LifeRing’s Online Coordinator, Steve S., recently reported to the board of directors that all of our online venues are doing well. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to give a little attention here to each of the approaches. All of the various online formats share the same goal as our face-to-face (f2f) meetings: to offer support for individuals seeking freedom from addiction. They offer that support by different methods, each of which seeks to appeal to people in slightly different ways. They primarily serve people without access to our f2f meetings, although some in-person meeting members supplement those meetings with online visits. Many people have found that they were able to get clean and sober using only the support received online, or with online help supplemented by other resources.
Let’s start with ‘Chat‘, which is the shorthand term for real-time group instant message communication over the Internet. Two or more people meet in ‘chat rooms’ for regularly scheduled online LifeRing meetings, often structured exactly like an f2f meeting with each person having an opportunity (but not a requirement) to ‘check in’ with what’s going on in their lives and with their sobriety, both recently and upcoming. As with f2f meetings, cross talk, meaning supportive and helpful responses to the check-in from anyone present, is encouraged. Just as with the in-person meetings, regular visitors become familiar to each other and real friendships blossom. When there is no meeting scheduled, there are very often LifeRing members hanging out in the chat room ready for more informal interaction but also available for sobriety support.
It’s the ‘real-time’ element of this form of communication that is important to many. Other online venues, including e-mail groups, the Forum and the Ning social networking site, allow for much longer comments, but the responses often take hours or even days to arrive. In chat, brevity may be the hallmark, but responses are immediate, and that’s a crucial difference. If you’re being overwhelmed by tumultuous emotions, you may not feel able to wait for the next f2f meeting, or for a response to a post to one of the other venues. The chat room can be like a telephone, providing instant support from people who understand what you’re feeling. And yet it also remains very anonymous, which, perhaps ironically, seems to encourage greater honesty and openness, two of the most crucial elements in the recovery process. Because of this, the chat room can help people develop and expand social skills at a pace and in a way that feels comfortable to them.
Chat isn’t for everyone — the conversations tend to move along swiftly and disjointedly and it takes awhile to get used to that. The anonymity that encourages honesty also encourages a certain anarchic atmosphere that can be disconcerting to some. But you can’t beat it for convenience and availability. Registration is required, but it’s easy For people unsure about wanting to attend a face-to-face meeting in early sobriety, due to anxiety issues or other emotions, the chat room can be a way to enter the recovery world with that real-time support, but in a way that feels comfortable. Give it a try by clicking here to go the LifeRing chat room.
Other LifeRing online venues will be discussed in coming days.