Apr 01: Progress not Perfection

Progress not Perfection

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles.
We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Greetings GROW family, once again, my name is Julie and I am an alcoholic. I am grateful to be this week’s chairperson, a small, tangible way to say thank you to all of you for helping me stay sober.

So, that being said, the topic I have chosen is the familiar phrase, ‘Progress, Not Perfection’. And here is how I came up with it…. All week I have been trying to think of the absolute perfect topic, should it be step four oriented? Step oriented? Spirituality? Big book focus? Should I just wait til the last minute and see what happens? What would be perfect? And on Friday morning I realized that I was falling into my ever so familiar trap (or defect) of being paralyzed by perfectionism and doing nothing. I am not even going to touch the not-so-spiritual motive behind my perfectionism. I was instantly reminded of a quote (Voltaire, I believe) “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”. I knew if I prayed, and asked for guidance, the topic would come, and it did. That phrase that reminds me that AA does not ask (or require ) me to be perfect, just to try. To try to be a tiny bit better, to take baby steps of progress, in all of my affairs. And that I can do.

I am constantly amazed at the divine words our Big Book offers us. How it Works outlines exactly that, how this life of recovery works. There are no secret chapters or strategies. There are these simple (not easy) steps offered up, or suggested. Even after going through the steps and being sober for a few years, when I think of incorporating ALL of the steps and actions into ALL of my affairs, I get a feeling of ‘there is no way I can do that’. But our brilliant AA pioneers tell us that we just aim for progress in these things, and that I can do. So I feel safe enough to try. We celebrate each other’s progress in meetings, sponsor- sponsee relationships and other ways.

I am learning to be satisfied with progress, instead of beating myself up for not being perfect. When I stop and think of the difference between the woman I am today compared to the woman I was before I quit drinking, there are gigantic differences, differences that can only be explained by the miracle of sobriety. But, unlike the TV shows I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched, those changes were not instant. They happened gradually, in almost imperceivable steps of progress. Things like being a tiny bit more tolerant of others, having a few moments of thinking less about me, realizing that I may not know everything that everyone else should be doing, that what I am doing is not working, so maybe try something new. All the things that help me keep moving away from a drink instead of rushing towards one.

Progress is doable for me. Good is doable for me. So I am willing to follow suggestions offered up by loving people, who follow the same suggestions. Today I know that I am ‘perfectly imperfect’ or ‘perfect with room for improvement’. Over time, like everything else AA offers me, I have the gift of being able to apply this tool of Progress Not Perfection to all aspects of my life, work, relationships, and health. What a gift. Once again I got the better deal.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Progress, Not Perfection.
Thank you for helping me stay sober.
Julie A