Predatory Preparedness in Recovery Chatrooms
Written and Submitted by PANDORA
I want to share with you all some of my experience as well as my point of view on the subject. This post is not about SMART specifically, it refers to my experience in many chatrooms centred around recovery and is only my personal experience.
Online recovery chatrooms and meetings are a wonderful tool for supporting those of us who wish to maintain our sobriety. They allow those who are housebound to gain access to much needed support, and on long evenings when the craving hits, they are a welcome source of distraction and an amazing tool for re-focusing our desire to remain sober. For those that live in isolated areas, with few in person meetings they can be a vital lifeline in maintaining sobriety, and reminder to prioritise our sobriety above all else.
However, as with in person meetings, when we click on a link we are exposed to other humans, albeit in an online world, and; as we know humans are far from perfect. When we engage on our path to sobriety we are broken people. We are usually at our lowest ebb, relationships have been destroyed as a result of our compulsive behaviours, our self esteem is at rock bottom, and suddenly we have to learn to live with this *new* person, this *sober* person.
We are alone, confused and scared about this journey ahead of us and suddenly we are in a place where people *get* us. We are not judged, and suddenly instead of being told we are disastrous **** ups that caused untold harm and suffering to people we love, we are being told we are great, and wonderful for embarking on this journey and turning our life around. It’s this vulnerability that allows the darker side of some people in chat rooms to emerge, and for us to engage with them.
I have personal experience of people sending me a private message, ostensibly to introduce themselves and offer support, and within a relatively short time the ulterior motives surface. The first warning sign is *are you single*, but I answer politely as maybe the person is concerned about my addiction and recovery in relation to any family I may have. Then gradually the questions become a little less guarded..*Have you a photo?* *Are you on instant messaging as my internet isn’t great* *can you add me to your social media accounts* to the more flagrant *The BIG in my username isn’t because I am tall*.
Suddenly, from feeling worthless and having the self esteem of a one legged blind Gerbil, I am wonderful! Fanciable! Strong! Therein lies the danger…
I am not strong, I am still vulnerable, and this is a form of abuse. This is someone engaging in predatory behaviour, if they are senior members of chatrooms for recovery they should know better. This is not specific to men on women, it applies to women on men, men on men, women on women. Predatory behaviour is not acceptable regardless of sexual orientation. It is an issue of power and the abuse of same. Of course the person you are talking to in that private message may not even have an addiction issue..or perhaps their addiction is in fact engaging in cyber sex with vulnerable individuals.
Be wary of the fact that online means handing over your power. Those pictures you send, the sexy words that you write on instant messaging or email or social media are no longer your sole property once you hit send. Screenshots, copy and paste etc…they now belong to the receiver who can do as they see fit and share with whomever they like. If you aren’t prepared for others to see them think twice about sending them.
So…here are a couple of tips I apply when requests for private messages are sent…these are just tools that I use and I am conscious of the fact that 90% of the people I meet on line are articulate, intelligent and gentle people just trying to maintain their sobriety..same as me…
If I met this person in real life (IRL), would I send them a picture of me in any state of undress after two hours of chatting?
If I met this person IRL, would I send them pictures of my children that they could keep forever after two hours of chatting?
Do I want this person to have access to my Social Media accounts…and by virtue of that, access to my friends and family and their daily activities.
If I realised that this person is engaging in this behaviour with several others will this hurt me, will it threaten my sobriety?
If these pictures and messages resurface will they cause me pain and distress and embarrassment and threaten my sobriety?
If the person genuinely cares they will be happy to talk with *you*. Their primary concern will be you maintain your sobriety and feeling cherished. Not getting you to send compromising pictures or messages, or have phone sex.
If you feel uncomfortable don’t do it. Take a step back.
In saying all of the above, we are adults….if you are content to engage in an online relationship and there is no power differential go for it. Be safe, enjoy it and maybe you will meet the partner of your dreams. Human nature will always mean an element of attraction beyond that of just sobriety, in real life and chatrooms. Just don’t believe that the internet is a safety net, it isn’t and it can’t be. Be proactive in safe guarding your sobriety and your emotional status.