Recovery is always difficult, but for a perfectionist it can be even more daunting. Follow these tips to make recovery as a perfectionist a little bit easier.


As discussed in Perfectionists and Addiction Part 1, perfectionism and addiction can often go hand-in-hand. For those perfectionists consistently trying to be nothing short of perfect – anxiety, depression, alienation and loneliness are common feelings that can fuel addiction, and perfectionism overall can put a damper on recovery.

Addiction recovery is always difficult, but for those who also have an underlying case of perfectionism, recovery can be even harder. In the following ways, perfectionists sabotage their own recovery:

Beliefs that even recovery has to be perfect. In abstinence-based recovery, a perfectionist believes that they can never slip up – that their road to recovery should be without any potholes. Any long-time recovering addict can tell you that’s definitely not the norm.

Life may be great, but a perfectionist is still miserable. They may be doing well at work, be making a great income, and have a great family life – but it’s just never good enough. They focus on the imperfections instead, and this can fuel the addiction.

Believing they can conquer addiction on their own. Most perfectionists will do anything they can before asking for help, as they see it as a sign of weakness. Instead of getting the help they need, they will tell themselves they can get over it on their own. When they cannot stop abusing drugs or alcohol, their feelings of shame and guilt increase, which drives them deeper into their addiction.

Self-sabotaging their own confidence and their recovery. If they start to feel that their recovery is not going well, they may give up entirely. “If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all”. Ironically enough, this only leads them further down the road of self-destruction.

That being said, however, perfectionists are far from doomed in recovery. There are several things they can do to tame their inner perfectionist and excel in recovery.

Recovery tips for Perfectionist Addicts

1. Celebrate each accomplishment, big or small
Perfectionists view themselves either as a success or a failure – there is nothing in between. In order to succeed in recovery, one must learn a ‘good enough’ attitude. Recovery will never be perfect. There will be massive cravings, there will be bouts of depression, and there may even be a relapse at some point. Maintaining a positive attitude about small milestones such as days or weeks of sobriety, and celebrating one’s own courage and strength to push forward, is important on the long journey of recovery.

2. Increase self-confidence
While it is important to celebrate successes, recovery isn’t just about that. Learning to love one’s self for all the reasons that other people can see is very important. Spending time with loved ones, volunteering or giving back to others in the community, and making time for enjoyable hobbies and activities are great ways to boost self-confidence and feel pride about something completely unrelated to recovery. Only then, will a perfectionist begin to see that life is not always strictly about achieving goals.

3. Listen and learn from others
Support from friends and loved ones is always an important part of recovery. With a perfectionist, however, a large part of recovery will include watching and learning from those around them. Watching how others bounce back when things don’t turn out perfectly, or how others allow themselves a bit of buffer space when achieving goals. Seeing  that to others, a small set back is just that – a small setback, not a disastrous event. Also, talking openly to loved ones about the situation, and allowing them to be upfront when they see the addict being irrational is an important step. Often, others are able to see the patterns quicker than the perfectionist them self.

4. Talk to a professional
Unfortunately, most societies endorse achievement-obsessed thinking. And while being a perfectionist will often lead to success in a career, it rarely leads to happiness. A balance needs to be in place – achieve goals, but allow some room to live and do things that are leisurely and ‘just for fun’ too. Not everything is a competition. For many, it is helpful to speak to a professional beyond an addictions counsellor – someone who also has extensive experience working specifically with perfectionists.

5. Be open to new ideas
It will definitely be difficult at first, but it’s important for the perfectionist to begin changing the way they deal with situations. They shoud start out by being flexible when plans change, allowing those close to them to make mistakes without saying anything to them, letting go of the smaller trip-ups, delays or small errors at work. They will surely find that life goes on, and quite pleasantly most likely. Not trying to perfect and control everything will release a lot of the stress and anxiety, in turn, aiding recovery.

The most important thing about recovery for any addict is to focus on themselves. They must get an understanding of the issues behind their addiction, not be afraid to ask for help or make mistakes, and take recovery one day at a time.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, please contact a professional for help. The quicker it is treated, the higher the chances for a successful recovery.

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