Addiction Recoveryblog
By September 21, 2021October 21st, 2023No Comments

Chasing a Fantasy: The Problem With Perfectionism in Recovery

chasing a fantasy

Moving through each stage of recovery is a long journey that requires setting a number of various goals. Personal relationships, professional ambitions, familial dynamics, and personal goals are all necessary to create a new outlook on each person’s daily life. While this transformational time is filled with various changes to many aspects of a person’s daily life, these goals still have to be realistic if they can be accomplished and in what kind of reasonable timeframe. Recovery will mean different things to different people, but going through the process doesn’t ensure that any person will never make a mistake again. For those in recovery, chasing perfectionism on any level can introduce a number of additional hurdles into their recovery journey. While it may seem like perfectionism can be a driving force that pushes an individual towards success, the mental and emotional toll that this mode of thinking can have on a person can compromise a person’s recovery as a whole. 

Set Yourself Up For Success

Recovery is ultimately about helping each person achieve the goals that they set for themselves while overcoming the difficulties that addiction and trauma present every day. More than just learning to cope with urges while maintaining sobriety, recovery also implements life skills and new ways of thinking in order to push each person to achieve what they want in life beyond the cessation of an addictive substance or behavior. Goal setting is a major part of this and it is important that each person set themselves up for success with reasonably attainable goals every step of the way. 

Chasing perfection is inherently an overwhelming mindset. While it can be perceived as a positive motivator for improvement, perfectionist mindsets are often fueled by continuously reevaluating one’s work and looking for mistakes or further improvements rather than focusing on the positive or successful aspects of one’s progress. If someone is constantly looking over every step with this kind of scrutiny, it can prevent those in recovery from pushing to the next step or towards their own goals as they may continually focus on other details of their present. Regardless of what kind of goals that someone sets for themselves, constantly evaluating oneself through a perfectionist mindset can functionally halt their progress towards their own success. 

Judge Yourself Fairly

Judging progress fairly means being able to look at all of the information surrounding any kind of success or hurdle. While a person may be experiencing more urges or higher anxiety levels than they would like, it is also important to see if the urges or anxieties are decreasing, even if they are still present. Even if someone hasn’t reached their goals to mitigate anxiety quite yet, experiencing fewer anxiety attacks or a generally decreased level of anxiety is still a huge success that a perfectionist mindset may not acknowledge. 

This is because perfectionism often gives way to a binary way of thinking, where things have to be judged in absolutes. If something isn’t perfect, then it must be a failure on some level and must be addressed. This can be a very negative, defeatist mindset that conditions someone to look for imperfections and negatives, drowning out many of the huge steps that each person is taking in their journey to sobriety. Recovery is a progressive transition that can’t easily be defined in these absolutes and it is important that each person judge themselves fairly in order to see these successes in motion.

Likewise, viewing one’s accomplishments in absolute terms can dilute the areas where someone may need to focus their energies. If experiencing depression is thought of as an all-encompassing failure, then it can be difficult to pick out what areas someone can focus on for improvement as well as the areas where someone successfully implemented coping strategies. This creates a situation where someone views their experience in a wholly negative light while also not having a starting point to address these issues going forward. 

Perfectionism Facilitates Stress

Viewing any aspect of one’s life in absolutes is incredibly stressful. If someone is searching for perfectionism in all that they do, it can very quickly become incredibly stressful to manage all of one’s own expectations. Stress, anxiety, depression, and self-doubt can all become prevalent feelings as a person chases goals that are unrealistic or unfair. These emotions themselves can be major hurdles in the recovery process.

While striving for success in recovery is always the goal, it is also a process that can’t be fairly measured in binaries. Recovery is a personal journey, but working with peers and professionals can help each person set goals that are fair to themselves and that allow each person to acknowledge when genuine, impactful progress has been made. Recovery is a lifelong process and while perfectionist tendencies may masquerade as a positive, driving force, they can also cause someone to dwell on the negatives and ignore the many goals they may have accomplished along the way.


Recovery is a personal journey and the professionals at Brighton Recovery Center are ready to help you realize what success and recovery mean to you. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, or if you are suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder, we can help create a plan that is catered to your needs and goals in recovery. With a beautiful, open campus and a unique, individualized approach, your time with us can be spent working alongside peers and professionals alike to help you create your own path to sobriety. With many programs available, from detox to sober living, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient care, we can help create a plan that best supports your goals and the steps to take for your continued sobriety. For more information on how we can cater a program for you or speak to a caring, trained professional about your unique situation, call us today at (844) 479-7035.

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