Complacency Defined

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.

When addiction takes us to our rock bottom, we are left with no choice other than to rebuild, and hopefully, to rebuild our strategies with more sustainable practices. Choosing to break patterns that we have built is difficult work to put it mildly, and it takes attention, strength and perseverance. It means being aware of internal energy shifts, of learning to listen to voices that may have been ignored for many years.

Complacency is the direct adversary of this work. It is a fanciful dream that the recovery process is easy or can be done with minimal effort. It would be lovely if it were true, but it simply is not the case. When we convince ourselves that we do not need to be diligent working the steps, or give up the practice catching ourselves sliding and then bringing ourselves back to our center, we are setting ourselves up for a relapse. Recovery requires mindfulness and mindfulness is the opposite of complacency. To be complacent with your mental state is to blindly accept whatever your mind, or rather your ego, has decided it is going to feel and then be a slave to that feeling, obeying it’s instructions to crave a substance or run from difficulty. Will these things still happen while you are being mindful? Of course they will. The only difference is that you will see them coming and be able to see them for what they are—transitory feelings that are to be observed but not clung to.

When we are complacent, we allow ourselves to function automatically, without observing the processes to see if they are flawed or contain the seeds of self-sabotage. Allowing complacency when you know yourself to be in recovery is in itself, a form of self-sabotage, because you cannot pretend that you didn’t know you would need to be actively engaged in this work, nor can you pretend that just allowing your mind to go through its most deeply set patterns of behavior as if they were in no need of adjustment. This does not mean being at war with yourself, keeping yourself under constant surveillance waiting for the first, smallest form of misconduct. This means being in tune with your life to the point of continual progress.

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.”


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