Sober Laughter: Not an Oxymoron

by Rebecca A. Watson on February 20, 2014

in change, habits, humor, Recovery

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an American radio quiz show about the week’s events. And it’s frickin’ hilarious. Like laugh out loud (none of this LOL stuff — this is the real deal) funny.

I used to listen to the show a lot back in the day, but it’s been awhile, mostly because I discovered This American Life and became, shall we say, addicted.

But recently I picked up an episode on my iPod and listened while I was knitting. And then I listened to another while I cooked. And then while I was running. I have been laughing all over the place and it feels awesome.

basel laugh

Here I am laughing in Basel, Switzerland.

It’s like it strips my heart of its scar tissue and reintroduces it to my soul, both childhood friends finally reunited to play. Honest-to-goodness (not fine-you-can-have-five-minutes) play.

I remember about 10 months ago, I was standing in the driveway after my friend dropped me off. We were chatting and she said, “Oh! I have a present for you.” Then she handed me a paper bag with an old banana in it. For most people, this would make zero sense, but for us it was spectacularly funny.

You see, we used to work together and every Monday she’d bring in bananas with the intention of eating them and every Friday she’d give them to me, and I’d make pancakes over the weekend. It’d been years since we’d had an exchange like this and I had completely forgotten. I was delighted and laughed.


The reason I remember this is because it was about a month into not drinking and it was the first time I experienced sober laughing. It might seem weird to some, but there something missing before. It wasn’t like I didn’t laugh when I drank — on the contrary — but I didn’t feel the emotion and the energy that goes along with it. It’s like a mini-vacation, they way my heart and body feels after a good laugh now.

So in honor of that, I just wanted to post a few things that make me laugh. Hard. You know the kind: you can’t catch your breath, you’re slapping your knee (seriously), and tears are squeezing out the sides of your eyes.

Of course a favorite is Louis CK, and this bit is so ridiculously funny to me, probably because I can relate. It documents the reason I really never have been into smoking pot. It’s about him smoking with some kids after a show in Kansas City, when the last time he’d smoked pot was probably decades previous.

“I didn’t know they’d been working on this shit like it’s the cure for cancer … and I was taking big hits. Like big, 1970s, jean jacket, Bad Company hits.”

I know it’s five minutes. But seriously, laughter is insanely good for you, (read: reduces stress and pain, improves social skills and boosts your immune system) so you should probably stop and watch it.

And of course there are plenty of other comedians I love: Amy Schumer (definitely NSFW), Jim Gaffigan talking about cake, if you’re looking for more here’s a pretty good list. And movies: The Big Lebowski (RIP PSH). When Harry Met Sally. The Princess Bride. The Money Pit.

I’m rediscovering how to laugh again. It feels so amazing, it’s all I really want to do. And instead of telling myself I “should” be watching dramas or listening to serious stuff too, you know for balance, I’ve just been going with it.

I was once told that I shouldn’t want to have fun all the time. That life didn’t work that way. And I think for a long time, I believed that. But things are changing. Now I feel like laughing and having a good time is something that I don’t need to moderate. Or rather, I don’t want to. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I challenge you to consider what beliefs are holding you back. You might not even know you have them. They might just sit there in the back of your mind, telling you that’s not how things work, that you don’t do that or you’re not like that. Contempt prior to investigation, as one brilliant blogger pointed out.

Airing out these beliefs help us to see how silly they can be, or it can just be cathartic to try the opposite for awhile and hope you land somewhere in the middle. For me, it would seem the Universe is telling me to have more fun and enjoy my everyday life. So please, share with me what makes you laugh. The more, the better.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

carrythemessage February 21, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I love Louis C.K…he’s one of my heroes. I also love Patton Oswald and Gary Gulman. (Amy Schumer is also amazing) I have a ton of others I love listening to, as stand up comedy is my thing. Some enjoy movies or tv shows, but stand up is what I enjoy most (next to music). And you’re right, laughter is good for you.

I totally got what you said about getting that first good belly laugh with the bananas. I remember my first few laughs in sobriety – against my own will, almost…lol. I never thought I could laugh again. I though life sober was going to be…sober. Sombre. Black cloth sheathed. Serious. But hell, life is for enjoying. I bust a guy playing with my kids often and I laugh a lot at work and at home. I always have comedy on my mp3 player (along my AA speaker tapes and crap loads of music). I am always up for a laugh.

And yeah, check things out, find that soft spot in the middle to land and enjoy what is out there. It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s what we make it. And I choose a life where I get to enjoy. Sure there are serious moments, but I don’t have to take myself so seriously – did that my whole life.

Great post! (Thanks for the shout out too 🙂 )



Rebecca A. Watson February 25, 2014 at 9:39 am

Patton Oswald, yes! I’ve heard some of him on Pandora now. I’ll have to check out Gary Gulman. I like what you said: “Find that soft spot in the middle to land.” That’s the quest for me 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your newfound Internet freedom!


Primrose February 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I am deeply, deeply rubbish at having fun. It was one of the things on my Team 180 vow and I am still crap at it.

Somehow I have ended up with the role of The Sensible Parent – how did that happen? Today my daughter has a (scheduled) extra day off school and my husband is taking her to the beach. I am at home, working. I could have gone too. And yes there is the need for someone to be here doing this shit. But some of least of it could have waited another day. Bah. need to look at this harder. I love your line that ‘having a good time is something I don’t have to moderate’… thank you for that great thought!


Rebecca A. Watson February 25, 2014 at 9:37 am

Hey girl…having fun is something many of us need to relearn as adults. You’re not alone so be kind to yourself. One way I learned to play more was through the book The Artists Way. I also think you’ve got to start small. Blowing off everything to have a day at the beach is great fun, but how much time would you spend thinking about what you weren’t doing while you were there? If say, you just scheduled in 30 minutes into your work day for a hobby or general goofing around, that might make it easier in the long run. That’s my thinking anyway. Thanks for stopping by 🙂


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: