Walking on grass

Why “Progress Not Perfection” is Key to a Successful Recovery


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Walking on grass

Recovering from any illness or traumatic injury requires a great deal of patience. The idea is to keep in mind what the body has been through, take time to be grateful for mere survival and to accept the new normal for however long the body requires it. Though it may not be commonly translated, the same is true with the addiction recovery process. Just like any other illness or physically traumatic experience, addiction specialists and other helping professionals note that a celebration of progress—both big or small—is what can help prevent relapse.

If you’re at all doubting, here are 3 additional reasons why “progress not perfection” is key to a successful recovery.

Just as with recovery from any traumatic injury, surgery or disease, successful recovery from addiction is about making progress, not striving for perfection.

1. It takes time to heal.

Addiction is a traumatic injury to the body, mind and soul, and recovery is a lifetime process. The physical damage incurred may remedy itself rather quickly. Conversely, it may be irreversible and require strict lifestyle changes—more extensive than mere sobriety—to prolong life. Either way, healing is not going to happen overnight.

2. You’re not the same.

Though successful recovery from addiction is certainly possible, the individual is never quite the same. Just as with any severe illness or physical trauma, the resulting long-term physical changes, possible near-death experience, resulting emotions involved in a realization of mortality or even a shift in perspective with regard to physical health and priorities can change a person forever. Due to this, though the physical body may heal superficially relatively quickly, the mental, psychological and spiritual aspects of the self as well as any resulting physical changes can often require a lifetime of recovery. The latter is something recovering addicts can and should expect--and patiently accept as their new normal.

3. It requires a mental shift.

Regardless of the resulting physical health of any addict, the recovery process does require a shift in perspective--one from quantity to quality of life. The latter is the reason support groups, sponsors, counselors, addiction specialists and other helping professionals are in place to address the unseen injuries resulting from and inflicted prior to the disease in a continuum of care spanning the individual’s life.

There is a need to practice patience with the physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological recovery from any disease and addiction is no exception. Too often, recovering addicts get caught up in trying to do everything right. This typically sets individuals up for feelings of failure and can easily lead to relapse. Therefore, it is very important for recovering addicts to celebrate survival, and their healing and recovery achievements, regardless of how big or small, just as they typically honor their days of sobriety. Just as with recovery from any traumatic injury, surgery or disease, successful recovery from addiction is about making progress, not striving for perfection.

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