Laughter Touches the Soul
After an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last night, a new woman was close to tears as she talked to another woman about how tragic the current condition of her life seemed to be. She was clear that everything negative she was experiencing was a direct result of her drinking. She had attended a few meetings and was convinced she was alcoholic. She seemed to think this admission was like a death sentence and she would never be able to enjoy life again. I interrupted and asked her to stop and just listen. Several small groups of people were standing around the room engaged in many different conversations but the one noise that was universal, the one that could be heard above everything else was the laughter.
There’s something magical that takes place when alcoholics come together and laugh. I know laughter is healing for everyone but, with alcoholics, it’s magical and that is different.
As drinkers, alcoholics have roared through the lives of other people as though they weren’t there. Alcoholics demand more from life than is possible, they have made promises after promises, after promises and have broken them all. As the disease gets worse many put themselves and possibly their families in harm’s way. Alcoholics seldom cared about who would get hurt or what the consequences might be. Alcoholics want the next drink and feel as though they should always get what they want. Selfish and self centered is the common thread among alcoholics and yet the alcoholic insists no one is being hurt by his choices and behaviors. Sober and in recovery, telling his story, the alcoholic reports it as if her never believed the rules applied to him.
More than one alcoholic talks about having their driver’s license revoked and driving anyway almost as if they are saying, “you really don’t need that little piece of paper to operate a car”. Those listening to the story laugh because their own stories are riddled with “the rules don’t apply to me” stories. “I am only driving to work, I just need to take the kids to school. I am going to visit my parents”. The alcoholic makes excuses that seem reasonable if he had been told to “cut down” on his driving. But to stop driving altogether? The alcoholic will rationalize and justify as adamantly as he will when entering Alcoholics Anonymous and hearing we don’t drink alcohol, period.
At the airport, “the white zone is for loading and unloading only. No parking.” The alcoholic parks his car to meet his wife at baggage claim. Returning to the car, he begins arguing with the sheriff when he finds the sheriff ticketing his car. “I wasn’t parked,” the alcoholic insists “I was getting my wife’s luggage so we could load.” The alcoholic always feels as though he should have a different version of the rule. Once again his wife is mortified by his behavior. One more time he has embarrassed her.
It’s stories like these that we bring with us when we finally surrender our right to drink alcohol and go to Alcoholics Anonymous. We bring stories of shame, guilt, incomprehensible demoralization, broken promises, criminal activity, fears, frustrations and infidelities. Initially, these are our secrets. No one will hear these stories. We are in fear of being judged, ridiculed, maybe even asked to leave. We each entered AA with self centered, ego driven belief systems. These systems begin to shift to healthier perspectives through the laughter of identification. The alcoholic is not laughing at the mess he made, he is laughing because he is not the only one who made a mess and if there are others who have began to change, maybe he can too.
Alcoholism is a physical disease, a mental compulsion and a spiritual malady. The solution is spiritual. That is, there is no medicine an alcoholic can take to solve his problems, there is no mental health clinic that can resolve the “curious mental twists” alcoholics experience but there is a power deep within every alcoholic that can convert the spiritual malady in to spiritual power.
Initially the alcoholic simply sits in AA meetings in the middle of a solution they are not aware surrounds them. Selfish and self centered are the roots of alcoholism and the new person is simply thinking about themselves. Concerned with the circumstances of his life, the new person isn’t hearing much of anything that is being said but the spiritual solution is making its way to the root of the problem with no assistance from the alcoholic. This happens much like oxygen reaches the lungs of a person on life support.
Then one evening the new person is sitting in a meeting and the speaker begins talking about playing baseball as a kid and, since he was far from being a good athlete, the couch had him playing right field where he figured the least damage could be done. But the young man, years before he ever took a drink of alcohol, started day dreaming on the field and began looking for those white, wild flowers that often grow in patches of lawn, the ones where you make a wish and blow the flower off. Suddenly he was shocked back to the game as he heard his couch hollering at him to get back to right field. He had wandered in to center field. He told the story and, along with most of the people in the room, our new alcoholic laughed. In some manner, perhaps completely different circumstances, he had his own “right field” story. He identified and his spiritual healing became a reality.
For alcoholics laughter is an identification; I am not alone, I am not the only one. And the laughter, the identification, comes from deep inside. It’s the awareness of the spiritual power greater than any single alcoholic. The identification, the laughter, the spiritual power will continue to work in the alcoholic’s life as he engage the 12 step process. This process is essential if the alcoholic is to maintain a comfortable sobriety.
“If sobriety wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t stay” is a misunderstood remark. The truth is, if I wasn’t able to laugh, I couldn’t stay because without identification, I am still alone.
It might be important here to talk for a minute to the non alcoholic, the person who has been affected by another person’s drinking. You may be thinking the alcoholic laughing at incidents that were incredibly painful for you is akin to retraumatizing. The alcoholic will ask your indulgence. It might seem to be a painfully slow process but trust that it is a process and slow isn’t always bad. (I like to think of the tortoise and the hare). Members of Alcoholics Anonymous are not in a race. Every member has surrendered to a life time process. As long as members are moving forward, recovery is happening. If your loved one isn’t drinking or using other drugs, recovery has an opportunity to happen. Attend open speaker meetings. Sit in the middle of a spiritual solution. You may find yourself beginning to laugh as well. Alcoholics Anonymous believes it’s way of life may have advantages for all.
Recently I was driving about 75 miles an hour on the 57 freeway when the light from the Highway Patrol car came on behind me. I pulled over and when the officer asked if I knew why he stopped me I said. “no”. He told me I was speeding and went back to his car, presumably to write a ticket.
I had a lengthy conversation in my head, “I shouldn’t get a ticket, I was going the same speed as everyone else on the freeway that morning. In fact, there were cars passing me by. Why are you stopping me? It’s because of my age, isn’t it? The highway patrol targets older women. This isn’t fair. I am fighting this in court. It’s not fair.” but the speed limit is 65 and I was exceeding that. The rules apply to me regardless of what you are doing. I said, “yes sir” and signed the ticket when the officer returned to my car. The rules do apply to me. I am sure we will laugh when I tell my friends this story after the meeting tonight.
Email your questions or topic suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous.