Tools of Recovery

This page has been written by ITAA’s Web Content Committee and has not been formally approved by the fellowship as a whole. If you would like to share feedback or contribute to our efforts, we would love to hear from you and we encourage you to join one of our meetings! More details can be found on the Service Committees page.

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.

Our common program

The Twelve Steps
The Twelve Steps of ITAA are the spiritual core of our program and the transformative basis of our long-term recovery. The Steps are prompts for a unique and challenging journey of transformation that looks different for each one of us. They lead to a deep level of healing that goes beyond abstinence from our acting-out behaviors and addresses many of the deeper issues which interact with our addictive tendencies. The Twelve 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 long-term, sustainable recovery.

Sponsorship
We benefit from working the Steps with a sponsor, another member of ITAA who has worked the Steps and found stable sobriety from their addiction. A great way to connect with potential sponsors is to make outreach calls with other members who we resonate with. More information on sponsorship can be found in our Guide to Sponsorship

Discovering our Higher Power
The Twelve Steps center around our surrender to a Power greater than ourselves, and we are invited to choose whatever concept of a Higher Power is most helpful to us in our own recovery. There is a tremendous diversity in how different members understand their Higher Power, and we benefit from asking others about their experiences. Some members experience their Higher Power as a spiritual being, force, or energy. Others find resonance with Nature, the Universe, concepts such as Love or Service, the Present Moment, the Fellowship of ITAA, the Collective Wisdom of all people in recovery, or our Higher Self. Some of us may use the word God to name this power. Each of us is invited to discover whatever Higher Power is most conducive to our personal growth and our return to sanity. Ours is a spiritual, not a religious, program, and we neither oppose nor endorse any particular faith tradition.

Meetings
Attending meetings regularly and connecting with other members is essential to our recovery. If you are new or coming back, we recommend attending 90 meetings in 90 days. The first 90 days are especially important because our withdrawal symptoms and the propensity to relapse is so high in the first three months while our brains are adapting to sobriety. Daily meetings give us the structure and support we need to arrive on the other side. Some of us balked at this suggestion, thinking we didn’t have time to spend an hour per day in a meeting, but other members encouraged us to remember how much more time relapse would cost us. If we’re trying to fit a meeting into our work day, we consider scheduling it as we would any other appointment related to our healthcare, or we explore creative scheduling options that would enable us to carve out an hour during the day. Attending many meetings helps us get to know other members and build genuine relationships, washing away the isolation that is both a cause and a result of our addictive behaviors. 

There are a variety of different meeting types, and we take time to find ones that are right for us. For example, a meeting may focus on reading Twelve Step literature, sharing on a particular topic, co-working on the Steps, or listening to a speaker. Most of us gradually settle into a rhythm, attending the same weekly meeting(s) each week. Sometimes newcomers ask us how many meetings they ‘should’ attend each week. After suggesting an initial period of daily meetings, if possible, we often answer: as many meetings as you need to stay sober. We also find it enriching to select at least one ‘home meeting’, in which we might do service. 

Outreach calls
We use the term ‘outreach call’ to describe a phone call between any two members of ITAA outside of a meeting. Outreach calls help us stay connected, supported, and sober. When we hear somebody share something in a meeting that resonates with us, afterwards we can ask that person for their phone number or find them on an outreach list and arrange a call. 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. Some of us commit to making at least one outreach call every day. There is more information in our Guide to Outreach Calls.

Service
Being of service to other internet and technology addicts is vital to our sobriety. Focusing on our own program of recovery, working the Twelve Steps of ITAA, and maintaining our abstinence is one of the very best ways we can help other addicts in our young fellowship. “We don’t just carry the message, we are the message.” Even at our first meetings, we can also volunteer to read or keep time in meetings, or pick up a phone call.

Once we feel we are finding our feet, we can consider serving as a tech co-host, greeting newcomers, chairing an online meeting, starting an in-person meeting, putting up posters, reaching out to mental health counseling centers in our area to inform them about ITAA, joining a committee, joining an international business meeting, or considering other ways we can support others in recovering from their  addiction. There are many opportunities on our Open Service Positions page.

Once we have found sobriety, we find that leading others through the Steps by sponsoring is an incredibly rewarding experience that benefits the sponsor just as much, if not more, than the sponsee. In fact, if we want to keep the gift of sobriety, we need to pass it on to others. 

Literature
We are in the process of writing literature specific to internet and technology addiction, and there are several guides on our website under the ‘resources’ tab. Some of us print these out and put them in a binder so we can read them offline. 

There is also a large body of Twelve Step literature from other fellowships, which can be an extremely valuable resource; you can find some examples on our informal step-writing resources page. For many of us, one of the most amazing things we realize on entering ITAA is that we are not alone in being addicted to internet and technology. Reading literature from programs focused on other addictions, such as alcohol and drugs, we once again realize that we are not so unique: we have the same disease of addiction that is described in the very first Twelve Step book, Alcoholics Anonymous. We soon learn to ‘translate’ literature from Overeaters Anonymous, Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other programs. We learn to take what resonates with us and leave the rest.

As tech addicts, many of us find it helpful to purchase physical copies of any recovery books we wish to read. This way, not only can we reach for literature whenever we need it (without having to go online), but we can also highlight, underline, and annotate these books if we want to. Local libraries often stock Twelve Step recovery books such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and some local in-person groups run ‘lending libraries’ or give out books for free, too. We can also attend meetings that are focused on studying Twelve Step literature.

When a craving hits us, nobody is available for outreach, and there’s no meeting to rush to, literature is always ‘on call’. If we’re traveling, many of us pack a recovery reader as part of our arsenal of tools. Some members keep a book in the car, in their desk drawer at work, and by their bedside, so they will always be just an arm’s reach from the wisdom of the program if compulsion strikes!     

Prayer and Meditation
Many of us find it helpful to pray and meditate each day. Our prayers don’t necessarily have to be religious—they can be as simple as saying “May I have serenity today and take wise action.” We can use prayer in whatever way is most helpful to us, and there are as many ways to pray as there are members in ITAA. We might experiment with prayers of gratitude, praise, request or supplication. We might try out different physical postures: sitting, standing, kneeling, child’s pose (kneeling with our head touching the floor), and even walking or dancing. We might try speaking in our head, speaking aloud, whispering, shouting, singing, or listening in silence. Crying can also be a way of praying. 

Some of us write our favorite prayers on note cards, memorize prayers from recovery literature or religious texts, or write our own. Some of us speak freely and spontaneously. We can also use written two-way prayer, in which we ask our Higher Power a question and then write down the guidance we hear back. In our experience, what matters is a sincere attempt to seek conscious contact with a Power greater than ourselves, as we may each define it. It can be helpful to retake Steps One, Two, and Three each morning as part of our daily prayer practice. 

If we have never meditated before, a simple practice is to sit still for 5 or 10 minutes and focus on the breath, letting go of all other thoughts or concerns. When we notice we are thinking about something, we observe the thought itself, and then we return to the breath. 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.

Defining and maintaining sobriety

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 (for example, 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 tech-related behaviors such as online shopping or checking email, non-tech related situations such as an approaching deadline or travel, or difficult emotions like loneliness or fear. Many of us abstain from our tech-related middle lines when they are not strictly necessary. Middle lines are likely to pull us into our bottom lines, and so we don’t treat middle line behaviors as safe or acceptable alternatives to our bottom lines. If we can’t avoid a middle line behavior or situation, then we seek support from other members to stay sober.

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.

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 (for example, 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.

Temporary abstinence
We can commit to a period of temporary abstinence from a particular internet and technology behavior. For example, we might choose to abstain from the news for three months, or do a one-month fast from all unnecessary internet and technology use. Temporary abstinence can help us experience time away from problematic behaviors and better discern what our bottom lines should be. 

One day at a time
Abstaining from our problematic internet and technology behaviors long-term 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 a big commitment, we just work on being sober for the next 24 hours. We take things one day at a time.

Action plans
We can create action plans around challenging situations that might destabilize our sobriety. For example, we 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 go to a meeting every day.”

Responding to urges
If the craving to use swells up, we turn to our recovery tools: we make an outreach call, pray, go to a meeting, take a walk, breathe deeply, write about it, etc. With the help of our program, the urge will peak and recede.

Writing a Step One inventory
We may find it helpful to write an inventory of our relationship to internet and technology over the course of our lives. This is sometimes referred to as a Step One inventory. This is a story about us and our addiction: how it started, how it changed over time, and how it is now. We may write about episodes in our life that stand out to us; often, we carry specific memories that we can look back on and say, “That’s when I first fell in love with internet and technology,” or “That’s when I reached a new bottom.” These memories may be of significant events or more subtle reflections. The important thing is to take a step back and see the bigger picture of the role our addiction has played in our lives. 

To better examine our relationship to our various internet and technology behaviors in the present moment, we can also use this exercise sheet.

Time logging
Keeping a time log of all of all our internet and technology usage can help us gain perspective on how we’re using. It can be helpful to send our daily usage to a sponsor or accountability partner. We can also bookend throughout the day as we go. Here is an example of a time log template.

Bookending
When we are going to engage in an internet and technology behavior, we can bookend by texting or calling another member to let them know that we’re starting, then sending them another message once we have finished. We have found that this practice can be especially helpful for emotionally difficult tasks, tasks we have been avoiding, and essential tasks that we are worried may trigger cravings to use compulsively. 

It’s important to note that, in our experience, we cannot safely bookend bottom line behaviors. Just as an alcoholic cannot safely bookend drinking a glass of beer, for us there are certain tech behaviors that are simply never safe to engage in, even when bookended. We cannot use them in moderation, so we must abstain.

Letting go of problematic behaviors
Many of us have found it helpful to delete our social media accounts and problematic apps, and we have also benefited from getting rid of problematic devices. We might cancel our streaming services or delete any problematic and compulsive content on our devices. We can switch out our smartphone for a feature phone, a non touch-screen phone with only call and messaging features. Some of us have removed our home internet connection and only connect online in public places, and we may consider getting rid of our personal computer and using library computers instead.

In letting go of problematic devices and behaviors, we may struggle to come to terms with the loss we fear may be involved. Many of us have found that removing access to compulsive media has brought great relief and ease to our lives, and the expected loss is often washed away as we find other ways to satisfy our needs without relying on internet and technology.

Offline alternatives
Many things we do with technology can be accomplished offline. For example, we can buy a physical map of our city instead of using a map application, use a watch instead of checking our 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 our computer.

Taking time away from technology
We taking time away from all screens when we are feeling shaky, allowing ourselves a couple hours, a day, a weekend, or longer away from technology to help restore our footing and improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power.

Journaling
Journaling and reflecting on our feelings, struggles, and goals helps us develop perspective. Committing things to paper gives us something concrete to look back on. Many members engage in written prayer, free-writing, or ‘morning pages’. We also can benefit from ‘Tenth Step’ journaling in the evenings, in which we review our day and connect with our Higher Power. We find that having a physical notebook can be very helpful, so that in times of need we do not have to reach for a device in order to express our feelings in writing.

Review relapses
While we may have a tendency to feel ashamed or angry with ourselves after a relapse, this moment can be a growth opportunity. We review our relapse and try to identify the factors that led us to relapse. We consider adding those factors to our middle lines and creating an action plan around them. We also call our sponsor or another member to discuss what happened. We release ourselves from shame about what has occurred and start afresh. More information on responding to slips and relapses can be found in our Guide to Sobriety, Slips, and Relapses.

Building healthier lives in sobriety

Physical self-care
After years of neglecting our bodies and living environment, we benefit from prioritizing our physical self-care. Regular physical exercise can reduce our risk of relapse, in addition to helping our stress, mood, sleep, and energy. We can aim to get eight hours of sleep each night, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, turning off screens an hour before bed, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, and establishing morning and evening routines. Eating a healthy diet also helps us maintain our physical health and wellness in recovery, as does scheduling in and attending regular medical and dental appointments. We also take time out of our day to clean our living environment, practice good hygiene, and dress well. These acts of self-love go a long way towards rebuilding our self-esteem in sobriety.

In-person community
Instead of connecting with our community online, we 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
After starting to make progress with our recovery, many of us find ourselves faced with an uncomfortable amount of free time. Investing our time in new—or neglected—hobbies, passions, and activities helps restore meaning to our lives in the absence of our addictive internet and technology behaviors. In doing so, we find new, enriching avenues for meeting our needs for entertainment, curiosity, relaxation, connection, challenge, creativity, and contribution. We write down a list of healthy, non-compulsive, offline activities which we can easily reference. We may also invest time in our career or volunteer work. Developing these parts of ourselves breaks down our association between screens and pleasure, and we soon begin to find abundant opportunities to live richer, more fulfilling lives.

Letting go of other compulsions
As we find abstinence, it’s not uncommon for our addictive personalities to manifest themselves through other compulsive behaviors. If we notice this happening, we can discuss it honestly with our sponsor, our Higher Power, and other members, open-mindedly seeking guidance on how we can move out of compulsion and into balance. 

Outside help
In recovery, we avail ourselves of outside help, including professional help. Many of us have found it helpful to work with a therapist or psychiatrist, particularly if they have a background in treating addiction. We can also draw on support from coaches, medical doctors, spiritual counselors, other Twelve Step Fellowships, and other sources of outside help.