You can visit one of my favorite places on the internet, but to really be there with me you'd have had to have left two years ago. But don't worry! Another group is leaving every day if you're willing to make the trip.
I Am Sober is one of a variety of sobriety tracking apps which have popped up to cater to a generation of digital-native drinkers looking for a course towards temperance that circumvents the traditional 12-step program. I don't remember how or why I settled on I Am Sober in particular when I decided to stop drinking. I think it was because I liked the design sensibility. And I was panicking.
At its core, I Am Sober is really just a fancy stopwatch. You pop in your start date, and it starts counting up. You can pick your particular poison (options range from "alcohol" to "pills" to "self-harm" as well as a "custom" option) and write a pledge, which the app will prompt you to reaffirm daily at a time of your choosing and recap your day later on. It's an elective step, but creates a streak the app tracks in parallel to your total time. You can even pledge retroactively if you happen to miss a day — if you affirm to the app that you aren't fibbing; scout's honor.
At one point, pledges were an important part of my daily routine, but increasingly what I sporadically return for is the "Community" feature, a series of Twitter-like feeds dedicated to various sobriety milestone (2 days, 1 week, 4 months, 1 year, etc). The functionality is exceedingly simple, a feed of text posts with the occasional picture, and option for readers to respond with emoji reactions or comments. Anyone who's created an account can peruse the full breadth of anniversaries right away, but your ability to actually post only unlocks as you hit the milestones yourself.
Where so much of social media takes place in the perpetual present, with infinite scrolls of endless content to keep you scrolling forever, it's a breath of fresh air to visit an online space organized around a sense of finite progress. Each milestone is a discrete place I arrive at — and, more importantly, leave behind — accompanied by my own little sobriety cohort: those of us who put down the bottle in the high and heady days of January 2020 and have stuck with it while the rest of the world changed around us.
Early discussions around the one-week mark were dominated by unbridled optimism and tales of relapse in equal measure, many posters arriving at these early way stations for the second or seventeenth time.
Now, at the two year mark, we generally seem to be more even-keeled in our cautious gratitude. Of course, it's not all rainbows and unicorns. One thread mourns all the relationships that couldn't survive two years of sobriety. Another wonders aloud how many of us actually made it here: the app indicates our coterie resting at this milestone is some 1,500 strong, but since the app keeps counting up unless you tell it to stop, the number undoubtedly includes accounts that were abandoned in success and failure alike.
This is far from the only place on the internet you can find a similar sense of support and fellowship. Invite-only Discord servers and private Slack are places where more intimate relationships can bloom. Twitter, meanwhile, is increasingly a giant support group for people addicted to Twitter.
But in one little corner of one little app, I really relish traveling along with the class of 2020, uninterrupted by in-line ads, sentient brands and engagement-juicing algorithms (for now). Maybe most important of all, it's a place I only care to visit now and then. And if there's one thing I've learned over the past few years, it's that sometimes less is more.