Having a Bad Day Is Normal: Perfectionism Can Be Toxic

Mar 5, 2022

Society pushes an idea of perfection and a need to have it all “together.” The reality of our daily lives is a constant yearning to be perfect and completely “together.” We want control over our lives and our impulses, and we want recovery to be perfect. 

Some persons in recovery state that when they gave their addiction over to their Higher Power, they experienced immediate healing. Such is not the case for everyone. We must all strive for recovery and accept one truth: bad days will happen. Having a bad day is okay.

Working the Steps of Recovery

Recovery comes in many forms, but working a 12-Step program can be the most helpful. The steps outline various methods to accept the self and a willingness to turn over our imperfections to a Higher Power. 

The sixth step, according to The Big Book, is as follows:

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

This step is a component of accepting our lack of perfection. We admit, in no uncertain terms, our imperfections because perfectionism is toxic.

How Is Perfectionism Toxic?

Striving for perfection removes us from seeking recovery. Recovery is not perfect, and we cannot expect every day to go smoothly. Instead, learning to be content with steady improvement even on bad days is the key to a successful recovery. We must keep trying, especially on those days when coping is difficult.

One critical component of a successful recovery is to stop speaking in absolutes. Recovery requires us to take life one day at a time. We must not say, “I will never abuse alcohol and/or other substances again.” Instead, focus on the moment and find a way not to use alcohol and/or other substances “just for today.”

Three Strategies to Cope With a Bad Day

Bad days are standard because recovery is messy and does not occur in a straight line. Recovery requires a constant reset of our minds toward our goals for a better life.

#1. Examining the Day

Our days consist of little moments that we sometimes believe to be the ruination of our day. So, we must examine what made our day “bad.” Are we catastrophizing or recognizing reality? 

When struggling with urges to use because we are facing a day where coping seems more difficult than usual, it is important to sit and analyze our day. Ask the following questions:

  • What has happened today?
  • Did I sleep okay?
  • How is my mood? 
  • Did I eat right?
  • Am I overwhelmed?
  • Do I need to say “no” or ask for help?

Answers to these questions may help identify the source of frustration and make us better able to cope.

#2. Challenge and Reframe

When we face a troublesome day where coping seems complicated and we are thinking in absolutes, we can try to challenge our thoughts. Challenging our thoughts takes practice and might involve some affirmations (statements affirming our abilities and positive beliefs about ourselves). 

  • Break down the thoughts.
  • Identify capabilities.
  • Examine truths versus lies.
  • Remember accomplishments.
  • Remember the importance of living in the moment and how each moment can bring new opportunities.

Examining and challenging our thoughts is one way to improve our day and challenge an attitude of perfectionism.

#3. Practicing Gratitude

Being grateful for small things can get us through a frustrating day. The simple act of making our bed can be an act of gratitude and set us up for a better day. Something so small and insignificant might have a tremendous impact on our feelings of accomplishment. 

Gratitude is an attitude of being thankful for our experiences and circumstances. We can consider our experiences as having brought us to our current circumstances. We may be having a bad day, but this day will teach us a new method of coping or reinforce an old way of coping. It is vital to remember our capacity for managing our urges and growth. 

Being grateful is another means of challenging our thoughts. While we may be having a bad day, we are alive and have people in our life who care about us and our recovery. 

Recovery Is Not Perfect

Recovery rarely occurs in a straight line. Bad days will happen and make recovery seem impossible. Relapse does not have to happen. Practicing coping methods and challenging absolutes present in our thoughts can help us cope with our current experiences. 

You are not alone. People care about you and want to see you recover. Expecting perfection can be hazardous to your mental health and your recovery. Perfectionism often causes flawed thinking patterns and can lead to despair. Recognizing the importance of asking for help and your inability to recover on your own will help you get beyond your bad days. 

There is no perfect recovery; bad days are a normal part of life, but coping with those days is possible. Perfectionism is toxic to everyone, making life, as well as dealing with substance use disorder and/or other mental health conditions more difficult. At Renaissance Ranch, we know perfectionism gets in the way of true healing. We recognize man’s inability to attain perfection, and through our 12-Step programs, we can help you develop strategies to cope with your flaws as you recover. You are not alone, and being imperfect does not have to stop you from pursuing recovery. We know you are capable and worthy of recovery. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer a clinically driven and gospel-centered approach to healing, using a 12-Step model. We support you through every step of the recovery process. You do not have to struggle alone. Call us at Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898 and learn how we can help.