Pathways Wellness

The Pros and Cons of Documenting Your Recovery Journey Online

The Pros and Cons of Documenting Your Recovery Journey Online
Raul Haro
December 23, 2023
Every individual's recovery journey may be different, but they are all highly personal. The strength and courage required to recover from addiction can be highly inspirational to others. It's why some people may choose to share their recovery journey with others. Before the internet became widespread, people talked about their recovery on radio, television, books, […]
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The Pros and Cons of Documenting Your Recovery Journey Online

Every individual's recovery journey may be different, but they are all highly personal. The strength and courage required to recover from addiction can be highly inspirational to others. It's why some people may choose to share their recovery journey with others. Before the internet became widespread, people talked about their recovery on radio, television, books, or even in person through lectures or talks. It especially became prevalent during the 1990s with the creation of the  D.A.R.E program, which brought drug addiction education to children.

Now with the ease and accessibility of the internet, people can find information about any topic they please. prior to the internet, many people would feel alone. It was common to believe that they were the only person in the whole world to struggle with addiction. With the internet, however, it became apparent that addiction is not an isolated incident. There are millions of people in the world who currently struggle with addiction. Some of them are afraid to seek help for fear of being judged or shamed. 

Seeing people document their recovery journey in an easy-to-access place can inspire these people struggling to reach out for help. After all, if someone else can do it, it means that they have a chance to achieve recovery too. However, anyone who has grown up during the age of the internet knows how important it is to practice online safety. Sometimes it may simply be too dangerous for someone to document their recovery journey online.

Luckily, people don't have to struggle with the choice of documenting their recovery journey online or not. At Pathways Wellness Center, mental health care professionals are here to help clients make healthy choices. This includes helping clients decide if it's safe or not to be open about their recovery journey. Before people can decide for sure if they'd like to document their recovery journey online, they must first understand what that means.

What Does It Mean to Document Your Recovery Journey Online?

When someone documents their recovery journey online it means sharing their story on the internet. This entails using the internet to write what they experienced living with and recovering from their addiction. Sometimes it's written out in text format using a blogging platform or a personal website to detail their experiences. Others may use other mediums, such as recording videos, vlogs (video blogs), and podcasts. Those who are artistic may choose to post paintings, drawings, songs, or other artistic mediums to document their recovery journey. 

There are two ways in which people will document their recovery online. One way is to keep it private to either themselves or a select group of people. The other is to make it completely open to the public so that anyone can see it. There is no way to keep information 100% private on the internet. A determined person can and will find that information if they want to, even if it's deleted. People most often choose to be public about their recovery journey so that their message can reach a wide audience. 

Content-wise, it's ultimately up to the individual documenting their journey. Some might talk about what it's like to undergo certain treatments and therapies. Others may offer tips and tricks for staying sober and enjoying a life without substances. Regardless, the goal of documenting a recovery journey serves three purposes:

  • A person can take pride in overcoming their struggles
  • To provide education on addiction and show that recovery is possible for anyone
  • Showing what real addiction and treatment look like to offset misinformation and stigma

This can be a lot of pressure on a person, as documentation needs to be factual and honest to be the most effective. It's important to remember that nobody has to document their recovery journey. Again, such a journey can be deeply personal. People should not allow themselves to be pressured into sharing things that make them uncomfortable. It's their journey, and they get to decide if they'd like to share it with the public or not.

Online Safety: Tips and Tricks

Before someone can decide if they want to document their recovery journey online, they first have to be sure that they can be safe. Those who remember when computers first began making their way into schools might recall being put into internet safety classes. There, they were taught the basics of online safety. This has become the backbone of the internet community, even if some choose to disregard it. Several dangers exist online, but many can be mitigated if people remember some important rules.

The first rule is to not put information on the internet that you don't want strangers to find. For example, it's usually okay to put down that you are from a certain state or very large city. However, putting down an exact address is considered unsafe, as it can allow people to find out where someone lives. This also includes posting pictures that can identify a person's address, such as the front of their house or street signs. Putting down a full name is also generally discouraged, especially if prospective employers search an applicant's name on the internet. It's why many people use screen names or pseudonyms when documenting their recovery journey online.

Another important safety tip is that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. There are a lot of scammers that prey on people who are in recovery. Luckily, it's possible to be aware of current scams and identity theft schemes on the official website. In general, banks and credit card companies will never send an email or make a phone call to ask for passwords and routing numbers. Lots of scammers will scour the internet for email addresses and phone numbers, and they will then send scam messages. It's considered a good idea to have a public email address and a private email address and to not post one's phone number online. 

These safety tips apply even when in chats or groups centered around the area in which a person lives. For example, Glendora, California, has a large sober community centered around Pathways Wellness Center. Even so, it's still important to be safe. When meeting someone from the internet for the first time, choose a well-lit and public place to meet them. It's why coffee shops are common for first meetups. They are public, safe, and have staff that can help when needed. Overall, these tips and tricks can help keep one safe online, but it's important to practice good judgment too.

The Pros of Documenting a Recovery Journey Online

There are several reasons why it can be a good idea for someone to document their recovery journey online. By bringing addiction and treatment awareness to the public, it helps de-stigmatize mental health care and addiction. This heavy stigma often makes it so that people are afraid to seek treatment for their addiction. When they see that someone else has sought treatment and is now in recovery, it gives them hope that they can do the same. The result is more people seeking treatment now that they know that it works and exists. 

Another good reason for someone to document their journey is that it allows members of their support network to be aware of their mental state. For example, if someone writes on their blog that they feel alone and depressed, it can tell their loved ones that they need companionship and support. Even when things get hard, a support network can rally around someone to help get them through their difficulties. Support networks are so important that Pathways Wellness Center helps clients build support networks of their own.

It also gives someone a personal look through their journey and preserves memories and events that may be forgotten over time. This is especially helpful for those who might want to write a book about their experiences or some other creative work. Memories, even painful ones, shape who people are. It can be empowering to some to look back over their journey and see all that they have accomplished and overcome. 

Sometimes this documentation can be therapeutic. This depends on the person, but some feel better when they can write about something that bothers them. It's especially true if they can remain anonymous or adopt a pseudonym, as it allows people to be emotionally raw without being identified. This is why blogs are popular, as many people feel better writing down their experiences. Keeping a journal has always been a tool in mental health care and treatment and keeping a digital version can be just as valid.

The Cons of Documenting a Recovery Journey Online

Despite all the good that can come with being open about addiction and recovery online, some cons have to be considered before writing the first blog post or making that video. Perhaps the biggest con is that once information is put on the internet, it's there forever. Even deleting whole blogs and posts can be ineffective, as many search engines will snapshot websites and, thus, keep a record. People can also download videos and copy information, which can be passed around and shared. That's why it's imperative to never put information on the internet that someone is not comfortable being shared. 

Another con is that most of the Internet is anonymous. That means people will say and do what they like because they feel as though they are untouchable. Coupled with the stigma of addiction there is the real possibility that someone documenting their journey can experience harassment and negative comments. It's possible to mitigate this risk by blocking troublemakers and moderating comments, but people can be nasty on the internet just for the sake of being nasty. Not everyone will be able to handle negativity related to something as deeply personal as a recovery journey.

Another reason why people might think twice about documenting their journey online is because of discrimination. It is illegal to discriminate against someone in the U.S., but people will attempt to do so anyway. If a potential employer or landlord looks up someone's name and sees that they have struggled with addiction, they may decline to hire or rent to them. That's why it's important to have a pseudonym and limit identifying information so it's harder to perform a search on them. For some, this doesn't matter and they don't mind attaching their real name to their journey. When it comes to others, they have to be careful. 

Lastly, people will sometimes get so caught up in documenting their lives that they forget to live them. Some may have seen people in a restaurant spend more time taking pictures of their food than they do eating and enjoying it. The internet can become an addiction itself, with people becoming obsessed with obtaining validation and praise from others. It's okay to be validated, but not to the point where more time is spent online than offline. A careful balance must be struck, and it can be difficult to recognize what that is for many people.

How Does Pathways Wellness Center Help Me Make the Choice?

Choosing to document one's journey or not can be a difficult choice, as there are several factors to consider. At Pathways Wellness Center, clients don't have to make this choice alone. Pathways Wellness Center is uniquely equipped to help clients make this choice because many staff members are in recovery themselves. They have had to make this choice as well and understand what it's like to be in their client's shoes. Being able to share the wisdom earned from years of experience can help clients make an informed choice.

Pathways Wellness Center is also staffed with qualified and expert mental health care professionals. They can help a client examine their choices and determine if it's safe for the individual. Some individuals would be okay documenting their recovery journey online, while others may not. Having experts who can help guide someone into making educated choices can reduce anxiety over the topic. As mentioned before, sometimes clients can have a digital journal as part of their treatment, and steps are taken to help clients keep this journal secure and private. 

Along with having experts and experienced staff, several programs exist that can help clients make a choice. For example, there is a peer network program that helps clients and alumni forge supportive relationships. This can afford someone the opportunity to join online spaces made up of fellow Pathways Wellness Center alumni and clients. Keeping it local can be safer than being completely public to the wider internet. It can allow someone to "dip their toes" into the idea of documenting their recovery journey online, which can help them decide whether to make it public or not later down the line. 

Pathways Wellness Center is also a safe place to ask questions and request help with skills. Being safe on the internet is indeed a skill, one that can be difficult for people to learn. This is especially true for those who never grew up with the internet or haven't been online for a very long time. If a client wants to learn this skill, the staff at Pathways Wellness Center will help them learn it. Sometimes a professional can teach a skill as part of psychotherapy. If they can't do so in-house, Pathways Wellness Center will help clients find information and even classes to help them gain the skills they desire. 

For those who want to know more about addiction and its treatment, they are more than welcome to contact Pathways Wellness Center for more information. No person will ever be berated or judged for asking a question, as Pathways Wellness Center is a safe place for education, recovery, and healing. Whether it's an inquiry for information or asking for a bit of encouragement, Pathways Wellness Center is here to help. 

Striking a balance between online and offline life can be difficult at the best of times, let alone when someone is recovering from an addiction. On one hand, someone's journey can inspire another to seek help. On the other, it can leave someone open to bad actors and judgment. Thankfully, people don't have to struggle with the decision by themselves. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, clients don't just get treatment to overcome addiction. They also receive training that helps them develop important life skills. One such skill is balancing the need for privacy alongside the need to inspire and help others. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call (888) 771-0966 today.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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