Ron Tannebaum and Ken Pomerance, founders of recovery network In the Rooms, are bringing recovery and Twelve Step fellowship to the Web.
The church basement group meeting—that staple of the recovery community—has a new gathering ground: the Internet.
Ron Tannebaum and Ken Pomerance, founders of In the Rooms, didn’t just jump on the social-networking bandwagon and slap a “recovery” label on their site. Rather, they found a way to integrate social networking into the existing recovery community.
The site, which launched in October 2008, now has more than 100,000 members, many of whom are also members of Twelve Step groups for alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, and compulsive overeating. It’s a far-reaching community, striving for the intimacy and connectedness—which is so vital to recovery—of a church basement.
Like any other social networking site, you sign up and create your own profile. You fill in interests, a photo, and a status. You give yourself a nickname, write blog posts, and join different groups. There are groups for sports enthusiasts, atheists, and recovering felons. There’s even a place for people with tattoos, YouTube junkies, and Twitter addicts.
But there’s a deeper importance. It’s a network that comes to the rescue in times of crisis. When a member posts a warning message, saying they’re teetering on the edge, the response is swift and powerful.
“We’ve had people who’ve threatened suicide who we were able to help,” Pomerance says. “Already today, I’ve probably got four or five people alone who gave testimonies to how this site has changed their life. We get them every day.”
Though the anonymity of its members is important to Tannebaum and Pomerance, they do hope their site will help “put a successful face on recovery,” Tannebaum says. “I don’t go as far to say that our members have to be proud,” Pomerance adds, but “I do think the most important thing is that you no longer have to be ashamed that you’re in recovery.”
Tannebaum and Pomerance are quick to squash the idea that their site would be used to replace the Twelve Step program and daily, face-to-face meetings.
“You can’t hug a computer screen,” Tannebaum acknowledges. “We very much believe in a Twelve Step meeting, but this augments the recovery for the other 23 hours you’re not at a meeting.”
“People are going to use it however it works with them,” says Dan Griffin, author of A Man’s Way Through the Twelve Steps. “I think there’s an integrity within the recovery community that would quickly address something with a negative impact on community.”