Addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual 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, please feel free to send a message through the contact form and an experienced member can help guide you in which tools may be most helpful for you.
The 12 steps
The 12 step model is a plan of recovery that offers a spiritual path to healing. This model was pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and has been adapted to treat many other addictions. You can read the steps of ITAA on the 12 steps page.
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. For many of us in ITAA, after years of struggling to overcome our addiction on our own, we have found joining a fellowship to be the most significant factor in achieving sobriety.
Attend meetings regularly
Prioritizing recovery can make all the difference. Schedule in meeting times and make a point of regularly attending every meeting you that is in your time zone.
Working with a sponsor
A sponsor is another member with experience in sobriety and 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. If you are looking for a sponsor, we encourage you to join a meeting and mention you are looking for this. You can read more about sponsorship here.
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.
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 sort 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 nature. Connecting to power greater than yourself can offer connection, solace, strength, humility and guidance; many of us find it helps dispel the isolation that addiction thrives on.
Providing service to others, inside or outside the fellowship, is an enriching way to strengthen your recovery and find a sense of meaning outside your internet and technology use.
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.
Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation is 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.
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.
Bottom Lines, Middle Lines, Top Lines
Writing bottom lines, middle lines, and top lines is a way of drawing a map of your addictive behavior. It is often helpful to write these down, and to say them out loud to another member.
Into your bottom lines 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 bottom lines will be different than what is in somebody else’s bottom lines, but examples 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). It is often helpful to be as clear and specific about these items as possible.
Your middle lines have your triggers, or the things that are likely to lead you into your bottom lines. Some examples of middle line 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. Because of the slippery nature of our addiction, many members find it is safest to avoid their middle lines unless absolutely necessary. When you notice you are in your middle lines, it is a good sign that you should reach out for recovery.
Your top lines have 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.
Your bottom, middle and top lines do not have to be perfect, and they can change over time. Once you have written them down, try to bring awareness to where your internet and technology behaviors are falling in relation to these categories at any given moment. This can help strengthen your self-awareness around your compulsive patterns.
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. It is most helpful to send daily usage to a sponsor. Here is one example of a time log.
Create action plans
You can create action plans around potentially dangerous internet and technology behaviors or situations. 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 need to travel, I will make an outreach call every day.”
Bookending with another member
When you are going to engage in a risky or 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, increase accountability, and give you additional avenues for support.
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. 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.
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, 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 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.
Instead of connecting with your community through social media, our members 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. It can be helpful to write down a list of healthy forms of rest and relaxation, and reference it when you are struggling to think of what offline activities you can engage in with your free time.
Removing access to 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 bottom lines, the easiest way to avoid it is to simply delete it from all your devices. If an app is in your middle lines, 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 feature phone
You can switch out your smartphone for a “feature phone”, a non touch-screen phone with only call and messaging features. While daunting at first, in practice this offers enormous relief and safety for many members.
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 office.
In removing access to problematic behaviors, we sometimes struggle to come to terms with the loss of utility or comfort we fear might be involved. At first, these actions can seem daunting to us. 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.