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Learning to Laugh

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Like many, I experienced bafflement at my first OA meeting. Others in the room were full of joy and laughter, while I brooded quietly in my disease. I couldn’t step outside of myself, and I could barely meet their eyes. At the time, I thought admitting powerlessness over food was humiliating, and the notion of attending meetings for the rest of my life made me feel constricted. I did not yet understand that my disease was what was keeping me enchained. I didn’t know the freedom that I would one day feel in recovery.

I am still exploring the role of laughter in my recovery because joy is something I must actively choose. It is difficult to laugh at myself about my present day concerns, but I am finding laughter in  recounting my most insane moments in the food or imagining what I would do if I were in the food today.

Early in my program, I stood fuming at a guest services counter in a store, thinking how dare this employee not accept my return, for which I had no receipt, no box, and no memory of how I paid for the item! (I have since made living amends with those in customer service positions.) Because of her (surely not because I had overbooked my schedule), I was late to meet a friend for brunch.

As I stormed out of the store, it dawned on me that a few months prior, I would have stopped on my way out to buy a candy bar. I would have been irate about anyone in line in front of me and the time it took for the cashier to count my change. Then, I would have stuffed the candy bar in my face while seething at every traffic light, frustrated that now—due to absolutely no fault of my own!—I was really late. This would last as long as the candy bar did, after which I’d spend the rest of the time checking my lips and teeth for any evidence, fearing the shame of being found out that I had eaten a candy bar before what would surely be a full brunch.

In that moment, when I pictured this very real scenario, it made me laugh. I couldn’t believe that sequence of events or those thoughts had ever seemed logical.

Today, not only do those moments amuse me in times of stress, but they also allow me to see how far I’ve come. I am by no means perfect and must still remind myself daily that I am no longer running the show. But every moment I find myself following my God’s will (when beforehand, I would have done otherwise) is a miracle and deserves to be celebrated— perhaps with a bit of laughter.

— Elizabeth H., Orlando, Florida USA

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