Complacency in Recovery (and How to Avoid It)

avoiding complacency

Table of Contents

Everybody loves to feel enthusiastic and excited about things. However, as alcoholics and addicts, we are warned to avoid overexposure to enthusiasm and excitement. We are told not to chase after these feelings because we can get hooked on intense feelings like those we got used to in our active disease. It can lead us to jeopardy when we overvalue the extreme up-and-down feelings. Extreme feelings are a topic all their own. But what about their opposite? Sometimes we can grow numb to feelings or get trapped in monotony. Or even worse, we can become complacent about our lives and lose any feelings for the beautiful life we have. Understanding complacency in recovery and how to avoid it is crucial; it can be as harmful as experiencing extreme emotions.

Complacency in recovery often signals more than a few alarming things. It can mean we’ve lost our gratitude or lost sight of how far we’ve come from the days spent in our active disease. It can mean we’ve stopped putting in our best effort or stopped doing the work that keeps us present with our recovery, our life, and our loved ones. It can even mean there are some things in our life that we’re consciously or unconsciously trying to avoid —  perhaps a looming fear, an amend we dread making, or some responsibility we don’t feel ready for. If these red flags are left unchecked, we can be heading for serious trouble.

Why Is Complacency So Potentially Dangerous?

If we’ve grown complacent, it likely means we’ve lost sight of all we have to be grateful for. Writing and sharing a little gratitude list might sound simple, but it can gauge where we are emotionally and hopefully reconnect to all the blessings we truly have. If we don’t feel grateful for anything, that’s a big sign of skewed perspective. Remember, we are alcoholics and addicts who are alive and in recovery! We have every reason to be grateful. Far too many people just like us don’t live long enough to receive the gift of a life in recovery.

Complacency may also settle upon us because we feel adjusted to and comfortable in our new life. We get used to the wonderful things we have, lose our gratitude, and stop seeing the miracle of recovery. This often means that we’ve gotten too far away from our program and being of service. Maybe we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be new in recovery or even dying in our active disease. These are things we must never forget. Our best bet is to get back to more meetings, do some 12-Step work with our sponsor, start being of service, and look for as many newcomers as we can find to help.

Complacency can be an early warning sign that we’ve gotten away from some of the most important and fundamental parts of recovery. The good news is that it’s an early warning sign, and it points directly to the areas we need to address to shake off complacency. If we keep our hearts open to all that we have to be grateful for, and especially the miracle of recovery, complacency won’t find many places to get hold of us.

Ways We Can Avoid Complacency in Recovery

Right away, there are lots of little things we can do in response to noticing ourselves feeling or acting complacent or numb. We can start making gratitude lists every day or a few times a week, whatever feels right. We can keep them in a private journal, share them with a friend, or even start a group gratitude text. However we do it, something as simple as a gratitude list can have a big impact on shaking us out of a funk. We can also try to re-focus on our prayer and meditation routines. Strengthening our prayer and meditation can do wonders for our emotional, mental, and spiritual clarity and balance. Keeping in balance this way helps us avoid complacency and extreme feelings in either direction, good or bad.

Some of the best ways we can avoid complacency and emotional numbness are also a big part of the 12-Step program of recovery. Being on the lookout for ways to be of service, taking service commitments, and working to fit ourselves to be of better service can have huge dividends. This service-centered approach can help keep us feeling great about our lives and good about ourselves. It can connect us to all that we have received and all that we can give to others. Staying in this vital rhythm of life can keep complacency in recovery at bay.

Getting ourselves to the point in our 12-Step work where we can sponsor other people may be one of the biggest gifts we ever get in recovery. But it is also a surefire way to shake off the blues, avoid complacency, and get through practically anything. Being of service in this way, working with newcomers, and helping others find and experience recovery, is simply a miracle that we get to participate in. Reminding ourselves of the pain and suffering of active disease and helping others step into recovery can transform our whole world, inside and out. We will not forget where we came from, making the beauty of our life in recovery shine all the brighter. We get to help others find freedom, and nothing feels better than that. It’s hard to grow complacent when we stay active in and connected to the 12-Step program of recovery.

Alcoholism and addiction can wreak havoc on the mental and emotional conditions of those who suffer from the disease. Growing accustomed to extreme highs and lows and striving to feel the numbness often associated with alcohol and drug abuse can require much healing and various therapies to balance out. Luckily, there is a solution. The 12-Step program can produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that lead to lasting recovery. At Jaywalker, we combine the 12-Step program, various methods of therapy, and other practices that have proven effective in making a solid beginning in recovery. Even for people who have experienced difficulty staying sober before, Jaywalker can make the difference. No matter what you’ve tried before or how many times you’ve stumbled, recovery is possible. We struggled just like you, and now we are living in recovery. You can, too. Call us now at (970) 533-8087.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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