7 Cliché—but Surprisingly Wise—Lessons I Learned in AA.

7. Progress, not perfection.

This is about acknowledging where we’ve been and where we are now. When I first got sober, I thought that as long as I didn’t drink, everything in my life would get better. And it really did get so much better. I was clearheaded, got to work on time, started working out, went to a sangha, and meditated. And yet, I was still in debt, made bad choices with guys, and lost my best girlfriend due to living circumstances. I even had a couple other friends tell me they liked me better when I drank.

I had to be constantly reminded to celebrate the small wins at moving toward a better life for myself. I let the fear of imperfection stop me so many times. I hated the idea of being a beginner. I thought if I couldn’t ride that fixed-gear bike, meditate, do yoga, or write easily, it was better to quit before I could fail.

I did my step work, taught myself how to ride the bicycle, got meaningful tattoos, ended relationships that were not right for me, started looking at my finances—and I did all of it imperfectly and awkwardly. And that’s okay.

I love that I can now have a meditation practice, yoga practice, and writing practice. The key word for me is practice. I give myself the freedom to have “beginner’s mind” and practice things that are new or hard for me. When I focus on perfection, it takes me out of the here and now.

I’m trying to be flexible instead of rigid. I enjoy and see value in the process as well as the outcome. I do my best, and really that’s all I can ask of myself.

These corny (or maybe not so corny) mottos from silver-haired old-timers have saved my ass now for many years. When I step into a church basement and see the crooked gold frames on the walls of an AA meeting, I’m comforted.

May these distilled bits of wisdom be of benefit to all who seek their meanings, whether in recovery or not.

But don’t take my word for it—investigate for yourself.

~

AUTHOR: KIM NALEPINSKI

IMAGE: JULIE JOHNSON/UNSPLASH

EDITOR: KELSEY MICHAL

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