Is There Anything Funny About Recovery?


What it feels like to be controlled by addiction

Sean Daniels, playwright, eight years sober today

Really? A comedy about drying out? Can we actually have a sense of humor about addiction and recovery?  Sean Daniels thinks so. From October 4th to 26th, Manhattan’s off-Broadway theatre, 59E59 Theater, will present a production of The White Chip, a play written by Sean Daniels and directed by Tony-nominated Director, Sheryl Kaller.

Steven is on top of the world. He is married, has good friends, and is steps away from securing his dream job running one of the hottest theatres in the country. He is also an alcoholic, spinning out of control. The White Chip follows Steven’s life from his first sip, to his first love, from critical hit to critical care, all the way to rock bottom, where he carves an unusual path to sobriety.

The White Chip is based on playwright Sean Daniels’s own addiction recovery journey and explores the science of addiction in a surprising, wry and funny way.  Called “a winning show” by the Boston Globe and “a 90 minute spin cycle of laughter and pathos” by the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, the play comes to New York after several highly success regional runs., tickets: $35 instagram @59E59 #WhiteChip59

Sean Daniels was kind enough to answer a few questions for Freedom Institute.

Would you call your play a comedy? A sense of humor sure helps in life, does it help in recovery?
I do. And it sure does. What’s always amazing to me is that when you attend a great AA meeting – people get up and tell HORRIBLE stories and everyone howls and laughs and laughs. The rest of the world doesn’t see that – they see after school specials, or ‘Intervention’ – they see the fetishizing of addiction, and not the fact that once people get sober, there are a ton of laughs and so much love in the rooms. I think all recovery stories are filled with laughter, and the knowledge of that helps to remove the stigma.

Have you written about recovery before?
I haven’t, it’s taken me almost 8 years to get this play ready for a New York City audience. When I was in the middle of writing it, and I couldn’t find anything with a sense of humor, anything that felt current, or wasn’t in ‘old timey language’ of recovery, I promised myself that if I made it in recovery, I’d write the thing I couldn’t find.

What inspired you to write this play?
What got me sober was when I was introduced to the idea of the ‘science of addiction.’ People sat me down and explained brain chemistry, neural pathways and a predisposition to addiction – I was blown away. It made me wonder, when someone tries to get sober, why don’t we give them ALL the options of how it could work? If it was diabetes or cancer, your doctor would put together plans for you and then you’d discuss the best one. If you didn’t like that doctor, you could even get a second opinion. In addiction, which is a disease, very few people provide addicts with all the information or options we know of – we just ship them off to AA and hope they find a good meeting. I go to meetings weekly, and even my chance of walking into a transformative meeting is about 50/50. It all feels really up to chance, when in 2019, we have the ability to treat it like a disease. Places like Freedom Institute, with your range of treatment protocols, do this, and we are so grateful.

What made you decide to start in recovery?
I was going to die. No question.  In rehab I was told “you’re gonna go to jail, you’re going to die, or you’re going to get sober here” – it was like the fame opening for addicts. So, I really didn’t have a choice.

What was the first thing you did when you decided to get sober? Was there someone you called? Where or to whom did you turn for help?
Once I got out of rehab, I found a group of men dedicated to talking about the science of addiction – and they made the difference. Whenever I felt crazy, or like I needed to drink, they’d calmly talk me through what was happening in my brain – chemically – and this made me feel so much less shame about it. That it wasn’t a moral failing – it was a chemical deficiency in my brain.

What works for you in maintaining sobriety?
When I was trying to get sober, someone said to me “you can’t stay sober because you don’t spend enough time doing things for your fellow man” – which made no sense to me. What does getting sober have to do with other people? But now, years later, I’ve come realize it’s true. So when I feel squirrely, I try to do something nice for someone else – something that isn’t about the credit. I’m surprised how quickly it helps.

Is there a person, place or thing who was/is critical to your recovery?
My mother has the same sobriety date as me – one year earlier. We hadn’t had the greatest relationship before I got sober, and yet, she and I stayed sober together in those early days. And now we have an amazing friendship – we always joke that neither of us can cheat – as then we wouldn’t have the same date anymore. Or we’d have to drink for a whole year (only drunks seem to find that funny).

What would you say to people struggling in recovery or considering sobriety?
Don’t quit before the miracle happens! This was said to me, and I didn’t get it, but yeah…years later, the miracle has happened, and continues to happen.

And the gift question…Anything else you would like to add?
For everyone who is thinking about getting sober, or a few days in – I’m so excited for everything that is about to happen for you. Your life is about to take off!