Complacency and Recovery
“I always say, complacency is the kiss of death.” – Shari Redstone
Merriam Webster defines complacency as: “self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”
Being in recovery is like walking up a down escalator. There is no standing still and maintaining your ground. Being still is moving backward. Much like a shark that stops swimming no forward motion can mean death. We don’t get today’s growth on yesterdays prayer and action. We must continuously work the steps if we want to remain sober. I remember when I was a newcomer the first time in 2005 a man in a single conversation changed my perspective on everything. I was skeptical about the 12 steps. I couldn’t make the logical connection between telling my secrets to someone or paying money owed to others to not smoking crack.
Probably because there isn’t a perspective from a newcomer. I was unsponsored but looking. One thing that I couldn’t escape from was why do so many people with time go out? I heard people with multiple years coming back often, and it led me to believe the steps don’t work. Me believing that the steps didn’t work before working them was contempt before investigation at its finest. I began to speak to everyone in the rooms that claimed time but was returning as a newcomer. All the people who went back out after having substantial time said similar things like, “I stopped working the steps,” or “I didn’t come to meetings after my life got better.”
What Does Working the Steps Backward Mean?
This man didn’t say that. Well, not exactly. This biker who had relapsed and I was looking to use that as an argument to evade the steps ended up blowing my mind. He walked me over to the 12 steps on the wall and said, “I went out like anyone who has worked all 12 steps and had a spiritual awakening has. I worked the steps backward” Then he pointed to the steps and walked me through them backward as he pointed his finger at each step:
“Step 12: I stopped helping people and practicing principles.
Step 11: I stopped praying and meditating.
Step 10: I stopped looking at myself.
Steps 8 & 9: The people I was repairing my relationships with, I began to hurt them again.
Steps: 6 & 7: I began to use and see my character defects as assets, not liabilities.
Step 5: Because of the way I started to live, I had to keep secrets again.
Step 4: It was too hard to look at my life, so I took everyone else’s inventory.
Step 3: I somehow made a decision to turn my life, and my will back over to myself.
Step 2: I must be God.
Step 1: I became powerless and drank again.”
We have to continuously work the steps forward and apply them to our lives. Working the steps backward is a fast road to relapse.
What is Complacency’s Part in This?
If we can work the steps forwards than of course, we can work them backward. As a person who has had time and went out not only do I get it, but I prophesized my going out years before I did in the form of warnings to others. There are only two stories as to why people go back out, and both are connected to complacency. Story one: People who did the work and found some amazing things in life, like relationships or careers allowed those very gifts that they got from AA, that they allowed to take them away from AA.
Story two: People who got sober and were doing well but got a resentment that allowed them to move away from AA. The predator usually catches the one on the outside of the heard. One is an example of complacency in servitude, and the other is complacency in the daily practice of the steps.
Here’s what I would find out in time. If a person “doing the deal” catches a bad resentment (the number one offender) and refuses to so look at it, share it, and pray about it, they are no longer moving forward but possibly in greater danger than they may think. Spot checking our defects is a daily practice of step 10. Sometimes the backward motion through the steps isn’t numeric. That means from step 10 moving back to step 3 can happen in the blink of an eye for some. Be careful, “For alcohol can be a subtle foe.”