Addiction and Perfectionism: Committing to Treatment, Even When The Timing Isn’t Perfect

Approximately 21 million Americans struggle with at least one addiction. However, only about 10 percent of these people ever get help. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t get the help they need when dealing with addiction, ranging from a lack of funds to a lack of familial support. For many addicts, though, they’re the ones actually holding themselves back from sobriety. 

It’s common for addicts to put off getting help because they’re waiting for the perfect time and situation. If this sounds like you, keep reading. Explained below are some of the dangers of perfectionism for addicts, as well as tips on how you can overcome perfectionism and change your life for the better.

Addiction and Perfectionism

This might be surprising to learn, but many addicts are also perfectionists. They have a tendency to set very high standards for themselves and expect, well, perfection right from the start. When they’re unable to meet the standards they’ve set, they experience guilt and shame. They might assume that if they can’t do something perfectly right from the start, they might as well not do it at all. 

This attitude is especially prevalent in the world of addiction recovery. Perfectionists often experience a fear of failure, and it’s common for them to worry about how their recovery will look. They might worry about not being able to “perfectly” give up their drug of choice, which can lead to them avoiding making the effort at all. They might also find themselves waiting for the ideal time when they’re most “ready” to take on recovery (and then finding that that time never actually comes). 

Some perfectionists also turn to substance abuse to help them cope with the guilt and shame they experience when they fall short of their own expectations. This can create a vicious cycle wherein they rely on substances for support and then turn back to those substances when they fail to give them up on their first try.

Stop Making Excuses

If you look hard enough, you can always find an excuse not to do something, even if you know that thing is good for you and will make your life better in the long run. The excuse of it not being the perfect time is one of the most common ones that addicts have to get over. 

It’s important to understand that the timing will never be perfect. There will always be something that’s inconvenient or difficult. You might have to take time off from work or make childcare arrangements, for example. 

Keep in mind, too, that things rarely go according to plan. Even if you make an effort to micromanage every aspect of your recovery and set yourself up for success, life can still throw curve balls your way. 

That’s why the best thing you can do is get into treatment as soon as possible. If you take action, even if it’s messy and doesn’t look exactly the way you wanted, you’ll be able to start making progress sooner. 

At the end of the day, it’s progress that’s the most beneficial thing to your recovery, not perfection. Nobody can be perfect, no matter how hard they try. Everyone can make progress and take steps toward improvement, though. 

Tips for Overcoming Perfectionism in Recovery

If you’re struggling with perfectionism now, there’s also a good chance you’ve been struggling with it throughout your life. It’s unlikely that you became a perfectionist overnight. 

It took a while for you to reach this point, and it’ll take a while for you to let your perfectionist tendencies go and develop more self-compassion. Here are some strategies that can help you as you begin your journey:

● Open your mind: Be willing to be a beginner; be open to making “mistakes” and learning as you go

● Trust in a higher power: Accept that someone or something other than you is in control; let them take the reins so you can recover without having to micromanage everything

● Seek support: Ask for help; the sooner you acknowledge that you need it, the sooner you can get better

● Celebrate small victories: No accomplishment too small or unworthy or celebrating; treat every step you take toward sobriety like the huge deal it is

Taking these steps can be incredibly difficult for addicts, especially addicts who also struggle with perfectionism. Remember, though, that it’s not about doing everything perfectly the first time around. As long as you’re making an effort, you’re moving in the right direction.

Get Help Today

Waiting for the perfect time can hold you back from ever beginning your addiction recovery journey. If you’ve been struggling with perfectionism alongside addiction, now is the time to make a change. Seek help today and start taking back control of your life. It might not be easy, but it’ll definitely be worth it.


About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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