Mark Twain once referred to laughter as humanity’s only effective weapon. “Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution…” he wrote can weaken a “colossal humbug”, “…but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast.” “Against the assault of laughter,” he described, “nothing can stand.”
It isn’t uncommon for men in the early stages of recovery to take things on the more serious side. There is a renowned motto for men in recovery: don’t take yourself too seriously. Addiction is, without argument, deadly serious. Recovery, which saves men’s lives from addiction, is also serious. However, part of the lifestyle in recovery is learning how to take all of the non-serious parts of life a little less seriously. As it is more commonly said, learning not to sweat the small stuff.
Laughter can be more difficult to come by in the early stages of recovery due to the way addiction affects the brain. Addiction is caused primarily by the way drugs and alcohol create mass quantities of a neurochemical called dopamine, which creates sensations of pleasure. After potentially years of high volume dopamine production inspired by drugs and/or alcohol, the brain struggles to create the same amount of pleasure it once did. After getting sober, the brain starts to normalize its dopamine production. For the brain which is used to high levels of dopamine, normal levels of dopamine feel depressing, as though lacking in any pleasure. Adjusting to what feels good without drugs and alcohol takes time. Learning how to laugh in early recovery greatly helps.
A less poetic but more clinical explanation of the importance of laughter comes from Patch Adams, the famous doctor for his quirky and alternative approach to traditional medicine. “Being happy is the best cure of all diseases,” Adams once proclaimed. According to Patch, laughter:
- Enhances blood flow to the body’s extremities
- Improves cardiovascular function
- Releases endorphins
- Releases other mood elevating brain chemicals
- Releases pain-killing chemicals
- Improves the transfer of oxygen to internal organs
- Improves the transfer of nutrients to internal organs
- Boosts the immune system
In our next article, we will discuss ways to bring more laughter in your early recovery life.
Tree House Recovery in Portland, Oregon offers men’s addiction treatment programs for addiction and alcoholism. Our programs are individualized to meet each man’s needs, while providing him with evidence-based therapies, innovative approaches to recovery, and a rigorous training program inspired by the challenges of nature. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474