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Complacency in Recovery

At Gosnold, we know a successful recovery does not end with the completion of a treatment plan; we offer ongoing recovery support for our patients and their families.  We are committed to the community and provide family education, school-based counseling, medical care integration, and support prevention coalitions.

Recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) and building long-term sobriety is no minor accomplishment. You should feel proud of yourself for such an achievement. Yet, there’s a big difference between being proud of what you’ve done in your recovery and suffering from complacency. 

Complacency is never good for recovery. Understanding complacency and how it occurs can help you increase your awareness. Awareness can help you avoid this common pitfall in your recovery.

What Is Complacency?

Complacency is the feeling of self-satisfaction with yourself or your achievements. At face value, this doesn’t sound that negative. Yet, it is often the context and the effect of complacency that makes it harmful. Complacency is often used to refer to this self-satisfaction in a situation where that satisfaction can lead to unfavorable and undesired outcomes. 

In many cases, it refers to satisfaction when you are unaware of areas you need to improve. Instead, you believe you have mastered the skill or task at hand. In other cases, you may be unaware of a potential danger or negative outcome. As a result, you don’t push yourself to improve or proceed with caution in this potentially hazardous situation. 

How Does Complacency Occur in Recovery?

Complacency can be problematic in recovery from SUD, but how does it occur? For many, it is common to have entered recovery after attempting to get sober on your own and failing. You might have made several attempts before realizing and admitting that you needed help. Unfortunately, this same flawed thinking that convinced you that you could get sober on your own can resurface in recovery as complacency. 

Maybe you’ve finished a treatment program, gained some long-term sobriety, established a recovery routine, or forgotten the consequences of your addiction. Once you’ve built some sobriety, you might begin to think, “I’ve got this.” You may participate less during meetings or spend less time working on the Twelve Steps. Texting or calling others from your support group becomes a less regular part of your daily routine. Eventually, you start skipping meetings entirely. These behaviors can rapidly culminate in a relapse. 

Consequences of Complacency

The most obvious and concerning consequence of complacency is relapsing, but it is not the only possible negative outcome. Complacency can also result in hitting a plateau in your recovery progress. In this plateau, you may stay sober but do little to improve other aspects of your recovery. Recovery is never perfect, but it is about continuous progress, which requires ongoing effort. 

A stable and sober plateau may sound fantastic if you are used to the chaotic life of addiction. Unfortunately, that stability rarely lasts indefinitely. In recovery, if you aren’t progressing, it is easy to regress. Also, you may be missing out on many fulfilling and life-enriching rewards that come with maximizing your recovery. 

How to Avoid Complacency

Complacency can sneak up on you. You might not realize you became complacent in your recovery until it has caused a negative consequence. This could be a relapse or a character defect resurfacing. So, if complacency is sneaky, how do you avoid it in your recovery?

Increase Awareness

Awareness of what complacency is and that it can happen to you is the first step in avoiding it. Without awareness of potential danger, there’s no way to prepare for it. By reading this article, you are already working to enhance your awareness of this potential pitfall in your recovery. 

Try Self-Reflection

Awareness of a potential issue in your recovery, like complacency, is an essential first step. Beyond that, you have to be able to reflect on your behaviors and examine them with an open mind and honesty. This self-reflection is critical to preventing or weeding out complacency in your recovery. Begin by asking yourself some questions. 

What have you done lately for your recovery? How does your recovery appear compared to a month, six months, or a year ago? Have you been less involved with meetings and others in recovery? Has your progress in step work or self-improvement halted or taken a step back? Ask someone close to you, like a family member or your sponsor, if they’ve noticed any negative changes in your behavior. If they have, ask yourself why. Is there an underlying reason?

Challenge Flawed Thinking

The culprit is often some underlying dysfunctional thought process that inadvertently leads you to complacency. Perhaps you think you’ve beat or cured your addiction. Maybe you’ve worked the steps, hit a long-term sobriety milestone, and believe you’ve done enough to handle it on your own. Or perhaps you’ve begun to sponsor others and feel you are too smart for addiction to resurface. These are just a few cognitive distortions that can creep into your recovery. 

It is vital to be aware of these ways of thinking and remind yourself of the importance of taking your recovery seriously. Don’t forget what brought you into recovery, and don’t make the mistake of thinking addiction can’t resurface with a vengeance. Addiction isn’t something you cure. You treat it like any other chronic disease — through persistent and consistent maintenance therapy.

Change Your Routine

Routine is a double-edged sword in recovery. Establishing a healthy routine, including recovery work, self-care, and work-life balance, is critical to the success of your recovery. At the same time, a routine can become too comfortable, leading to complacency. It may be beneficial for your recovery to shake up your routine on occasion in a healthy way that keeps things fresh. There are numerous ways you can do this:

  • Attend a meeting on a different day
  • Meet up with people from your support group for a fun activity
  • Get coffee with your sponsor
  • Find a new, healthy hobby

Remember the Consequences

One of the most helpful tools to combat becoming complacent in your recovery is remembering the consequences of your addiction. These may be real consequences you have experienced (or are currently experiencing), or consequences you could have experienced had you not found recovery. This could be legal, financial, social, medical, psychological, or numerous other types. 

Regardless of which consequences apply to you, you must give them genuine consideration. If done at regular intervals in your recovery, it can help prevent complacency. However, it is worth noting this can be triggering due to the shame that comes with such consequences. Therefore, taking the necessary precautions before and after is vital to protect yourself and your sobriety.

How Gosnold can help

Gosnold Recovery Coaches guide patients and families through the transition period following inpatient treatment.  Patients are matched to a Recovery Coach who identifies, implements and monitors short and long term goals to help patients sustain recovery.  This includes transitional recovery and community-based care elements and incorporates a dynamic hands-on approach.



An individualized continued care plan is developed for each patient and includes continued contact with their recovery coach, community acclamation and socialization, and introduction to recovery support groups.



Recovery Coaching Provides:



  • Introduction and integration into recovery support groups.
  • Assistance in formulation of a Recovery Service Plan for life goals (work, school, etc.)
  • Meetings to review progress.
  • Integration into Gosnold recovery community activities.
  • Coordination with other professionals involved with your treatment.
  • Coaching is provided in face to face sessions, by telephone, e-mail, texting, and other communications.

Additional Recovery Support



Gosnold is committed to our patients’ health and well-being.  Our support services team is proud to be their connection to our growing recovery community.  Leading the way in treatment innovations and support services, Gosnold offers a variety of outstanding resources to support a sustained recovery.  

Gosnold Alumni App

Gosnold partnered with the CaredFor platform in order to bring recovery securely and safely to tens of thousands of patients and alumni. The Gosnold App connects patients and alumni with critical information, recovery resources, self-evaluation tools, and peer support while promoting engagement through virtual and in-person programming and events.

We are grateful for the support of the Edward Bangs Kelley and Eliza Kelley Foundation, Inc. and the generosity of numerous individuals for making our Recovery Coaching Program possible.



If you have any questions regarding our Recovery Management options, please reach out to Bill Abbate, Director of Care Management,



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