Let’s face it…anyone who walks into the rooms of recovery has dealt with some pretty heavy stuff. There is an extreme level of seriousness when it comes to addiction and recovery. In any given share, you can hear talk of overdose, suicide, losing custody of your children, depression, financial ruins and homelessness—and that’s just what fits inside the allotted 60-seconds. Talk to someone who picks up a white new-comer chip and their outlook on life is usually pretty grim. The good news is that you are also sitting in a room full of people just like you who have been exactly where you are and seem to be well-adjusted to the ways of life sans booze. In any given share you can also hear talk of people overcoming the darkest of times, finding hope in even the most hopeless of situations.
When I was first getting sober, I didn’t find much to laugh about; certainly not myself. On particularly rough days, the sound of people laughing in the rooms could send me over the edge. I would fantasize about taking their face and squishing it until the laughter stopped. When people would laugh at something I shared about while in the depths of my despair, I would question their humanity and fantasize about slapping them, too. Okay, so I may have been dealing with some anger issues as well.
But as time went on and I started realizing that not drinking wasn’t going to kill me, I began to loosen up. I began to understand that they weren’t laughing at me or my situation, they were laughing because they “got it.” They had been there and were now on the other side of that insanity. They were laughing at themselves having been in the same situation or having the same thoughts. And sometimes I think we laugh to keep from crying.
That’s one thing you learn quickly in the rooms of recovery: you share the same brain. It’s freakishly weird sometimes hearing an 80-year-old man talking and the words coming from his mouth could just as easily be coming from your own. Another thing you quickly learn in the rooms is “don’t take yourself too damn seriously.” Also known as “Rule #62.”
Under tradition four in the AA 12 & 12, it says that the ability to laugh at yourself is the very “acme of humility.” Ah, yes, humility….I had to Google the definition of humility when I kept hearing this word tossed around at meetings when I was early in sobriety. I didn’t know the meaning either literally or figuratively, but people who talked about “practicing humility” seemed like pretty cool and down-to-earth people. I wanted to be like them. I’m not sure when it happened in my sobriety, but today I don’t think I am less than or better than anyone. And over time I found the ability to and complete joy in being able to laugh at myself and not take myself too damn seriously. And so now I am one of those people who talks about the importance of practicing humility.
I sometimes can get so entrenched with applying a step or spiritual principle to every single thing I come up against in my day that I start taking myself too damn seriously and need to chill the hell out. Sometimes I need to live and let live, let go let God or embrace the slogans “easy does it” and “this too shall pass.” I don’t always need to check my motives when it comes to every little thing I do throughout my day. Sometimes the self-awareness I have developed from my program of recovery can actually hinder my serenity. Of course, this is only when I am taking myself too damn seriously…when I am placing an unhealthy importance on myself and when I think I have all the answers and the weight of the world is on my shoulders.
My brain is sick and it’s that of an alcoholic so I have to be careful with anything I get too wrapped up in. I’ve been sober for 1,464 days and there hasn’t been a day that passes that I haven’t been wrong about something. But guess what? I’m still sober. And the days that I can be wrong and laugh at myself are usually the happiest. These are the days that let me know I am doing something right; that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy. They remind me that the weight of the world has in fact not been placed on my shoulders and I am not expected to have all the answers. And most importantly, these days prove just how strong I am—that I can face tragedy and heartbreak and uncertainty and I don’t have to drink…or even want to drink.
As much as I hated hearing people joke and laugh when I was green in sobriety, I think that deep down it’s what kept me coming back. Today, it’s one of my favorite parts about walking into a meeting. And when I am bogging my mind down with motive checking, spiritual principles and inventories, I have to remind myself to also remember Rule 62: chill the fuck out. Everything is going to be okay even if I mess up. Just keep coming back.