Day 778: You Do Not Have to be Good

In the years before I quit drinking I tried to create the perfect
Life. I ate according to rules. I exercised. I volunteered. And I drank and drank and drank even though I wanted to quit.

One of the biggest changes this time was that in the first few months of sobriety I let go of my rules of life. I ate sugar again. I found gentle yoga. I took time off work to cry when I was just too freaked out to face people. I gave in to self care and stopped trying to be so good it hurt.

So, please, read this. And forget the diets, quitting smoking, sugar and or pop cleanses. At least for the first 5 years. Lol



Do you know the poem? It’s by Mary Oliver, who is one of those rare contemporary poets popular with both the literati and more casual readers. If you’re not sure, click the link above and read it, and then come back. I’ll be here.

<makes sandwich, puts clothes in dryer>

Oh hey, that was fast! Nice to see you again. So, it’s a beautiful poem, right? But for the newly sober, I sometimes imagine a version that’s…edited. Edited to one line:

You do not have to be good.

I’ve been thinking about this as I read the blogs of very newly sober people. Some of you are so ambitious! You’re getting sober and quitting smoking, or getting sober and quitting sugar, or getting sober and dieting. And it worries me. I get worried because I know the getting-sober part is hard enough on its own, without piling another task…

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18 thoughts on “Day 778: You Do Not Have to be Good

  1. Hi Ains, thanks for this post. I have tried to replace the booze with loads of exercise and yoga and for the first time ever- some support and help from a counsellor. So far so good but only early days really Im into week two. I keep tripping up and falling but I dont want to fall again – last time was absolutely terrifying what I did. Your post gave me hope take care love xx

  2. The poem is so beautiful Anne and your point makes do much sense. So many people that I’ve ‘met’ out here in the blog world are the opposite if the stereotypical selfish drunk that so many would picture. In fact it seems that for many trying so hard to be good, to support and please, and look after is what drives us to drink in the first place. To block out the fear that we’re not good enough. Catholicism in my early years is something that I will never shake off but it could just be in done people’s make up-the belief that you have to be good all the time.
    Thank you for sharing that lovely poem and post x

  3. Thanks for sharing the poem 🙂 I agree we need to just take time to adapt to being sober, and just be nice to ourselves…the rest can come later. xx

  4. Lovely poem, I think I’ll go out on the porch and spend an hour or two contemplating it today.
    I think in early sobriety we have a sense of trying to catch up, trying to fill all those hours that we had always spent drinking. It is important, we need to do this, because the old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s playgroud” is way too apt, and that devil is booze.
    But later, after the devil has moved on and found someone else to be-devil, then we can take a deep breath and not work so hard.

  5. I agree. I’ve read the posts: yours and off-dry. And gasped. It was about me. It makes sense now. I wonder why I never thought about it. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I think most people are “good” without even trying. Most people will not screw you over, throw you under the bus, or let the door slam in your face when you’re carrying an armload of boxes.

    This is why society runs so smoothly most of the time, and why we’re so shocked when those nasty things DO happen.

    Maybe the folks trying to be GOOD! GOOD! GOOD! are trying to set themselves apart with all their extra goodness compared to the average joe. Striving for perfectionism (fear of failure) instead of achievement (joy of success).

  7. Oh, I LOVE this poem!
    I never read it before.
    And this has been a hard week, as I have had a hard time with my depression.

    1. Depression is a bitch. Im So sorry it still has you. One of my fears is that my deep severe depression returns. I don’t think I will ever stop my anti depressant. I am not sure I could handle it.

      Sending you love and light


  8. I am one of those people who try to do too many things at the same time. I’m trying to concentrate on one thing at a time at the moment but it’s tough.

  9. I think that that must be the best blog on early recovery I have ever read. Totally identify with tri g to give everything up and turn myself into this different person. This time I had the mad thought about going vegan, drinking only water and giving up sugar as well as staying sober….madness.

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