Recovery is a drastic and radical change in your life. It requires a total reframing of how you live your life, because it's about learning to become free of the one thing that used to totally control your life. Choosing to struggle with sobriety rather than mindlessly give into and feed an addiction is a deeply courageous step that will force you to change a lot about your current life.
In this quest, your "virtual life" can be either helpful or harmful. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites can connect you with people also working towards sobriety and their healing, sharing stories and struggles to encourage each other.
At the same time, social media can be an anxiety-producing source of triggers that can increase the pressure to relapse. References to alcohol and drug-use are often very prevalent. Alcohol companies invest a lot of money using social media as a source of advertising. For example, the beer company Heineken has amassed more than 21 million "likes" on its facebook page, making it likely its paid-for content will appear on your wall.
That's in addition to friends or other people who continue to use, and may include photos or references to their use without even really thinking about it. These references to alcohol or drug use may raise your anxiety, or intensify your craving, reminding you of your days of using in a way that can make you vulnerable to relapse. Here are some ways you can withstand social media reminders of your addiction, and use it as a tool to strengthen your resolve to get sober.
Reminders of Your Commitment:
A picture of someone using a substance doesn't tell you the whole story. You may see someone drinking and seeming to have a good time, but they won't show you any of the pain or consequences of their drunken behavior. It is a superficial look, and not the whole story. As a result, you may be tempted to think through the times of your active use that felt good to you, or find yourself missing aspects of your substance abuse.
If you find your mind heading down the path of thinking favorably about your days of addiction, stop. Get away from the computer or phone, and take a minute to "unplug" by breathing deeply, or engaging in whatever relaxation routine feels good to you. Remind yourself of the reasons you decided to enter recovery, the negative aspects of your old life in substance abuse, and the positive things sobriety is giving you. In this way, you can "turn down the volume " on your triggered cravings, and strengthen your resolve to live in a better way.
De-Friend and Block:
If someone is posting lots of pictures or stories that make it seem like they're always in "party mode," or someone who is in a radically different place from you, unable to appreciate and support your commitment to sobriety, you should seriously consider the impact those messages have on you.
If someone is posting things that are not conducive to your recovery, you should consider blocking or unfollowing them. The messages you see on social media can have a profound impact on how you view yourself and the world around you, and you can use Facebook's algorithms to your advantage to not see anything that doesn't support your goals to live your own best life possible.
Every post on facebook has a menu where you can "hide post" to not see an offending picture or comment anymore, and it will cause you to see fewer references to an old "friend's" drunken escapades. You don't have to hold on to relationships if their effect is harmful to you.
Social media can be a very important tool to help connect you with sober friends and recovery communities, if you let it. It can also offer potentially toxic reminders of the old life you want to leave behind. A large part of the choice is up to you. Take an active role in making your social media habits encourage your recovery, rather than hamper it.