How Humor Helps in Recovery
When I first began my recovery, I couldn’t find the humor in anything. It was a time of recognizing all the losses I have suffered. I was no longer self-medicating to forget about them; I had to face them head on. Losses like the end of personal relationships and friendships, jobs and opportunities haunted me.
The first time I really laughed happened when my sponsor accompanied me to a Christmas party at my work. I knew there was going to be alcohol there, and I wanted support. One of my co-workers offered my sponsor a drink and without missing a beat she said, “No thanks. Alcohol doesn’t mix well with my psych meds.” It was the first time I really laughed in a very long time.
After that party, I did some research and I learned that having a sense of humor during a difficult situation is actually good for you. I learned that humor and drug abuse actually share some common traits in our brains. The high one experiences when drinking or using is due to an increase of dopamine being released in our brains. It causes the brain to process our drinking or using as a positive experience.
Likewise, when we laugh, dopamine is released in a similar way. It provides a rush of pleasure and reinforces the idea that you want to repeat the action, in this case, laughing. A study was conducted that showed that when people watch something funny, the same thing happens in the brain as when they use cocaine.
In recovery, I learned the phrase, “fake it until you make it”. The theory is during times of distress or unhappiness, you imagine you feel happiness. After awhile, you will develop the experience and tools to actually be happy.
Most of us learn during childhood how to self-soothe and endure uncomfortable situations and emotions. Most addicts, however, never developed those skills, so we turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the pain.
Experts view laughter, however, as a drug-free option that has a useful place in therapy and recovery. Humor can lighten the mood amidst all the hard work one must do during the recovery process. In a group setting, humor encourages social interaction.
A joyful experience can become a calming influence as well. Research has shown:
- When people laugh, their brain functions are very similar to that of a true state of meditation.
- Something called Laughter Yoga has been created by Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, and it has a positive experience on addicts.
- Laughter also has a positive influence on addicts by lowering the level of stress hormones in the body.
Break the Isolation
While we live in a society that isolates and divides people, laughter is about relationships. Laughing together builds cooperation and empathy between people. Better communication is the result, and this results in less confrontation in trying situations, and a change from individual competitiveness to teamwork. Laughter is also universal; everyone can join in and feel a sense of belonging.
Looking back, I can honestly say that alcohol and drugs dulled my humor. I laugh much more without being under the influence. While using, my brain was operating in slow motion, and I struggled to understand a joke, and I struggled even more when trying to tell one.
However, the longer I am in recovery, the more I experience laugh-until-you-cry episodes. My wit is in recovery, too, and the more humor I experience, my mind continues becoming sharper and quicker.
The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs or those of your loved one who needs help, call (844) 494-4939.