Written in 2015 by Marc Dunn
COMPLACENCY!!! Until recently I didn’t realize how much that word or thought scared me. I had heard many people share about the trap I could become ensnared in by not going to meetings, not staying connected to other recovering alcoholics in my support group and not practicing the principles in all my affairs. The message wasn’t that I had to do any of the above perfectly, but that if I didn’t stay close to my recovery, if I started to believe that I could go it alone and/or abandoned my spiritual routine then complacency would lead to relapse.
None of the signs caught my attention, maybe because they didn’t all happen at once. We deal with a “cunning, baffling and powerful” force that is patient and will creep back into our lives if we are not diligent about our recovery. At first, it was not attending meeting as often as I had for the previous 8+ years. I made excuses for myself: the messages were repetitive; the speakers were boring or less meetings worked for me. Then I stopped calling my sponsor regularly and thought I could solve all my own problems without input from anyone else. It was the classic mistake of sponsoring myself and not seeking my Higher Power’s will for me. It didn’t take long until I was skipping my morning meditation occasionally and not doing a 10th step before retiring for the evening. Never did I entertain the thought that I could drink again, but it probably wasn’t far away.
It wasn’t like a freight train, but my emotional sobriety was tortoise-like moving away, and when I saw what was happening it scared the hell out of me (pun intended). I was coasting. The thought of drinking was not in my conscious thoughts, but who can tell when it will be. I realized that my alcoholism was patiently waiting for the weakness of my character to let it back in. The behavior was familiar and the memory of my last relapse was fresh.
Sobriety the first time around was not about recovery; it was based entirely on stubborn abstinence. My repeated attempts to drink less, change what I was drinking or sneak and lie about my excessive drinking had failed. Numerous appeals by my wife had fallen on deaf ears. Similar requests or pitiful looks of contempt by friends and family had not made a difference to me. Reluctantly in order to quiet the noise I began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The meetings were escapes from what I perceived as the harangue of others who didn’t understand. I was the one who didn’t understand. My self-centered absorption with myself was blocking me from any learning about alcoholism or any chance of finding a solution. Truth be told, I didn’t want another solution. It didn’t concern me yet.
For 30 months I attended meetings, burglarized the conversation of others, pretended to be in recovery and did all the superficial things you are supposed to do as a member of AA. Then it happened, I announced at dinner that it was OK for me to drink again. I ordered a glass of wine with dinner, beginning a 6-month relapse that almost ended in death.
My return was different, I was ready to surrender and willing to do whatever it took. I worked the steps, attended meetings several times a week, spoke with others about my recovery and theirs. And then I didn’t. The coasting began with giving up my service commitment, cutting back on my interaction with others, slacking on my prayer and meditation ritual. The biggest change was that I was sponsoring myself and not regularly doing a 10th Step.
It’s an interesting thing, this willingness, because willingness really is the key. We come in here beaten and scared as only “the dying” can be, and we are willing as hell. Then something happens. We forget the pain, get a little arrogant, and then decide to follow the thought process that results in, “I’ve got this!”
There is conversation that two cowboys have from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty that sums my lack of self-awareness, my thinking that I knew it all and that recovery can be had without constantly working it:
Augustus says, “You’re so sure you’re right it doesn’t matter to you whether people talk to you at all. I’m glad I’ve been wrong enough to keep in practice.”
“Why would you want to keep in practice being wrong?”
Call asked. “I’d think it would be something you’d try to avoid.”
“You can’t avoid it, you’ve got to learn to handle it,” Augustus said. “If you come face to face with your own mistakes once or twice in your life it’s bound to be extra painful. I face mine every day-that way they ain’t usually much worse than a dry shave.”
More so than honesty, more so than open-mindedness, if I can remain willing to do the things that have been suggested in this “design for living.” If I “practice the principles in all my affairs” and walk toward sobriety the solution,, then I have a chance one day at a time to lead a sober, somewhat sane, life. And most importantly NOT become complacent.