We Are Not A Glum Lot


And what of the mirth?  Has anyone seen the mirth?
The simpler days of a cocktail and mirth making.  Oh, the mirth!

We’ve been there – the after work gathering, with it’s impromptu patio patter, unwinding after a rough day, laughing at each other, gossiping, tossing barbs at those not present, back patting, flirting, telling bad jokes, all the while hoisting, sipping and slurping adult beverages of every colour and shape.  Oh the civility, the pomp, the ritual, the oh-so-adultness of it all.  We felt that somehow we had arrived.  We let ethanol’s acetaldehyde give us the warm and fuzzies as we progress into more jocularity and perhaps delve into sequestered, deep metaphysical discussions in the corner.  For most non-alcoholics, it usually doesn’t go much further than this.  They pack up their handbags and purses, their backpacks and suitcases and motor on home.  For alcoholics of my type, that doesn’t cut it.  We of course need to go blotting out our own existence and drinking into oblivion and getting into a drunken stupor that eliminates us from being in our own skin.  Most often we do that on our own and alone, once everyone has gone home and continuing to live normal lives.

Now, for us alcoholics, it wasn’t always like that.  There was a time when alcohol worked.  There was a time when we could take it or leave it.  I know there was a time when I could shut it down after a few drnks.  I would not get wrapped up and hogtied to booze and its effects.  I could have those after work / celebratory / preprandial / leisurely drinks and then move on with my life.  I could have those hearty laughs, that feeling of connection, that sense of well being.  Of course it was an illusion, a false front, a side effect of the poison I was putting into my body.  Not to say that having a few drinks doesn’t loosen people up and give them a sense of fun.  It certainly does, and it did for me, for a time.  But at some point, I don’t know when, I just crossed a line and I can never go back to those days.  Ever.

temperance
I am home and tempered, dear. Shall I gather nettles for sup?

Now, there is this sense that we recovering / recovered alcoholics are a dour set.  That once we remove the “fun juice” from our lives, that we are relegated to live a life of stone cold dullness, of spinster-like dowdiness, of liver-healing boredom .  Our once vivid and visceral  Bacchanalian lifestyle has been replaced by one of Victorian rigidity and temperance.  We feel that we are the stone in the Shoe of Fun.  We begin to believe that we will never ever feel a part of anything ever again, that no one will ask us to come play after school or invite us to the sock-hop ever again.  We feel that we no longer have what it takes to face those few folks from the office at quitting time, let alone the world as a whole.  It feels that we have been ripped away from the one thing that has kept us connected to the ground, to others and to the Universe.

And we have been, for the most part.

I wasn’t a huge bar guy in the last few years of my drinking.  I didn’t socialize much.  I didn’t do the drinks after work thing.  I drank alone.  Secretively.  So for this alcoholic, I never had a problem with the idea of not having fun at a party or gathering, because frankly, I stopped having fun a very long time ago.  Even when I was drinking, I never had fun.  I was too wrapped up in my self to enjoy the company of others.  I didn’t enjoy the company of me, so how I could I extend that to others?

I realize that for many of us, social gatherings are a problem once we sober up.  Certainly I had to avoid social gatherings for a short time, as I just needed to be away from anyplace that had alcohol.  But for many alcoholics, one of the biggest first challenges is the get-together.  Alcohol is almost always available, and indulged in, when a group gathers in the name of “fun”.  So we fuss and worry and struggle with how we are going to feel, and more importantly, how we feel we are going to be seen as.  The boring alkie.  The grey lizard propped against the wall.  The soda-sucking sober gal.  The teetotaling tosser in the corner.

This is pride talking. And is, of course, hogwash.

SCROOGE
Who invited the  Cola Curmudgeon?

Just because we sober up, doesn’t mean that we’ve shut the door on connecting and laughing and being with others in a playful and light way.  We don’t turn into stone figures.  We may feel like that for a while, and certainly during very early recovery it feels like things will never turn around, but we start to plug into life in a whole different way. And one way of plugging in for me was going to meetings.

One of the great things about meetings is the camaraderie, the joy, the laughter that emanates from the rooms.  For those who haven’t had the experience of being in a room of drunks, it’s quite amazing.  We laugh when we hear about someone’s arrest record, we giggle when we hear about the attempts at hiding bottles and street fights, we snort and chuckle when someone talks about the hospitalizations or the  bankruptcies.  To a non-alcoholic observer, they would be horrified to hear this, and worse, to see everyone else making light of it all.  We find humour in it because we’ve been there.  It’s like someone telling a weight loss group about their attempts at the grapefruit diet, the Atkinson diet, the Zone, etc.  You would hear guffaws and belly laughs because most people can identify – they have been there before and are really laughing at themselves.

Rule #62 – Don’t take yourself so seriously.

“We are not a glum lot”, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states.  We don’t get sober and recover to not enjoy life.  Life is for living.

544337_357832644333340_421137324_n

And that’s really what it comes down to it – we don’t take ourselves so seriously.  When we lose the booze, we are struggling with something that is life threatening, we are trying to find ourselves in the world again, we are transforming ourselves, we are trying to stop the bleeding and picking up the pieces of our lives.  Not exactly fun stuff.  But as we start to  find the ground beneath our feet, clenching the soil between our toes, and find that yes, we are going to be ok, we start to see the sunlight more.  We navigate from the darkness and melancholy and forlornness and start to focus on the things that bring us joy. Family, friends, hobbies, work, play, etc.  We start to smile again.  We start to realize that the worst is behind us and we have life to start living again.

For me, it took me time to do this.  If you’re only three days sober, still shaking, still vibrating, still ill, still reeling mentally and emotionally, then the sight of seeing other alcoholics joking and joshing might seem foreign, like you just landed on another planet.  I was that guy.  I couldn’t understand what was so funny about things at the meetings.  This was serious, folks…what’s with the laughter?  Keep it down.  I’m in pain.  But soon after, I found myself in there, smiling quietly when someone described their detox, or how they felt after a bender.  I could identify. I truly had arrived.

I have fun now.  I joke around.  I smile a lot more.  I can go to a party and not worry about what people have in their hands as they walk around and talk.  I feel more alive inside when I laugh and make others laugh.  I can see that my past isn’t something to harvest for doom and gloom, but to be used to help others, and to occasionally remind myself of where I have come from.  My past is something I share when another alcoholic in pain needs to identify with me and vice-versa.  It’s the prep work that the Creator needed me to have to do the work that He requires me to do here.

I take my recovery seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously.

And that is something to smile about.

Yes, you're gonna make it after all.
Yes, you’re gonna make it after all.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. lifecorked says:

    Great post! Ironically, this was the topic at the meeting I went to last night. Of course, most of us were dying laughing at some of the things we did in the name of “fun” when we were drinking. For instance, one guy shared how impressed he was with the selection of food and how much effort went into the cooking at the first sober BBQ he went to because in his drinking days him and his friends could hardly manage getting the BBQ lit, let alone getting the burgers/dogs on and served in a timely fashion. Of course, we all laughed because we knew exactly what he was talking about! I think it’s good for the newcomers to hear and see the laughter. Like you, I was terrified I was never EVER going to have fun again when I got sober. Now, I have tons of fun – and remember it all in the morning!

    1. Oh man, I can relate to the BBQ thing. Amazing how the smallest things become great challenges when the booze flows. I think what you said about the newcomer hearing the laughter is a great thing. Someone mentioned that in the noon meeting I was at today – about how she thought it was strange to see everyone hugging, kissing, etc. Great point, Chenoa!

      Blessings,
      Paul

  2. This is great, thank you Paul. Identified so much with your description of the after work drinks in the first part, but it only every *started out* that way, it always ended in me hating myself and feeling more separate and alone than ever.

    I *love* the jocularity at AA meetings, and how everyone teases each other but is genuinely pleased to see eachother every time. I don’t really feel like I can join in the bantering yet as I still find it so hard to share, I don’t want to seem like I am making light of other’s stories while they don’t know mine. But seeing people who can laugh about their past is so inspiring and makes me want to work for what they have! Thanks for a great post x

    1. Don’t worry – it took me time before I decided to join in those reindeer games. I don’t think anyone would take offense if you were involved in listening to their story and laughing at the moments you felt some sort of connection there…same as they wouldn’t take offense if you teared up. We all have such similar stories – just the circumstances are different. They don’t have to know your story for you to identify with them. That’s the beauty of it all.

      You’ll be in the banter before you know it 🙂

      Paul

  3. I can totally relate to this. I remember as I was checking into rehab, several patients were walking by me on their way to lunch. They were smiling and laughing! I thought to myself that this was a crazy place and I would never be happy. I was wrong! As the toxins poured out of my body and I became comfortable around other people in recovery, I began to feel joy again!

    I laughed and smiled and even had fun! Fun in rehab and fun being sober. You are also right about not having fun while drinking. I hadn’t had fun in a long time. I found myself without alcohol and having fun – what I thought was an oxymoron. Its true – we are not a glum lot. At least we don’t have to be!

    1. You’re right – we don’t have to a glum lot if we choose not to. There is also the added dimension of working the program or not (if you’re in AA – I am talking strictly AA). Some don’t work the program and are still struggling with untreated alcoholism, and can be a glum lot indeed. Not all, but many. I have met dozens, and I certainly don’t want what they have! But what you said about rehab – I had the same experience. Some of these guys joking around in the living room, or while having a smoke…what was with that? This is a serious place, no? The first few days are, but then you start to feel better and start to connect right away and then I feel uplifted. First belly laugh came in treatment. And they continue today.

      Thanks for the groovy comments 🙂

      Paul

  4. whinelessinwashington says:

    What a great post call, and I love the Mary Tyler Moore shot at the end!! Idon’t think I ever realized how much our lives do focus around alcohol. I grew up in a large Catholic Irish community with a time of events focusing around drinking. Where I work is exactly the same. But, like you, most of my drinking was done. Alone, in secret. I would be fine in social situations, for was a night when I slowly wanted to disappear that was my true problems. Although since getting sober, and in my increasingly successful attempts, (!)I do find it sometimes odd not to be drinking in social situations… But what Ive realized, is that nobody cares!! Only people with a problem care! Since life is soooooo much better on this side, why wouldnt we be laughing and fun!? This IS life— in all it’s moods… And fun is one of them!! Love this post, thank you, as always!!

    1. Good ol MTM…ha ha. Yay – another secret drinker. I like the idea of slowly wanting to disappear. That sums it up, doesn’t it? Disappearing in a true and utter way is what I sought. Oblivion. And yes, most people really don’t care that we don’t drink or why. I am actually surprised by how many people I know or run into who really don’t drink. Or have one and that’s it. Perhaps it’s an age thing, or a having kids thing. Who knows.

      Fun as a mood – sign me up!

      Thanks for being here 🙂

      Paul

  5. I was blessed to have walked into what I’ve often heard referred to as “the best meeting in South Texas” on that fateful day that I gave up the fight. Five years my home group, I now know why Freedom is often seen that way. Not only do we have crazy laughter and excellent, long term sobriety, but we like to party and we teach the newbies how to do it! At just about every major (or minor) holiday, some birthdays and just randomly, someone in our group will throw a big bash at their house and invite the whole crowd, newbies & all. Parties have always been stressful for me, even when I was active. These shindigs are a great opportunity for us to practice getting used to the party scene without having to drink.

    They say weddings are typically the worst for us; those dreadful, joyous occasions when even teetotalers will sip champagne. It was so funny to see all the non-alcoholics as the uncomfortable ones at my wedding, sans alcohol, while all our friends in recovery were practiced in the art of sober gatherings and had a great time. I’m so grateful to be an alcoholic. I’ve known phenomenal highs & lows and today I live so much more vibrantly than, not just active drunks, but also so many normies I know. 🙂

    1. I too am grateful to be an alcoholic – a recovered one. I love what you said about those “practiced in the art of sober gatherings”. That seems to be one of the big stresses of those early in recovery. I know it was for me, even though I wasn’t a guy on the scene. It was just watching what alcohol did to others, and that was the hard part.

      But I like the celebrations at meetings. Some don’t care for it, but why wouldn’t you? There is always cause for celebration at a meeting. Some meetings here have a full pot luck when it’s someone’s birthday. Funny how I seem to “stumble” upon those days…ha ha. I think that we learn to truly have fun in a deeper way, as we don’t have the artificial sweetener to life in our hands. And artificial it is. I was always in awe of those who had a great time just sipping Coke or Sprite. How did they do that?? But now I can do it. A muscle to flex, no doubt.

      Great comments!

      Vibrantly yours,
      Paul

  6. Really enjoyed this post. I’ve done a bit of sober socialising and it’s all been fine so far. One thing that bugs me is other people’s reactions to me not drinking. You’d think I’d grown an extra head. It’s so annoying!

    1. I wouldn’t pay too much mind to the comments about the not drinking. They die away soon after. I guess it depends on what you’re telling them, how much they are drinking, the situation, etc. I find that most people really don’t care. I mean, really, really don’t care what’s in anyone else’s glasses. The people that really make a big deal out of it are usually those who abuse alcohol or are big drinkers themselves. Sober people sometimes disturb others because it brings to light their own drinking issues. So it’s never about us – it’s about them. And knowing that allows me to not worry about what others say or how they react.

      Glad you’re here!

      Paul

  7. You really do tell it as it is Paul! I love your comment about taking recovery seriously but not taking yourself seriously. It really sums it up for me, but it did take me a long time to realise that I could be sober and still have fun. I know that in rehab it was something that was talked about a lot – how are we going to manage to have a social life without having a drink?
    One thing I know for sure is that being an alcoholic is no fun at all, but being sober puts you in touch with your sense of humour and life can be great fun.

    1. “You really do tell it as it is Paul!” – is that a good thing or bad thing? ha ha.

      Wonderful comments, Carolyn. You are absolutely right about being in touch with our sense of humour once we sober up and learn to live life without the hooch. It’s amazing to see that we have always had that playful, humourous selves in us, but it was drowned out by misery and depression. I never thought I would have a good laugh again,without alcohol in my system. But I have laughed more and had more fun sober than I ever did when drinking.

      Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

      Paul

  8. Paul, I’d like to tell you that I fancy myself as a vocabulary aficionado, in fact, it annoys my husband to no end (which makes me use even bigger words). However, I had to open a new tab and look up not one, but two different words in this post, so my first thanks is for expanding my vocabulary! I cannot wait to use the word “prepandial!” But to the more important point, your message is so dead on. When I first came into the rooms, my life in tatters, and heard people cracking wise about their antics, I was borderline offended, and I certainly did not trust their sincerity. As time went on, I grew comforted by the good times had by all, and hoped I could one day join in on the festivities. Fast forward to a few days ago, with the story I shared. I walked into that meeting a crying mess, and those people had me laughing, at myself and at their antics, by the end of that meeting. There is such magic in the Fellowship, I truly wish it for everyone in the world!

    1. Thanks, J. I am a word nerd too, so I sometimes slip into that mode. I often have to check online to make sure I am using the word properly, so you’re not alone in having those tabs open! As for your comments, I completely agree about magic in the Fellowship. The reason is that in the fellowship, we are at our truest selves, for the most part. We aren’t hiding anything (again, for the most part!), and so the laughter that comes at a meeting is natural. I went to a nooner yesterday (first meeting in almost two weeks – I was starting to get squirrely!) and the chairperson got to the part where he said “and is there anyone out of town who would like to identify themselves so that we may welcome them?” and one the member’s tiny lap dog barked (he saw another dog come in the door – this meeting is dog friendly) right at that moment. I thought it pretty funny. Lots of chuckles at that meeting, and I thought “wow, this is pretty cool how we do this”. So we do join in the festivities and we start to grown in the fellowship as well, coming from the back seats and slowly making our way down into the middle.

      What a cool deal.

      Thanks for the kind words and the wonderful comments, as usual 🙂

      Paul

  9. SAM says:

    I have found this to be 100% true. When I first went to AA, I WAS horrified by the stories people told. Car accidents, jail time, lost years, lost marriages, lost children, lost health, comas, seizures, brain damage, suicide attemps… and people would just laugh.

    We all have our stories and I think we laugh because we came out better, on the other side and are pretty darn happy about it. The further I step away from the person I used to be and toward the better sober person I’m becoming, it’s like looking at someone else’s life.

    Laughter truly is the best medicine for this process. Makes light of the dark.

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