In Rosemary O’Connor’s chapter called “Joy and Laughter”, she talks about the lack of those things while in the midst of the disease, and how she found them again in recovery. Rosemary talks about a number of instances that reminded her of the power of laughter and joy in everyday life.
One of the places that laughter exists but seemed out of place in early recovery was in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I, too, have vivid memories of my first few meetings in recovery. My pre-conceived notion was that I would be walking into a room full of middle-aged men, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and looking surly and serious. I expected to go into a church basement so filled with smoke it would be difficult to see the other people in the room.
As I approached the church, I noticed that there were about a dozen people standing outside smoking. Men and women, mostly quite young. They were smoking outside before the meeting because the church did not allow smoking inside. I walked down the stairs into a brightly lit room filled with men and women of all ages and all backgrounds. People in suits. People in jeans. Two guys wearing sleeveless leather vests over black tee shirts. One guy had a cowboy hat. But no one was serious or surly. Everyone was congregating in small groups, drinking coffee or bottled water and eating cookies….and laughing.
They were all talking and laughing out loud. I was sure I had walked into the wrong room, until I saw the literature table and wall hangings of the Twelve Steps and Traditions. I was in the right room, but I had no idea who these people were. When the meeting settled, a man in a suit came to the front of the room to share his story of what life was like before recovery, what happened to bring him to recovery and what life is like now.
His drunkalog included stories that made me cringe and yet the others in the room we laughing hysterically at his escapades. Over time, I also learned to laugh at these stories, along with my own. It allows us to know that we are not alone…that our stories are not unique. We learn to relax and start to find laughter and even joy in other parts of our lives.
One of Rosemary’s suggestions to find joy is to look at the world through a child’s eyes. Children find joy in simple and everyday activities. We can also find joy in the simple things in life. We are all consumed with the internet these days, especially Facebook. The joyful things we see are little videos of puppies, kittens and babies doing “cute” things. We laugh hysterically at birds dancing to music and people having skateboard slips.
But there are other things we can do to find joy. Rosemary suggested that she unplugged for two days and took a trip with no plans. I have done this. Joyful is an understatement.
I decided to take a drive to a nearby lake area to stay for a few days. I drove with my windows down, cds cranked up and sang at the top of my lungs. People looked at me and I didn’t give a damn. It was exhilarating. I took no computer. I took a phone that I left in my car and checked it twice a day for emergency calls from my kids.
I took books….not school books or even recovery books…murder mystery novels by Faye Kellerman and Janet Evanovich. I spent as much time as I could sitting in a lawn chair on the sandy beach near the cottage where I stayed. I did not cook. I didn’t even make my own coffee. I slept. I ate out in cafes. And I sat on the beach, reading mystery novels.
I watched the waves crash against the shore. I watched children playing Marco Polo in the water. I saw fishermen sitting quietly in still boats. It was a great joyful time.
I try to find joy in much of what I do these days.
I Skype with my kids in Israel. When my granddaughter hears the Skype “music ring” she gets excited and runs to the computer. Before I can see her, I can hear her singing, “It’s Bobie! It’s Bobie! (That is her name for me). Hearing my two year old granddaughter singing about seeing me makes my heart burst with joy and laughter.
As a Mom, Rosemary suggested sharing funny stories with your kids. I have done that with my kids since they were very little. Now, they will say things like, “Mommy, tell us the story again about….” That might be the story of the time that a three year old me told a streetcar full of people to be careful because Khrushchev said he was going to bury us. Or it might be the time my daughter called to me from her car seat in second row of seats in our minivan, wanting to know if my “back eyes” were open (I once told her that I had eyes in the back of my head under my hair).
We have a library of such stories. Stories my parents told about me. Stories I have told about them. And we are creating new stories with the grandchildren. Pure joy and laughter…the best medicine.