Perfectionism- Recovery Word of the Week

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As our Word of the Week series at South Orange County Detox continues, we are going to be taking a look at some of the pitfalls associated with perfectionism in the context of recovery from drugs and alcohol. While there are many facets that interrelate, and many dynamics that interact with one another to jumpstart the engine of addiction, perfectionism is one of the least discussed, yet most insidious of traits adopted by the addict in, and out of recovery. Its insidious nature is derived from the fact that this component is often either overlooked, or is underrepresented with respect to the harmful outcomes that can come along with perpetuating this perspective. As could be argued is the case with many negative aspects of one’s personality, fear is at the heart of perfectionism, and that becomes severely problematic because, as addicts, we are averse to most forms of fear. We have learned to allocate fear into the trash bins of our psyche and emotional supply; we then accomplish this feat by means of drowning it out with substances. This previous and maladaptive patterning leaves us in quite the conundrum as, if we have made the decision to be sober, we cannot pull from our arsenal the most “valuable” weapon we had in the face of this giant dragon we call fear, namely, drugs. This leaves us with but one option if we are to navigate these murky waters into those of clarity; the acknowledgement and confrontation of why it is we require perfection of ourselves when we can never be capable of such an ideal. “We must” is the name of the bullet that is fired from the weapon of fear. It is the voice that breaches and then penetrates our being saying that, “you’ll never be good enough, smart enough, lovable enough, handsome/pretty enough, wealthy enough, and competent enough.” It seduces us with the notion that if we can “do” what we believe we “must”, then we will no longer have to be fearful of coming up short. This illusion has tempted many an addict into applying false, and more importantly, unrealistic standards for who we need to be and how we need to live. As soon as we give up our childish quest for perfection, we can become grounded in a reality where goals and achievements are then actual possibilities; we can initiate the incremental steps necessary for long term and sustainable progress. The next time you find yourself making judgments with perfection as the marker for success, try and remember that the striving towards this impossible goal is not a courageous and admirable endeavor; it is a coward’s journey, and one that is embarked upon by only those without the humility to set their pride aside and be willing to marinate in their own fallible humanity. I will leave you with another quote from Dr. Jung which highlights the reality that states we must be willing to engage and integrate our insecurities and fears that lie within us all in order to eventually realize our specific path and become “the acorn that is always meant to become the oak tree.”

“No tree can grow to heaven without recognizing that its roots reach down to hell.” C.G. Jung