Recovery Tech: Videoconferencing

By Ashley Loeb

The AA triangle is a familiar symbol to those of us in a Twelve Step program. Each side of the triangle represents the Twelve Step community’s key values of unity, recovery and service. Implicit in the equal length of each leg is the concept of balance.

Of course, many of us are a bit heavy on one side of the triangle or the other. (What? Such balance doesn’t come naturally to all alcoholics? Who knew?) In our modern fast-paced lives, it can be difficult to find the time necessary for balance. I hear many people in meetings say something to the effect of, “I need to see my sponsor more, so I can work the steps.”

I have discovered during my day job at Lionrock Recovery that there’s more than one way to “see” your sponsor or sponsee. I help people all around the world obtain substance abuse treatment via videoconferencing. I can say with the utmost confidence that the personal connection you want when sharing your step work can be found using videoconferencing. During online Twelve Step meetings, some people are able to become even more vulnerable because they feel safer while sharing from their own home.

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In my opinion, the longer a person has been sober, the more useful online meetings with a sponsor/sponsee can be. That’s because the longer a person is sober, the better and more full life becomes. When life is filled with good, it can be tough to find time to focus on recovery — meet up with your sponsor or sponsees, go to meetings, be of service and continue step work.

If you have children, videoconferencing can be a godsend. While baby is napping or kids are in the next room playing, you can be online doing step work with your sponsor. You then have the babysitting problem solved.

If you are working a gazillion hours, finding time to meet to do step work may have become lower on your To Do list than you’d like to admit. A perfect solution might be setting up a videoconference after work to meet with your sponsor and talk about that amends list you have been working on.

So let’s assume I have convinced you that videoconferencing is worth a shot. The next question I typically get is, “Ashley, what technology do I need to use videoconferencing?”

There are so many affordable options you can use. A great and relatively inexpensive option is using a 2nd generation or newer iPad. I prefer the iPad mini. You can download any number of videoconference apps, including Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Camfrog and Tango. If you are concerned about the security of the videoconference technology, you can sign up for a GoToMeeting account, which offers encrypted (secure) videoconferencing for a monthly fee.

Ashley Loeb

Ashley Loeb

Each videoconferencing program will have a way for you to send an invite to the person you wish to meet. If you want to use your computer, you can use the built-in webcam or buy one from outlets such as Amazon or Best Buy that plugs into a USB port on the side of your computer. If you are videoconferencing from your computer, you would likely access a videoconferencing program via the program’s website, instead of an app.

So now that you know how to videoconference, next you need the willingness to try it. Don’t forget, when Dr. Bob and Bill W. founded AA in 1935, it was uncommon to find a telephone in many American homes. Today, we use our cellphones all the time to talk with our sponsor and sponsees. The moral of this story is that technology can be used successfully and easily to enhance our recovery.

Happy conferencing! You may contact me with your questions or just share your experience with this powerful recovery tool. My email address is tech@inrecoverymagazine.com.

In Recovery Magazine columnist, Ashley Loeb, grew up in Silicon Valley during the dot-com boom. She is a cofounder of a tech startup called Lionrock Recovery, a Joint Commission accredited online substance abuse treatment center. In recovery herself, Loeb is passionate about sharing her experience, strength and hope with others. Ashley currently lives in Southern California with her boyfriend and two large dogs, while she enjoys what she describes as “a life beyond her wildest dreams”.

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