Finding Recovery "In The Rooms" -- from the Comfort of Home

By Kelly Burch 10/06/17

People must register for the site in order to attend meetings, but they are able to be as anonymous as they choose.

Woman lying on a bed, using a laptop.
Online meetings are a convenient option for people who cannot or will not go to in-person groups. Photo by Jiří Wagner on Unsplash

Today you can do anything online: order groceries, do your banking, even date. With the world in our pockets, it seems obvious that recovery would go online as well and it has with In The Rooms, a free online social network for the global recovery community that offers more than 125 live online meetings each week.

“Our goal was to reach people in the recovery community in every nook and cranny of the world,” said Ron Tannebaum, co-founder, president, and CEO of In The Rooms.

Today the community is celebrating nine years of meeting that goal, facilitating meetings for nearly half a million members in 136 countries around the globe and launching a second site, the I Love Recovery Cafe. The effort has been an amazing success, but when Tannebaum and his co-founder Ken Pomerance first started in 2008 they were met with a lot of skepticism.

“When we launched, people were afraid to come onto In The Rooms because they worried about their anonymity being blown,” Tannebaum says. However, Tannebaum believed that the world was ready for online recovery support with the click of a button. When the duo tried to run a beta test of the site, that belief was confirmed.

“We told 10 people and the next day we had 100 people. They couldn’t keep it to themselves. The cat was out of the bag, and it just took off like wildfire,” Pomerance says.

The fire has yet to slow down. The website has grown steadily and still adds about 150 new users each day. hosts live online video meetings for a variety of 12-step and non 12-step modalities (there are no old-fashioned chat rooms here). AA is the most popular, with 63 meetings each week, but there are also meetings for sex addicts, mind healing, yoga in recovery and many more.

Despite having so many meetings at the ready, Tannebaum and Pomerance, both of whom are in long-term recovery, say that In The Rooms is meant to supplement, not replace, in-person meetings.

“In this day and age everyone can’t get to a face to face meeting every day,” Tannebaum says. Because of that, accessing a meeting from home can keep recovery at the forefront even for people who have trouble getting to face-to-face meetings.

“If you were to go onto the site and come into any meeting, you will see some members with oxygen in their nose who are homebound or in the hospital, or mothers with kids running around who don’t feel comfortable in a meeting,” Pomerance says.

As people who attend regularly and enjoy the traditions and environment of in-person meetings, Tannebaum and Pomerance were a bit nervous about how the meetings would work online.

“I thought the quality of the meeting would suffer,” Pomerance admits. However, he found just the opposite was true. “These meetings are very powerful because of all the people who can’t go regularly. People are much more vulnerable because they’re in the comfort of their own home. They’re in their comfort zone, not looking into 30 sets of prying eyes.”

On average there are about 80 people in a meeting on In The Rooms, but only those who want to share will turn on the cameras. Since the meetings are global, a morning meeting in America might include people logging on in the afternoon in Europe or the following morning in Australia. Despite the size and diversity, Pomerance says the meetings are very intimate.

“The dynamic is very warm and friendly,” he said. Although only a handful of people in the meeting might share, attendees are able to instant or private message each other if they have a connection or would like to share something on their own.

People must register for the site in order to attend meetings, but they are able to be as anonymous as they choose. Pomerance says that most people begin by using an avatar and a screen name, but they eventually become more comfortable with disclosing who they are since they are making genuine connections. Because the meetings happen behind a firewall there is no way for people who are not members of the site to see who is a member.

All of the groups hosted on the site are independently run.

“With all of our groups, we try to stick with the traditions. The groups are autonomous,” Pomerance says. “We are very careful about getting involved with issues and allow groups to handle most things themselves. They do a really good job of it. People take this as their personal space and they treat it with reverence.”

After In The Rooms launched, many big names in the treatment industry have tried to set up similar sites. However, Tannebaum says that In The Rooms has remained the largest online recovery site in its space because of the authentic nature of the community.

“People in recovery can feel if something is not real,” he says. “Ken and I are just recovering guys. Our kids have never seen us or our wives pick up a drug or a drink. This is a legacy issue for us. That’s why we want to do this: to give recovery to people around the world without getting anything back. We don’t want anything else from people.

“We’re just trying to tell them here’s a recovery place that’s safe and secure. We’re still here, we have longevity, come visit.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.