“You ever feel pressure to be perfect? Like, once you start in your steps you can never fail again? We all have the ability to become robotic in our recoveries and avoid feeling. Nobody likes to be tense, uptight, or stressed. Celebrate Recovery can help people recover from perfectionism or control. We all make mistakes and will continue to make them. We need to have grace for ourselves and others… just like God has grace for us. You are not a robot.” (quote from February 1, 2022, post on Celebrate Recovery Facebook page)
This year, I volunteered to co-lead a Journey Begins step study in my local CR. I was honest with my other co-leaders that I had come to realize that my first step study really dealt with my own self-hatred and the issues I was dealing with when I first entered recovery. As I have dug deeper into my heart and sought to bring ALL my hurts, hang-ups, and habits to Father, I realized that there was a lot of pain I had still been suppressing. Those have been rising to the surface in a desire to find the same freedom and healing that I initially experienced, and I have been hard-pressed to continue to ignore them. In fact, I did try for quite awhile, but there is still a hurting little girl inside me who demands to be seen and taken care of, and I have learned I am not loving myself well if I neglect those hurting parts of myself. I feel like I am clinging with all ten of my toes to a precipice overlooking deep pain, and I have no idea how I am going to react once I step off that ledge. There is a part of me that fears that possible reaction. I am afraid that it will be more than I can handle, and that I will shut down or even have an emotional breakdown. I wanted to be upfront with them, even though a dear mentor and one of the leaders of my very first step study assured me that would not happen. It’s so easy to fear the unknown, even when that is one’s self.
As I have gone further into our first Participant’s Guide answering each question honestly, I have seen my anxiety, my co-dependency, and what I am calling my control-freakiness explode. It took me awhile to realize that a lot of this is due to the fact that I was caught unaware by all the pain that I still have lurking, including, to my dismay, things I thought I had already worked through. My sponsor has encouraged me that I HAD worked through some of those things, but as I access deeper pain I also am bringing to surface the coping mechanisms that I developed in order to be able to survive that pain when I was not ready to deal with it. One of those things, I am finding, is perfectionism. I’ve always known I had perfectionist tendencies. That tends to go along with having a critical parent whose love seemed to be conditional upon my performance. Failures were always noticed and criticized. Achievements were rarely acknowledged. I have lived my life with a debilitating fear of failure. If I was uncertain if I would be able to learn to do something quickly and proficiently, I would not even try. Failure was not an option. It was too great a risk to try something I might not be good at, or even worse, FAIL in doing. And I have come to realize that my fear of failure is rooted in an intense fear of rejection and abandonment. The whys of that are for another time. What is relevant to me right now is that taking a step to lead this step study has been a huge risk. What if I FAIL? I have spent my life perfectly content to be in the background, on the sidelines, out of notice but also out of responsibility. Now, there are women looking to me to lead, to be an example for them to follow and learn from my experience, strength, and hope. Becoming a sponsor was terrifying. This is on a whole other level. What happens if I lose it? What happens if I fall apart? What kind of an example am I then?
The truth is, which I would tell any sponsee if she asked me the same questions, I WILL fail…in some things. I am NOT perfect… and that’s okay. In fact, I am incapable of being perfect. In recovery, relapse is not the end. All I need to do IF I relapse is go back to that first step. Choose again to admit that “I am powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors and that my life has become unmanageable”. The great news is that I have travelled this road before. The steps are familiar, and I know the way. I just need to release the control, “consciously choose to commit my life and my will over to Christ’s care and control”, and work the steps again…one at a time. I don’t know what the future of this step study holds for me. I don’t know what my next inventory will dig up. I do know a few things. There are a whole lot more positives on my inventory this time around. I have experienced healing and freedom from the pain of addiction before, and there is HOPE that I will do so again. Father hasn’t changed. He is the same God who took me through the pain of my sexual abuse and equipped me to truly forgive my perpetrator. He is the same God now who can heal the wounds of emotional abuse and neglect and be the constant and unconditionally loving parent that I lacked. And IF I fail, as long as I don’t give up, as long as I start with that first step again and keep taking one step at a time, I am not a FAILURE. The road to recovery is full of starts, stops, rabbit trails, resting, sitting down by the road, going back to the beginning, but still moving in a forward direction. Recovery is “Progress, not perfection”. And no matter which way this goes, I know my experience will still be able to help and encourage others along the road.