Most of the meetings of Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous take place online, which is more sensible than it sounds. Colloquy via web-based conference call might help tech burnouts clear the first hurdle in recovery: asking for help. If your idea of social life is a four-day Twitch bender played under a codename, at least you don't have to leave behind all the comforts of home—screens, anonymity—when you're demoralized enough by digital compulsions to bust open a FreeConferenceCall.com tab.
Four English-language ITAA conference calls take place each week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and weekend days at noon. Live meetings, where addicts in folding chairs share wisdom and complaints with other addicts, don't seem to last long; in-person groups meet for a year or so and then fizzle. Only the very first ITAA group, which started near Seattle around 2009, has been in continuous operation. That may be because it's connected to an opulent residential program called reSTART ($37,000 for nine weeks) that heavily filigrees the 12 steps with behavioral therapy, classes in horticulture, and no end of physical exertion. Eclectic treatments, including something called “sand tray therapy,” address problematic texting, gaming addiction, and much more.
Like many who get sober in traditional AA, I tend to be skeptical of any therapy more sophisticated than meditating, making amends, and helping people. Still, reSTART intrigued me. Based in Bellevue and Fall City, Washington, it promotes not total abstinence from screens but “a sustainable digital lifestyle.” That sounded promising. On my virtual tour of the tranquil, woody facility, I began to imagine a nine-week getaway where my main obligation would be to steer clear of my phone and become a sporty Pacific-Northwest-before-Microsoft-and-Amazon person. In the rousing promo on reSTART's site, a cadaverous-looking insomniac is shown quitting his videogame console; then a similar young man is shown mountain-biking down a brutal path to an existential victory no leaderboard can match.
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