How do I help my atheist sponsee?

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?

How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Preacher » Sun Apr 15, 2018 9:29 am

I agreed to sponsor a member some months ago and we've been working through the book since. This is my first time to sponsor someone. At the outset I asked him to read pages 86-87. He'd already been around for a while and told me that he'd read pages 87-87 before and was praying every night and morning. I assumed therefore that he had no trouble with the Higher Power idea and had a faith of some kind and we proceeded on that basis.

We've been working through the Steps and - I thought - making good progress all along. Recently we did his inventory and he's been working through his amends. However now it turns out that in fact he's an atheist and doesn't believe in a God of any kind. Consequently he's had problems with Step 7 which seemingly didn't arise when we actually did Step 7, but now he has resentments he can't deal with and doesn't know what to do.

I don't know where to go with this guy now. I myself have a faith and have never had any problem praying or asking my Higher Power for help and trusting I'll get it. My own sponsor moved away from my home town and is very difficult to get hold of for advice. I feel stupid for not having spotted beforehand that this guy doesn't have a faith although to be fair he's never made it all that clear even when we did Step 3. How do I help him with his resentments when he doesn't believe in turning them over to God?
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby tomsteve » Sun Apr 15, 2018 10:56 am

i suggest having him, and yourself,too, read the chapter,"we agnostics."

if the sponsee is praying every morning and night, there is some HP being prayed to. it doesnt have to be the same HP you have or same perception- just as long as it makes sense to him.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Brock » Sun Apr 15, 2018 12:09 pm

Welcome to e-AA Preacher, and thanks for the question.

I often say in meetings and write here, that I believe the power of the AA program, has less to do with removing the obsession to drink, and more to do with opening the door to a life that rocks, the ‘happy joyous and free’ life the program promises. For me resentments stand in the way of happiness, and although I am spiritual, and absolutely trust in a higher power I choose to call God, I can’t say that my getting over the resentments was purely handing them over. It was more do I want to be happy or miserable, but with a definite look at what part, no matter how small, I played in the event I have a resentment over.

We seem to almost enjoy the resentment, because we feel we are punishing the other person by holding on to it, when of course it’s just us we are punishing. And when I used to think that the other person was wrong in what they did, and I was right to hold the resentment, I was told 'would you rather be right or be happy.’

Also if it were my sponsee, I would not be too concerned if he is holding on to some resentments, it’s progress not perfection, and as we grow in the program it’s easier to see how some things like these are holding us back. Providing of course that the resentments are not that bad that they would lead the person back to drink, I am assuming here that he is at the point that the obsession has been lifted.

I hope others may throw some more light on this subject, and wish you well with your sponsee, but remember not to shoulder any blame if things don’t go the way you would like.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby tomsteve » Sun Apr 15, 2018 2:17 pm

Preacher wrote:I. How do I help him with his resentments when he doesn't believe in turning them over to God?

something i am going to add:
i dont think the program says we turn them over to god. i think it says theres a wee bit more than that to it.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby avaneesh912 » Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:04 pm

First we need to help the candidate conclude that his/her condition is a hopeless one. Then there is a possibility that the candidate consider the rest of the proposals. Otherwise they usually balk, because they are not convinced that they need this power. Try staying with powerlessness and un-manageability portion of step one. You can show the futility using the stories of the car salesman and the accountant story.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Preacher » Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:39 am

Thanks for the replies folks. If anyone else want's to weigh in here I'd be grateful for all contributions.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Roberth » Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:39 am

Hello Preacher, My name is Robert and I am a Los Angeles area alcoholic. I am also an atheist. Glad to see you making the plunge into sponsorship. It the most important service work we do. Remember what Lois Wilson told Bill was ready to throw in the towel after none of the 600 or so guys he 12 stepped didn’t stay sober. She told him one of the most important lesson we got “But Bill you are still sober.”
The 12 and 12 helps a lot with the god thing. It will give several options for a power greater that ourselves and allow the sponsee to develop an understanding of one he/she can believe. It took me a while but I good with the fellowship as mine A Group of drunks works for me and many others
Robert
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Spirit Flower » Tue Apr 17, 2018 1:48 am

Check out the appendix on spiritual experience. "unsuspected inner resource" works very well.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby avaneesh912 » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:48 am

The part where Bill W shares his struggle after Ebby shares what he did to get sober is a good segment. Bill W sees something working in Ebby and arrives at the conclusion that he could do something what Ebby did. And Ebby throws that idea of our own conception of God, thats another great part of the story which we all can use.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Brock » Tue Apr 17, 2018 11:39 am

Preacher wrote: How do I help him with his resentments when he doesn't believe in turning them over to God?

I believe that the program doesn't specifically say we turn resentments over to God, there are other ways we rid ourselves of them as well, especially as in this case you are referring to his trouble in step 7. The 12 & 12 says - “The whole emphasis of step seven is on humility.” It’s about asking for removal of defects, of which resentment may be one, it says it’s an ongoing process, not just please remove this, and poof it’s gone.

He went through the prior steps OK, he must have had a higher power in mind when doing them, if he doesn't call it God no problem, one day he may. To me the important things now are firstly, does he have resentments that are really eating him up, and if he says yes then what are they. I have some years of good happy sobriety, and still hold a resentment against a family member, who swindled me out of a large sum of money, might have it till I die. But when I think about it I get mad and unhappy, so I don’t really think about it, who wants to be mad and unhappy, it’s still a resentment, just not too active in my life. If on the other hand his resentments are small things, like girlfriend took off with someone else etc, well some folks just need to be told to grow a pair, and cut out the pity party. As I said before, he can choose to be unhappy if he wants, some people get a weird sense of pleasure out of that, or he can realize acting on the resentment is the cause of unhappiness, so if he would prefer to be happy, admit his part in whatever happened and move on.

Finally, if you can’t make further progress with him, suggest he look for someone else, and tell yourself you did pretty well bringing him this far, many might not have gotten to this point. And of course the AA program and life in general is all about learning, next time you might inquire about a persons belief or lack of it at the start. And telling us here what happened, will serve as a reminder to myself and I expect others, of the value in doing this. So we have all learned from your experience posted here, and thanks for that.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby PaigeB » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:13 pm

Spirit Flower wrote:Check out the appendix on spiritual experience. "unsuspected inner resource" works very well.

Yes.

Hi there Preacher - Paige Here ~ Alcoholic and Atheist. Not Agnostic and not a believer in a traditional HP, so I keep the title Atheist. I have not found it necessary to take a drink since August 1, 2009 and I am grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous for that Gift. I have been through the Steps, 1-12, and had many spiritual experiences. I am now going through the Steps again with a different sponsor. Both of those women are believers. I sponsor a lovely catholic woman who will soon have 6 years of sobriety.

I see no problem with AA as an HP... The Big Bang as a Creator... Or Love as a Power Greater... Love is pretty powerful! AA is a practical program of action... as a non-believer, I needed that. I LOVE the Appendix on Spiritual Experience. Definitely read that page every day as a part of my early prayer work. The AA prayers 3 & 7 too... Just use semantics on the religious words.

How do I help him with his resentments when he doesn't believe in turning them over to God?

Turn them over to the Earth Elementals ~ or let a Unicorn gallop them away. Remember that Love always finds a way through. And get busy DOing AA as fervently as I drank. I never said no to a drink and I never say no to AA.
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby PaigeB » Tue Apr 17, 2018 3:37 pm

Consequently he's had problems with Step 7 which seemingly didn't arise when we actually did Step 7, but now he has resentments he can't deal with and doesn't know what to do.

I forgot to address this. I had this VERY problem!!! The answer for me came through continued reading and writing out Page 66 starting at (It is plain...) all the way through Page 67 (...each and every one)

I shorten the prayer, but not the intent, "(God) AA save me from being angry! How can I be helpful?!" I had to imagine that the people who wronged me were sick inside too - and how horrible it must be them to be without Love in their hearts. I had to Love them no matter what. I had to "avoid retaliation and argument" and I had to realize that my anger and my fear had to "be Mastered, but HOW?" Here I used the Thomas Merton prayer - or at least parts of it... I do not know where I am going... light my path" Then we "turn our thoughts to someone we can help."

Surrender to Win - Come on over to the winning team! I meditated on dropping my baseball mitt and walking across the field and joining the winners. Meditation is a GREAT tool... equal to prayer if you ask the scientists who did the fMRI study on Buddhist monks meditating and Franciscan Nuns praying... exactly the same.

Seriously - NO ONE KNOWS GOD... we are all making up something that works for us. The atheist is no different.
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Blue Moon » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:56 pm

Read, and have him read, page 93.

e.g. "... he does not have to agree with your conception of God. He can choose any conception he likes, provided it makes sense to him. The main thing is that he be willing to believe in a Power greater than himself and that he live by spiritual principles..."

IMO the key words above are "provided it makes sense to him".
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Re: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby Tosh » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:53 am

I'm an atheist; all my sponsor did was take me through the program of ACTION and I took the ACTIONS and change just happened.

How did I do Step 3?

Easy, I said the prayer and put pen to paper for my Step 4.

The thing is, I can't force a belief in a deity kind of higher power, no more than any of you lot could force a belief in Santa Claus.

I've sponsored atheists and Believers; out of them the guys who recover and stay sober are the ones who take the actions in our program of action. It seems their beliefs are irrelevant, what really seems to matter is 'their works'. Faith without works etc...
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: How do I help my atheist sponsee?

Postby JaninGV1942 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 4:25 pm

We all choose our own definition. I used the AA Group and my Sponsor for the first several years. Today, I still don't know who or what God or Higher Power is
It really does not matter. I continue after 26 years of continuous sobriety to work Step 11; seeking thorough prayer ( which can be plain old gratitude ) and
meditation ( I practice being aware or mindful of the beauty around me ) Think of the word God which has many negative connotations. I would not want the God some people believe in ! I know there is more to me than just a physical body and like the words found in Big Book, 3rd paragraph down. " We found the Great Reality and it was deep within us " What ever it is can't be found through the brain or intellect. It is in our own reality or consciousness. We all experience moments of awe and wonder at times in our life....that is a spiritual experience....its not what I believe its what I have and continue to experience. Perhaps
i could be called an Agnostic
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