People like to say that confidence is the greatest quality. If you simply believe in yourself, you’ll soon find yourself acing every job interview. You’ll have no shortage of second dates, and everyone will look up to you for the amazing person you are. And, yes—in many ways, confidence is key to success. But the line between confidence and arrogance may sometimes elude us. If we aren’t careful, we can overdo it. Because there is such a thing as becoming too confident. And when we cross this line, we’re often the last ones to see it.
Some of us become too confident because we think we have enough time in sobriety to start using again. Others become too confident because we experience a small victory that boosts our ego. And some of us were simply too confident from the get-go, thinking ourselves untouchable. No matter what the source of our arrogance, it usually gets the best of us at some point or another. Think of the countless books, movies and television shows in which a character finds hubris to be their tragic flaw. This is more than mere fiction. It happens to real people just about every single day.
When we allow ourselves to become too confident, we put our recovery at risk. Just think back to the times we were too confident while in active addiction. We exceeded our limitations, allowing ourselves to lose our inhibitions and become a risk to ourselves and others. At times, we may have experienced legal issues as a result. There were other times when we sacrificed jobs or relationships as a result of our supercilious behavior. Overconfidence never serves us well. Below, we will talk about the reasons for which we may become overconfident, as well as the potential consequences. We will also talk about how we can set aside our arrogance in recovery.
How We Become Too Confident
Some of us exhibit overconfidence long before we get sober. In fact, a number of us demonstrate arrogance frequently before we even begin our addiction. We constantly try to one-up people or interrupt their stories to tell our own. It bothers us when anybody else gets the last word. We have no problem being late because we don’t care if others are forced to wait on us. Condescension and criticism are our bread and butter—as long as they’re aimed at somebody else.
But the appearance of overconfidence can also be deceiving. Sometimes, we simply act arrogant because we secretly doubt ourselves. We criticize others to feel better about our own character defects. In a world in which we’re constantly told that confidence breeds success, we feel the need to exude more confidence than we actually possess. Over time, some people begin to believe their own façade. The line between fiction and reality becomes blurred, and we completely forget about our faults. In the effort to hide our vulnerability, we do a bang-up job of fooling ourselves—even if others remain unconvinced.
Arrogance may also arise as a result of our substance abuse. Minor—or even major—setbacks cease to bother us. We think that we can get away with anything, entirely free of consequences. And with every successful lie we tell or every successful crime we commit, we reinforce these beliefs. As a result, we find ourselves surprised when things begin going wrong for us. We think that our low points are merely flukes, and that the next time we use will be better. Unfortunately, this is sheer delusion. If we allow ourselves to keep going down this path, it won’t be long before we hit rock bottom.
Even after hitting rock bottom and entering recovery, our arrogance may persist. In fact, even those with no history of overconfidence may begin to discover it once they get sober. The Twelve Steps are meant to help us, but some recovering addicts and alcoholics get overzealous. They become far too confident, believing themselves to be spiritually elevated above the rest of their friends and family. This can be quite alienating to those we love, as we will discuss below.
Consequences of Overconfidence
The most obvious consequence of overconfidence is relapse. When we begin to think that our defenses are unnecessary or that we cannot encounter any consequences, we are prone to dangerous behaviors. We allow ourselves to think that we can get away with anything. We don’t worry about our past addictions, because we now think that we can conquer anything. This is the point at which we become too confident. We allow our confidence to get the better of us, overtaking our capacity for rational thought. When this happens, relapse often proves to be imminent. We find that we are at the “high” point of emotional disturbance, allowing our seemingly positive thoughts to yield negative results.
In some cases, being too confident may yield negative social results. When we act as if we are better than others, they will often find that our company is no longer appreciated. People believe themselves to be better off when we are not around. They feel as if we serve no other purpose than making them feel worse about themselves. We cannot constantly act as if we are better than others simply because we are in recovery. It’s important that we remember why we entered recovery in the first place. It wasn’t because things were going so well for us. If anything, we can learn a lot from our non-addict friends during this period of self-discovery.
When we act too confident in order to hide our defects, we hurt only ourselves. Internally, we know that we have messed up. We know that our friends and family members may lack trust in us. More importantly, we often lack trust in ourselves. Acting confident will not eliminate these feelings from our psyche. If anything, false arrogance only serves to remind us why we began hiding our true feelings in the first place. We remind ourselves that we do not feel good about ourselves, and that we feel the need to hide this from others.
These consequences may seem mild, but try telling that to those who have experienced them. Those who have relapsed would not call their experiences “mild” by a long shot. Addicts who lose relationships would not shrug off these experiences, either. And those who suffer from low self-esteem do not chuckle at their former ways of thinking. The people who suffer these experiences find themselves hurting. And the only way to stop this pain is for them to let go of their overconfidence. Instead of acting too confident and risking further pain, they must learn the benefits of humility.
Learning to Set Arrogance Aside
When we enter treatment programs, we learn to feel things out a bit more. We learn to see that our own recovery ideas may leave a bit to be desired. Even our pets know that we have done little to serve them. And those of us who fall prey to the justice system will feel disillusioned about a great many things. When looking at this system, we must concede that things might be better if we didn’t do so much to hurt ourselves.
In treatment, we learn to think about others. We learn that the answer to service work is not always found in grand gestures. In fact, the best way of enacting service work is to think about others in small ways. We learn that a simple kind word can change someone’s entire day. In doing so, we inevitably help ourselves. If we think only in grand gestures, we may never get to the place where we need to be if we wish to stay sober.
Helping others is but one way to help ourselves. If family or friends have helped us in sobriety, we should find ways of helping them in return. We need to learn that the world does not revolve around us. Sometimes, others require attention. If we treat the world as if we are the only ones who matter, the likelihood is that people will not treat us with much respect. But, if we can treat people with the respect they deserve, they will likely respond in kind.
Regardless of how we treat others, we should never forget that the world is much bigger than ourselves. Others deserve the same respect that we deserve. They deserve the same consideration when it comes to matters of security and safekeeping. All that matters is that we maintain a sense of humility. If we can do this, then no one can keep us from fulfilling our true potential. As long as we learn to care about others, we will make progress every single day. There is no better place to learn this skill than in the safe care of Amethyst Recovery.