When we are living in the disease of addiction, nothing seems very funny. Quite the opposite. Life sucks. Trouble is our constant companion. No one wants anything to do with people like us. We feel like crap. Look even worse. There is not a thing to laugh about.
Sitting in a recovery meeting, a guy is talking and he says something that’s actually quite funny. Everyone is cracking up so we laugh too. And when we laugh, we look at the guy and he is looking right back at us. He says something like “You don’t have to feel the way you feel right now ever again. You don’t have to drink.”
The seed was planted. A funny remark lowered my defenses and that allowed the truth to flow through. I began to question my life and my behaviors. New ideas and concepts began to present themselves and a new way of life began. One free of alcohol and drugs.
The role of humor in recovery cannot be overstated. One of the newcomer’s first observations in their first Twelve Step meeting is the laughter that erupts naturally in the room, often over the most alarming of stories.
Some years ago, as I was starting out in the field of counseling, I came across a DVD by a man named Mark Lundholm. It was an autobiographical performance entitled Addicted; A Comedy of Substance. As I watch Mark perform his one-man, off Broadway I was soon laughing hysterically. This man is funny! And his message of recovery is clear and spot on as well. Using his own history and experiences, Mark builds a relationship with his audience and they are left with a feeling of hope so desperately needed by those seeking a new beginning.
I soon shared Mark’s performance with my clients and their response was incredible. I sought out more information on his work and discovered a rich library of resources that can be used in a variety of environments. His work with not only addicted populations at all stages of recovery as well as those involved with the criminal justice system is invaluable.
Mark talks often about “exercising the Ha Ha muscle” in that learning to laugh in recovery is essential to the process of getting better. As we learn to find amusement in our past experiences, sharing these stories with others, we find the pain of the past lessens. Soon we can laugh, out loud, at our past follies and indiscretions. The reason we can do so, is we are no longer behaving that way. I, for example, have not thrown up in a woman’s purse in a very long time. That was then, this is now. Bill Wilson wrote often about something he called Rule 62. That was a buzzword he used to imply that we should not take ourselves so damned seriously.
I have been blessed to have seen Mark perform on a number of occasions. Whether on stage at a World Convention or closer to home as the featured entertainment at a weekend recovery gathering, he brings the laughter and the message of sobriety. I once mentioned Mark’s name to a board member for a local treatment facility. They were looking for a featured speaker at their annual fundraiser and they chose Mark. He has now been asked to perform annually at this event a number of times.
Last December, Penny and I were fortunate enough to participate in a sober cruise sponsored by our friends at InRecovery magazine (more about these fine people in a later blog). The featured presenter/entertainer during the trip was, you guessed it, Mark Lundholm! We not only watched some great, intimate performances but found that Mark had the same yearning for ice cream before bed that we did. It was at these late night meetings over a bowl of vanilla ice cream that we spent some time discussing life and the state of recovery. I can tell you that Mark is the real deal. In watching his presentations over the years and in person I have watched him go through a lot of “life.” Children, success, relationships, all the stuff that happens to us carbon based life forms doing the deal on this third rock from the sun.
And yet his message remains clear: Life is better sober.
Mark’s website is a good place to look for his DVDs and material and he also can be found on his YouTube comedy channel as well. And keep your eyes peeled for his name at local comedy clubs and 12 Step conventions.
And if you run into Mark, tell him Mickey & Penny say “Hello!”