Do you remember your first meeting? Do you remember how you felt mentally, emotionally, and physically? Did you walk into that meeting and wonder why most everyone seemed reasonably happy and content? Did you wonder how long it would be before you could put a smile on your face and mean it? I think most of us remember our first meeting. I know I do. I remember thinking that no one there knew how I felt because no one there looked like me (predominantly men) and they must not have had anything too bad happen to them because they all seemed rather jovial. I'm not sure what anyone expects when they walk into a 12 Step meeting for the first time but I don't know anyone at all who walked in and said, "This is exactly like I thought it would be!"
Granted, there are many years of sobriety in meetings and if everyone sat around with sad faces, no one would ever stick around long enough to even want sobriety. There are a number of reasons why we begin to smile in recovery. The Twelve Steps alone give us twelve good reasons and the Promises give us even more. Rule #62 is another. “Don’t take yourself so damn seriously.”
This statement, for those of you who may not know, is from “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” (Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc). It is part of Tradition Four which tells us that each group is autonomous and has the right to be wrong. If that doesn’t make sense to you, read that Tradition in the 12 & 12 on pages 146-149. The traditions, we have learned, were made for the group as the steps were made for the individual. But the reality is, there is a part of every tradition that each of us can take personally.
One of the reasons I wanted you to think about your first meeting was a reminder as to how it was a most serious decision and venture. It was. The steps are serious, as are finding a sponsor, and going to meetings. I remember working the steps with such seriousness because of my need to do each of them perfectly. Anything less would not work for me. This is the same seriousness that keeps us from growing in many ways and keeps us from true humility. The point of not taking yourself so damn seriously is that we are human. We make mistakes and if we are too intense about our sobriety, we will probably find out way back into our addiction.
I tell one of my sponsees quite often that he thinks too much. He has had a difficult time with sobriety but part of his problem is that he wants to analyze things. If someone slights him in any way, he tries to figure out why. He is supercritical of himself and does not allow himself to enjoy sobriety because he is so worried about it. I continually tell him that sobriety does not have to be so difficult. This is why we also have slogans like “easy does it”, “keep it simple” along with not taking ourselves so damn seriously!
Recovery does have a very serious side because it is the result of a disease. There is nothing humorous or joyful about that. But the way we recover from addiction is not to beat ourselves up and prostrate ourselves before anyone, even our Higher Power. Recovery is life. Life should be relatively happy and peaceful. Taking things too seriously is to live in fear. Fear that we can’t do what we need to do to stay sober (perfection).
Who are the people in sobriety that you admire? The people who have what you want? I would bet that you want someone balanced. Someone who shares his experiences, strengths, and hopes from the heart and you feel the words deep within. You like this person for his honesty and candor. He is serious about his sobriety. He is serious about your sobriety. But the other side of this person is that he can laugh at mistakes he has made. He can take a down situation and bring out the best in it. He sees that glass as half full. This is the kind of person in recovery I admire and the kind of person I would like to become.
If you are new to recovery, please don’t take this Rule #62 to mean that we don’t work hard in our recovery. We cry but we also laugh. People who are not addicts in any way would probably think we were uncaring, heartless oafs at the things we laugh about but there is something about our senses of humor that they cannot understand and never will. It is where we came from and where we are today. We are all trudging this road to happy destiny. If we can lighten up and stop taking ourselves so seriously, we may find that we might not always be “trudging”. We might be skipping a little!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of “The Intervention Book: Stories and Solutions from Addicts, Professionals, and Families” (Conari Press)