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Perfectionism – The Alcoholic’s Blight

After spending several years in recovery, I can safely share what I’ve learned. Now listen closely, because what I’m telling you is right. This is the right way to do things. There is no other way to do things. If you want to stay sober, simply follow these five simple steps.

  1. Once you complete medical detox and inpatient treatment, start working through the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with a sponsor. Make sure that your sponsor is really hot and has a lot of friends. Work through the 12 steps within a 6-month time period – no more, no less. Work through each of the steps thoroughly and make sure that you’re undergoing a complete personal transformation. As soon as you’re done working through the steps, get at least 10 sponsees of your own and take them through the steps. Make sure that they stay sober – if they don’t, you aren’t doing it right.
  2. Share at every single Alcoholics Anonymous meeting you attend. Make sure that your shares are always well put together and coherent, and make sure that they constantly inspire other people. You want to be impressive. If you aren’t impressive, you aren’t doing it right.
  3. Remember that staying sober is only part of the picture. Now that you are sober, you want to start taking care of your body so that you appear to be completely in control at all times. Wake up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and jog for at least three miles. Skip breakfast if you can, and be sure that you only eat lean protein and lettuce for the remainder of the day. You must be the epitome of comprehensive health and wellness. You can smoke cigarettes though, chain smoking cigarettes is totally okay.
  4. Stay as involved in the local recovery community as you possibly can. This means chairing at least one meeting a week, organizing fundraisers, bringing 12-step meetings into detox centers and inpatient rehabs, helping the newcomer and feeding the homeless.
  5. Make sure that all of your loved ones except your amends immediately, and be nothing but a completely exemplary role model for those who entered into the program after you. Dress in designer clothing, drive a nice car, only eat at the nicest restaurants and invest in some really expensive perfume or cologne. If you don’t smell good, you aren’t doing it right.

An Unattainable Ideal

If this sounds ridiculous… good. It’s because it is. (In case you didn’t pick up on it… the above is all satire. However, I did feel this way when I first entered into recovery. I used to constantly compare myself to others, which led to me constantly feeling as if I was falling short.) However, many men and women who are new to recovery fall into the vicious cycle of perfectionism without even knowing what is happening. They believe that if they are not living the “perfect” sober life, then they might as well not be living sober at all. The truth is that sobriety is messy. Recovery can be chaotic. Not only are we learning to navigate an entirely new way of life, but we are now dealing with a wide range of uncomfortable feelings and emotions that we were likely anesthetizing for years beforehand. The only thing that’s really important is that you stay sober – everything else is open for interpretation. Putting pressure on yourself to mimic some unattainable idea can actually lead to relapse, because you’ll never be “as good” as you feel you’re meant to be. Go easy on yourself! Note that you are doing the best you can, and as long as you don’t pick up, your best is absolutely good enough.

Still, if you find yourself falling victim to perfectionism in recovery, there are several steps you can take in order to start going a bit easier on yourself. Below are five examples of ways in which you can beat the desire to be perfect, and start meeting yourself exactly where you are – and exactly where you are meant to be.

5 Tips to Overcoming Perfectionism

  1. Take a close look at unrealistic expectations, and gauge your standards. Are your standards for yourself higher than they are for other people? Are you more forgiving of others? For example, say that you expect yourself to effectively regulate your emotions 100% of the time. You never let yourself cry or get upset, and if you have an off day you stay inside so no one can see you when you aren’t at your best. Would you expect the same thing from, say, one of your sponsees? If they were struggling with something would you tell them to buck up and face the music, or would you be understanding and remind them that everyone is human. Remember to treat yourself with the same kindness that you show other people.
  2. Relinquish control and do what you can to get more comfortable with the unknown. Perfectionists like to be in control – they like to know what is happening at all times, and they like to know exactly how things will unfold. for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction, blah blah blah. Trying to control everything results in little more than frustration and anxiety. the sooner you relinquish control and understand that things are unfolding the way they are meant to, the better off you will be.
  3. Rather than defining yourself by counting your accomplishments and focusing on your external appearance, define yourself based on your character and the way you treat other people. Perfectionists like to count accolades while making sure that other people are aware of all they have achieved. In recovery, this often comes into play as far as sober time and sponsees. Yes, it’s absolutely great that you have been sober for three consecutive years and that you are helping other men or women through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. But this doesn’t mean you are more sober or better equipped to stay sober than anyone else.
  4. Engage in self-compassion on a daily basis. If you mess up, guess what – that’s okay. Everyone messes up from time to time. (Note that messing up does not equate to picking up.) If you have an off day, if you make a mistake or if you fall short of your own expectations, say something nice to yourself rather than engaging in self-criticism or self-deprecation. “Everyone has tough days. You’re doing awesome.” Rather than focus on the things you feel you are doing wrong, focus on what you’re doing right. Hone in on your personal accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem.
  5. Take note of how being open and honest about where you are at positively impacts other people. Some of the most powerful shares I have personally heard in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous come from a place of messiness and vulnerability. Those are the shares that ultimately help me the most, because they are real. They remind me that it’s okay to fumble and even fall down, so long as I do what I can to pick myself back up and forgive myself for falling in the first place.

Chapel Hill Detox

In short, we’re all human. Human beings struggle with a variety of different things. Some struggle with perfectionism, others struggle with standards that might be a little bit too low. Still others struggle with active addiction. If you still fall into this category, note that help is available. For more information on our comprehensive program of medically monitored detox, reach out today.

  Call us today. 844.526.0032

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