The Pursuit of Perfection by Karl Shallowhorn

written by Karl Shallowhorn

There is a car manufacturer that uses the tagline, “The pursuit of perfection,” in its ads. Now obviously, there is, nor will there ever be, a perfect car. Considering people have different needs and discretionary income to spend on said vehicle, it’s highly unlikely that there will ever be one brand that meets the needs of everyone.

This concept is analogous to recovery from behavioral health disorders, whether they be mental illness or addiction. One size doesn’t fit all. What is important is that the individual discovers what works for them.

Speaking for myself, I employ several tools to manage my mental health and recovery from addiction. A large component in my repertoire is my faith. Belief in God and Christ has been central in my life and it has gotten me through many serious dark and difficult times.

There is one example I can give that is analogous to my recovery journey. A couple of years ago I participated in a charity bike ride called the Ride for Roswell. This event raises money for cancer research and treatment and annually caps out at 8,000 riders. There are several routes for riders of all abilities. At the urging of a co-worker, I decided to take on the 102-mile “Century” ride. Mind you, I had never ridden anywhere remotely close to this far in my life and being in my mid-50’s made it a formidable task.

The months prior to the event I trained with a couple of friends who were planning to ride the same distance. We got up to 80 miles for our longest training ride.

I was apprehensive the day about the ride but I saddled up and began the arduous trek at 6 a.m. The ride extended from the University at Buffalo and went all the way north to Lake Ontario. I was doing well until about the 80-mile mark when my left upper quadriceps muscle began to cramp. I also was having difficulty with my left cleat which kept slipping out of the pedal, which was worn out.

The last 12 miles were agonizing. I kept getting cramps and was so physically tired. My legs and arms were so sore. I didn’t know if I could make it. My riding partner even asked if I wanted the rescue team to take me to the finish. I said, “No, I want to do this,” and continued to ride.

It was the last 5 miles where I seriously prayed for God to give me the strength to finish. I vividly recall the final mile to the finish. It felt like I was going one mile per hour. I have a tattoo of a cross with the Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31 on it. “For those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up on wings like eagles. They will run and not be weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I prayed that verse fervently.

I finished. Altogether, including the rest stops it took me seven hours.

I share this story because so often we feel like we have to get this thing called recovery perfectly when in all reality it comes down to keep moving forward and never giving up. There have been many times in my life when I could simply beat myself up and throw in the towel. But I know better than that. Christ is there for me, kind of like a coach, saying, “You can do this!”

I also know that there is only one who is perfect, Jesus, the manifestation of God on Earth. It is through his example that I can try to model my life after and pursue the perfection the he possesses realizing that God does not expect me to be perfect and it is through his grace that I am forgiven.

Yes some days are better than others but what I do know is that with Christ as my guide, I can continue to live my life to the fullest and be the best person I can be. 
Karl Shallowhorn is the Education Program Coordinator at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Karl is a New York State Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and also serves on the Board of Directors for the UCC Mental Health Network, the Mental Health Association in New York State, and the Mental Health Association of Erie County. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for BP magazine as well as for The Mighty. Karl is a 30-plus year member of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s-El Nuevo Camino UCC in Buffalo, NY.