The most useless day of all is that in which we have not laughed.
—Sebastian R. N. Champort
We are told that laughter is sunshine filling a room. And where there is laughter, there also is life. They say that people who laugh a lot live longer than do the sour-faced. When we laugh together, gratitude comes more easily, companionship thrives, and all praise is sincere. Laughter brings us joy that cannot be bought. Such joy is with us throughout each day. To hoard joy, to hide it away deep within us away from others, will make us lonely misers. We cannot buy or trade for joy, but we can give or receive it as a gift.
Laughter's joy celebrates the moment we are living right now. It is a gift we must share, or it will wither and die. Shared, it grows and thrives, and always returns to us when we need it most.
What can I find to laugh about right now?
The Right Decision
When I came to Al-Anon, I carried a heavy load of depression, guilt, and sadness. I suffered from the effects of dealing with an alcoholic son for over 30 years. My life truly had become unmanageable.
It was during a therapy session on family day that I heard I should go to an Al-Anon meeting. I was in sheer desperation and could see no light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow I felt I was responsible for the alcoholism. With my sanity hanging in shreds, I broke down crying and heard the counselor say, “You are not a bad person.” How did she understand my feelings or know why I felt that way?
As a man, asking for help was not my way of dealing with problems. I thought it showed a sign of weakness, but I couldn’t wait until the next night to attend an Al-Anon meeting. In my heart I felt this counselor knew that Al-Anon members would understand my problem.
The next evening I attended my first Al-Anon meeting and was baffled by the laughter I heard before I entered the room. It had been a long time since I found anything to laugh about. When I entered the room, there was a group of ladies sitting around a table. I was the only man, so I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. Soon I realized that who I was, what I was, or where I came from did not matter. The only thing that mattered was that i was suffering from the disease of alcoholism.
At that first meeting I found people who understood, cared, and accepted me as I was. They loved me even when I did not love myself. I left that first meeting with hope and the knowledge that I was not alone in my struggle. After my first meeting, I grasped this program as if it were a life preserver because I was drowning in my own self –pity and the belief that I was a bad person because of things I had done in the past.
I attended three meetings a week and all of the Al-Anon functions in my district and area. I began to apply the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to my life, and to read Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature. I became aware of my defects of character and some of the harm I had caused by trying to control things I could not control.
I needed to change my attitude. I needed to accept only those responsibilities that were mine. It was a relief to know the alcoholic was responsible for himself. It helped to know that I must account for my own actions and not my son’s. That knowledge has helped me through some rough times. Being responsible for my own actions means I can’t blame the alcoholic, either. I know now I am responsible for my own happiness, my own peace of mind, and my own attitude.
Tolerance and patience did not come easily for me, and I needed to let go of my guilt. My son still has an active alcohol problem, but I can be happy as long as I am involved in Al-Anon, live one day at a time, and avoid managing another person’s life. I work on my faults and keep my hands off my son’s problems. I live my own life as best I can. Al-Anon calls this detachment—which means detaching from the problems but not from my son.
Coming to Al-Anion was the first big step I’d taken in the right direction in a long time. I stopped looking for help directly from God, but from the many new friends and Al-Anon members he put in the path of my journey, because he speaks to me through them.
It’s wonderful how Al-Anon has helped me to see myself as I really am, character defects and all. With Al-Anon’s help, I have learned I can do something about myself if I want to. I have made a beginning.
Harvey S., North Carolina April,2004
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA