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The problem with complacency

HELLO my name’s Matt and I am an alcoholic. I am very grateful to have not taken a drink since I took that leap of faith and walked through the doors of AA in Nottingham. Where I felt a feeling of hope for the first time in as long as I could remember. My sobriety date is 17th July 2010. Everything, and I do mean everything, that I have in my life today is a direct result of placing my trust in the Programme of AA and doing what was suggested.

I asked someone to sponsor me. I was taken through the Steps to begin that wonderful voyage of self-discovery. Settled on regular attendance at a home group and began to give back what was freely given to me through involvement in service. Four key tenets that my sponsor explained to me would help me to stay sober. The wonderful relationship that I have today with my wife, my children, my friends, my work colleagues and indeed myself, is a direct result of working the Twelve Steps in my daily life.

However, the last 13 years in recovery have not been all glitter and rainbows. Life has thrown some pretty large curveballs at me. My daughter almost died. I have experienced bereavements of those close to me. I have been made redundant. One of my daughters was diagnosed with ADHD and autism. Another daughter self-harming. Marriage problems. But throughout all of these ups and downs of life, through the magical good grace of the Fellowship of AA, I have not had to resort to seeking escapism at the bottom of a bottle.

Now the reason I wanted to write this article was to talk about the problem with complacency. My sponsor once asked me this very question, “Matt, how do you know when you are being complacent?” To which I attempted to respond with some ‘smart alec’ answer. And that’s the nub of it. Once you have been around a while and life is back on track it is very easy to take your foot off the recovery pedal. To begin coasting and drifting away from the Fellowship. Becoming too busy for service commitments. Meeting attendance drops. And before you know it – ‘bang’, that point where the idea of taking a drink pops into your head, and off again with the madness. I have seen it happen time and again. Some make it back to the Rooms, and some don’t, ending ultimately in death as a result of this powerful illness.

I have always prided myself on ensuring I follow those four tenets of recovery but, due to a combination of things, I was coasting. Work becoming busy. Resentments forming towards certain issues within the Fellowship regarding safeguarding. Life becoming beyond full with three daughters. Before I knew it, I had become that person who had drifted away from the Fellowship. I had become that ‘Bare Minimum Matt’ in recovery that I swore I would never become. Dare I say it – I had become complacent! The things I swore that would never happen to me had happened. And that really is the problem with complacency. We just don’t know when we are doing it! That cunning, baffling, powerful nature of the disease of alcoholism. That slow motion car crash of relapse to be.

Now I am pleased to say after a number of life events coming to a head recently, I did realise that I had a choice to make. Throw myself back into the middle of the lifeboat of AA or eventually drink again and ultimately die.  Thankfully I chose the former. I have now settled on a new home group. I have become involved again at intergroup through taking on the service position of Share Liaison Officer and most importantly of all I have reconnected with all the wonderful Fellows I had drifted away from.

I am a firm believer that anything you choose to place in front of your recovery you have to be prepared to lose. I also believe that the quality of my life is directly proportional to the amount of effort I put into my recovery and give back to others. And, just for today, active  involvement in AA provides a halo of protection against complacency.

MATT G, Nottingham