Resisting Complacence in Recovery

When we’ve finished treatment, we sometimes want to think that the bulk of our work in recovery is over. While it’s true that we’ve laid the important foundation for our recovery program, the journey of our recovery has just begun. We sometimes think that because we’re no longer in treatment, we can ease up on ourselves and relax somewhat in our work. We have a tendency to grow comfortable and complacent in our recovery, not staying as vigilant as we could, not staying as dedicated to working our program, and faltering in our commitment to our sobriety and to ourselves. We might stop going to meetings, or we might start attending therapy less regularly. We might lose touch with our sponsors and stop keeping them updated on our progress. We might isolate ourselves, knowing we benefit from being in community with other people and from receiving their support. We may return to old, troublesome lifestyle habits, thinking that because things are different now, we won’t succumb to temptation the way we did before. We might even convince ourselves that now that we’ve gotten sober, we can relax how strict we’ve been and let ourselves drink or use in moderation, as long as we don’t go overboard and lose control. Our attitudes are based on a premature sense of satisfaction with our success, a dangerous sense of complacence. These feelings can sometimes convince us that we don’t need to work as hard, that we can give ourselves a much-needed, well deserved break. This can make us less committed to our goals and our efforts. It can make us lazy in our approach to our recovery.  

We can resist this complacence by being more cautious and attentive about the attitudes we’re expressing and the habits we’re forming. How are we thinking and feeling about our sobriety? Are we just as dedicated to it as we were while in treatment? Are we staying on top of ourselves and maintaining our commitment to our sobriety, or has our commitment faltered? Are we telling ourselves dangerous stories, like we must not actually be addicts if we were able to quit, so we can drink or use here and there and be fine? Are we encouraging ourselves to stay sober, or have we given up because it’s too hard, and we don’t want to keep working so hard? We have to be mindful at all times, to the point of being hyper-vigilant, of how we’re mentally and emotionally approaching our recovery. We might think we’re being too hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves too hard, or being too strict, and while we want to be careful not to put too much undue stress and pressure on ourselves that ultimately make us feel weaker and less capable, we want to remind ourselves that the rules we’ve set for ourselves in our recovery are for our own good. Without setting boundaries in our recovery and without having expectations for ourselves, we’re more likely to succumb to relapse.

Sometimes when we falter in our recovery work, it’s driven by a desire to give up. We’re tired. Sometimes we’ve given up hope. We’ve lost faith in ourselves. We can feel an unwillingness to keep up with the hard work of our programs because we just want to live a ‘normal life like everyone else.’ We’ve grown tired of self-identifying as addicts, and sometimes we wish we could just shed this label and be normal, without having to do all the work. We’re tired of being judged for being addicts. We’re tired of carrying all the stigma surrounding our addiction, shouldering the burden for the rest of the addicts in the world. We feel exhausted, drained and depleted. We’re sad. We’re tired of this identity and the difficult life that comes with it. When we slip in our recovery, it’s sometimes because we’ve grown complacent in the work we’ve already done. We’d like to think we’ve done enough and that our work is now finally over.

Our complacence can be offset by setting intentions for our recovery, goals we not only delineate for ourselves but take active steps towards accomplishing every day. This can include setting the intention to create a regular meditation practice. Meditation helps bolster our willpower and our resilience by bringing ourselves calm, tranquility and inner peace to offset the anxiety and depression that can push us into relapse. Meditation helps us stay grounded, centered, and aligned. It helps us reconnect with ourselves, which is so important as we’re dealing with all kinds of different difficult thoughts and emotions surrounding our recovery – our self-doubt and worry, our fear and trepidation. It helps us to stay aligned with the big picture, our goals of wellness and happiness. It helps us stay committed rather than complacent.

Another way we can resist complacence is by giving ourselves regular reminders as to why we’re doing this important work. We can place visual reminders, such as pictures of our children, partners, siblings or other loved ones, anywhere we’ll see them regularly, in our appointment books, journals or wallets, hanging on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror, or on our desks at work. We can create lists of reasons why we’ve made the choice to get sober or lists of reasons why we’re grateful to finally be sober – lists that might include our careers and passions, our families, our health, our success, our financial well-being, our inner peace – and put those lists somewhere we’ll be able to read them over and over again, reinforcing our commitment to our sobriety and to ourselves. These simple acts can make all the difference in helping us to stay motivated and energized, the opposite of complacent, in our recovery.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.