Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Recovery, Humor, and God

I belong to an anonymous fellowship of people trying to help each other get better. We do this several ways. We have meetings, we have a set of spiritual steps and principals, and we spend time together. For me, one of greatest attractions of the program is the fact that we can laugh at ourselves. For this blog post I have included some of my cartoons.

One of the ways that we poke fun at ourselves is with cool nicknames like "Wild Bill", "Thank God Johnny", and "Midnight Mary". Our meeting home groups often have whimsical names as well. Here are some listed in 'The 12 Step Gazette' a recovery magazine based out of Philadelphia: "Hair of the Dog", "Sobriety Bowl","Nope To Dope", and "Mixed Nuts." Our humor is a delightful way to describe our insanity. This is vital because we can't address our problem without acknowledging it first.

For many of us admitting that we had a problem was the hardest step in getting sober, thus the popular refrain, "Denial is not a river in Egypt." We have lots of funny denial stories.
Here's an anecdote from a member of our fellowship. " After they pumped my stomach they put me on the short bus to the mental hospital. They took away my shoelaces and put me in a locked ward. The psychiatrist there told me I should go to AA. I looked at him like he was crazy. What!? Are you kidding me? I'm not that bad!"

And here's one of my personal favorites: "I'm not homeless—I'm camping!"

Outsiders may think we are making light of our transgressions, but the opposite is true. Our stories remind us that we really used to think that way, and now we don't anymore!

Another aspect of recovery that generates laughter between the tears is relationships, or as some of us like to say "Relationslips." As we work the program it slowly dawns on us that it really wasn't all his(her) fault after all. ( I believe Jimmy Buffet sang about that!) While in active addiction we were just too immature and self-centered to bring anything to the table.

While it isn't written anywhere in the literature, many recovering alcoholics and addicts advise against getting into a serious relationship during the first year. We learn to work on our relationship with ourselves and our higher power.

Humor helps many of us who have been deeply depressed, even suicidal. The rooms of recovery afford us a safe place to share openly. One fellow told this tale of his well-planned demise. "I was too chicken to shoot myself so I decided to go to the beach and just keep swimming towards Mexico. It was a beautiful evening and as the sun was sinking low on the horizon I was thinking about how it was the last time I'd see it...and I got in the water and started swimming. I swam and swam...And as I was swimming I learned something very important about myself..." We were all on the edge of our seats waiting to hear about his divine revelation. "I learned," he finished, "that I was a good swimmer!"

Some fun quotes:
“You know you’re an alcoholic when you misplace things … like a decade.”  — Paul Williams
“The worst gift I was given is when I got out of rehab that Christmas; a bottle of wine. It was delicious.” ― Craig Ferguson

While the shared humor bonds us, there are still some things we don't joke about. We don't make light of our need to make amends for how we have hurt others. We don't share amusing anecdotes outside of the rooms if they would upset our loved ones, and we take seriously the harms  that we have caused them. Our humor is always at our own expense.

The most important thing we don't joke about is our need for a higher power. Twelve step programs do not require a belief in God. Atheists and agnostics are welcome, and if they follow our step by step directions they can be every bit as successful as religious folks. Some of them refer to their higher power as G. O. D. or Group Of Drunks.

But that wasn't enough for me. I had established intimate relationships with my friends in recovery, and I craved the same type of relationship with God. That relationship had begun with laughter. I realized that humor was one of God's greatest gifts to me.

Proverbs 12:22: "A joyful heart is good medicine..."

I need a God with human humor! For me, that is Jesus Christ. In Matthew 7 and Luke 6 Jesus talks about the absurdity of pointing out a spec in someone else's eye when you have a plank in yours. In Mark 10 he talks about how it would be easier for a  camel to pass through the eye of a  needle than it would be for a rich, prideful person to get into heaven. In Matthew 23:24 Jesus  pokes fun at the pharisees by saying they "strain out a gnat but swallow a camel". Now that's a God who hangs out with folks and uses levity and exaggeration just like the rest of us.

I respect the right of everyone in recovery to find "a God of their understanding", but perhaps you are questioning your higher power. I ask you to consider the Jewish carpenter. He'll sit beside you at meetings, anonymously of course.