The concept of progress verses perfection is a very important one to addiction recovery. It is a simple enough statement, but when you break it down, it carries a very profound meaning to addiction recovery, as well as goal setting in general. Perfection is unattainable because people are inherently imperfect. Sometimes it is striving for perfection that drives people to addiction in the first place because their goals are forever out of their reach. Striving for perfection will result in frustration, disappointment and discouragement. Progress, on the other hand, is attainable. Anyone looking to improve themselves is capable of doing so. The pursuit of progress is rewarding, reasonable and respectable.
Aiming for progress rather than perfection while climbing out of addiction can make a very positive difference in your recovery, particularly for those who have relapsed once or multiple times, which is a huge majority of recovering addicts. The idea is to progressively put more and more time between relapse episodes, forgiving yourself for relapsing and then jumping immediately back into your commitment to your recovery. You should still obviously strive for no relapses, but it is often the self-loathing that follows relapse that is the most destructive aspect of it. Learning to forgive yourself for relapsing is essential to your continued recovery, which is why a goal of progress rather than perfection can make all the difference.
This motto is best for people who are struggling with less severe addictions. If their addiction puts them at risk, such as an addiction to heroin, the urgency of recovering completely becomes more critical. But when the addiction is non-life threatening, a minor relapse is not call for alarm. It is far more important to be headed in the right direction than it is to be at your final destination. It is natural to desire a flawless recovery, but it is an unrealistic expectation that will put more stress on you than you need as a recently recovering addict. It is better to push yourself to take steps forward but prepare yourself for moments of weakness.