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June 16 • Perfect Failure

Day 708 I never thought of myself as a perfectionist. That's probably because I knew all too well how far off the beaten path I could go in my sexual fantasies and behaviors. But being perfect was the thing that always drove me in every part of my life. I was often overwhelmed with the shame of disappointing people, even when those same people were probably not aware of being disappointed in me. As I reflect on this in my program, I am beginning to understand that I may have been the very definition of a perfectionist. Speaking of which, the dictionary defines this malady as, "A person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection." It doesn't say that a perfectionist is perfect, which is what I think I always presumed those people to be. It doesn't say that a perfectionist is perfect most of the time or even a lot of the time. It merely sets the standard as one who refuses to accept anything other than perfection as the expectation. So, is the shade of difference between them and me defined by how we deal with imperfect life? That is a big ah-ha for me. If the only measurement of success in my mind was perfection, and I was always so acutely aware of how far from the ideal (my standard) that I lived, how could I not feel like a constant failure, even as I lived a life of successes? A lot is running through my head right now as I unpack a most unexpected clarity of that problem statement. One thing that jumps out at me is how fertile this condition of existence was for my addict to grow bit by bit, failure by failure, and even success by success. The push and pull of that paradox would make anybody crazy, and maybe that's why we talk about insanity in 12 Step meetings and other venues of the addiction community. This ah-ha is not where I thought I was going when I started writing this journal entry this morning, but it's where I am now. Even that acknowledgment seems to be a metaphor for both my addiction and my recovery. For most of my life, I never knew where my compulsions were going to take me. In recovery — in those moments when I can be unusually honest — I don't know where a reading, or listening to someone's share, or just meditating to start the day will take me. The unexpected landing places are a lot more fun, or at least more tolerable, on this side of addiction than they were on the acting-out side of pre-recovery. –JR

June 16 • Perfect Failure
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