Now that I have your attention, are you secure enough to answer? Do you measure up? By comparison, are you happy with the size of your humor muscle? For some recovery people, the answer is easy; “Absolutely!” For others, the confusion surrounding this question can be frustrating. “What humor muscle?! Where is it? How do I know how big it is? Why do YOU want to know how big mine is?!”
From birth, you were given a muscle for laughter, with tendons that connect to joy, self esteem, love, trust, faith and success. How fit you are depends upon your strength, balance, flexibility and conditioning for humor. Do you take things in stride or do you constantly use your sense of humor to deflect or disconnect? For some substance abusers, by the time we get to the point where we are willing to do ANYTHING to get better, our humor muscle has atrophied to the point where using it would cause damage to ourselves and other people. Addiction seems to be an angry tumor on the muscle of laughter when we hit rock bottom. Our joy and healthy sense of self are being eaten away by the disease that tells us to take everything personally, as an attack, threat, or punishment. It is not difficult to understand then that one of the first steps of recovery or treatment for an alcoholic, addict, codependent, abused child, overeater, undereater, gambler, smoker, hooker, whatever!…is to learn to laugh at ourselves. We are a very funny bunch when we start to do some recovery light-lifting exercises. Try this one:
Do you remember laughing at any point this past week? Before, during or after the meeting? When you were at work? How about while you were in detox? What about the time you were abused, neglected, injured, beaten, rejected? You see, the farther back into the disease you travel, the harder it is to find any joy because it is being replaced by chemicals. Hint: Don’t forget that anger and fear are chemical. They start in your brain. In order to truly flex your sense of humor, you have to be willing to take it slow. S…L…O…ok, you get it. That’s why people who have “time” in the fellowship always seem to be capable of great joy, balance and calm. They worked and waited, waited and worked, and waited some more. Steeling themselves against injury by gaining strength in their ability to laugh. Conversely, people who don’t laugh, smile or learn to find levity in life don’t ever seem to get “time”. I’m not judgin’, I’m just sayin’.
One of the things that recovering people are blessed with is an abundance of intelligence. We are big thinkers. So use that gift! Light lift #2: Try to write down two things that are funny about the “over and over expecting different results” part of addiction. Try two. I know we can’t do one of anything, but we can do two, right? One is too many, a thousand never enough and two is just right. Funny? Ok, you are on your way to becoming a toned, svelte, big-humored heavy lifter. Sometimes size does matter.
The best part about being big is that in times of crisis, stress or danger, we can carry someone else…for a short time, until they can get time. Note: I always thought that would be a funny t-shirt to see at a twelve step convention: “Got Time?”
So, after looking at the connection between your humor muscle and length of recovery, between slowing down and learning to laugh, between joy and self esteem, how can you spend even one minute of today worrying, in anger or depression? Because that’s what the disease does!! That’s ALL it does!! It pulls you down. It is tireless, tenacious and ever present. That’s why we were given the gift of laughter. It is a counter measure for the seduction of moving back toward relapse. The natural downward progression of our disease is constant. Therefore, our workout routine and humor exercises must remain consistent. We laugh, pray, share, help, play every day. Because every day the disease is strengthening itself in our anatomy. So the question is: Are you going to BECOME fit, or continue to throw one? I always say that we are not stupid, we are forgetful. The key to being consistent is today’s action. Just for today. Repetition leads to stronger memory. Doing is learning. Remembering is conditioning. Conditioning leads to fitness.
Now, if only I could remember that when it is MY turn to lift a burden…or two. It is easier for me to write about happy and healthy that it is to put it into practice in times of difficulty, fatigue, loss or depression. Trust me, I am really good at talking the walk. Not always so agile when it comes to the reverse. Some days it requires all my strength to take the next healthy, humorous step. To not take life personally. We are very much alike, you and I. So please remind me if you see me out there about what I wrote this month. It’s ok to pose the question: “Hey! How big is yours?!” I may even respond; “Not sure, but I think it just got bigger thank you.”
Light lift #3: When you looked at the title of this column, what was your first thought? Wrong.