Content vs. Complacent, What’s The Difference?

The difference between being a person in recovery who is content, and being a person in recovery who has become complacent, is a subtle one.

Both are formally defined with very similar descriptive words like satisfaction & gratification.

In my opinion, and personal experience with both, the subtle difference hinges on pride; and we all know, pride is a tricky little sob. It lurks close to our hearts and always seems to be an ever-present force in our lives, happy to see us face-plant.

First, let’s talk about the differences between the two:

Contentment means that you feel happy.
You feel grateful for where you are, but you are still working diligently to make improvements.
You choose to remain committed to personal growth.
You are aware of your shortcomings, but you are also aware of how far you have come.
You are proud of your accomplishments, but you haven’t adopted the thinking that you have learned all that there is to know, that you have ‘crossed the finish line’.
Feeling content is healthy.
It can push you, and can provide you with healthy, solid, earned confidence as you continue to rebuild your identity, and as you experience your new life.

Complacency on the other hand is more about being filled and puffed up with self-satisfaction.
Not only are you happy with where you are, and with your accomplishments, you aren’t interested in improving.
You are pumped up about the changes that you have been able to make so far, and you might feel so confident that you convince yourself that you can take intermittent recovery breaks.
Over time, you might even start to think that there isn’t much more to learn.
You may even have the sense that you are in a comfortable space and building from where you are isn’t necessary anymore.
Feeling complacent will start to feel like a light-weight on your shoulders. Over time, you might start feeling more irritable and easily agitated. Little by little, your weeds begin to overgrow.
But your pride is holding you back from holding yourself accountable, and the positive changes that you made begin to fade.

How can we avoid moving from contentment to complacent? 

1. Don’t isolate yourself from healthy, positive, strong, peers and outside support systems. 
It is always a good idea to keep people around you who have your best interest at heart.
This means, they will probably tell you if they start to notice negative changes or warning signs that you might be trying to forcefully ignore, or maybe you don’t even notice happening. This helps you to stay open to suggestions and it can help you to stay humble. Continuing to cultivate healthy relationships with the people in your life is a sign that you are on the right track. Consider it a personal warning sign when you subconsciously try to pull away from your people. You need this tribe of people no matter how much sober time you acquire.
Allowing yourself to be genuinely loved and cared for is always an important component to living a healthy life.

2. Keep giving back in some way. 
Do it your way, but do it.
Sponsor someone, write something, serve food somewhere, make art, just do something to volunteer your time or talent or services to the community. Nothing will keep you more grounded than serving other people who are in need. It is one of the best natural, most powerful remedies for pride inflation that I can think of.  No matter how much sober time you acquire, loving others fills your heart with a special kind of gratitude for your own life.

3. Stay open and keep moving.
Stay open to change and keep moving forward.
Stay open to learning. Stay vigilant of who you are, what your needs are, what your progress level looks like, what you see or feel needs improvement. Continue celebrating milestones and victories, but stay honest with yourself. Keep moving along but keep in mind, as you grow as an individual your needs will change. As you get to know yourself a little bit better, you will notice that your interests will develop and take on a new route. So tweak your program as you see fit and don’t be afraid to make changes. Don’t make excuses to stay the same way if life is leading you in a new direction. No matter how much sober time you acquire, always stay committed to your own personal growth. And remember to measure with your own ruler.

2 Comments

  1. Brittany

    Exactly! Thank you for reading.

  2. Hurrahforcoffee

    Very good post. Complacency is when stop being humble and start fantasising that you’ve now somehow ‘fixed’ your broken self. It’s that place where you forget that sobriety is a daily practice it’s not a destination.

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