Online Recovery a Safe First Step for Some

Online Meetings Are Accessible to Everyone

Woman Using Computer
Online Meetings Provide Convenience. © Getty Images

There are many reasons that people choose to participate in online recovery groups and meetings, but probably the most common one is that it provides a level of anonymity that going to a live, face-to-face meeting cannot guarantee.

Some people take part in online meetings because they have disabilities - such as loss of hearing or a physical handicap - that prevents them from attending or benefitting from face-to-face meetings.

Others participate online because of economic or social reasons - perhaps they do not have transportation or they can't get a babysitter.

A Safe First Option

But, for many others, who are concerned about their anonymity or their reputations in their communities, participating in online recovery meetings are attractive and safer, more secure option.

Admitting to others for the first time that you have a drinking or drug problem can be daunting. For those new to recovery, the idea of walking into a room full of strangers at an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting can be scary.

The Stigma Factor

There is also the "stigma factor" of alcoholism that comes into play for many. Although science has shown the chemical changes that take place in the brains of alcoholics and addicts that affect their impulse control and reward-seeking behavior, there is still a segment of society that looks at alcoholism at a choice and not a disorder.

For those who delay seeking help or treatment because of the "shame" or embarrassment they think they would face by publicly admitting they have a problem, online meetings can be an attractive alternative.

Where No One Knows Your Name

For the friends and family members of the alcoholic or addict, who have been covering up for their loved one or keeping the family "secret" for so long, joining a support group in their community and talking about their situation at home is definitely out of their comfort zone.

However, if they can log on to an online group with a fictitious username where no one can see their faces, for many that seems to be a much more comfortable prospect.

Chat Meetings Since 1997

From 1997 until 2004, we had recovery chat rooms at the Alcoholism / Substance Abuse site. When we decided to close those chat rooms, the alcoholism-related chat rooms were moved to, where they continue in operation today.

Over the years, more than 190,000 people have registered usernames and logged on to those chat rooms.

Many of them were people already in recovery who were curious about how it worked online, but the vast majority of them have been those making their first contact with recovery support groups.

Moving On to Face-to-Face Meetings

And, for many of those first-time members, their online experience is the first step in their recovery; many of them end up attending support group meetings in person.

Once they become comfortable, first with merely talking with others about their problems, and they realize that others in the group have walked down the same path they are walking, many of them get the courage to attend face-to-face meetings to continue their journey into recovery.

More Than 100 Meetings a Week

At StepChat, there are 10 separate chat "rooms" in which both formal meetings and casual open chat discussions are held. There are more than 100 12-step meetings a week scheduled for members of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon Family Groups, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, as well as 12-step meetings for debtors, gamblers, compulsive eaters and others.

In addition, there are "open" chat rooms that are available 24 hours a day for members to gather together for mutual support, fellowship and greet newcomers.

Daily Chat Schedule

Here are the daily schedules for 12-step meetings at

Get Confirmation of Meeting Attendance

For those who are court-ordered to attend support-group meetings, provides an online form that members can use to request confirmation of their attendance at their online meetings.

Members are advised to check with the court officer to make sure online meetings can be used to meet their court-ordered requirements. Some jurisdictions recognize online meetings, but others do not.

There are other online meetings available, but may currently be the only one that provides meeting confirmations.

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