It is common for people to take things in their life for granted. This not only applies to possessions but also to loved ones and situations. It is only usually when these things are taken away that the person appreciates just how important they were. If humans could fully appreciate all the good they currently have in their life the world would be a much better place, but this is not likely to happen anytime soon. Taking things for granted just seems to be part of human nature.
Those individuals who are recovering from an addiction need to be particularly careful not to take their sober life for granted. If they become complacent they might stop doing the things that have been keeping them away from alcohol or drugs. This could then spell disaster for them.
William Pollard once warned:
> The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
Complacency can be defined as a feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger, trouble, or controversy. To say an individual is acting complacently means that they are taking things for granted. They have developed a type of smugness over their achievements, and they just expect that things will remain the same forever. When an individual becomes complacent they no longer feel that they need to work in order to find success in life – they view it as something they have already earned.
Those individuals who are recovering from an addiction are at risk of developing an attitude of complacency. When people first become sober they will tend to be eager and motivated. They are relieved to be free of addiction and this means they are willing to put the work in to maintain it. As the famous saying goes, time heals all wounds. Over time the individual forgets how bad things were for them at the end of their addiction, and they begin to take their sobriety for granted. They can become overly confident and believe that their success at remaining sober is now assured, and they can stop putting any effort in. This type of complacency is almost always a mistake. There is no graduation day in recovery and when people are not moving forward they tend to regress.
To say that an individual is complacent is not the same as saying they are confident. This is because complacency is a false type of confidence, and it does not reflect reality. A truly confident person fully understands their deficits as well as their assets, and this means that they are acting in a rational manner. Those individuals who are building a success life away from addiction have every right to feel confident. So long as they keep on doing the right things their success is almost guaranteed. This differs from the complacent attitude where the person feels that their success is guaranteed, and that there is no need for them to do anything to make this happen.
There can be a number of possible reasons for why the individual becomes complacent in recovery including:
* The individual might be a bit ambivalent about their recovery – they still secretly hold onto the idea that they will one day be able to drink or use drugs again. This ambivalent attitude to recovery means that the individual might not feel the need to put much effort into their sobriety because it is not important enough that they maintain it.
* Many people will experience pink cloud syndrome where they feel high on life and completely in control of their destiny. Those individuals who are dealing with this syndrome become overconfident and this leads to complacency – they can then hit earth with a bang.
* Once people have been sober for a year or two it becomes a habit, and they no longer need to think about it too much. The problem occurs for these people when they forget that they had a problem to begin with.
* Once the individual becomes sober they are in a position to achieve some real success in life. Some people allow their successes to go to their head, and they can feel that they are above the need to continue those activities that have been helping to keep them sober.
* Some people just don’t realize that recovery is a process and not an event. This means that as soon as they stop using alcohol or drugs the individual feels like their work is done.
The poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote:
> Clogged and soft and sloppy eyes have lost the light that bites or terrifies. There are no swans and swallows any more. The people settled for chicken and shut the door.
There are some real dangers associated with becoming complacent in recovery including:
* It means that the individual will be settling for less than what they could achieve. This is a shame because that person will have already wasted a chunk of their life in less than ideal conditions.
* Complacency causes people to become stuck in recovery, and this can lead to feelings of discomfort. The individual may try to ease their discomfort by turning to new maladaptive behaviors such as workaholism or exercise addiction.
* When the individual takes their recovery for granted it means that they are far more at risk of relapse back to addiction. A strong urge to drink or use again can arise at any time, and the complacent individual may not be ready for this.
* Even if the complacent individual manages to avoid relapse they will still likely to be experiencing difficulties because of their attitude.
The anecdote to complacency is gratitude. This means that the individual is able to acknowledge all the good things in their life, and they do not just take them for granted. Gratefulness means that the person feels humble enough to appreciate what they have. It also means that they remain willing to keep on working to maintain such favorable conditions. The individual who remains grateful for their recovery from addiction is unlikely to ever relapse.
It is important that the individual avoids becoming complacent in recovery. In order to stay committed they can:
* Keeping a daily recovery journal is an excellent way to maintain commitment to sobriety – this only needs to take a few minutes each day. By keeping a journal the individual is reminded of what is important in life, and they are able to track their progress.
* Joining a recovery fellowship such as Alcoholics Anonymous can help encourage a lifelong commitment to sobriety because they individual will be constantly reminded of where they have come from. There are also secular groups for those who are put off by the religious undertones of the 12 Step groups.
* If people are grateful for what they have in life it prevents them from becoming complacent. Learning to develop a sense of gratitude is also beneficial in other ways because it means that the person appreciates their life more.
* Devoting a bit of time to help other people in recovery can also be a good way to avoid taking sobriety for granted. This is because it reminds the individual of where they have come from and what would happen if they returned.
* It can be helpful if people write a letter to themselves in early recovery where they describe what they have left behind and what they hope to achieve. The individual can then read back on this letter at regular intervals to remind themselves of what sobriety is all about.
* Once people have been established in recovery for a year or two they will need to put less effort into staying sober – it just becomes second nature. This is when the person is most likely to become complacent, but they can avoid this by still continuing some type of involvement with the recovery community.
* The online recovery community offers a convenient for people to stay involved, and it also gives them the opportunity to help those who are still struggling.
* Some people do not like to think of themselves as a recovering addict for the rest of their life, and it is not necessary for them to take on this title. What is important is that the individual realizes that in order to build a success life it is going to take a continued effort for the rest of their life.
* The individual should always be on the lookout for any evidence that they are becoming complacent. If they spot such an attitude they need to nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem.