24 April 2011

No longer needing to be perfect

Step Six of Self-Parenting says, "Become ready to change by giving up the demand to be perfect."

As a child, I needed to be perfect. For me, it was the only way that I might be able to stop the insanity around me. If I could get a perfect score on a math test, then maybe mom and dad would be proud enough not to drink.

When my mom was drunk and passed out, if I could make the perfect dinner maybe dad wouldn’t beat her. Just maybe he would be so proud of the meal I made he would forget about his drunk wife.

Of course, none of it worked, but that didn’t stop me from trying to be perfect as I grew up. From trying to have the perfect girl friend, the perfect job, and the perfect pets, everything had to give the illusion that my life was perfect.

Even my own drinking and drugging habits had to be perfect. I had to show everyone that I was the perfect drunk (whatever that was.) That the drugs I sold as a dealer were the best money could buy.

But the harder I tried the more imperfect my world became. I lost that perfect job. I lost that perfect girlfriend. And I went from being a perfect drunk, to becoming an obnoxious paranoid angry alcoholic.

The first thing that went away in recovery was perfection. And man was I happy with that. I’m a human being and I’m allowed to make mistakes. And from those mistakes, I could learn and grow, which was impossible with perfection.

Today, I realize that perfection for me was another ugly head of my co-dependency. By being perfect, I could please people and by doing that I could control them. I made a lot of enemies by trying to be perfect and my demand for it.

Yes, I do want to be good and healthy. I want to be the best person I can be – but not a perfect person. I don’t need that loneliness…

These steps, also adapted from AA, were written by Patricia O'Gorman, Ph.D. and Philip Diaz, M.S.W., as part of their work with families, women, and youth in recovery.

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