“We don’t always have to be strong or pretend to be perfect.” – Steve Arterburn
Perfectionism and addiction go hand in hand. Those of us who struggle with addiction can be extremely hard on ourselves. We don’t give ourselves any room for mistakes, and it’s easy for us to procrastinate or give up because we’re afraid of not being good enough.
When things don’t go perfectly as planned, some of us use it as an excuse to go back to addiction. Or we might give up going to a Life Recovery Group and stop seeing our counselor. Why? We may feel like we’ll never meet the unrealistic expectations we’ve put on ourselves.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. One of the biggest obstacles in recovery is perfectionism. Although you may be aware of the toll perfectionism has taken on you, you may not understand how much perfectionism has paralyzed your recovery.
One challenge of perfectionism is procrastination. Every time you think about asking for help, you feel uneasy. Because of the unrealistic standards, you keep putting off recovery. You make excuses such as, “I can’t do recovery perfectly right now, so I’ll put it off.” This attitude has kept you stuck in addiction because you keep putting off recovery. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow—start recovery now!
Another one is the fear of failure. Being perfect, though, is impossible. After all, you will come up short time and time again. Then you might even turn back to addiction to cope with feeling like a failure. In recovery, you must reset this mindset to avoid relapse. Realize that everyone makes mistakes and you will make mistakes, too. But it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Finally, perfectionism will make you feel like giving up. This attitude is particularly dangerous. For example, let’s say you are doing well in recovery. But at the slightest slip-up, you want to give up because you think all of your progress is completely ruined. Here’s the bottom line: if you make a mistake, get back on track and keep going!
First, adjust your expectations. Do you base your self-worth on your achievements? Understand that you don’t have to earn your value as a person. You love and value other people even though they aren’t perfect, right? Try extending that same acceptance to yourself. Celebrating small accomplishments and achievements will help you continue with your recovery.
Second, stop trying to control. Admit that your life has gotten out of control and has become unmanageable. You can relinquish control by humbling yourself, admitting you’re powerless and submitting to God. We all have weaknesses; none of us are self-sufficient.
Third, ask for help. If you struggle with perfectionism, you may bristle at the thought of asking for help. But ask for help anyway. Be willing to accept that you can’t do it on your own. See a counselor, get a sponsor or accountability partner, and go to a Life Recovery Group.
It’s possible to get yourself out of the paralysis of perfectionism and back to productivity in recovery with just a little help. No matter how perfect you try to be, you can’t overcome addiction on your own. God will you the strength to work your recovery program through the help of others, one day at a time.