The Work of Digital Social Re-entry in Substance Use Disorder Recovery


Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction

Early recovery after substance use disorder (SUD) treatment is a period of high risk. The majority of people will relapse, often within weeks of completing treatment. In the modern era, re-entry upon completion of treatment includes both digital and non-digital spaces. Digital spaces, including social media, present unique challenges to the recovery journey. However, research has rarely focused on this critical period and the ways in which technology affect it. We conducted in-depth interviews with 29 participants (8 recoverees and 21 support professionals) across two treatment sites to explore this gap. Using an inductive thematic approach, we gained insights into digital social re-entry, a term that we introduce to describe the process of re-engaging with social spaces online. We describe the work of digital social re-entry, which includes 1) remaking social networks, 2) maintaining boundaries, 3) managing triggering content, 4) resisting access to substances, and 5) shifting personal identity. We conclude by characterizing strategies for navigating digital social re-entry and discussing ways to better support recoverees during this aspect of their recovery journey.

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