To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

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?
User avatar
Jackstraw
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:27 am

To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Jackstraw »

Ego ego ego

I have tried many meetings over the past many weeks, I have come to feel you people are my favorite. :D

With that said, I need to get some stuff out of my head.

I went to a meeting tonight, one that I usually consider my favorite. It was anniversary night so two people spoke for most of the meeting about their story. There was little time for anything else, a few other people shared.

And I left feeling frustrated. I have been really focused on working through the first three steps. I was more than willing to take them on and having done so, I feel like pieces of my life that I have been holding but not putting in place are finally down on the table and I feel complete and I feel whole for the first time in my life. I have dealt with more “real S***” over the past three + weeks than in most of my life to date. My higher power, my peace with my higher power, my acceptance of my higher power made it possible.

I want a parade. I want to tell people. I want to scream it from the rooftops that I have found peace with my higher power after thirty years of amassing information about it.

But is this just ego again, expressing itself in a different way?

I have asked a guy to be my temporary sponsor, but as I said, I really did work out the first three steps on my own – in many ways I have been working on them my whole life already. I am moving on to step four, but I feel I have a good handle on that too from the information I have found on line. I get step four, I think I do, and I think with the help of my wife and counselor they can help me see myself honestly. I don't think I need a sponsor for that.

Am I isolating? Am I pulling back?

The trap of ego is so difficult. I don't believe I can do this on my own. I do need you wonderful people. I do need meetings. I do need the spiritual teachers I have found in books and recordings. I do need my counselor (been seeing her for three years, so quite a deep connection there) But do I need a sponsor? Do I need to go through the process of getting a sponsor and meeting with them to ensure I am exploring the program fully? I am avoiding a sponsor – I don't think I am.

I feel like I want to stand up in a meeting and shout all of this out..... I am making this all about me again....

little help please :?
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
G.Harrison

User avatar
avaneesh912
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 5309
Joined: Fri May 30, 2008 12:22 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by avaneesh912 »

You atleast need one person to do your fifth step and call out your bullshit once in a while.
Show him the mental twist which leads to the first drink of a spree. We suggest you do this as we have done it in the chapter on alcoholism.(Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

shaunagus
Forums Contributor
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:04 pm

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by shaunagus »

You say you don't think you are avoiding getting a sponsor yet you wrote several paragraphs telling us why you don't need one :lol:

For me, I definitely needed a sponsor. It's one thing to understand the steps, analyse the steps, discuss them with your counselor and wife but it's another things entirely to take the steps with a sponsor. I would say a spouse is the lastperson to be taking certain steps with and I think there is a place for counselling but the steps aren't it. A counsellor might be able to support you as you take the steps with a sponsor but not guide you through them.

I can't fully describe the debt I owe my sponsor. The time he gave me, the care and understanding he showed, the regular contact we had and the energy we both invested in the process I am sure led to a bigger impact at step three when we did it formally together than when I took that step myself. I mean, I had already taken steps 1,2,3 in the sense of I had admitted powerlessness, believed AA would help and decided to try it but that didn't compare to taking step 3 formally with my sponsor after weeks building up the relationship together. I had a spiritual experience after that.

Same with step 5 - he showed me his step 4 inventory straight after we did step three which helped take the trust to a different level. The time we had invested in the process meant I could look at the darkest part of my journey and tell him, cry in front of him, be completely honest. And he could be honest back about his own journey. I had another spiritual experience after that. It was indescribable - I was flying practically. I got to experience a power greater than me, to know it rather than intellectualise about it.

I would say you would miss out without a sponsor based on my experience. And more, I know that through sponsoring me my sponsor was also helped. I know that my step three and five were out-of-self experiences for him too, and are part of his own spiritual journey. I can't tell you how grateful I am to my sponsor - I tried to verbalise it during a main share at my home group a few weeks ago and started to cry :oops: I cry all the time these days but it's a good type of crying. I've been touched by both by the steps and the sponsor/sponsee relationship. They supported and enriched each other i would say. I would say don't deny yourself or a potential sponsor that opportunity.

And I don't struggle with alcohol any more. At all. That obsession has been removed. Choose your sponsor carefully but don't put it off too long. Choose someone who shares regularly that they no longer have the desire to drink, someone who regularly shares about the steps they took, who mentions the action steps (4,5,9 etc) during meetings and someone you think seems like a good guy and generally happy. Mine knows the big book really well but isn't a big book nazi ie he shares big book wisdom but never berates people who don't in meetings.


A newcomer recently ended up chatting to an old timer who gave him the message "just dont drink and come to meetings" but that isn't enough and the guy relapsed a couple of times and came to the meeting last week broken. He now has a sponsor who was sponsored by my sponsor so he is now in good hands. I think I might be meeting my grand-sponsor (my sponsors sponsor) at the end of this month. There is an amazing fellowship which is more than just people sitting in a room together. I know it sounds corny but I feel connected all the way back to Bill W in my most sentimental moments thanks to my experiences with a sponsor.

So in case you ain't sure by this stage, my suggestion is to get a sponsor :lol:
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

chefchip
Forums Long Timer
Posts: 774
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:28 am
Location: Northern Kentucky

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by chefchip »

Jack,

Interesting topic, friend. It is a discussion I've had with a number of people in f2f groups. Before I say my piece, let me be clear about two things. First, I took the steps and worked my program the first time with a sponsor. As Shaun said, I love that man in a way I love few others. He helped me see the light, as it were, and more importantly see myself as I was. Secondly, what I am about to say in no way contradicts what Shaun and Avaneesh912 said. It is just another school of thought.

The Big Book does not talk about sponsorship, per se, at least not in the sense that we in AA do today. However, it IS very clear on one point. Newcomers should be taught the steps and helped through them by someone who has recovered from the obsession to drink. Those of us who have "been there, done that" learned a lot about ourselves and about the alcoholic mindset. The things we learned can be invaluable to the next person to come along. That is the way it works -- we pass it on. We become the mirrors for other alcoholics to look at and see themselves.

Today I don't talk to anyone with the title "Chip's sponsor" much, for lots of reasons. The biggest and most important reason is that I no longer need that in my life. I was taught -- and I learned -- the steps and a program of recovery. I can stand on my own two feet, as should be. I have friends and confidants in AA and e-AA who I go to when life confounds me. That is as it should be, I think. I don't need that intensity in a relationship anymore.

But, while working the steps, until you can stand on your own two feet, everyone needs someone -- sponsor, mentor, whatever. The word is irrelevant. I'm not sure that spouse/partner is a good idea. They aren't what I would call objective people, after all. But, for me at least, I needed someone I could tell EVERYTHING about myself, especially the worst things I had ever done (aka the fifth step). My early resistance to finding such a person insured that I would continue to succumb to my obsession to drink. Yes, it was my ego that held me back, and my pride.

I hope that all makes sense. Because it certainly was not a direct answer. :roll:
Chip
The only constant in life is change.

User avatar
PaigeB
Trusted Servant
Posts: 8745
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 12:28 pm
Location: Iowa USA

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by PaigeB »

I don't think I need a sponsor for that.
My thinking was ALL messed up! I have some crazy thinking!

For me having a sponsor was imperative, especially for the first 3 Steps! They are the Steps that I work every morning on the way to the coffee pot! What if, seriously, what if I got it wrong some how? Even in some little way? What if one day I will wake up drunk again?

I had no way of getting honest about myself. I had no compass for honesty, and even the rules I did have for honesty were so colored by my thinking that it WAS ALL EGO!!

Then again, that is not what I thought when I first came in. When I first got here I thought these silly little Steps could in NO WAY address the evils that went on just beneath the surface in me. So my choice was, "What the heck, WHY NOT try them the way they said?"

Seriously, if it is no big deal, WHY NOT just do it the way the others have done it... just to make sure you got it right. The consequences of getting it wrong are cruel and certain.

How will YOU SPONSOR another drunk through Steps 1, 2 & 3 if you do not take advantage of sponsorship through them yourself? We can only give what we have already received.

Nothing we do in sparing our lives, or the lives of others, is wasted. Jump in with both feet (and your ego) and get to swimming! Keep swimming, or else.

We'll be swimming right beside ya.
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

Tom S
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 141
Joined: Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:02 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Tom S »

I managed to make getting a sponsor a mucho grande deal for quite a while. Was it my ego? Was it fear? Was it the certainty I was unique? That I could do this, like everything else, on my own? Doesn't matter...it was resistance and resistancce allowed me to take half measures, to avoid giving myself to the program completely. Eventually, it dawned on me that the jokers who were sober, happy and had what I wanted had all been involved with sponsors. Eventually i felt safe enough. Eventually i got the guts to sublimate my ego and fear. So I finally asked around a little bit and asked a fella who guided me through the steps. It worked. Now I sponsor as well. I am not a counsellor, religious resource, guru, therapist, bank, taxi service, father figure, soul mate or anything else. I am a guide for a man who demonstrates by his actions that he wants what the program has to offer. My job is to show him what worked for me and countless others. He, not me, is responsible for his sobriety. He, not me, is changing his life. He is keeping me sober.
Just my take, my ego loves to make very large things which simply are what they are. AA helps me see reality.
Grateful for the Gift.

User avatar
Brock
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 4163
Joined: Fri Sep 07, 2012 1:45 pm

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Brock »

I think saying you don’t need a sponsor, in a contribution on these forums, is almost equal in annoying others, as saying you don’t need a higher power, so I will tread very carefully. There is no doubt in my mind that some sponsors speed the process, and for those who have found very good ones like Shaun did, well that’s just great. And I agree with everyone who has indicated that ego is the main thing that tells us we don’t need help.

I have been reading about back to basics groups which exist in the US, who use the book of the same name, and conduct weekly classes for four weeks, during which time a newcomer will complete all the steps. I wish I had this, partly because it is the way it was done when AA was young and most successful, and also because it is a system, not dependent on the whims of one person. There is so much variation we hear of, from the way one sponsor does it compared to another, it baffles the mind. The speaker Chris R. claims great success in taking people through the program in two months or less, and then insisting they start sponsoring others themselves, a lady in my group says her sponsor has her on step two, and this is after a year and two months, says her sponsor wants to be thorough ! what a load of horse crap.

I think we should make ourselves aware of the things we would like in a sponsor, not just that he looks and speaks the part, we should ask questions about how he intends to take us through. For many people on this site have had to ask how to get out of a bad sponsor relationship, and this is a pitfall we might avoid. As an example, the other day in another thread, Paige was advising someone, that a sponsor might say if it’s best to pray kneeling down or at their desk, and most folks might be OK with such advice. I think it important to ask questions about things like this, because my one try with a temporary sponsor failed over this very matter. When he said this is how I must pray, and I said I have been a believer and man of prayer most of my life, just need to get back on track, he wouldn’t budge, must be his way, and why? for what I believe to be the stupid answer most sponsors give – “that’s the way my sponsor did it,” no little leeway or thinking this man is different from me. I am sure my experience is not the norm, but nevertheless think about how you would like to do it, and make sure he is more or less on the same page. But don’t let my bad experience put you off, best of luck.

Brock.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."

kenyal
Forums Long Timer
Posts: 560
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:17 am

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by kenyal »

If your wife and/or counselor will guide you in doing a proper 4th step based on how they did theirs, then I see no reason why you would need a 4th person involved. As long as they've evidenced the good result of the work they did in this step by continuing to stay sober, continuing in the rest of the steps and at least starting in making their amends, then you have great resources to draw upon with plenty of the kind of experience you'll be needing to do your 4th effectively.

Since you are interested in getting the best results from the quality effort you'll be making, instead of going easy on yourself and possibly falling short (i.e. getting drunk).

Neither my wife at the time or counselor knew how to do a 4th step, so I was forced by circumstance to find someone who actually knew what I needed to know, who was willing to bring me along.

shaunagus
Forums Contributor
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:04 pm

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by shaunagus »

@kenyal I think doing my step 4 with my spouse would have been cruel. There are things that never, ever need to be shared with him it would hurt him dreadfully.

One of the advantages for me with my sponsor was we didn't know each other at all outside AA so I had no reason to lie or hide things. There was fear, lots of it, sickening fear in sharing my step five with him and there is no way I could have done that with someone I knew. And I knew he had follows the process exactly as the big book lays it out.
Brock wrote:The speaker Chris R. claims great success in taking people through the program in two months or less, and then insisting they start sponsoring others themselves, a lady in my group says her sponsor has her on step two, and this is after a year and two months, says her sponsor wants to be thorough ! what a load of horse crap.
.
I agree with this. I was in AA two or three weeks before getting a sponsor and three moths later we had completed the formal process and I was told to get a sponsee. I haven't managed to find one yet but I feel like I have a proper process to share with them, and that it is proper AA.

Edited to add: ps the other thing about doing it with a sponsor is I now have a vested interest in his sobriety...my secrets staying secret depend on him remaining spiritually fit :lol:
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

User avatar
Jackstraw
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:27 am

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Jackstraw »

Thanks all.

A lot to think about.

I think maybe part of what I am trying to process is finding the right the person at the right time. I would welcome and enjoy the sponsor/sponsee dialogue that some of you are talking about. I would welcome that type of relationship where I could really connect with a single individual who has been through this. I guess what I meant by saying “I am not trying to avoid having a sponsor,” is that I don’t want to get a sponsor just to have one, just to follow the practice because that is what is done. I guess it is more to the point to say I want the right sponsor, but I also hear people talk about how I should find one as quickly as possible. That is what is confusing.

I think part of the reason I was frustrated last night is that I DO want a sponsor, and though my Temp Sponsor is a wonderful guy and has been an important life line early in my AA process, I don’t think he is the sponsor I am looking for. After reading the BB, I realized I needed the Buddhist take on the 12 steps, as that really completes the picture for me, and I have heard talks from the internets from folks in AA who worked the steps in a Buddhist manner.

I think that is the rub. I do want a sponsor and see the value, but I do also need someone with a Buddhist perspective on the steps, as that approach really resonates. And to Brock’s point, I have been developing my relationship with my higher power my whole life. AA gave me the blessing of making it ok to rely that higher power, something I have never before. As soon as I did, the strength that has come through is amazing.

If alcoholism has three components, like I heard last night: 1) spiritual, 2) mental and 3) physical – I know I need real help with 1 and 2, but 3 not as much. I guess I need someone who I can resonate with on the first, so he can help me with the 2nd and 3rd.

For example, for me, step 4 seems like a mental process that I need to work through. It is understanding the nature of cause and effect. Seeing and owning the behaviors that I have, some which I still don't see, and what their effect is. My spouse has been the recipient of much of those behaviors and I need that honest feedback to fully see things in my behavior that I do not see in myself. A sponsor won’t be able to do that, as he won't know me. But I do hope that a sponsor can look at what I have come up with in step 4 and point out angles and ways of thinking about that step that I haven’t understood. For that I absolutely need a sponsor, the right one.

So, maybe it is just a matter of timing. I am honest enough with myself that I know this whole thing makes me feel uncomfortable: intimacy and opening do not come naturally, but I also think I do need to find the right situation and not try and make things happen that aren't there yet.

I often need to process things out loud with people, and I appreciate you all helping me do that and keeping me honest and making sure I am being as honest as I can be.
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
G.Harrison

shaunagus
Forums Contributor
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:04 pm

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by shaunagus »

Hi Jack

I am the king of over complicating things and think you might be doing the same.

I don't think there is a Buddhist approach to the steps anymore than there is a Christian approach to the steps or an atheist approach to the steps they are just the steps. You just take certain actions. The steps result in a spiritual awakening - you don't even need to worry about your spiritual path in advance. And sorry to bore on but step 12 doesn't say a Christian awakening or a Buddhist awakening as a result of these steps. I believe that no matter what your spiritual bent the steps will deepen it.

Itdoesn't matter what spiritual beliefs your sponsor is as long as he doesn't try to convince you to follow the same one, and if he does the steps the big book way that won't happen.

And the discussion of cause and effect in your step four happens anyway as part of the process. You say "I need that honest feedback to fully see things in my behavior that I do not see in myself. A sponsor won’t be able to do that, as he won't know me" and that made me chuckle because I think it's actually the exact opposite: he will know things about you you don't even know about yourself and will help you see it. I am sure most people will back me up on that.

I would worry about any sponsor who tampers with steps or alters them in any way to fit a particular philosophy - because they work fine for people of all spiritual faith and none as they are. My sponsor is an atheist who was sponsored by a Christian who just recommended a Buddhist course to me. The steps offer total freedom in my view.

If you have a sponsor (or people in your area) are overwhelmingly a particular religion and are sharing that religion is the only way, that can be difficult I suppose. I went on an AA retreat that was essentially just trying to recruit Christians - they basically said your higher power has to be Jesus and anyone who says different is wrong. As my sponsor says "I wonder how many alcoholics they killed" with that approach. So yes absolutely choose your sponsor carefully but do choose one:-)

Oh and by the way the big book says that the problem is mental and physical and needs a spiritual solution rather than the threefold nature you describe above but maybe that's semantics;-)
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

Lali
Forums Old Timer
Posts: 4296
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:13 am

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Lali »

FWIW if I had a spouse and chose him to do my Step 4 and 5 with, it would basically amount to half measures.
There are things I would not share with a spouse, things that took place in my past, which would not be any business of my spouse and could possibly cause marital problems. Just my little 2 cents worth.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

User avatar
Jackstraw
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:27 am

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Jackstraw »

Thanks all, this has given me much to reflect on.

shaunagus - I appreciate what you are saying here. I also don't want to hijack this thread with a diversion, so i will take most of this off line, but I would like to speak briefly about what I mean when I bring up Buddhist perspective on the steps so anyone who comes across this not think there is any tension between Buddhism and the steps.

As is often, but not always, stated, Buddhism is not really a religion. It is more a framework for understanding human behavior (of course, there are books devoted to that very statement, so please do not take offense at my very simplistic statement). As the 12 steps are a means of altering or intervening in particular human behavior, it is helpful to review the 12 steps along with the Buddhist concepts. Not to make the steps "Buddhist" in any way, but to align the steps with a certain way of understanding the world.

There are sooo many other wise people who can express this better. I just wanted to try be clear: Buddhism and the 12 steps are entirely compatible and there is no dilution or tension of the original intent of AA. An easy example that many people are familiar with is the idea of karma. If one understands reality to be governed by the law of karma, when understanding the 12 steps, one must also come to understand the karmic nature of the steps. This does not alter or change the steps in any way.

Any hoo, the interwebs are full of information on the topic and there are books and facebook pages etc etc.

I think I have come to a current state of peace and understanding around the Sponsor topic. I will remain open for a sponsor, and continue on with the steps to the best of my ability. I will also trust and pray that my higher power will bring alignment when and as it is needed, and make sure I take the actions that will create the conditions for this to happen.

thanks
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
G.Harrison

shaunagus
Forums Contributor
Posts: 279
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 3:04 pm

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by shaunagus »

Hey Jack

Just to be clear, I also believe the steps complement Buddhism totally.

I believe they complement most if not all religions perfectly, because it strips everything down to the core experience of something greater than "us".

But anyone working the steps different from laid out in the BB seems unnecessary because I view them, having done them, as completely neutral to any particular faith - and because they worked for me as they are, but it's your journey you of course have to choose for yourself and you've reached a state that you are happy with.

I hope your search for a Buddhist sponsor doesn't slow down your progress, and wish you luck

:-)

Edited to add: I've just remembered I've only been sober 5 months and I am talking as though I am some authority on this subject. Sorry, I got completely caught up with "I am right" ism. I know very little so take everything I've said with a large pinch of salt:-)
“I am a seeker, a poor sinful creature, there is no weaker than I am,” Dolly Parton

User avatar
Jackstraw
Forums Enthusiast
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:27 am

Re: To Sponsor or Not to Sponsor, that is the question

Post by Jackstraw »

Tap tap tap

Hello, who is there?

It's your ego, just wanted to remind you that I am still here!!!

:D
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
G.Harrison

Post Reply