This is the first of a series on recovery support options.
I heard about the StopDrinking conversation group on Reddit from one of my recovery coaching students. I checked it out and was surprised that it had more than fifty thousand members. That was eleven months ago. Now StopDrinking (SD) has more that ninety thousand members. Why is this conversation group so popular? Is is effective? Here is what I found.
Round the Clock
One distinct advantage of StopDrinking is that you can find support at anytime of day. Think you're the only one awake at 3 am and wanting a drink? Type a post and within minutes you’ll receive encouraging words. Bored with sobriety on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Read about other people’s struggles and remember why you don’t drink, or post your angst and read the responses.
Not all of the members are currently sober. Some come simply to observe or “lurk”, to find out if other people have found a way to stop drinking and, if so, how did they do it? StopDrinking offers a comprehensive overview of what others did to stop, what got in their way, what it’s like to relapse, and how long someone has gone without drinking. Many members use a badge that gives a day count. Some SD members watch for months or years before giving abstinence a try.
While StopDrinking has no relation to Alcoholics Anonymous, SD certainly has learned from AA experience. Both have a singular goal of not drinking. Both support anonymity. Both use a “one day at a time” approach. Both are supportive and encouraging. Both encourage speaking in “I” statements and sharing experience, not advice. (I got dinged once for saying “That’s scary!” to one woman’s very high blood alcohol level at time of DUI.) StopDrinking differs from AA in that it offers no specific way to stop other than doing just that. “I will not drink with you today” is SD’s supportive slogan that many end their posts with. There are no steps or traditions, just the wisdom and support of the members. I rarely see the word “alcoholic” or “alcoholism” on StopDrinking posts. Some members make reference to “meetings” but those may be SMART meetings, or Refuge Recovery, or Celebrate Recovery, or AA meetings.
What Members Like Best
I asked members what they like best about the SD community. I got 16 answers and will post a few here. One person with a star badge for four month of sobriety says, “I joined this community a few months before I actually stopped drinking. It gave me the push I needed to finally take the first step, help with resources to keep me firm on the path... and comfort in knowing that I'm not alone on the journey.”
Another says, “This is the most useful [tool] for me. Reading, posting, commenting, connecting, commiserating, celebrating - all of it helps.”
An observer said a few days ago, “I see all the excuses I've made for years. I'm not sober yet, but I know I want to be and I've been able to take days and weeks between drinks. I loaded up with sparkling water and I stopped buying beer. I avoid situations where I might get trashed. I have extreme respect for my sober friends and I see them as examples for my life. All of this is due to being exposed to an environment where everyone is encouraging me, everyone had been there before, and everyone knows I'm not perfect.” His/her badge now says two days.
Another person wrote, “This is my main support group and I don't use anything else. What I like best is the camaraderie. We all have one goal in common and we help each other achieve or maintain that goal. I don't feel weird or out of place when I talk about what led to my sobriety, or what my life was like when I was still drinking because we all have our own horror stories. Sometimes I will comment when I am feeling strong, and hope that my comment will reach someone who may be struggling. Because when I am struggling, reading through stories and comments makes me feel strong again.”
From another with four months, “The badge is a big, big motivator. Seeing others having to reset keeps me scared and honest. The honest stories about slips, relapses, sobriety struggles, and realities, both good and bad, of not drinking. I like that it's called "stop drinking" rather than "sobriety" because for many of us, we aren't ready emotionally on day one or day ten to say "sober" is just "not drinking for now". That is a very important distinction to me and I think to many others as well. There is complete lack of the judgement, sniping, and second guessing that goes on in a lot of communities. It's almost 100% support and that is wonderful. The tips and tricks I learned from seasoned members have been SO helpful. "Play the tape" has saved my raggedy butt many, many, many times.”
One of These Days
StopDrinking provides a safe place for those not drinking today, and encouragement for those who are hoping to be able to stop someday soon. Some members have 2 days or none, some have years and years. StopDrinking didn’t exist when I needed help. If it had I might have stopped years sooner. I’m glad it exists, the StopDrinking family on Reddit. My hat is off to you, and I won’t drink with you today.