Laughter in “The Rooms”


From a set of AA Approved comic strips 1968 – 1974 – awesome right?


I know you have spoken about AA; however, I wonder if maybe you could share your experience. I have found that for me the only way I have been able to remain sober, is through AA. I realize that your blog is a public forum and there are things that everyone doesn’t need to know; however, I would greatly appreciate any input that you have.  Beth

Dear Beth:

So much has been written about AA lately. The long standing, titan of sobriety has been unveiled like Oz, and we have all seen what is behind the curtain in articles and blog posts offering insights, statistics and first hand accounts of what goes on in “the rooms”. I have not written much about my experience in AA, for two reasons:


  1. I don’t get myself to meetings often enough to be considered an expert (not that it stops me from writing about all the other things I know little about…);
  2. I am still hamstrung by the word “anonymous” and by the notion that some things should remain mysterious, even in the current climate of tell-all, self revelation.


This may come as a surprise, but I am a traditionalist. I love the long standing, it-works-if-you-work-it, solidity of AA. I like the community and the confessional and the structure. But most of all, I like the humor in AA meetings: the self deprecating, been there done that, shared experience of all those who have suffered under the boot of alcohol addiction and survived.


It is said, that for something to be funny, it has to be inherently human, with the capacity of reminding us of our humanity. The stories we hear in AA meetings, are funny because we identify with them and empathize with the teller; especially because so many of the people in our lives, no matter how well meaning, just don’t get why we drank the way we did; why we were unable to stop; why we are so grateful that we did.


There is nothing more unfunny than dissecting humor. So I’ll just tell you a story I’ve never told, that has made me laugh a few times since it happened:


I was trying to get to 30 AA meetings in 30 days (an admittedly truncated version of the 90/90 schema) and I was experimenting with different meetings around Jacksonville. I happened into one SRO, 7 a.m. meeting, and several of the people in attendance appeared to be there against their will. I’m still an AA novice, but I can tell when someone is in a meeting because they have to be…

Anyhoo, I sat down next to this guy who had his head in his hands: crew cut, white t-shirt, work boots, the telltale stench of stale bourbon… and after I settled. I got the sneaking feeling he might be drunk. I do not know all the rules, but I think that turning up at an AA meeting drunk is a no-no. At some point, he raised his hand, introduced himself in the time honored way and said, “I’m having some trouble at the moment. I have been drinking again. In fact I had a few brews before I came in here.”

Need I remind you it was 7 a.m.? His revelation was met with blank expressions and a chorus of, “Thanks for sharing,” but you could tell the crowd was disappointed. The fact that he was drunk is not funny. But, think about it – I was all buddied up to him, my chair so close I was practically in his lap and I am not an AA regular – my reaction was, “Oh no. Will people think he’s with me?”

I leaned away from him as if drunkenness was catchy as an airborne virus. I tried to show by my body language and the expression on my face, that I was sympathetic (but not in an unhealthy, enabling sort of way), shocked (but not judgy), and completely unassociated with him (although open to dispassionate counseling if needed). For the rest of the meeting I did a sort of circus performer’s contortion where I faced the podium, but twisted my arms and legs toward the exit in a desperate pretzel of body-speak distancing… I’m not with him!!


I think if I dared to tell that story in another AA meeting, people would laugh.



Beth, I’m glad you have found your strength in community, and I hope you find some humor in it all too – congratulations on your sobriety.





For more of these vintage comics go to the decidedly wacky website:

Today I’m not drinking because, I’m laughing…


How come you’re not drinking?