amount of time on the computer for work or school purposes; traveling; reading news websites; checking facebook, checking email too often.

Your green circle has ways you would like your relationship to internet and technology to look like, as well as non IT related alternatives you can adopt in place of your problematic usage. Some examples might be: only using the internet and technology for work related purposes, banking, and similar tasks; having internet-free days; not checking my phone for an hour each morning; meditating; exercising; cooking; learning a new activity; spending time with a friend or family member.

Working with a trained mental health practitioner

Some members have found it helpful to work with a trained therapist or psychologist. Doing so may help you gain a deeper insight into the psychological issues involved in your addiction.

Journaling

Journaling and reflecting on your feelings, struggles and goals can help you develop perspective about your addiction and its underlying causes. Committing things to paper gives you something concrete and reliable to look back on.

Review relapses

After a relapse, many of us may have a tendency to feel ashamed and angry with ourselves. Instead, you can treat it as a growth opportunity. Look back at your relapse and try to examine what were the factors that led you to relapse. Consider adding those factors to your orange circle. Call another member to discuss what happened.

Create action plans

You can create action plans around potentially dangerous internet and technology behaviors. You might create an action plan that says “If my friends decide they want to watch youtube videos while we’re together, I will excuse myself and make a call to another member.” Or, “If I feel urges while working on the computer for an assignment, I will close my computer to pray for five minutes, and then I will bookend with another member until I finish the assignment.”

Treat your recovery like an olympic sport

By damaging our potential, sense of self, and quality of life, our addiction can impair our lives; and by contributing to depression, suicidal tendencies, and other mental health issues, our addiction can be life-threatening. It can be useful to recognize the gravity of this affliction and strongly prioritize recovery in your life.

Behavioral tools

Confide in another person

Let somebody you trust know that you are struggling with this addiction, and that you are trying to change your behavior.

Reaching out

Making phone calls to other members is a simple and helpful method to break out of your bubble, gain wisdom, and help somebody else who may be struggling. If you are unsure whether something is healthy or not, you can call another member and ask them what they think. Some members make a phone call to another member every single day.

Bookending with another member

When you are going to engage in a risky or orange circle behavior, you can bookend by texting or calling another member to let them know. Then, you send another message once you have finished.

Asking somebody to be a gatekeeper

You can ask a spouse, in-person sponsor, family member, or trusted friend to set restriction codes for your devices and apps so that you do not have independent access to your devices. If you need to use a device or app, this person can unlock it for you.

Tracking usage/keeping time logs

Keeping a time log of all of all your internet and technology usage can help you gain perspective on how you are using. Behavioral science has shown that simply by measuring our behavior, we automatically subconsciously begin to adjust it towards our desired goals. Some members find it helpful to send their daily usage to a sponsor. Here is one example of a time log.

Pausing / This Too Shall Pass

When an urge comes up that feels irresistible, it can be helpful to simply pause and recognize that no matter how hopeless you feel in the moment, or how desperately you want to use, this too shall pass. Take the pause to connect to power greater than yourself, make a phone call, or take a nap.

Blocking apps

Some members have found blocking applications to help provide an extra barrier to their addiction, giving them an added opportunity to pause.

24 hours

Sometimes thinking about being sober from the internet and technology for a whole lifetime seems daunting, threatening, or overwhelming. We might use these feelings as an excuse for one “last” binge before we’re ready to be sober. Instead of dealing with such a big commitment, many of us do not think about being sober for a whole lifetime; we just think about being sober for the next 24 hours. We take things one day at a time, one hour at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time.

Lifestyle tools

Prayer and Meditation

Prayer and meditation is step 11, but it’s useful at every stage of your recovery. Taking time to still your mind and connect to power greater than yourself can restore serenity and stability, put you in better touch with your feelings, and help clarify your goals.

Exercise

Regular exercise and physical movement has been shown to improve health, mood and wellness, and as an internet and technology addict, exercise may help you strengthen your recovery and improve your resilience. You might take regular walks, run or bike, play a sport, or sign up for a membership at your local gym.

Sleep

For most internet and technology addicts, addiction goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation. Our usage regularly takes us far into the night, and sometimes we can only fall asleep when we pass out. Many of us may be chronically sleep-deprived, and returning to a regular and full sleep schedule is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Sleeping 8 hours each night, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and morning and night routines may help establish better sleep habits.

In-person community

Instead of connecting with your community through social media, you can make an effort to connect with others in real life. Getting together with your friends and family, taking part in group activities, or being of service in your community can help relieve the isolation that our addiction reinforces.

Offline hobbies, passions and activities

Many members, after starting to make progress with their recovery, find themselves faced with an uncomfortable amount of free time. What are we supposed to do with all this time if the internet and technology is not an option? Investing your time in offline hobbies, passions and activities can help alleviate boredom and restore meaning to your life in the absence of the internet and technology.

Removing problematic behaviors

Getting rid of facebook, instagram, snapchat and other social media

Many members have found it helpful to permanently delete their social media accounts. If you are worried about losing connection to your community, you can make a post explaining that you will be deleting your account in one month, and encouraging your friends to send you a text message or call to make sure you can stay in touch. If some groups you are a part of use social media to communicate and coordinate, you can ask another member of the group to keep you informed about important information and updates.

Deleting problematic apps from your computer or smartphone

If a particular app is in your red circle, the easiest way to avoid is to simply delete it from all your devices. If an app is in your orange circle, you may want to delete it as well.

Finding offline alternatives

Many things we do with technology can be done perfectly well offline. For example, you could buy a physical map of your city instead of using a map application, read physical books instead of e-books, go to the store instead of buying online, or write in a physical journal instead of writing on your computer.

Delete your stored data

Some members engage in ‘digital hoarding’, collecting unnecessary bookmarks, emails, notes, files, or other data. It can be helpful to let go of this clutter by simply permanently deleting it.

Switching your smartphone for a dumb phone

You can switch out your smartphone for a “dumb phone”, a non touch-screen phone with only call and messaging features.

Setting up wifi-free zones, or getting rid of personal wifi entirely

You can establish rooms or spaces in your house, such as your bedroom or the dinner table, as technology- or wifi-free zones. Some members remove their personal wifi entirely, either asking their roommates or family to change the password and not tell them, or disabling service and getting rid of their router. If you need to connect to the internet, you can go to a coffee shop, library, or your public office.