Recovery Goes Viral. Can You Recover from Addiction Online?

I’m very curious about the question posed in the title. If you would be so kind as to leave your comments below in the “responses” section – positive or negative. Let’s get a discussion going!

Now let’s define online recovery.

Concepts like begin or research recovery, augment existing or new recovery and actually recover with no other therapy or face to face groups come to mind.

I realize that addiction is many times a dis-ease of isolation and that hiding behind a computer screen could be as detrimental and damaging as hiding behind booze, drugs, gambling or porn. We are still hiding.

My question is: What is the place in the recovery eco-system for online recovery groups and information sites?

Begin one’s recovery research in true anonymity – now where have we heard that word before?

  1. Augment one’s recovery by filling in and/or adding to one’s existing recovery online support group(s) by participating in online research and communities.
  2. Actually recover online. No outside meetings or therapy. 100% of your “recovery world” is online. But augmented IRL(in real life) by the people you met online.


I’m asking these questions because all around us every one of the questions raised above is already happening in one form or another. These sites are exploding.

At some point researchers, treatment centers and the therapy community are going to need to take a look at it. There have been a few public interest stories but other than that.. nothing.

Not to be flippant, but in the same way taxi companies and the hotel industry should have taken a look at Uber and AirBnB a little earlier.

I can name twenty+ very successful online communities who are facilitating actual, quality recovery. Complete with strong relationships that are flourishing IRL. (IRL is the online term for In Real Life)

Before I chronicle a few of the online communities I feel I must set out a few definitions and business models, yes business models, so we can all be on the same page.

It seems that some of the recovery “communities” and help sites online are nothing more than “content fronts” for treatment center lead generation.

By creating some user generated content, reviews and addiction articles they are able to rank higher in Google and therefore get more traffic and leads to the treatment centers that they represent via advertising or direct response lead aggregation.

I have no issue what so ever with these businesses.  Some are doing an excellent job balancing their monetization techniques and their actual helping, especially podcasts. I believe most are truly trying to help, however, they are not really what I’m describing here.

In the last year, the search terms such as “drug treatment”, “alcohol rehab” and their synonyms have moved to the very top of the Google pay-per-click universe commanding as much as $50.00+ USD for ONE click.

The influx of these types of websites and marketers taking advantage of the high dollar click, pay-per-call and lead generation arbitrage available in this market has seemingly obscured the sites that I’m describing and that are actually facilitating real recovery online.

These recovery promoting businesses, websites, blogs, forums, podcasts and mutual aid society movements are much different.

As you read please note that I make no distinction between for-profit, non-profit, volunteer or donation-based business models, blogs or forums. I remain completely agnostic to the type of monetization or financial support the websites maintain – only that they are helping people.

The difficulty in starting or running this type of website lies in its business model development. Without the treatment center referral income, many rely on donations, the owners donated time and other forms of non-profit support to pay the bills and grow.

Some have begun to offer courses and communities online for a small fee (and a few for large fees). But most of the operators are just people in recovery trying to help get the message out. Almost all started by not offering referrals or partnering with treatment centers but some succumbed to the need for actual cash flow after the sites begin to grow.

Strangely enough, a few of the largest, most helpful and seemingly most successful got their start on as a subreddit.

One has no website at all, is 100% volunteer manned and boasts and incredible success rate.

That subreddit is  which is approaching 60,000 users at press time.

People describe 3 and 4 years of sobriety using just this free forum as their support group. The thing I really like about it is its inclusiveness. They are just as apt to recommend Smart recovery as AA or a Christian based alternative. Their only function seems to be to help get people sober and embrace them when they slip.

Both the Washington Post , HuffPo and The UK’s Daily Mail (great stats in this article) have written about the forum.

There are also a few smaller alcohol-related subreddits but they are not as large.

Another even more astonishing subreddit is the “NoFap” forum and companion website.

An amazing 216,000 members on the subreddit all trying to overcome an addiction to pornography and masturbation. The founder and his partner also have a website and training academy where they go more into depth and appear to be creating the ultimate social entrepreneurial venture.

We will be reporting more in depth about the sites mentioned and on other websites and online recovery movements in the days and weeks to come. Please stay tuned.




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