Recovery isn’t a test to anything besides your willingness. Recovery requires you to be willing: willing to admit powerlessness and unmanageability, willingness to try, willingness to change, willingness to take suggestions, even willingness to fail. The road to recovery isn’t going to be smooth-sailing just because you put down the drink or drugs, it requires real effort to embrace a life of sobriety to your fullest extent.
Enter— a mainstream recovery phrase the Big Book of Alcoholic’s Anonymous: “We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection”
The Danger of Perfection
Striving for perfection is dangerous. No, I’m not just being dramatic. Striving for perfection can equate to relapse, why? Because having the pressure of doing everything perfectly will cause your slip ups to become discouraging in an overwhelming way. If you try your hardest to be perfect, you are forgetting that you’re human. You’re forgetting that we learn the most from our mistakes. You’re extinguishing the opportunity to live and learn. If you are deadset on doing recovery perfectly, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
The truth is, there is no true formula to a perfect recovery, only factors that are helpful, suggestions that make it easier, and tools that aid the process.
The Productivity in Failing
I didn’t even want to use the word failing, because it has such a negative connotation, but bear with me here. The way we can even reach a level of “perfection” is by finding out what works and what doesn’t work for us. If you strive for perfection, you aren’t really giving yourself the chance to find those things out. In my experience, I had understood what works for me the best when I had already experienced what didn’t work— and then learned from that experience. It’s like writing a dissertation on a topic that you never researched. If you avoided failing in life, your life would more likely than not be absolutely boring, lackluster, and misguided. The only way to succeed is to learn how to productively fail. Productive failure is the foundation upon which success sits. Mistakes don’t define us, but they definitely do teach us.
Small slip ups will bring you to a place that you may not have reached without those learning experiences.
Don’t Get Caught Up on ‘Perfect’
Being a member of society, I’m sure you’ve realized that perfection does not exist. Perfection is a facade, an illusion, a general description for the unachievable. Perfection is unachievable, we know that, so let’s change our perception of perfect. My definition of perfect is doing your best at all times, no matter who is watching or who isn’t watching.
What’s your definition of perfect? Maybe it’s doing things that you don’t want to do, but know you should. Maybe it’s making five meetings a week, despite your work schedule. Perfection could be having a terrible day, but still not using drugs over it. I think the key here is redefining what you strive for, and working towards that. Your idea of a perfect recovery could be becoming as involved in your program as possible, doing as much service as you can, helping other alcoholics or addicts, it doesn’t need to mean that you make absolutely no mistakes in your recovery. That is unrealistic.
According to Mirriam-Webster‘s dictionary, progress is “an expedition” a “journey”, “a forward and onward movement”, a “gradual betterment”. These definitions lend themselves to create my perception of perfection, I believe that as long as we are bettering ourselves, as long as we are learning and growing, that is perfect.
Make no mistake though, progress describes a state of gradual betterment, progress describes action. Without action, there is no progress. If this was true, I could make physical wellness goals come true with progress from the comfort of my bed. I could say I’m making progress cleaning my house while I’m sitting here writing this. You cannot just claim progress, progress is claimed only when there is action involved, only when there is action behind it.
In this same vein, perfection is quite the opposite. Claiming perfection requires no action, you can say something is perfection from any state of being. I think this is just another reason why progress sums up recovery, as opposed to perfection. Recovery requires action. You can’t just think your way into a strong recovery, it takes effort to build a strong recovery. Furthermore, perfection describes a state of being that is absolutely flawless, without any defect. As humans, it is impossible to achieve perfection. If you are working the 12-steps in a 12-step program of recovery, than you may have already learned that steps 5 and 6 address our character defects. These defects of character will show you that you, nor anyone, is perfect. We all have flaws, things we could do better, ways we fall short. This is just another reason why progress should be your main concern in recovery.
Ways You Can Progress
So this all sounds great, but now that you know not to strive for perfection, how can you strive for progress? How can you continue to move forward? Here is a small list of some ways you can progress:
- get a sponsor
…And call that sponsor regularly. Usually, people talk to their sponsor on a daily basis, especially in early recovery.
- do the steps
Join a program of recovery, and work the 12-steps with a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who will guide you through the 12 steps.
- learn from your mistakes
- do a tenth step inventory each night
Basically, a 10th step inventory is an account of how you thought and behaved through out the day. Were you selfish? Did you do anything to hurt your recovery? Did you help anyone today? These are some questions that you can ask yourself to spark self-reflection.
- ask how you can help others
Volunteer at your local soup kitchen, raise your hand in a meeting and ask your fellow people in recovery if they need any help over the weekend, talk to the newcomers and offer your guidance.
- make a commitment
Commitments are basically service jobs within 12-step programs of recovery. You could take a commitment like chairing a meeting, greeting, making the coffee, being the HI meeting representative, etc.
- sponsor people
Raise your hand in a meeting when they ask if you are willing to be a sponsor. Having sponsees (people you take through the steps) will help you stay sober yourself, and more importantly, you will be doing service by helping others.
- keep trying
Put in a consistent effort. Try. Work hard. Don’t give up. Do these things, and you will progress without a doubt.
Remember, progress not perfection.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team makes themselves available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.