In my first 30 days of sobriety, women supported me by picking me up from rehab and taking me to meetings. At one of these meetings, I recall being rather proud of myself for sharing my thoughts with the table. During my share, I expressed how my 8-year-old and I were doing pretty well. I would be done with rehab soon and the plan was for us to live in a transitional home together while I figured out our next steps. The meeting ended. The lady sitting next to me stood up and said, “Kids don’t live in halfway houses!”
Imagine someone throwing a bucket of cold water on you while you’re sleeping peacefully. I can still remember feeling the shock from her statement. The lady happened to be the sponsor of the woman that brought me to the meeting. She tried to explain that her sponsor is very outspoken but is an amazing person and sponsor. I already had a sponsor but something clicked. I called the lady and asked her to sponsor me as soon as I got back to the rehab facility, even before I took off my coat. She said “yes” and, I’m proud to say, she has been my sponsor and friend since.
Believe it or not, there is no direct reference to a sponsor or sponsorship in the “Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA),” but the concept is how the program was born. The earliest members of AA took it upon themselves to seek out those suffering from the debilitating lifestyle caused by chronic alcohol misuse. These early members told their story to each newcomer then walked them through the steps they, themselves, took to get sober and experience a completely new way of living. We continue this tradition; passing on what we learned to the newcomer and in turn, maintain our own sobriety. Bill, the author of the Big Book and co-founder of AA,says, “Faith [in the spiritual program of AA] has to work twenty-four hours a day in us and through us, or we perish,” and “when all other measures [fail], work with another alcoholic [will] save the day.” He says, “It’s a design for living that works in rough going.”
In its pamphlet on sponsorship, the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous describes sponsorship as: “An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery program shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A…the sponsor and sponsee come to the table as equals.” Again, your sponsor passes on her experience with the 12 Steps so that you can pass it on to the next suffering alcoholic so you both stay sober. That’s how it works! (Ok, let me just say here that, for my blog entries, all past, current, and future puns are intentional. Sorry, I can’t help myself! Lol.)
Can You Afford A Sponsor?
If you are an alcoholic (or addict) of my type, you can’t afford not to have one. If you don’t have a personal trainer, you can, of course, still go to the gym, but your workout won’t be as good or effective as if you had one. Who is going to correct your form? Who is going to count your reps and push you to do one more? What about those days when you don’t feel like going to the gym at all? Who’s going to call you to ask you what’s up? This analogy may be a bit of a stretch (yep, another one) but our form has to be perfect in sobriety. We can never take another drink if we want to live. We need to be pushed to go beyond what we believe we are capable of so we know we don’t ever have to pick up that next drink. We can’t miss any days when it comes to sobriety. Do you want to take the chance of trying to do it on your own?
Are Sponsors on Amazon?
Nope. They are at AA meetings. To find yours, start going to a variety of meetings, table meetings, speaker meetings, Big Book meetings, gender specific meetings, etc. Most meetings call for those willing to be sponsors to raise their hands during the meeting. Look around the room, make some eye contact. Also, the phone lists available at meetings usually indicate if a person is available to sponsor. Be brave! If you like what someone has to say and want what they have, walk up to them after the meeting and ask them to sponsor you. It’s likely they will say yes to sponsoring you at least temporarily.
Your new sponsor should give you some ground rules. Most want to hear from you everyday. This is about accountability. If you’re not holding up your end of the bargain, you are wasting your and your sponsor’s time. Don’t let fear or ego keep you from a life mind-blowingly better than simply existing to drink or use.
It Doesn’t Fit!
Not every relationship was meant to be. This one is too important to spend time with someone you’re not compatible with. You should feel comfortable with your sponsor and be willing to accept their direction. That means you need someone you can trust and respect. If you don’t feel it’s working, talk it over with your sober supports. Make sure to include people with some long term sobriety. Then find another sponsor as soon as possible. Don’t hesitate to let your current sponsor know when you have found one. They will understand that you are doing what’s best for you. They shouldn’t take it personally and nor should you if they are the one to end the relationship. Remember, what matters is that you give yourself the best possible chance of getting and then staying sober.
Want to read more? Here is a link to one of our past blogs for newcomers on finding sponsorship.
How did you find your sponsor? What advice would you give a newcomer? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook Page!
**Please Note: I’m discussing sponsorship from a 12 Step fellowship perspective, specifically, my experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. There are other types of recovery. If you have experience with another type of recovery program and sponsorship and want to share about it, please do so in the comments below. We would love to hear from you!
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