Overconfidence can lead to relapse if it isn’t managed and kept in check.

Addiction recovery is a long journey of self-awareness. At times, recovery may feel completely manageable, especially when your confidence is high, you’re feeling strong and it seems as though you have mastered the process. During these times, it’s important to be aware of the risks of complacency. Overconfidence in recovery can become a risk factor for relapse.

Recognizing Signs of Overconfidence in Addiction Recovery

There is nothing wrong with being confident in one’s recovery; in fact, it’s a sign of growth and strength. When overconfidence sneaks in, it may simply present as a feeling of strength and ease. However, overconfidence can lead to one’s defenses being compromised, and the usual boundaries one keeps for maintaining sobriety can break down.

Some examples of overconfidence in recovery include:

  • Ignoring what others have to say (because you know it all already). During times of strength, it can be tempting to feel as if you know the answers and no longer need to listen to peers in recovery. However, this is a major red flag that relapse is likely. Peers in recovery carry wisdom due to their own experiences with addiction. Even when you feel confident, it is important to stay vigilant about listening to others in recovery. They may have a viewpoint about your situation that you haven’t been able to see.
  • Believing your situation is “not like theirs.” An important part of recovery is being able to view one’s own situation honestly. The risk of relapse increases when one begins to see their own addiction as different from other people’s. Addiction is addiction, regardless of who is struggling with it. If one feels like their situation is better or less severe than someone else’s, it is easy to become complacent and begin making riskier choices that can lead to relapse.
  • Acting as if preferential treatment is deserved. Addiction impacts all walks of life. Feeling as though one deserves preferential treatment is a slippery slope that can contribute to potential relapse, particularly if one begins to doubt whether they are addicted at all.
  • Expecting Immediate Results. Recovery takes time and is an ongoing process. If someone in recovery begins to think of themselves as “cured,” this is a major risk factor for relapse.

Dangerous Consequences from Overconfidence in Addiction Recovery

Feeling strong and confident in recovery is a powerful experience. However, if one begins to feel overconfident, it can lead to high-risk situations for relapse. It is important to remain vigilant about sobriety and protect oneself from risk.

Overconfidence can lead to risky decision making, such as:

  • Slipping up. There is a difference between a slip vs. relapse, but a slip can lead to a relapse if it isn’t dealt with appropriately. A slip is a one-time event of use, whereas a relapse indicates a more dangerous lapse into regular usage and old thinking patterns that perpetuate use.
  • Believing that “just one drink” won’t hurt. Overconfidence in recovery can lead a person to believe that they have mastered their recovery and can now safely engage in occasional drug or alcohol use. The risk of relapse is very high with this type of thinking, and it may become a slip or a relapse situation.
  • Missing AA or NA meetings. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings can be life-saving events during early recovery. As one increases in confidence in their ability to stay sober, it may feel as if these meetings are no longer necessary. However, meetings are an important part of keeping oneself on track, both emotionally and behaviorally. Overconfidence and missed meetings are a risky combination that can lead to a slip or relapse.
  • Becoming complacent. Overconfidence can lead to complacency. In addiction recovery programs, warnings about complacency are a typical part of the discussion. Complacency can lead to feeling as if one’s work is done and the “hard part” is over. This type of thinking is a fast-track to relapse as it leads one away from being an active participant in recovery.

Setting Ego Aside in Addiction Recovery

Increased confidence in one’s recovery is a positive transformation in the process. However, it is also important to keep confidence in check to avoid it getting in the way of recovery. As one continues the process of recovery, it is important to remain active and retain humility so that overconfidence doesn’t undermine sobriety. Addiction recovery is a continuous process; it is an evolution, not a destination. Addiction recovery centers can offer assistance in stopping drug and alcohol use, retaining sobriety and staying on track with recovery. Using addiction recovery resources are necessary pieces of the journey of sobriety and may mean the difference between staying the course and experiencing a relapse.

If you or a loved one is living with addiction and is ready to take the first step toward recovery, we can help. Reach out to The Recovery Village today for more information. 

a woman is standing with her arms crossed.
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
a woman wearing glasses and a blue shirt.
Medically Reviewed By – Paula Holmes, LCSW
Paula Holmes is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master's degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. Read more

Tracy, Kathlene; Wallace, Samantha P. “Benefits of peer support groups in the t[…]eatment of addiction.” National Institutes of Health. September 29, 2016. Accessed August 25, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.