He was in a very bad state, very dark, very bitter, very angry. When asked what was the matter, he said, “Look at me; I’ve been here for thirty-eight years, and I have not yet attained pure prayer.” And this other fellow on the pilgrimage was saying how sad he thought this was.
Another man present said, “It’s a sad story all right, but the sadness consists in the fact that after thirty-eight years in a monastery he’s still interested in pure prayer.
cited in the The Spirituality of Imperfection by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, p. 42
This story about a dissatisfied monk reminds me of how recovery is a matter of progress not perfection. I might be able to perfectly not consume alcohol or mind altering drugs. I might be able to perfectly adhere to an eating plan. But in the living that goes on in a 24 hour period, that is where I consistently fall short of anything approaching perfection. During my active alcoholism, any imperfect performance in any area was an excuse to live into my addiction with a promise to myself to start all over the next day, week, or at some point in the future. Such logic gave me the “perfect” excuse to get drunk or go on an eating binge.
In recovery I enjoy the understanding that I will never live perfectly but that I can learn from my mistakes and make progress. In recovery, I learn to live life more on life’s terms, not perfectly, but better with each passing day.