“It is not failure, but complacency… aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.” – Benjamin E. Mays
Most people I know in recovery are aware of how important it is to be vigilant about “practicing these principles in all our affairs.” For the sake of this blog-post, this means that, as far as our daily recovery routine is concerned, we’re watchful and attentive about letting any voices in our head from the past rise up and lull or lure us into complacency.
What, you may be asking, is ‘complacency’ in the context of recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs? Well, complacency is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as:
“self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
So, in whatever addiction recovery program we’re involved in—whether it be through a rehab center, a professionals addiction program or a 12 Steps fellowship—it’s likely we’ve learned (or are learning) a “toolbox” full of spiritual principles and practices that have helped (or are helping) us gain freedom from active addiction and laid the foundation for our staying sober/clean, one day at a time.
How does complacency arise? A number of factors can be pointed to:
- We allow ourselves to get distracted from maintaining the essentials of our daily recovery program, prioritizing other activities instead (e.g., waking up and jumping into work mode, rather than taking time—even a few minutes—for prayer and meditation to get ourselves spiritually prepared for the day);
- Inner voices from our past drinking or using days emerge to gradually dissuade us from practicing what we’ve learned in our recovery program (e.g., “I don’t need to tell my treatment counselor/sponsor about this thing. I’ll just handle it on my own and keep it to myself.”);
- We get “lukewarm” about the recovery routine we’ve been practicing, to the point it becomes a dull, repetitious sense of duty, lacking vitality or a clarity about our dependence on it and our Higher Power for the freedom we have or are striving for (e.g., “Why do I need to keep doing this? I feel fine and am not craving a drink right now. I can skip it and the world’s not going to end.”)
Realistically, these are just a few of the many ways in which complacency can set in for any of us in recovery—yes, it can happen (and has happened) to people with a few weeks sober/clean, to “old-timers” with many years sober/clean, and to anyone in between. We begin justifying our decline in group meeting attendance, pulling away from our recovery network or decreasing the number of phone calls we make to our treatment program support staff or 12 Steps sponsor. And little by little, the regularity and quality of our recovery activities diminishes, to the point where our complacency is setting us up for a relapse or worse.
What can we do to counteract any sense of complacency that may arise?
The good news is becoming aware of such feelings allows us to start doing something about them. Reviving a sense of vitality to our recovery program begins with knowing our lives literally depend on the actions we take—on a daily basis—to address our substance use disorder, our addiction to alcohol or drugs.
To jumpstart our “recovery engine,” we can:
- Begin by looking with fresh, truthful eyes at how we’ve been approaching the various dimensions of our recovery program, using a “journal-style,” making a bullet-point list or in some written fashion putting our observations and “searching and fearless” self-appraisal down on paper;
- Reach out with honesty, open-mindedness and willingness for help from those in our recovery network, including treatment staff, counselors, our 12 Steps sponsor, etc., sharing with them our written self-appraisal, inviting their input and making whatever adjustments seem warranted (i.e., we don’t need to deal with complacency on our own);
- Pray for guidance and strength to begin “doing something different,” initiating new direction and action in our recovery program.
In being vigilant and honest with ourselves regarding our program of recovery, if we identify that any sense of complacency has crept in, revitalizing it and establishing new energy and momentum is possible. It starts by getting honest with ourselves, and continues via our reaching out and sharing openly what we’ve found with others in our recovery support network. The results of our efforts at recharging our passion for recovery will very likely bring about a much-needed boost in both our spiritual and personal levels of progress, achievement and fulfillment.