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Insisting on Joy

One of my most important recovery guidelines is from Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 132: “We absolutely insist on enjoying life.” Roy’s version of this is his notion that if we don’t find in recovery what we were looking for in lust, recovery wouldn’t work (SA, p. 164). Joy that comes from self-acceptance and group-acceptance is one thing my lust was looking for.

Most of my lessons in recovery start in my recovery groups. From there I can apply them to family and work. My Big Book study homegroup is full of mirth. A representative example: our service positions are informally called, “sobriety sheriff, chip monk, (table &) chair, and czoom czar.” We laugh at many things, but mostly at our addict brain, which is a way of dissociating from it, of de-selecting it. I think the nature of reality is joy, and if I get out of the way, joy happens.

While working in Spain in 2021, I noticed that my copy of the Spanish Big Book did not have this sentence about insisting on joy cited above. I asked some oldtimers in SA, and they did not know that this sentence was in the original-language Big Book. In fact, one member even said that “insisting on enjoyment” sounded willful and unhealthy.

But we have good reason to be joyful! Our sordid past is now redeemed as we press it into the service of helping others. Our addiction has a good purpose and a happy ending, a happy “ongoing.”

The latest edition of the Spanish Big Book does have this sentence: “Insistimos absolutamente en disfrutar la vida” (Alcohólicos Anónimos, 3era edición, 189), but the following section still qualifies “laughter” in “cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness” (AA 132) as “healthy laughter” (“sano reír”). The Chinese translation from Taiwan has “always smiling” (180: “笑口常開”), and the German has unqualified “laughter” (155: “Lachen”). It seems that laughter might have different cultural connotations, but I have noticed that my brothers and sisters in recovery in Spain, Taiwan, Germany, Egypt, the Philippines, and other places, whose surrender is deep and long-lasting, whose commitment to recovery is absolute, all seem to find joy and mirth in meetings and in life, no matter how their native language expresses it.

Mike M., Taipei, Taiwan

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