Feeling defeated...

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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Pathfinder1983
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Feeling defeated...

Post by Pathfinder1983 »

Hi everyone - this is my first post here and I’m feeling very vulnerable to share, but I really need some feedback. In a nutshell, I’ve struggled with AA for a really long time and been in and out of the program for a decade - mostly out. This time around, I got very serious about my recovery and decided I was going to truly put all of my effort into it. So, I started attending meetings every day, usually 2x day until work started up again. Got a sponsor with 29 years. Jumped into step work. Got to meetings early, helped out or talked to other alcoholics, stayed late and did the same (instead of bolting out the door right after). On and on...

Here’s where I’m struggling the most - I have a sponsor who seems to find something wrong with everything I do or say, unless I’m agreeing with her. On top of that, she’s been very opinionated about my current relationship and how I need to try and work things out, without knowing much context at all. When I try and give context, she interrupts and finds a way to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve tried hard to swallow any pride I may have and just listen to what she says, but it’s really taking a toll on my self-esteem and trust of her. I’m about to head into my 4th step, and it honestly makes me sick to my stomach to think about sharing my character defects and painful life experiences with her, when I don’t really feel like we’ve developed a relationship that I feel safe and heard in.

To give a few examples of things that have happened recently:

1. I’ve been reading a book called “A Woman’s Way through the 12 Steps” - it studies each step and frames theme through the lens of women’s experiences, since the Big Book was 99/100 people, written by men. Women bring some very different experiences, particularly trauma, into the rooms. This book supplements my study of the Big Book and the 12 and 12. She raised her voice at me today for even discussing how helpful the book has been. She said I’m not taking direction, because she never told me I could read it - that I’m only to read the Big Book and 12 and 12. When I tried to explain that I had done all the readings she asked of me, she insisted she doesn’t work out of any other book and either I learn to take direction or she can’t sponsor me. I’ve literally done every directive she’s given me, but apparently reading on my free time is a problem if it’s not sponsor-approved.

2. I was unexpectedly asked to chair an open meeting and handed the meeting script, when the chair didn’t show up recently. My career is in group facilitation and trainings, and so, even though I felt nervous, I agreed. I am barely 30 days sober this time around. When I told my sponsor and shared that the meeting went great, she was pissed and told me I have nothing to offer chairing a meeting and have no business doing that. That any major decisions or commitments I make need to be discussed with her. I had no idea this was going to be an issue, apologized, and told her I’d make sure that it didn’t happen again.

3. I’ve been going through some relationship issues for quite a long time and one day, I was opening up and sharing. Somewhere in the conversation, I said that I was minimally grateful for the relationship because it taught me that I do have some beautiful things to offer my future partners. She cut me off and said, “no - you don’t gave ANYTHING to offer anyone until you finish the steps.”

The list goes on, but the theme is that, if I’m proud of an accomplishment, I’m told to get out of my ego, even though it’s really hard for me to feel proud of myself and an indication of personal growth. When I share how I’m feeling about something that’s a fairly rational thing to feel, it’s that I’m wrong in some way. When I try and share things and resources that are helping me feel empowered to stay sober, like the book I mentioned, I'm told to stop reading.

I don’t understand how any of this is seen or justified as healthy behavior. If I wasn’t talking about my sponsor, but was instead, talking about my partner, most people would say it’s, at minimum, a controlling relationship - if not abusive. So, why are sponsors allowed to do this? The Big Book says nothing about 90 meetings in 90 days; nothing about calling your sponsor every day; nothing about not dating for the first year; nothing about calling your sponsor before making commitments or decisions. What do I do? What am I missing? AA once had a success rate in the early days of nearly 95% - people worked the steps almost immediately and thoroughly with a “sharing partner” within days, if not weeks, and then carried the message to other alcoholics. I don’t understand how treating sponsees this way or sponsors deciding “when you’re ready” for the next step aligns at all with the Big Book. And, what’s most upsetting and scary, is that I know I’m far from alone in my experience. Alcoholism is a life or death disease -!; we should all be working tirelessly to “share the solution” - not beat each other down.
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Brock
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by Brock »

Welcome here Pathfinder.

You have explained so well what your predicament is, and as a grateful recovered alcoholic with a lovely life thanks to AA, it hurts me when things like this happen. Unfortunately it does happen, forums like this are a confidential way we can speak about it, and we get issues like this here from time to time. Often some responses are simply - ‘get a new sponsor,’ but I would like to encourage you further.

What you said in the last paragraph about the way things were in early AA, and the success rate they had, is something we should learn from. We have inserted too many rules, and in my opinion allowed certain ‘sponsors,’ to believe they have the right to lord it over us. Throughout our literature they make sure to say it’s suggestions, and then get some sponsors like this who do the opposite of suggest.

You deserve better, and I hope you tell her thanks but you will be ending the relationship, and any decent AA member would not be annoyed by that. I also hope you move forward with #’s 4 & 5 ASAP, as you know this is where we often find relief and life gets easier. Perhaps there is someone you see at meetings that will be suitable as a new sponsor, I will also put a link to an online sponsor arrangement we have here, best of luck.

http://www.e-aa.org/form_sponsors.php
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Jojo2
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by Jojo2 »

Pathfinder1983 wrote: Mon Sep 16, 2019 6:41 pm .

Here’s where I’m struggling the most - I have a sponsor who seems to find something wrong with everything I do or say, unless I’m agreeing with her. On top of that, she’s been very opinionated about my current relationship and how I need to try and work things out, without knowing much context at all. When I try and give context, she interrupts and finds a way to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve tried hard to swallow any pride I may have and just listen to what she says, but it’s really taking a toll on my self-esteem and trust of her. I’m about to head into my 4th step, and it honestly makes me sick to my stomach to think about sharing my character defects and painful life experiences with her, when I don’t really feel like we’ve developed a relationship that I feel safe and heard in.


Welcome Pathfinder,

The person hearing our Fifth Step could be our sponsor, but it could also be a therapist, a friend, a spiritual adviser, a counsellor, a member of the clergy, a doctor or other trusted professional. Indeed, almost anyone can fill the role. The main thing is that we trust this person and that they understand what we are doing and why we are doing it.

I would caution the newcomer who may be contemplating the Steps to think carefully about the person with whom they will be sharing their Fifth Step. It’s absolutely imperative that we have full trust that the person who will be hearing our Fifth Step will without doubt keep our confidence.

A good sponsor will listen with compassion and understanding, free of judgement and criticism; speaking only when the sharing of experience would help the sponsee through a particularly difficult and painful memory.
Hearing Fifth Steps, I have felt humbled and honoured that the person would trust me with such a responsibility. I did for them what my sponsor did for me; I listened.

A good sponsor can make all the difference with respect to a person’s participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, and the practice of sponsorship is considered by AA World Services as “a basic part of the A.A. approach to recovery from alcoholism through the Twelve Steps”. (Questions & Answers on Sponsorship, p 8 )

http://aa.org/pdf/products/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf  

I would encourage everyone in AA to read the AAWS pamphlet Questions & Answers on Sponsorship, which describes sponsorship as:

"An alcoholic who has made some progress in the recovery programme shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through A.A."

The pamphlet explains that sponsorship is a relationship among equals as illustrated by the example of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. Bill carried the message to Bob who in turn sponsored many others, but the two men sustained one another. Neither was in a position of authority over the other.

There is also a reminder to newcomers that they need not agree with their sponsor on everything, and if they hear an idea that seems strange, they should ask questions. I have heard of sponsors telling people not to take medication for depression or other mental health issues, which is completely inappropriate of course. It is also worth noting that no single person speaks for AA as a whole.
Here are my suggestions to the newcomer when considering whether or not to get a sponsor:

Take your time. There is no urgency to have a sponsor. If you’re going to meetings, sharing honestly, getting involved with the fellowship, making friends, and not drinking, then you are doing just fine.
Choose someone who has what you want... someone who walks the walk, not just talks the talk.
Be alert for the person who is over confident, who seems to have all the answers and is quick to give opinions and advice.

Never allow anyone else to think for you.

Remember that sponsorship is a relationship between equals.

Your sponsor has no authority over you.

If they try to exert authority, it’s perfectly okay to change sponsors.

Sponsorship can be a helpful and healthy experience, but don’t allow others to pressure you or pressure you into it.

The sponsor will make suggestions, but it’s up to you to do whatever it takes to recover.

A good sponsor encourages dependency upon the programme and upon a Higher Power, not upon the sponsor.  
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avaneesh912
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by avaneesh912 »

The Big Book says nothing about 90 meetings in 90 days; nothing about calling your sponsor every day; nothing about not dating for the first year; nothing about calling your sponsor before making commitments or decisions. What do I do? What am I missing?

I converted my sponsor into a big book thumper. =biggrin =biggrin =biggrin =biggrin =biggrin

Probably her sponsor did that to her. Sponsors are not permanent, in our area we say find a temporary sponsor. If it doesnt work out find another. I mostly work with desperate drunks and when they have a good understanding they start exploring other options I let them go. We remain friends.
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)
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ebear
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by ebear »

Hi, Pathfinder!

So glad you shared. It sounds as though your sponsor is an impediment, not a guide. I changed my sponsor with far less cause than you have! (For me, it was a question of relatability and accessibility.) Find another, and when you have, thank your current one and let her know that you have found someone else that you connect with.

Best of luck!
If you don't change direction, you'll end up where you're headed.
Pathfinder1983
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by Pathfinder1983 »

Thank you to each of you who took the time to share your feedback. I genuinely appreciate it. I woke up this morning dreading a conversation with my sponsor, because I can’t have another bad day from it. Firing her isn’t going to be a fun conversation but it seems like it’s what I need to do, because it’s genuinely affecting my recovery.
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avaneesh912
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by avaneesh912 »

If she is truly detached, she should handle it well. If she doesnt, its not your problem. But make sure you get support if she acts abnormal.
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)
D'oh
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Re: Feeling defeated...

Post by D'oh »

I have heard a "Sponsor" is to be someone with at least 1 day more sobriety than you, and has what you want. A Cool Car, a Trophy Wife, a Nice Home, or Serenity. Then ask "How they got it?"


So if it is 29 years of Sobriety that you are after, then Ask How she achieved that.
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