An article by Renee W.
As I sit down to write this, I’m acutely aware of the whirlwind of choices—some I made and others made for me—that led to this point. Like many others, my sobriety journey is punctuated by triumphs and setbacks, flashes of clarity and periods of doubt, but above all, it’s a journey of reflection and connection.
Today, I reflect on a topic that has served as both a hurdle and a milestone in my recovery: complacency.
Complacency creeps in the shadows and whispers that it will undo all the progress I’ve made.
It tells me I don’t need to go to my usual Wednesday night AA meeting because I’m tired. It tells me that I don’t need to call that newcomer because someone else will call her. Certainly, someone else in the AA group will do it. It tells me that I have worked so hard and come so far and am almost five years sober, so I can take a break now.
Complacency creeps into our lives when we least expect it. It’s sneaky like that and once it slithers in, it stays a while unnoticed until we find ourselves teetering on the edge of relapse.
But you know what I’ve learned? Complacency doesn’t have the power to destroy our sobriety. We have to let it do that, and if we don’t let it, if we take action as soon as we see it slithering into our minds and lives, we can kick it out right away.
You see, when you think of your recovery as the actual journey that it is, complacency can be a good sign. It’s an alarm clock. It’s signalling us to wake up and see what is happening. It serves as a reminder to renew our commitment to our sobriety and rediscover how many of us felt in the beginning when we first felt our eyes actually open. Yes, let’s get back to that sacred place.
My story begins like many others—a spiral into addiction that was impossible to break free from. Substance abuse became my coping mechanism before it encompassed every part of my life. Relationships crumbled, careers faltered, and any sense of self-worth I had, which was little to none, plummeted.
I remember the first time I stumbled through the doors of a recovery centre. Well, if I’m honest, I don’t actually remember much because I had been drinking all day for weeks on end and the whole “how I got there” is a blur. But I do remember waking up in a strange place, not sure where I was, and then slowly, remembering parts of the day before.
I was broken, lost in addiction, and desperate for a way out. Every breath felt like torture. Every thought hurt. Hot tears wouldn’t stop streaming down my face. However, this glisten of hope whispered softy…Your story isn’t over.
Several months after rehab, I felt like the cataracts were coming loose. I started seeing some things I had never noticed before like the green grass, the yellow flowers, and the fresh air. I remember chuckling and asking questions like…Has the sky always looked like that? It’s so pretty.
Every day was a celebration because I was sober and I was living. I started earning back the trust of my loved ones. I started learning more about myself. I started realising that I enjoyed certain hobbies like writing and reading. All of these seemingly insignificant things became my focus. I couldn’t believe how great my life was. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t need alcohol anymore.
As time went on, that initial euphoria of sobriety began to fade. I found myself slipping into complacency. The urgency that had once driven me forward was replaced by a false sense of security, and before I knew it, I was treading water again. I found myself slipping back into old habits, flirting with the dangerous illusion that maybe I hadn’t given alcohol a fair chance.
It’s a dangerous place to be, complacency. It lulls us into a false sense of security, convincing us that we no longer need to do all that work to stay sober. When these thoughts and feelings come, and they most certainly will, we have got to fight back.
What does this look like? How do you keep your recovery alive when you start feeling complacent? For me, it’s been a lot of trial and error, but it’s not just about abstaining from alcohol or drugs. That’s certainly part of it, but that’s only the beginning. I had to live my life. I had to take back what I had lost through addiction and move forward the best I knew how—cultivating meaning and fulfilment.
Four tools come to mind to help me achieve this:
- A willingness to change
First and foremost, I’ve learned how to stay connected to my emotions. Let me back up and say that identifying and examining emotions has taken a lot of work, but it is so worth it. Addiction is a way to numb ourselves to the pain and discomfort of life, but when we get sober, we have to confront those feelings head-on.
By staying attuned to my emotions, the good ones and the bad ones, I’ve been able to recognize when I’m starting to slip into complacency and take proactive steps to correct it. This self-awareness empowers me to make choices that align with my values and goals.
Self-reflection only takes me so far. I also need to lean heavily on the support of my peers and mentors in the recovery community. Accountability is a powerful tool to fight against complacency, providing us with the external motivation and encouragement to stay on track.
My goal for every single day is to connect with someone else in my recovery community. This could include going to a 12-step meeting, calling my sponsor, or meeting someone in recovery for coffee. Having strong support has been instrumental in keeping me accountable, and with accountability comes a renewed sense of recovery.
Willingness to Embrace Change
Staying fresh in recovery also means being open to new experiences and embracing change. It’s not all that hard to fall into a rut, repeating the same patterns and routines day after day. However, true growth happens outside of our comfort zones, through challenging ourselves to try new things.
For me, this has meant finding new hobbies and interests to fill the void left by addiction. After getting sober, I was shocked at how much time I had. (Maintaining a full-time alcohol addiction takes a lot of work, after all). I already had a full-time job, a part-time business, two kids, and a dog. Anyone looking in would think I had my hands full, so why did I have all this free time?
I discovered some hobbies that I currently still enjoy today. Hiking with my dog, putting together jigsaw puzzles on the kitchen table, writing poetry, listening to podcasts. These are just a few of the highlights, but there are a lot more.
Perhaps the most essential lesson I have learned in my recovery is how to forgive—both others and myself. Recovery is messy and complex. There will inevitably be times when we stumble and fall. But rather than dwell on past mistakes, we have got to forgive ourselves and use those past pains as opportunities for growth.
Forgiveness is freeing. By letting go of resentment and self-doubt, I can embrace each day as it is—a new opportunity to start over and recommit to sobriety.
Complacency is not the enemy
In the end, complacency is not the enemy of recovery. Instead, it’s the unchecked acceptance of complacency that poses a threat to our progress. Complacency is a reminder that our journey is far from over. Rather than demonising complacency, we can recognize it as a helpful sign that something needs to change in our recovery.
So if you find yourself feeling complacent in your recovery journey, first realise that you are not alone. Reach out to your support network, try something new, but above all, be gentle with yourself. Recovery is never linear, but every step forward is worth celebrating.
How Can Camino Recovery Help?
In addiction recovery, having the right support and resources can make all the difference. Here at Camino Recovery, we offer a holistic approach to healing that addresses all aspects of recovery—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
From evidence-based therapies and counselling to creative therapy and peer support groups, we provide a safe space for people to begin their sobriety path with confidence. Our dedicated team is committed to guiding and empowering every individual who walks through our doors.If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health or addiction problems, please contact us today for a confidential conversation about how we can help. You are not alone.