Strictly speaking, stress “drives” no one to drink—the actual decision is the drinker’s alone. Practically speaking, there’s no question that chronically stressed people are the highest-risk group for becoming addicted and stress management is essential to recovery. If they don’t start using to escape the stress itself, they may become addicted to medications prescribed for stress-induced physical pain.
And the highest-risk group for chronic stress comprises the Type A people, the compulsive achievers, the perfectionists.
Perfectionists Are Long on Determination, But Short on Resilience
Most perfectionists are hard workers and, to all appearances, top achievers. More of them than not, however, keep their achievements carefully confined to familiar ground. They give all their energy to getting their regular duties just right. And while they may “succeed” in the sense of gaining high position and income, they rarely break new ground because they fear error. Their stress management skills are low and their stress level is high.
Do you know what Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Colonel Sanders, Oprah Winfrey, and J. K. Rowling have in common? They all racked up impressive lists of failures and rejections along the way to spectacular success. Few serious perfectionists achieve the latter, because they give top priority to avoiding the former.
Perfectionists Are Obsessed with “Finishing”
Perfectionists rarely get into full “flow” in their work; they’re too busy watching the clock and mentally reviewing how much they have left to do (on this task and on the rest of the to-do list). A fear of “I’m a failure unless I get everything done on schedule” haunts them. And because fear of being late is combined with fear of failure, they spend so much time reviewing and tweaking the results that much of it becomes wasted time.
While the completion-obsessed usually do make their deadlines, they have more than their share of last-minute finishes; the results lose quality for being done with divided attention; and the perfectionist finishes exhausted and still wondering if it was “good enough.” If perfectionism can be dropped, stress management is attainable.
Perfectionists Are Impossible to Satisfy
Nothing their families, their employees, the corner coffee shop, the economy, or the traffic does is ever good enough. They complain about the sole weed in a hundred acres of grounds, the one red light in thirty miles of city road. And God help the perfectionist’s child who scores “only” 99 percent on the hardest test of the year. Anything less than 100 percent might as well be zero.
Perfectionists Are Consistently Hard on Themselves
If perfectionists are intolerant of others’ small mistakes, they treat themselves no better. While they may make as many blame-shifting excuses as the average person, deep down they feel personally responsible for adjusting the world so things go exactly right. And they’re blaming themselves long before things actually go wrong.
After turning in a project, perfectionists spend hours ruminating about what else they “should have” done. If the results receive unqualified praise, they hear it with half an ear because they’re still thinking about what they “could have” done. And if anyone says anything remotely negative, they berate themselves for “getting it all wrong.”
Perfectionists Hate to Accept Help
It’s a matter of pride to complete everything just right independently. They don’t know the meaning of “delegate.” If they do ask someone else to do a job, they’ll check every five minutes to make sure they did the job perfectly. Major stress management is necessary to not turn to chemicals for relief.
Since treatment for substance abuse invariably involves human support and usually Higher Power support, perfectionists are the hardest of addicts to convince that they not only have a problem, but can’t solve it by their own willpower.
Stress Management with Kemah Palms
Fortunately, there are ways to subdue perfectionism—if you’re brave enough to take the try-and-try-again route into new habits. When you find recovery at Kemah Palms, our substance abuse programs provide quality therapies through a holistic approach to recovery that include: