Tools of Recovery

This page is under review by ITAA’s Web Content Committee and has not yet gone through a Conference Approval process, which our fellowship is in the process of developing.

Addiction is a spiritual, mental, and physical disease, and so we use a variety of tools to pursue recovery. This is a list of those tools that we have used to overcome our 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, you can join a meeting where members can help guide you in how these tools work, and which tools may be most helpful for you.

Spiritual tools

Joining a fellowship
Joining a fellowship means to join a community of individuals who are seeking relief from the affliction of internet and technology addiction. In ITAA, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop compulsive internet and technology use. For many of us in ITAA, after years of struggling to control our addiction on our own, we have found that joining this fellowship has been the only thing that has led to achieving real and sustainable sobriety from our problematic behaviors.

The 12 steps
The 12 steps of ITAA are the spiritual core of our program of recovery, and they lead to deep healing that goes beyond the acting-out behaviors of our addiction and addresses many of the deeper issues which interact with our addictive tendencies. The 12 step model was pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous over 80 years ago, and it has helped millions of people suffering from the disease of addiction to find recovery. You can read the steps of ITAA on the 12 steps page. It’s usually recommended to work the steps with a sponsor or recovery partner. As with all of our fellowships resources, you are encouraged to take what works for you and leave the rest.

Explore the idea of power greater than yourself
The 12 Steps center around the concept of a power greater than ourselves. Part of the 12-step process is an invitation to explore what concept of higher power is most helpful to us in our recoveries. For some members this power might be a religious deity, for others it is the fellowship, and for others it could be the natural world, love, or service. Connecting to power greater than ourselves is the spiritual basis of our program: it grounds us in connection, solace, strength, and humility. Many of us find understanding and developing a relationship with power greater than ourselves necessary for recovering from our addiction.

Attend meetings regularly
Prioritizing recovery can make all the difference. Attending meetings and experiencing first-hand that we are not alone in our addiction is a central part of the recovery journey. Schedule in regular, weekly meetings, and tell other people that you are not available then. It can be an enormous help to your recovery to go to a meeting every day for the first 30, 60, or 90 days of recovery.

If you’re trying to fit a meeting into your work day, consider scheduling for it as you would any other appointment related to your health care, or explore creative scheduling options that would enable you to carve out an hour during your day.

Find a sponsor, co-sponsor, or accountability partner.
A sponsor is another member with experience in sobriety and recovery who can guide you through your recovery process. Generally, a sponsor will have regular phone calls with you about your progress, listen to your struggles, and share their own experience. ITAA is a young fellowship, and we don’t have very many members sponsoring yet. You may one day be able to help with this! But for the moment, if you are looking for a sponsor, we encourage you to reach out directly to anybody who has a recovery that you resonate with. You can also look for a co-sponsor or recovery partner within ITAA. Co-sponsorship is a relationship with another member who is in the process of working the steps. You can read more in our guide to sponsorship.

Make a phone call every day
Making phone calls to other members is an effective method to strengthen our sobriety. One-on-one conversations allow us to go deeper than we normally would in a meeting, and they let us reach out precisely when we’re most vulnerable. After a meeting, you can mention that you are hoping to make program calls, and ask if anybody would be open to giving out their phone number. There are also several outreach groups and phone lists that other members can connect you with if you ask. You can read more in our Guide to Outreach Calls.

Providing service to others, inside or outside the fellowship, is an incredible way to strengthen your recovery and find a sense of meaning outside your internet and technology use. You can read more in our Guide to Service, and find opportunities on our Open Service Positions page.

We are in the process of writing literature for ITAA. There is also a large body of 12 step literature from other fellowships, which can be an extremely valuable resource; you can find some examples on our informal step-writing resources page.

Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation is useful at every stage of our recovery. Taking time to still our minds and connect to something greater than ourselves can restore serenity and stability, put us in better touch with our feelings, and help clarify our intentions.

One day at a time
Sobriety from our problematic internet and technology behaviors can seem 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, we do not think about being sober for a whole lifetime; we just work on being sober for the next 24 hours. We take things one day at a time.

Practical tools

Abstain from unnecessary internet and technology use
Many of us found sustainable sobriety when we decided to abstain from all internet and technology use except for what is strictly necessary (e.g. for work, finances, health, recovery, and sober connection with loved ones). We avoid using internet and technology for the purposes of entertainment or satisfying our curiosity. We work with other experienced members to help define what necessary means for us.

Top Lines, Middle Lines, Bottom Lines
While we all suffer from a common disease, it expresses itself in different ways for each of us. Writing down top, middle, and bottom lines is a process that can help us understand which behaviors are addictive for us and what we need to abstain from to maintain our sobriety. This is a tool for honesty, not control. We use it not to decide what goes in each line, but rather to discover what belongs in each line. 

Top lines are activities that are positive for us and enhance our self esteem. They include enjoyable or aspirational offline behaviors and activities, recovery tools and practices that keep us sober and stabilize us in recovery, as well as healthy and functional internet and technology behaviors (e.g. meetings). 

Middle lines are our triggers. They are the situations or activities that can give rise to urges to use internet and technology compulsively. Middle lines could be either tech-related such as online shopping or checking email, or non-tech related such as an approaching deadline or travel. Many of us abstain from our tech-related middle lines when they are not strictly necessary.

Bottom lines are the things that we must avoid in order to remain free of our addiction. These are non-negotiable boundaries that we set to keep us out of addictive use. Bottom lines are the behaviors that when we start we don’t know when we’ll stop, and when we stop we can’t stay stopped. We abstain from our bottom lines.

It’s important to remember that writing our lines is not a method for controlling our addiction—our program is about letting go of our attempts to control. Writing our lines is an exercise in self-awareness and putting language to our experience of addiction. After drafting our lines, we seek input from experienced, sober members to give us feedback on what we have written. In this way, we can understand our addiction more clearly, because others can see certain things that might be obscured from our view. We regularly review our lines and update them as we better understand ourselves and our sobriety needs.

If we are struggling with whether to add a particular behavior to our bottom lines, we can set a “sideline”. This consists of setting a temporary bottom line. Sidelines are one way of trying out new, sober behavior patterns in a safe and structured manner. First, we define the sideline behavior clearly. Next, we determine how long we would like to remain completely abstinent from this activity. Then, we communicate the sideline to another member, as well as the date on which our temporary abstinence will end, and we make a commitment to speak with this member again on this date. If we slip on our sideline, we can simply write about the experience, call somebody, share how we feel, and then carry on observing our abstinence. (If we’re counting days based on our bottom lines, we traditionally don’t reset our sobriety date if we slip on a sideline.) When we speak again with our recovery partner on the agreed-upon end-date, we review how living with this sideline has been. What worked? What didn’t? We can then make one of the following commitments: 1) we can officially introduce the sideline into our bottom lines; 2) we can decide that we’d like to try re-introducing the sideline back into our life, potentially with an action plan for how we would like to engage safely; 3) we can commit to another period of temporary abstinence to give ourselves more time to figure out what’s right for us.

Create action plans
You can create action plans around unsafe internet and technology behaviors or situations. You might create an action plan that says “If my friends decide they want to watch online videos while we’re together, I will excuse myself and make a call to another member.” Or, “If I need to travel, I will make an outreach call every day.”

Urge surfing
When the craving to use swells up, ride the wave of its temptation. Allow yourself 20 to 30 minutes to do something other than use. Set a timer! During the time that you are urge surfing, it is a good idea to pick up other tools: make a recovery call, pray, take a walk, breathe deeply, write about it, etc. The urge will peak and recede (just like a wave), and if you can successfully move through it, you will have had the experience of urge surfing.

Writing a technology use inventory
Some members find it helpful to write an inventory of all their internet and technology behaviors. You can use this exercise sheet for writing a technology use inventory.

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. It is helpful to send daily usage to a sponsor. Here is one example of a time log.

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

Working with a trained mental health practitioner
Some members have found it helpful to work with a trained therapist or psychologist, particularly if they have a background in treating addiction. Often our addictions are layered in with other traumas, fears, and troubled pasts. A trained mental health practitioner can help you gain deeper insights into the psychological issues involved in your addiction.

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.

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. This can help relieve shame about what you are suffering from and give you additional avenues for support.

Review relapses
After a relapse, we may have a tendency to feel ashamed and angry with ourselves. Instead, this moment can be 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 middle lines and creating an action plan around them. Call another member to discuss what happened. When you are ready, lovingly release your shame about what has occurred. In ITAA, every moment is an opportunity for a fresh start.

Lifestyle tools

Regular exercise and physical movement has been shown to improve health, mood and wellness. 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, dance, or sign up for a membership at your local gym.

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 only 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 and your recovery. Sleeping 8 hours each night, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and morning and night routines can help establish better sleep habits.

In-person community
Instead of connecting with your community through social media, our members make an effort to connect with others in real life. Getting together with friends and family, taking part in group activities, or being of service in our communities 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 our time in offline hobbies, passions and activities can help alleviate boredom and restore meaning to our lives in the absence of the internet and technology. It can be helpful to write down a list of healthy forms of rest and relaxation, and reference it when we are struggling to think of what offline activities we can engage in with our free time.

Letting go of problematic behaviors

Getting rid of problematic social media accounts
Many members have found it helpful to delete social media accounts. If we feel fear, we discuss with other members and trust that the right answer will become clear.

Deleting problematic apps from your computer or smartphone
If a particular app is problematic for you, it is recommended to delete it from your devices.

Finding offline alternatives
Many things we do with technology can be accomplished with offline tools. For example, you can buy a physical map of your city instead of using a map application, use a watch instead of checking your phone, read physical books instead of e-books, go to the store instead of buying online, or write in a physical journal or planner 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 deleting it.

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

Letting go of home internet
Some members remove their home internet, either asking their roommates or family to change the password, or disabling service and letting go of their router.

In letting go of problematic behaviors, we may struggle to come to terms with the loss we fear may be involved. Wondrously, many of us have found these actions to bring great relief and ease to our lives, and the expected loss of utility is often forgotten as we find other ways to satisfy our needs without relying on the internet and technology.