12-Step traditions meet today’s social networking craze, in a global recovery community that was the brainchild of two Florida marketing executives. In just a little over two years, In the Rooms has attracted more than 120,000 members (growing at a rate of about 200 new members a day), and offers the largest AA and NA forum to be found anywhere.
Ron Tannebaum and Ken Pomerance are self-described “old school,” but they also speak the language of younger entrepreneurs who can admit they have no idea what their concept might look like in the next couple of years. “We’re going with the flow,” says Pomerance, as he and Tannebaum pursue smart phone apps, video capabilities and other ways of attracting more people in recovery to the online community.
Both men have a marketing background and nearly three decades in recovery, and they trace the birth of In the Rooms to Pomerance’s inquiry one day of “What do you think about a Facebook for recovery?” But while an Internet search under an individual’s name will turn up that person’s Facebook page, no such information about membership to In the Rooms will be revealed. Visitors to In the Rooms’ site (
www.intherooms.com) have to register under a password even to do a basic navigation of the site.
“Other sites think they have to index all their pages to become popular,” Tannebaum says.
The membership of In the Rooms reflects the 12-Step fellowships for all substance and process addictions, but the demographic is somewhat surprising. Older subsets of the 18-to-54 group are as well-represented in the online community as the younger people are, the co-founders say. Members represent 50 countries, so some activity is occurring on the site at all times. Some individuals use the site to stay connected with local friends in recovery, while some people in long-term recovery can reach out to newcomers through the site.
Tannebaum and Pomerance also emphasize that In the Rooms augments the traditional 12-Step meeting, particularly for people in locations where meetings are scarce, and is not intended to replace it. “Your real recovery is going to the [face-to-face] meetings, getting the hugs,” Pomerance says. “You can’t hug a computer.”
In many cases, an individual who is reluctant to attend an in-person recovery meeting will warm up to the idea after joining In the Rooms and connecting with others who are veterans of the face-to-face meeting environment. “All of a sudden they’re curious,” Pomerance says. The network has an advertising business model in which companies can enter exclusive sponsorships for various activities on the site, such as a newsletter and a daily e-meditation that goes out to all members. Tannebaum says In the Rooms will attempt more outreach to addiction treatment centers that may be largely unaware of this networking opportunity for their clients in recovery.
“You can feel the warmth on our site, just like what you experience in a face-to-face meeting in a room,” Tannebaum says.