Insight for the Journey: The Perfectionist’s Struggle with Treatment

Insight for the Journey: The Perfectionist’s Struggle with Treatment

Imperfections Galore

Treatment for chemical dependency or co-occurring disorders does not lend itself well to exceedingly high expectations or a perfectionistic disposition. In treating co-occurring disorders, the road out of the old life into a new one is seldom without turns or bumps. Pitfalls, snares, and starts and stops occur frequently. Progress may be made rapidly at first, then stall on an annoyingly long and flat plateau. Traffic delays caused by others frequently occur.

Perceptions of No Progress

Relapse may cause the client to feel as though no progress has been made at all. There may be thoughts of going back to square one or starting over. These bleak views are damaging to motivation and may limit the required work to move forward again. Setbacks do not lend themselves well to the steady, positive, often easy progress expected by the perfectionist. Rather than merely giving up, the perfectionist plugs away in self-contempt, disappointed that the unrealistic goals have slipped away once again.

Setting Reasonable Expectations

Treatment progress is so rarely linear or steady. There are days where symptoms are well-managed, and the client believes the addiction may never return. This joy and hope for the future is frequently followed by a downturn in mood or another panic attack, convincing the perfectionist that this suffering will never end. More progress can be made if expectations are both more reasonably set and frequently adjusted. Use setbacks as inspiration to grow rather than using disappointments as permission to beat yourself up. Progress, not perfection, becomes a goal that can be achieved and enjoyed.

Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!

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