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How to Laugh More in Addiction Recovery

Laughing helps recovery in many ways. It reduces stress, it helps you relax, it improves your immune system, making you less prone to illness, it reduces pain, and it helps you stay positive. All of these are important if you’re trying to stay sober, or if you just want to be happy. Unfortunately, detox, treatment, and early recovery are not the most cheerful times in people’s lives. It’s common to feel uncomfortable, sick, irritable, depressed, tired, and guilty. You may feel overwhelmed by cravings and that you have an impossibly long way to go. How can you possibly laugh? It may feel like a pointless effort, but it’s worth a shot. Here are some tips.

Don’t try to force yourself to laugh.

It’s a bit like trying to force yourself to fall asleep. The cognitive processes that make something funny don’t work well under pressure. We often find things funny when we are surprised by an unexpected lateral connection. It’s like an unlooked for ‘aha!’ moment in the shower. You can’t force it and you can’t force yourself to enjoy it. Instead, just try to make space for it. Instead of listening to Elliott Smith on repeat, watch a comedy instead. Have a regular time to relax but don’t put any pressure on yourself to laugh.

Don’t feel guilty about laughing.

You may feel like you’ve made a mess of things and hurt people you care about so you have no right to laugh. This is punishing yourself unfairly. During treatment and recovery, you will work through your feelings of guilt. You will apologise to others and make amends. It’s a process that won’t be helped by beating yourself up. Allow yourself to be drawn out of your own head by an amusing conversation or a funny television show. Having a laugh doesn’t mean you aren’t serious about recovery–quite the opposite.

Look for the absurd.

Studies have found that combat veterans withstood the stress of combat better if they had a dark sense of humour. If you can find humour in war, certainly you can find it in addiction. Addiction drives people to do silly, desperate things. It may be appropriate to feel guilty about many of those things, but surely some of them are absurd too.

Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Laughing with other people is synergistic. You get the benefits of laughter and you get the benefits of social connection, plus something more than the sum of the two. Laughing with someone shows you share a common understanding. If you can laugh at yourself and make someone else laugh too, so much the better.

Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig treats alcoholism and drug addiction as an illness and promote abstinence as essential for long-lasting recovery. We help patients recover through an intensive, personalised programme that combines medical treatment, 12 Step therapy, CBT and other psychiatric therapies and complementary therapies. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).

Page published: April 16, 2018. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 29, 2020