BY: B.M. April 1984
THE FIRST time I heard laughter coming from an AA room, I had the thought (and thoughts were not easy to come by at that stage of my sobriety) “What are these people laughing at? What’s so funny?” Nothing had been funny in my life for a while, and now–now that I had to give up drinking forever (not knowing about “one day at a time” yet)–the idea of ever laughing again seemed impossible.
With that dismal attitude, I attended my first couple of meetings. Even though laughter was heard at each meeting, my problems were not to be laughed at. I had no job; if I had money, I would laugh, I thought. I had no friends, and my family would not talk to me; if I had love, I would laugh. Happiness, I thought, was no longer a part of my life.
Obviously, I was missing something. I remembered times in my early drinking when fun and laughter came easily. There were even times when I laughed because I couldn’t remember things that had happened the night before. But when I awoke in hospitals hooked up to machines and tubes, somehow the fun of the night before had disappeared. Still, denial had me so strongly in its grip that I thought there was no worse fate than to have to give up drinking. “Don’t these people at the AA meetings know this? Don’t they know they can’t drink? I guess not. They wouldn’t be laughing if they did.” Isn’t it funny? As the saying goes, it truly is darkest before the dawn.
I think it was in my second or third month that I finally smiled. I was listening to a young man in his twenties about a part of his drinking when he spent most of his days in an old, gin-soaked saloon, drinking with fellows that were quite a bit older, guys that were retired. Although he, too, was jobless, he wasn’t eligible for Social Security as were the rest of his gang. Day in and day out, he would drink in this saloon and shoot the bull with his much older friends, and he got caught up in the camaraderie. Being the people-pleaser that he was, he started recounting things that happened to him in World War II. Although he hadn’t even been born at the time, he was sure he’d been at the Polo Grounds when Bobby Thompson hit his home run, and he knew that the Nash was not the car it was supposed to be.
I laughed so hard my sides ached. I realized later that I had laughed because I identified. Then, as if a light had been turned on in a room dark for many years, I realized what I had been missing. Laughter is the medicine for my disease, and the medicine is easy to take. Meetings are fun now. I go to a lot of them, and now they’re easy to follow. Meetings mean sobriety. Sobriety means a joyous, happy life. If you’re looking for happiness, go to an AA meeting. If you go to a meeting, listen for the laughter.
The Gift of Laughter
HAVE YOU EVER thought of the tremendous significance of the fact that this is a world in which we can laugh? This world of frustration, of pain, of multiplied miseries; this world of threats? An all-compelling reason for belief in God would be this: that the world rings with laughter. On a tiny speck of dust called Earth, there lives the creature of a flickering moment, this oddity, this little thing–this less than nothing–known as man. He knows the shortness of the moment, how brief the day is and how long the night. Yet he laughs. Whatever made man. . .made laughter too. Whatever is the ultimate nature of reality, laughter came out of it, laughter laughs back at it, laughs with it, defies whatever stands against it. It can do so because–no matter what the contradictions, the want of understanding, the fears and doubts–somewhere at the heart of things, confidence dwells. . Confidence that is God. Laughter is the challenge of the living soul to whatever is not conquered, the promise of the spirit’s supremacy, courage of the world’s new morning, vanquishing forever the receding dark.
Laughter Is Our Best Medicine
Excerpts from the new AA book “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers” show both humorous and serious sides of our co-founder
Copyrighted by A. A. World Services, Inc.; reprinted with permission
ED B. REMEMBERED that Dr. Bob used to tell stories at meetings to illustrate certain points–much as parables are used in the Bible.
“He would always stress that being at the meeting was itself part of a spiritual awakening, that it didn’t necessarily have to come to you in a flash of light,”recalled Ed. “And to make the point in a humorous way, he would tell about the cop shining the light on a couple making love in the park. ‘It’s all right,’ the man said. ‘We’re married.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ the cop replied. ‘I didn’t know it was your wife.* “Neither did I until you shined the light on us,’ the man said.”
Ed had quite a collection of Dr. Bob stories.
“He told one about these ‘shotgun’ AAs–the ones who had come in to get the wife off their backs. This farmer brought a man to the doctor’s office. ‘Here, Doctor, I shot my son-in-law full of buckshot.’ The doctor said, ‘You ought to be ashamed, shooting your son-in-law.’ ‘Well, Doc, he wasn’t my son-in-law until I shot him.’
“Then you know how we talk about God never forgetting us. Dr. Bob a story for that, too. One man was telling another about all the trouble his son got into, and the second fellow said, ‘You know, Jim, if that was my son, I’d kick him out.’ The first fellow said, ‘If he was your son, I’d kick him out, too.’ That was to stress that God didn’t kick us out. We left of our own accord.
“Then about getting out of AA what you put into it. Doc told about the farmer asking this fellow if he wanted to work the harvest. ‘What are you paying?’ the man asked. ‘I’ll pay you what you’re worth,’ the farmer said. “No, thanks,’ the fellow said. ‘I’ll be damned if I’ll work for that little.'”
According to Ed, Dr. Bob would explain prayer by telling how the camels in a caravan would kneel down in the evening, and the men would unload their burdens. In the morning, they would kneel down again, and the men would put the burdens back on. “It’s the same with prayer,” Dr. Bob said. “We get on our knees to unload at night. And in the morning when we get on our knees again, God gives us just the load we are able to carry for that day.”
“I remember one story he repeated over and over,” said Ed. “It was about this boy who burned his hand. The doctor dressed it bandaged it. When he took the bandage off, the boy’s hand was healed. The little boy said, ‘You’re wonderful, Doctor. You cure everybody, don’t you?’ ‘No, I don’t,’ the doctor replied. ‘I just dress the wound. God heals it.'”
Finally: “There was the woman who called and asked, “Are you the Dr. Bob who helps alcoholics?’ When he replied that he was, she asked him to send her two bottles of that Alcoholics Anonymous for her sick husband. “Don’t you think one would be enough?’ he asked. ‘Oh no,’ she replied. ‘My husband is in the hospital. He needs two.'” . . .
Through this period [the onset of his fatal illness], Dr. Bob continued going to AA meetings at King School. Anne C. recalled hearing someone asking him at this time, “Do you have to go to all these meetings? Why don’t you stay home and conserve your strength?”
Dr. Bob considered the question for a time, then said, “The first reason is that this way is working so well. Why should I take a chance on any other way? The second reason is that I don’t want to deprive myself of the privilege of meeting, greeting, visiting with fellow alcoholics. It is a pleasure to me. And the third reason is the most important. I belong at that meeting for the sake of the new man or woman who might walk through that door. I am living proof that AA will work as long as I work AA, and I owe it to the new person to be there. I am the living example.”