When I began recovery and started to work the steps, I got bogged down at step four. What had started with enthusiasm soon became my favorite thing to avoid. I made up all kinds of excuses why I couldn’t finish that step. It started out with, “It’s too hard.” Then I began to tell myself, “I don’t have the time. That gave way to, “I don’t need to do this step.” And finally, “I have no interest in doing step four.”
Excuses were plentiful, and I found no difficulty coming up with them. I had to somehow rationalize my avoidance, my procrastination. But there was something that lurked beneath the surface: Fear.
Fear is not a bad thing, mind you. It sure comes in handy when you’re crossing the street or handling a knife. But it serves no purpose whatsoever when it prevents me from moving forward with something that is good and necessary like the 12-Step program.
So, what am I afraid of? I think (for me) it’s getting back to that ‘perfectionist’ thing.
I want everything to be perfect. But I’m afraid I’ll screw up, or that I’ll leave something out that’s really important. Most of the time I’m afraid I’ll get started, and then lose my momentum over time. And that has a great deal to do with my own lack of confidence. Let’s face it: Trying to do everything perfectly is completely intimidating. I don’t even want to try because I know I will not succeed. Of course I won’t succeed. It’s impossible; perfection simply doesn’t exist.
Is there a solution to procrastination? Well, it depends what is causing it. In my case, perfectionism – an illusion or fairytale I bought into when I was a kid – was the cause. It required that I simply be aware of this train of thought, and put a stop to it by taking action. Usually the inertia that builds up is broken with the first step. Instead of asking, “Why?” I have learned to ask “How?” When I dumb it down to something simple and doable, I can usually get started. If however I am unwilling to try step four, I review step three by renewing my commitment to my Higher Power.
There seems to be four steps to moving past procrastination in recovery:
1) Be aware of your train of thought, and your illusions about perfectionism
2) Simplify; stop intimidating yourself with what is complicated (dumb it down)
3) Ask for help by maintaining conscious contact with your Higher Power.
4) Take action by using baby steps until you have gained some momentum.
The program works if you work it; and you’re worth it!