Ways to Make Your Smartphone the Ultimate Tool for Recovery 

December 4, 2019

The release of the newly revamped Motorola Razr flip smartphone has some tech-lovers dreaming about a world of new technology and others remembering the days of classic cell phones. Yes, those sans internet browsers or touchscreens.

In our ever-connected society, the devices we carry on a daily basis have more and more features in smaller and smaller packages. It seems like productivity possibilities are unlimited.

But the phone in your pocket or purse can be an even more powerful tool for your addiction recovery. When equipped and used with health and sobriety goals and values in mind, this go-to mini-computer has a lot to offer.

Build Accountability 

Our phones can do an increasingly amazing amount of things for us. Isn’t it time we put these pocket assistants to use in meeting recovery goals?

While a sponsor or support may not always be with you, chances are the trusty smartphone never leaves your side.

Utilize the alerts and calendar functions to make and stick with plans, keeping on deadline and maintaining commitments, like attending meetings, appointments, and social engagements. While marking milestones and anniversaries too regularly might increase stress, acknowledging ongoing progress and celebrating big wins and ongoing streaks of adaptative behavior can be motivational and a source of pride.

Use the clock function to set a timer when urges are high and continue building distress tolerance, recognizing that the need to use a substance or alcohol won’t maintain its intensity and will decrease over time. If the temptation remains after the first 10-15 segment, tap into another skill and set the timer again, and repeat to get through the moment.

Make a playlist of songs that inspire your recovery or help you feel heard and understood when emotions feel overwhelming. Press play when you need to hear it most or use it as your recurring morning soundtrack to start the day focused on what matters most.

If you and your supports use Apple products, consider turning on the “Find My Friends” feature. While it might come off as a bit “big brother” at first swipe, it’s not truly for the purpose of spying on your every move. It can be a big help to not only share your location if you need help to come to you, but also to know where you can find others. Knowing that someone is waiting at home can be an assuring way to keep accountable and remember some of the reasons that recovery is important to you.

 Hit the Refresh Button

Treatment can mean time away from technology and focused on recovery without the distraction and connection of devices.

Returning to constant use of computers and phones can feel a bit overwhelming. Plus, there may be pictures, texts, contacts, and other content still present that would prove unhelpful.

Consider taking the time with a therapist or support to go through any devices and make changes to help you help yourself.

While it may be tempting to keep a number for someone you only connect to through using substances or alcohol, it is often a way to maintain that option to go back into behaviors. These “just in case” numbers may be immensely tempting later and even delaying due to not having such direct access can help you sit through an urge.

There may be old texts that came from a version of you that may not fill you with pride or pictures that show how addiction wrecked your mental and physical health and your life as a whole. Know that this is part of your story, if hard to look at and accept at the moment.

Rather than wipe everything clean, perhaps transfer some items to a cloud account or external hard drive, for review at a time you are feeling more secure in your recovery and are ready to look back. You may find some of this content can be deleted straight away with no second-guessing but deleting family pictures or journal entries likely warrants a delay to think.

Remember, a phone is meant to be useful and support the life you want to lead. Making adjustments after treatment is simply a way to set yourself up for success. 

Explore New Apps 

In addition to email, navigation, and a game or two (it’s not all about productivity) smartphones have the potential to serve up an expanding menu of added applications.

Choosing to pursue recovery is a hard but worthwhile commitment, and tech-savvy advocates are developing tools to help along the path. While an app isn’t a substitute for formal and continuing treatment, it can be a companion for the moments between and help build self-confidence and autonomy.

Here are some of the many options to download on your Apple or Andriod device now:  

  • SoberTool
    • This is a free app developed by a Harvard-grad and licensed addiction counselor who has been in recovery for over 25 years. A variety of tactics are used, from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to stress reduction techniques and 12 step meeting concepts. Message prompts and app sections connect the user to short but relevant quotes, content, and skills.   
  • Headspace or Calm
    • Mindfulness is the new star on the mental health scene. While it’s best explored with the support of a therapist, exploring applications that offer short guided sessions can offer some food-for-thought and continue to hone your inner awareness and acceptance. Most apps, including these two, only offer a segment of content for free, but those can be a good refresher on tough days.
  • AA Big Book Free
    • The foundation of the 12 steps, this is taking the Big Book and shrinking it to pocket size. Features of the free app include chapters, audiobook recordings, and related content to reflect and connect outside of meetings. For those tapping into this community after formal treatment, this digital version of the text is there for the journey.
  • Sober Grid
    • There is no shortage of social media sites, from the common to those designed for very specific purposes and people. While using online platforms can be more challenging than helpful at times, this application is a way to connect to others in the recovery community and use this technology as a more positive force. A profile can be anonymous or include as much or as little information as you prefer, putting safety and privacy top of mind and allowing you to decide what type of engagement best suits your needs.
  • Sanvello
    • Previously known as Pacifica, this application aims to tap into the techniques used in therapy to boost coping skills, track moods, and work toward overall health goals. Graphs of emotional states and reflections of thoughts can be a great thing to share directly with your treatment team to see trends and take a collective approach to tackling challenges.

Therapists and other peers in recovery may have different suggestions and options they prefer or have discovered. No app is without bugs or truly perfect for every user, so go in with an open mind and be up to try a few for various needs. Remember, no app is a substitute for treatment or licensed professionals.

Communication is Key 

Author Johann Hari said it right in his now-famous TED talk  – “The opposite of addiction is connection.” 

Overcoming addiction and maintaining sobriety through the ups and downs of life is a path best walked with the company of others. 

While feelings of shame, fear, sadness, or any number of emotions can make reaching out feel difficult, keeping in contact assures you aren’t alone and have the support you need and deserve. 

Knowing your habits and preferences around keeping in touch and setting clear expectations and plans with those around you is a good way to have the whole support squad on the same page.

 Decide and commit to a way to check-in daily, weekly, etc. through email, text, or call. Consider setting up a group text with a small group of people that can act as a sounding board or be the core help in moments of need, so there’s more chance at least one person is available to text back.

More so, consider setting up a system through which you can give a status of your mood or headspace without having to explain. Ideas include:

  • Using a number scale (ex. 1 being I need immediate help and 10 being I feel fantastic)
  • Using colors (ex. a yellow heart means I am struggling and could use a positive message)
  • Using the built-in facial expression emojis or gifs
  • Using the spoons analogy from chronic illness to describe energy and functionality of the day

While simplistic at face value, this is sometimes more accessible and easier for all involved to understand. And, perhaps, easier to be honest using a text versus the pressure of explaining over the phone. 

At the end of the day, the strategy that you will use is the best one for you. If you know you won’t pick up the phone and call, adjust to work with your strengths and patterns, not against them. These choices likely vary from person to person, as unique as our personalities.   

At times, it may feel helpful simply to have another person on the other line, even if no words are shared. The beauty of smartphones is that connectivity, so find the ways that it can work to your advantage.

Save the important numbers for treatment team members, text or call crisis lines and other resources in your contacts. While it might feel like overkill, it’s better to have those numbers on hand than floundering to find them in high-stress moments.  

In Case of Emergency 

Remember, resources are available 24/7 to assist in moments of crisis or when help is needed. While calling 911 is the best course of action in an emergency, these talk and text lines can be another avenue before things hit a peak. These three do not encapsulate the full spectrum of available hotlines for specific needs but are a good place to start. There may also be more localized resources that you prefer to have on hand.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Webchat also available online 

Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741 

SAMHSA National Helpline – 1-800-662-4357

Some smartphone models have a feature for essential medical information, providing an ID for responders or medical professionals to access directly on your device, no password necessary. Be sure to update your basic profile, as well as the medications you take, and an emergency contact. This makes getting the care you need as quick and efficient as possible. If providers are informed about past and current medical issues, they are better equipped to get you the help you need in an emergency.  

Brighten Your Background  

Between checking the time and keeping tabs on messages, the average American checks their phone every 12 minutes. In a research study from Asurion, this translated to up to 80 times per day.

While there’s much to be said for finding balance – like no-screen zones and times – if peeking at even the lock screen of the device is a common occurrence, it can be a spot to place uplifting reminders, motivational images, or simply a smile-producing photo.

Seeing the faces of loved ones or being greeted with an affirmation can be the catalyst to be mindful and adopt a neutral or positive outlook on an otherwise stormy day. 

Search for inspiration on social media and take a moment each week or so to switch out the background for a fresh look.

Keep tabs on your usage  

Technology can be a wonderful tool and a very strong distraction. Tap into your wise mind and note what your phone habits might be telling you. 

Do you find you scroll endlessly through Facebook? What emotions does that bring up?

How do you feel if you have to wait for a reply from a friend about upcoming plans?

Do you use your phone right before bed or first thing when you wake up? 

At times, smartphones can end up being a tool for distraction or self-soothing. At others, usage is more of an avoidance tactic or a different type of emotional fill-in or trigger. 

Keep a list of strategies that can be interspersed with going to your phone and peek at screen time monitors to see how much time you are spending. 

The National Sleep Foundation notes that devices on the nightstand and during the hours before sleep can cause barriers to having a restful night.

The blue light emitted can suppress Melatonin, the hormone that helps your circadian rhythm, and make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Though some devices now have nighttime modes that adjust colors to warmer shades, using a phone also keeps the brain alert and having it nearby means the light or sound could jolt you out of slumber.

Make a routine to set the phone aside a bit before bed and use that time to check-in through journaling or other self-care and coping skills.

At the core, phones are meant to augment your life, so make sure you are present in the moment and the devices are nearby just to aide as needed.

 Having tools is important through the journey of recovery. Steps Recovery Centers are here and ready to help you build a life free from addiction and empowered by connection. The best use for your smartphone is to call today – 385-236-0931 – and talk to our team about the services that can help you obtain and maintain your sobriety. Offering the highest quality detox, residential, and outpatient services in Utah, Steps Recovery Centers offer cutting edge treatment with compassion.

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