Mental Health Monday: Sobriety and Laughter

One month ago today I underwent surgery to fuse several cervical vertebrae and begin to repair broken bones in my right leg and ankle, injuries I sustained in a car wreck on July 7. So this morning I’m reflecting on where I am a month later. Not so much the technical details (like the fact that I’ll be going to the orthopedic surgeon this Friday where I will be changed from a splint and soft cast to a hard cast) but the equally important mental assessment. Two things come to mind—sobriety and laughter.

beer book


If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that alcohol is one of many things I have struggled with for a good bit of my life. I’ve written about it several times, like these posts:

“Why Does Sobriety Have to Come With Feelings?

“No More Delicious Numbness”

And you might be wondering if I had been drinking the night of the wreck. The answer is yes. But I wasn’t drunk. I only had one glass of wine and a couple of sips of Blanton’s, several hours before driving. And my blood alcohol content wasn’t high when they tested me. But it’s the month since the wreck that I want to write about here.

I began taking oxycodone (2 pills every 4 hours) when I was released from the hospital in Florida. And I continued after my second surgery in Memphis on July 22. But I gradually cut back until I had my last pain pill 6 days ago. I only take Tylenol for the pain now. And … it’s been a month since I had a drink. I’m pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve gone without alcohol in my adult life. So this weekend I decided to try a small glass of wine with my husband one evening. It didn’t taste magical and I barely finished the glass. And last night I asked for a small vodka and 7 when my husband made one for himself. It tasted weird and I didn’t drink it. I’m not sure what’s up with that, but I guess I’ll know more when I get a hold of a good margarita or martini at some point.

I’m trying to tune in to my feelings without the “delicious numbness.” Whether or not this sobriety has heightened my awareness, I have had several meltdowns over the past couple of weeks. Sometimes the tears have come when I’m frustrated that I can never get comfortable, due to the neck brace, neck and shoulder pain, and exhaustion of having to hop on one foot with my walker. Other times I’ve broken into tears of thanksgiving that I am alive and not paralyzed. And still other times I haven’t been able to understand (or explain to my sweet husband) why I’m crying at all.

Maybe Iris Dement was onto something when she wrote and sang, “I’ll take my sorrow straight.” Maybe this is what it feels like to be wide awake to sorrow, but also to joy, and to all of life. I don’t know where I’ll be with this tomorrow or next week or next month, but this is where I am today.

And then there’s the laughter thing. Last year I did a blog post called “Carbonated Holiness,” about the link between laughter and mental health. And then one day last week a dear friend was spending the afternoon with me and she told me about how she was learning that the physical act of LAUGHING was helping her deal with some difficult situations in her own life. She said it doesn’t matter what causes the laughter—it can be a comic strip, or a funny television show, or even a silly You Tube video. And as she shared this with me, I found myself first smiling and then laughing out loud, and noticing how much better I felt immediately. Kind of like an adrenalin rush. She encouraged me to try to laugh often to help in my recovery.



This same friend sent me a lovely card that came in the mail on Saturday. Inside the card she had put a dozen photocopied comic strips from The New Yorker. As I read them, I laughed out loud, and remembered her encouragement. I’ll share a couple of those here.

So today I’m pressing on with my healing, armed with two tools that seem to be important to the process—sobriety and laughter. Oh, and thankfulness.

6 thoughts on “Mental Health Monday: Sobriety and Laughter”

  1. Hey Susan

    Good to know you are on the mend. I hope to see you in November!

    I think I saw on one of your facebook posts you had recommended “Lit” … If this is the Mary Karr book, it is an excellent recommendation. She is brilliant. I am meeting her later this month.


    1. Hi Chuck. Thanks for reading and commenting. And YES, “Lit” is one of my all-time favorite memoirs. I love everything Mary Karr has written, and enjoyed meeting her a couple of years ago at Square Books in Oxford. Please tell her hello for me.

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