Lighten Up: Look At Recovery With a Dash of Humor

Posted on November 1st, 2012

woman laughingIf you’re among the millions of Americans who have already completed treatment for substance abuse and are now in the early stages of recovery, you may also be familiar with the kind of anxiousness and downright fear that often accompanies the first few months of sobriety.

Such feelings may take the form of dread at what lies ahead or they may assert themselves at the most inconvenient moments. It isn’t uncommon to believe that you have it down to a T, knowing what you’re supposed to do in certain situations that formerly precipitated a crisis or an automatic turning to the nearest available bottle of liquor, only to find yourself filled with misgivings, doubt and an almost certainty that you’re not going to be able to cope.

After a few weeks of attempting to navigate these new and uncharted waters, you may settle into a routine that, while it does keep you on the straight and narrow, also feels pretty boring and, shall we say it, dull.

Now is an excellent time to lighten up. Let’s take a look at recovery with a dash of humor and see where that gets us.

Who’s Your Favorite Comedian

Ask yourself who your favorite comedian is. Who is it that never ceases to make you laugh? Is it someone who portrays slapstick humor? Is it a famous or up-and-coming stand-up comic? Is it someone with a dry sense of humor, one that makes you think about the statement before you finally get it and burst into laughter when you do?

As a refresher, here is a list of some of the different forms of comedy:

  • Slapstick – Initially popular in silent movies where exaggerated physical movement and facial expressions were the only means of eliciting laughter, slapstick comedy today involves actors doing silly things such as tripping, embarrassing themselves, or falling over to make the audience laugh.
  • Parody or Spoof – This type of movie is a send-up of another movie, person, or situation and is designed to make people laugh.
  • Romantic comedy – Also called “rom-com,” romantic comedies include a love story about a couple who fall in love, along with bits and pieces of funny parts.
  • Screwball comedy – This is a mix of slapstick and romantic comedy.
  • Dramedy – As the name implies, this is a mix of drama and comedy.

In addition, there hybrid comedy genres (a combination of two different genres), including action comedy, comedy horror, sci-fi comedy, fantasy comedy, and military comedy, among others.

Everyone has a certain leaning toward one type of humor or another. The funny thing is, though, that when we’re in recovery from addiction, nothing seems very amusing. If we do find ourselves laughing, it may be out of a feeling of nervousness or anxiety, kind of the jitters expressing itself in unwarranted laughter. This may even happen at the most inappropriate moments, like laughing at a funeral or when a situation clearly doesn’t call for humor.

It may take us some time to dredge up what makes us laugh. After all, how long has it been since we had a good laugh? If we find it tough to think of an instance where we laughed until our sides ached, don’t worry. There are plenty of opportunities to discover our funny bone in the here and now.

Better yet, now that we are clean and sober, we have even more reason to feel joyous. That may not seem funny, but it should be enough to make us smile. And when we smile, it’s not that much of a stretch to carry it through into something that resembles or sounds like a laugh.

So, back to who your favorite comedian is. If you do recall one, see how you can view or hear the comedy again. If you have cable, you can access the Comedy Channel. There you’ll find any number of programs with various comedians, possibly even your favorite. Beyond that, there are new ones to try out. What’s to lose?

There are also live appearances at local comedy clubs, DVDs with your favorite comedian, even television shows that, while they may have a laugh track, often provide for an enjoyable half hour or so of entertainment value.

Not Comics, But Books On Humor

What about going to the library or scouring the bookstore, either in person or online, for books on humor? It may be best to physically go to a location where you can pick up the book and leaf through it to see if the contents are funny to you. That way you won’t be disappointed by buying it with only a brief review or excerpt you can see in online book shopping through sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Of course, if you do have an author that you like, you can always order new titles by that individual online. Still, it’s a good idea to read the reviews of the work and take a peek at some of the inside pages (Amazon and other sites allow you to do that) before you buy.

Don’t forget Kindle and Nook eBooks. You can download your chosen book or books right to your Kindle or Nook eReader or, with Amazon’s Kindle, right to your PC. The best thing about the eBooks is that you can take them with you on trips, without having to cart extra pounds in your luggage.

Know Someone Who’s Funny?

While we may think of recovery as a deeply serious process, the reality is that it can and should be much more than this. Granted, being in recovery is a pretty profound undertaking and it’s certainly nothing that anyone in their right mind would take for granted. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun and laugh in recovery. In fact, developing our sense of humor is highly recommended in recovery.

With this as a preamble, take a minute to think about the individuals you know that you find personally funny. There’s something about their demeanor or the things that they say, their cheery attitude and the way they always seem to make others around them smile. If you know such a person, spend some time with him or her. Maybe some of what makes that person so likeable, so sociable, so outwardly positive will rub off. At the very least, your time spent with that person will be more entertaining than being by yourself.

Getting a Fresh Perspective

Now that you’ve got a few suggestions on where to find humor (checking out a favorite comedian, borrowing or purchasing a few books on humor or by your favorite comedy author, spending time with someone you find funny and entertaining), it’s time to turn to how you can learn how to lighten up your own attitude about and in recovery.

What if you believe you lack a funny bone in your body? No, there probably isn’t a real funny bone. It’s not like a femur or jawbone or vertebrae in your spine that you can point to on an X-ray. But anyone who’s ever enjoyed a good belly laugh will tell you there is merit to the concept of a funny bone.

Here’s why. If something can make you laugh, it has to spring from somewhere inside you. The laughter, your sense of humor, comes from the way you look at things, at life, at what’s happening around you and even to you. Basically, it’s a perspective that you have that allows you to see the humor in things, whether or not they’re downright hilarious.

Let’s take an example. Do you know of any videotapes or photographs someone took of you while you were making a display of yourself during the depths of your addiction? Maybe you have these in your possession, part of the family treasure trove of photos. While some people would want to burn these as evidence of a past they’d much rather forget, a more positive way to look at it is to view your former antics with a dash of humor.

It may be tough to put yourself back into the picture in your mind, so to speak, to figure out just what in the world was going through your head at the time you stood on top of the table and belted out a song or did a dance or whatever. More than likely, it’s the recollection of others about what you did and said that will be your only clue.

This isn’t meant to embarrass you, but to show that you’ve come a long way since then. Rather than acting like a buffoon, you can look back at that person and smile – because you know now that you see life differently. Life today is so precious and sweet. You are grateful that you’ve been able to overcome your addiction and live to greet each new day clearheaded and sharp.

Looking on the Bright Side of Things

When you adopt a more positive attitude, it helps in your overall recovery for a number of reasons. First, you are more likely to feel motivated to take on tough problems, to tackle difficult assignments or tasks, and to embrace challenges as opportunities.

Second, you are better able to see the other side of every situation, to recognize that light is the polar opposite of dark and when things look their most bleak, there’s an upside to the equation that may be right around the corner.

Third, when you learn how to look on the bright side of things, you are able to extend that positive outlook beyond the current situation, to view possibilities with an eye toward doing something to make them realities. Rather than being blocked with negativity, when you see hopeful outcomes instead of disasters, you are helping generate more enthusiasm for what you want to take on.

Fourth, when you portray this new and optimistic attitude, one that’s filled with hope and appreciation of life, you help to inspire others to do likewise. Think about it. Everyone wants to be around someone who’s upbeat and optimistic. Nobody wants to be around a cranky sourpuss.

Fifth, while we will all encounter our share of disappointments and unrealized goals, if we approach life as an ever-unfolding tableau of opportunities, we will always have a wellspring of motivation to keep us going.

Learn to Diffuse a Situation with Humor

There will be time in recovery when things will get a little tense. No matter whom we are or how long we have been in recovery, tense situations happen in every relationship, from the most intimate to the most casual. One way to diffuse a situation that could easily escalate is with humor.

This does take some practice, but here’s a brief example. Let’s say you find yourself getting all worked up over something that you or someone close to you did or said. Instead of lashing out, look at yourself in the mirror. See your angry facial expression? Now, deliberately make a funny face at yourself. The quick morphing from anger to funny may be so absurd it causes you and the other person to laugh. This is what you want. Now, whatever it was that got you upset in the first place, you may be able to deal with it on a more rational and level-headed basis.

Another example is when others are arguing and you are in their presence, possibly even a part of the conversation. If you can, make a joke out of the situation. Find the humor in it. If you can laugh, and it’s perceived as laughing at the situation and not the people, it may very well diffuse the moment. It’s hard to remain angry if others are laughing. Again, be careful with this. You never want others to think you are making fun of them. If you know a good joke, tell it. The funnier the joke is the better. “Hey, did you hear the one about the…” Your companions will stop and think about what you said. The opportunity to move the situation from negative to positive is by then already in process.

Step Back and Look at the Big Picture

We all know that life is short. In the overall scheme of things, the petty disturbances you encounter today won’t matter at all in a fairly short period of time. Sure, the minor aggravation you have over traffic that ties you up or annoyance over a loud cell phone talker next to you in line at Starbucks may seem to tick you off at the moment, but it won’t linger long. Even if you encounter a disagreeable person during a meeting or have to deal with a rude individual during a phone conversation for work (or when dealing with customer service for any number of reasons), you can learn to regard this as but a minor blip in time.

Suppose you go through a bad week when everything seems to go wrong. Maybe you can’t pay your bills or worry that you’ll get a bad grade or you weren’t your best during a big presentation at work. In a month, six months, or a year, how important do you think this will be? Will you even remember it? More importantly, does it really matter?

Similarly, with those who are closest to us, such as a partner or spouse, if dinner was late, you forgot something you were supposed to pick up, or you can’t agree over what to watch on TV, will this really make a difference somewhere down the line – like tomorrow or next week? Of course it won’t.

When little things tend to get on your nerves, it’s best to step back and look at the big picture. You can consciously ask yourself, “Will this really matter in a week (month, year, or whatever)?” Stop taking yourself and everything around you so seriously. Learn to laugh at the little things and the big things will be easier to manage.

Bottom line: Now that you’re in recovery, make your life as positive and uplifting as you can. Lighten up. Learn to look at recovery with a dash of humor. You’ll be much more amenable to the opportunities that come your way if you begin to approach life with a smile on your face and a lift in your heart.

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