You’ve heard that humor is the best medicine, right? That’s particularly true for people in treatment for addiction and mental health disorders. Actress/writer Carrie Fisher knew this. Notorious for her struggles with addictions, mental health, and treatment, Carrie asked that her ashes to be laid to rest in a giant Prozac-shaped container. Got to love it.
Research has revealed numerous mental health benefits of humor, such as reduced stress, pain relief, and less inflammation; that’s good for anyone’s health, whether or not we’re in recovery. But there are other more specific ways that the use of laughter can specifically support drug and alcohol rehab and recovery:
- Humor breaks the ice and helps people feel more comfortable. Clinician Michael Peerbolte has found that in group settings like therapy groups or 12-step meetings, “humor for whatever reason makes people at ease talking with one another and gets rid of some of that awkwardness when interacting with people we don’t necessarily know.”
- Humor eases the stress of sharing hard or dark experiences. Humor can provide a kind of protective layer when you’re talking about a personal experience that might otherwise be really painful or “emotionally draining” to share.
- Humor builds relationships and connections in groups. People in recovery often experience a level of shared camaraderie in the crazy, absurd stories of addiction. Most of us find a sense of safety in sharing that, even though it’s deeply personal. In this sense, humor can cultivate “pathways for connection” and a sense of intimacy within a group.
It should go without saying that not everything is funny. Laughing at other treatment participants, taking cheap shots at people, and racist/sexist jokes have no place in recovery. And there is a time to put the humor down and take a serious, meaningful look at our problems. In the past, we used drugs and alcohol as pain relievers. They numb. They cover up. But they never remove the pain entirely. In recovery, humor is one of the best tools in the recovery box to take away the pain. Have you heard the one about the guy that was addicted to brake fluid? He could stop any time . . . We’re sorry.
If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, call L.A. CADA at (562) 906-267.