A horse walks into a bar and the bartender asks, “Why the long face?”
There is no shortage of alcohol-fueled humor in the world. The foibles and misfortunes of drunken characters provide endless material for TV, movies, and best sellers. Hell, I used tell people that Jack Daniels was the only man that never let me down.
But something mysterious happens when booze gets removed from the equation. Mention sobriety in a crowded room and you can suddenly hear a pin drop. Merriam Webster’s Dictionary provides the following two definitions of sobriety:
- The state of not being drunk
- The quality of being serious
By definition, sober people are rendered humorless! Yet, just as I found the portrayal of hilarious television drunks with mysteriously minimal hangovers to be a gross misrepresentation, I’ve also found that sobriety can be hilarious. And as a person who lives on laughter, I was quite relieved by this discovery.
I worked the online sobriety circuit pretty heavily when I first gave up alcohol, and quickly found entire forums dedicated to humor in recovery. There is a common misconception that a life without alcohol simply isn’t fun. In fact, this very fear was among my top justifications for remaining blissfully buzzed for far too long.
Humor not only serves to lighten the mood around a quite serious subject, but also proves a useful survival skill when navigating the labyrinth of early recovery. Simple questions like, “Can I get you a drink?” can lead to intense anxiety for the newly sober. For several months I couldn’t bear to drop the addiction bomb in the midst of a social gathering. I was still protective of my decision not to drink, and felt resentful that any explanation was necessary.
At some point, though, it occurred to me that humor could nip these awkward situations in the bud. I began experimenting with responses to the drink offers:
- “Alcohol totally doesn’t mix well with my crazy pills.”
- “No thanks. I met my quota in my teens.”
- “I’m allergic and will totally break out in handcuffs if I drink.”
- “Wish I could, but I used to be a raging lush and I’m test-driving sanity this week.”
In hindsight, I can say that alcohol actually dulled my humor. With my brain operating in slo-mo, I struggled to process jokes and struggled even harder to tell them. I continue to sense that my wit is in recovery as well. There’s a sharpening, a quickening inside of me that’s leading to more of those priceless laugh-until-you-cry moments.
Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), sobriety coach, former alcohol enthusiast, and writer living in Florida.