By: Marilyn L. Davis
Keep Making Progress; Perfect Isn’t Possible
“The most dangerous way we sabotage ourselves is by waiting for the perfect moment to begin. Nothing works the first time or the first fifty times perfectly. Everything has a learning curve. The beginning is just that – a beginning. Surrender your desire to do it flawlessly on the first try. It’s not possible. ― Vironika Tugaleva
Last night in a group, several women shared how scared they were to try recovery again because they had failed at their attempts so many times before.
When I asked them my usual question, “Were you successful the first time you used IV drugs,” many of them looked at me strangely. But that question goes to the heart of our addiction; how we continued to try even if we failed the first time.
Many were honest in their answers. Some said they missed a vein; others said they got sick, and they all agreed that not succeeding didn’t mean they wouldn’t try again. Even if we failed, we would keep trying because we wanted to get high.
Learning to Walk in Our Recovery
I then asked them if they would criticize a toddler who stumbled while learning to walk, or if when their children did slip and fall, did they think, ‘Boy, this kid will never walk.’
Those comments and questions usually get me some perplexed looks.
Typically, I’ll get the standard response, “Kids have to learn how to walk. They fall and get back up.” That’s when I remind them that learning to walk takes others helping us. It’s the same for our recovery.
We have to let others teach us, cautioning us about the bumps in the road and staying close to us in case we stumble.”
Don’t Use, No Matter What – The Only ‘Perfect’ in my Recovery
The only absolute in my life is – Don’t use, no matter what. When I’ve reduced my “perfect recovery” to only one rule with my “Don’t use,” I’m not ignoring other aspects that need improving.
It merely means that I don’t set myself up for a sense of failure when I don’t meet expectations in other aspects of my life and recovery.
Can I improve and strengthen other aspects of my life? Yes, and I make an effort to be a better person today than yesterday. That sounds so pat and redundant, but simplifying my life makes improving easier. I no longer define how anything “should be,” including myself.
Those defined, restricted, perfect descriptions were unattainable. And then, I experienced guilt, condemnation, and a sense of failure.
Where Did We Get the “Be Perfect” Message?
Where did I get these messages of what perfect was? Some from childhood, some from magazines, and some from people in recovery support meetings.
About 30 years ago, I realized that I don’t live in my childhood; it’s long over. I have never graced a magazine cover. Anyone else in any recovery support meeting is not me, even when we relate, so their recovery is theirs, and mine is mine.
The ‘Best Us’ is Success
Trying to live up to messages that no longer apply, or vying for a Vogue shoot, or comparing myself to Tom, Dick, Harry, or Susie were all doomed to fail. And I no longer wanted to fail; I only wanted to be the best me. Click To Tweet
None of us will ever mimic all the successes of someone else. Critical in this is the all. I can match some achievements and not others. If the achievements are authentic for me, then I’ve made progress. But if I continue judging my limited successes in some areas, I’ll still experience that dreaded sense of failure with how perfect other people are.
Judge Today, Not Yesterday
As the group started to wind down, I asked each woman if she had successfully learned a recovery lesson for the day. Had they taken any actions to improve their recovery, and had they operated from some spiritual principles that day?
Each woman gave me an answer quickly – no hesitation, and initially, no acknowledgment of how each of them had been successful in their recovery for that day.
Regardless of past failures, whether they matched the lessons learned by someone else or demonstrated humility and someone else operated from diligence, each woman improved and made progress in her recovery.
Then I asked if any had used that day, and all said, “No.”
I stood up and clapped and told them how proud I was of their successful day.
One woman is usually hesitant to talk; she stutters when nervous. I knew that when she raised her hand to comment, she was overcoming fear and not worrying about whether she spoke perfectly or not.
When I nodded to her, she said, “I guess I don’t give myself or others the credit they deserve when they make improvements. I’m going to start making progress and quit trying for perfection.”
I thanked her and said what a good teacher she was that night, and I appreciated the lesson she gave us.
Are You Still Striving for Perfect?
Slow down, smell the coffee or roses, take a deep breath or some other cliché and realize that you’re not going to be perfect, but with practice, you can be damn good.
- Share your recovery, questions, or solutions in a meeting -again.
- Reach out to others when you’re scared – again.
- Take the Steps – again.
- Find and use a sponsor – again.
- Listen to them and follow the directions – again.
Again means we’re making progress, and with progress, we’re improving. Are you willing to do the recovery tasks again and quit striving for perfection?
Writing and recovery heal the heart.
How we say something is just as important as what we say. How you write about addiction and recovery will differ from mine. That’s okay because the more voices say, “Recovery works,” the more people we reach. When you’re ready to share your stories of progress, consider a guest post. Someone, somewhere, needs your encouraging words.
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
For editing services, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.