ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Most of us who recovered with AA's program did so with the help of a "sponsor". But what is sponsorship? How do I get one? Who can be a sponsor? What makes a good sponsor?
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Mike D.
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ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Mike D. » Sun Oct 27, 2013 11:52 am

Hi to all; I'm Mike and I've been happily sober since 1988....thanks only to God and A.A. I love the A.A. online Forums we now have, and love to hear what others are experiencing in sobriety. While I love to post my thoughts, I'm actually hesitating to even write this post because I feel pretty certain that I'm bound to offend a number of folks by what I have to say. I hope I won't offend anyone, but here goes anyway.

I have some real concerns which I'd like to express. Let me start by stating this indisputable fact. Contrary to popular opinion today, the fundamental purpose of sponsorship is to help the newcomer work the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nothing else. A.A. sponsorship is NOT about playing amateur psychologist. We aren't qualified for that. Sponsorship is NOT about hand-holding. Your Momma can do that. Sponsorship is NOT about being a best friend. Our friends never kept us sober anyway. Sponsorship is ONLY about guiding a person through the same Steps you worked, from your experience with those Steps. I've been reading a lot of disturbing posts in this forum and several other forums with regards to sponsorship, the Steps, and our newcomers. It appears to me (and, I'm not alone in this) that our newcomers are being greatly short-changed by those who agree to sponsor them in A.A. What I mean is that many of the people who agree to sponsor new folks have never worked a Step beyond Step Three. We're seeing this more and more frequently in A.A. And, it's gotten to the point where we are actually hurting our newcomers and doing damage to our A.A. fellowship. My question is, "How can you possibly help a person work a Step you've never worked yourself??" If you have not worked the 12 Steps, you aren't able or qualified to sponsor anyone yet. It's the blind leading the blind. I know that there will be quite a few who don't like hearing that, but nevertheless, it's true.

To all those who are new to A.A.: Your only chance at life-long sobriety is in working the 12 Steps. When you are choosing a sponsor, make certain that the person you choose has worked ALL of the 12 Steps! If they really have worked them, that means they know exactly how to help you work them too. If they have not, pass them up and find someone else. Do yourself a favor, pick your sponsor very carefully. Mike D.

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PaigeB
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by PaigeB » Sun Oct 27, 2013 12:09 pm

HEAR! HEAR!

When I talk to gals about them getting a sponsor I try to stress the fact that getting "a sponsor who is willing to take you through the Steps" is important, but also tell them to ask the potential sponsor if THEY have worked the Steps and if they are CURRENTLY sponsored.

I also refer them to the pamphlet Questions & Answers on Sponsorship available on aa.org http://aa.org/lang/en/catalog.cfm?category=4&product=17
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

Mike D.
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Mike D. » Sun Oct 27, 2013 4:50 pm

Hi Paige, Thanks for your reply. I know that there are still plenty of folks out there who are really helping people and doing right by our newcomers. Sounds like you take helping the newcomer as seriously as I do. I've always felt I have a responsibility to give everything that was given to me when I first came in. I was helped a great deal by the old-timers and I'll never forget them. Since I'll never be able to pay it back, all I can ever do is pay it forward. Have a great week! Thanks again, Mike D.

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PaigeB
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by PaigeB » Sun Oct 27, 2013 9:38 pm

The gals in my area don't mince words... we tell it like it is. EGO EGO EGO!
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

Lali
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Lali » Mon Oct 28, 2013 7:23 am

I find nothing offensive about your post. If anyone does, they just may not be doing what they should be doing for newcomers.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Brock
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Brock » Mon Oct 28, 2013 12:16 pm

I agree with everything that Mike has said, but would like to take one of his main points a little further, he said – “Contrary to popular opinion today, the fundamental purpose of sponsorship is to help the newcomer work the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nothing else.” And after that I think it should be good bye, perhaps we will see each other around. Now and then I happen to meet an old college professor, who was very helpful when I needed him, (when I was in college), and we enjoy catching up with a little talk and maybe a coffee, that’s the way I think life should be, and can’t see why sponsors are any different. That’s the way it was in the old days, Dr. Bob sponsored more than 5,000 in the 15 years he was sober, it was a pleasure to help you now good bye, unless you are a very lazy person, and intend to rely on the sponsor to keep teaching you for the rest of your life.

Every time on these forums, someone has tried to justify this long term sticking close to a sponsor, I have seen it said “I need someone to call me on my BS,” we are all different, and if you need that fine, but I do not for one second see the need for the proviso that Paige pointed out, i.e. “they are CURRENTLY sponsored.” I know the pamphlet on sponsorship probably says you should, thankfully traditions allow us the leeway to think independently, and step 10 encourages me to call myself on my own BS all day every day. Additionally, I believe that a clever person, with spare time on their hands, in a few years can make a study of AA, which puts him in a position of having knowledge above that of his original sponsor, and therefore we “outgrow” the sponsor. Please remember, that I will always agree that if the sponsor becomes your friend, you have every right to stick close to someone whose company you enjoy, but please don’t expect us all to be the same.

God bless all who contribute.
Brock.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Db1105 » Mon Oct 28, 2013 2:26 pm

Mike, I suggest you read the pamphlet Questions and Answers on Sponsorship to find out the responsibilities of a sponsor. You can read it here : http://aa.org/pdf/products/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf
There is a lot more a sponsor can do than take the sponsee through the step, mainly introducing them to service.

The sponsor should encourage the newcomer to get a homegroup and take a service position with that group. The sponsor should take the sponsee on a 12'step call, institutional meetings to detox, prisons, hospitals, and those unable to get to face to face meetings. The sponsor should take the sponsee to an Intergroup and GSO on the local level and introduce them to that type of service. What the sponsor needs to do is guide the newcomer not only the steps, but the entire Fellowship. Half measures avail us nothing.

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Tosh
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Tosh » Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:21 pm

Mike D, I think on this forum, you're preaching to the converted. But to be fair to wider A.A., in my area I can only think of one man who sponsors who doesn't take sponsees through the steps. I know this because he was my first sponsor. His program was to tell me to:

1. Go to meetings.
2. Phone him once a week
3. Don't drink.

I phoned him once and drank a few months after. He's been sober 23 years and talks the talk. My current sponsor walks the talk. It's tough to discern when you're new though.
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by gonzo » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:21 am

Mike D. wrote: My question is, "How can you possibly help a person work a Step you've never worked yourself??" If you have not worked the 12 Steps, you aren't able or qualified to sponsor anyone yet.
I agree, and luckily so does my sponsor; I first met my sponsor without asking him whether he'd done the steps or anything else, but I could tell after a few talks with him he really knew how the steps worked, the BB structure and AA history, and he already had a plan outlined for how to guide me through them. Later he would tell me (before we'd actually started steps but were meeting regularly to read BB together) that he felt the benefit of sponsorship was to relearn the steps in guiding another through them, and that he felt a sponsor needed to have done all of them first, and be on firm spiritual ground his(her)self, to sponsor someone effectively. The steps are linked to each other too intricately and importantly to say "I've done 1 through x, so I can sponsor someone through 1 to x and get to x+1, etc. later". Besides, the totality of the effort of the steps cannot be really seen when you're working through them, I think, but only afterward; and anyhow steps 10-12 are continuous through one's life, so I wouldn't want to sponsor anyone until I felt I had a good handle on those myself as a spiritual practice. I'm not sure if my sponsor had any other sponsees at the time I began working with him, but I know he was ready for me, and a few others to follow; the most important thing to me is that I can feel his spiritual fitness in the way he works with me and how he explains his personal practices with 10-12. I'm quite lucky to have met him, and look forward to the day when I can relearn by teaching; we meet in small groups now with other AA guys to talk AA history, sponsorship and service, reading through the AA pamphlets (including the one with link posted by Db1105), to get stuff that isn't normally covered enough or at all in meetings.
Finally, my sponsor has from day 1 emphasized that, once I'm through the steps, that he and I were now basically 'equals' in AA terms, and like friends in life and sobriety. We could still call each other sponsor/sponsee, but we meet and talk on an equal level, regardless of the fact that he has 16 more years of sobriety than I; he also reminds me that he is receiving help when he helps me, so we have a mutually beneficial relationship even during the step-learning process.
Chris M.
a.k.a. gonzo, alcoholic math nerd

Anonyme
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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by Anonyme » Thu Nov 14, 2013 11:45 am

gonzo wrote:Finally, my sponsor has from day 1 emphasized that, once I'm through the steps, that he and I were now basically 'equals' in AA terms, and like friends in life and sobriety.
It was my understanding that the sponsor and the sponsored are "equals" from the beginning through the end.

As mentioned in the "Q&A on Sponsorship" pamphlet: "In A.A., sponsor and sponsored meet as equals, just as Bill and Dr. Bob did. Essentially, the process of sponsorship is this: 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."
http://aa.org/pdf/products/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf (p. 7)

Thanks.
I don't forgive people because they deserve it, I forgive them because I deserve to be free from resentment.

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Re: ABLE AND QUALIFIED FOR SPONSORSHIP?

Post by gonzo » Thu Nov 14, 2013 1:06 pm

Anonyme, I understand what you mean; I probably should have written "once through the steps, we are equals in recovery". Basically, in our view, if I am seeking the help of a sponsor to work the steps and aid in my recovery, we are unequal in that sense; he "has what I want", and so I am not on equal footing in recovery until I get through the steps, with his help as a sponsor.
Chris M.
a.k.a. gonzo, alcoholic math nerd

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