I was suicidal when I arrived at my first Al‑Anon meeting. My all-or-nothing thinking had me boxed into only one answer for the pain I was experiencing. I saw no other way out. As I’ve said many times since then, I didn’t really want to die, but I was desperate for the pain to end.
Slowly, as I moved forward into the Al‑Anon program by attending meetings, I encountered many slogans that I found helpful. But “Progress Not Perfection” was like a life vest that helped me keep afloat until I could learn to keep my own head above the emotional waters in which I was drowning. For the first time that I could remember, I had an alternative to the constant guilt and self-recrimination I felt for not being perfect, for making mistakes.
With growth in my program, I came to realize that most of the pressure I was under was self-inflicted. The people who had taught me the goal of perfection were dead. I was the one still listening to those old tapes and imposing unrealistic standards on myself. In Al‑Anon, I learned that I could change myself, but it would take courage.
Now I have a different perspective. I accept that I am human (most of the time), which means being intrinsically imperfect. As our literature says, the best I can achieve is to be perfectly human, or, in other words, perfectly imperfect.
I’ve also learned from our literature that some days I may not make any progress at all—or any that I can see, that is. I’ve learned that even if I don’t seem to be making progress, I can at least try to be facing in the right direction. That is enough!
By Gail H., Iowa
The Forum, February 2023
Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.
Yes to not wanting to die but not knowing any other way to end a pain that I couldn’t bear any more. Yes to Progress, Not Perfection. And yes to facing in the right direction. Thank you for writing this. I could very much relate. ❤