Friday, October 8, 2010

Being a sponsor

“Being a sponsor has been an important part of my recovery from growing up with alcoholism. In fact, as a sponsor I never give as much as I get…When I have the privilege of hearing the secret of a sponsee expected to carry in silence for a lifetime, I am reminded of how relieved I was to finally lay down the burden of my secrets with my sponsor…In becoming a sponsor, I cultivate a listening heart for others as well as for myself.”..Hope for Today – August 23.

There are no musts in Al-Anon, except the purpose states that you are affected by someone else's drinking and the disease of alcoholism. In fact, you don't have to have a sponsor to work any step.

But I would say that having a sponsor is recommended because that person has been through the steps. They can share their experience. My sponsor has helped me see things that I would have missed. Having a sponsor has helped bring a whole new dimension to the program and to myself.

Al-Anon is about sharing. Somehow though when you first come to the program you may hear those words but telling them to someone who is a control freak with a persecution complex, brought on by a falling down drunk, and accustomed to isolation and solitary pursuits, loses something in the first translation. I like the saying “our best thinking got us here”, and while there’s some truth in that, it’s what we do after we get here, that will actually spell our recovery.

It's my opinion that trying to do these steps by ourselves constitutes attempting to fix what’s wrong with us with what’s wrong with us. As much as we need to learn the “program”, we simply need help in it’s interpretation through the eyes and experience of someone who has made it work successfully. If not for having an “unbiased” but caring bystander, I would not be able to see more clearly and understand those portions of myself that I have had a great deal of trouble dealing with . And if you’re not sure what I’m referring to, there’s no doubt a sponsor would be of great benefit.

Steps worked in solitary, are neither verifiable nor accountable, by virtue of our perversity when we first arrive. I know that I wasn't capable of applying a “program” I knew little about, and the results I would have gotten would have no doubt reflected that. I suppose one could use the words “half measures” and the result of those being always “nil”.

Plus, having a sponsor gives someone the opportunity to be a sponsor. I have truly felt it an honor to be a sponsor. There is as much to learn being a sponsor as being sponsored. I read a lot on sponsorship before I got a sponsor. I don't just do things because someone tells me I "should". Al-Anon has some good literature on sponsorship and there is a chapter on it in "How Alanon Works".

Just with my own ideas though I offer the following on what a sponsor is and isn't:
A Sponsor is not a Guru. A Sponsor is not a Savior. A Sponsor is not a Higher Power. A Sponsor is not-God. A Sponsor also is not a spiritual guide, spiritual advisor, psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, occupational advisor, relationship counselor, preacher, or a recovery counselor. I don't think that it could be said any better than in the Big Book:

"We are not saints. The point is that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines.The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection." From "How It Works", Alcoholics Anonymous.

But a sponsor is someone who has found a solution and serenity through Al-Anon and its twelve step program. I have faith, trust and confidence in my Sponsor to guide me to place my faith, trust and confidence in God as I understand him. It is my responsibility to seek guidance and direction from my HP in addition to seeking guidance and direction from my sponsor. I need God to help me when I work with others. I need the patience and compassion to not direct but to suggest.

This is all that is and should be required to meet a responsibility and fulfill a commitment to Sponsor, if someone has accepted such a commitment.

I believe that every Al-Anon member has the responsibility to perform 12 Step Work. However, not everyone has to or should be a Sponsor. I think that sponsorship is not a vocation, career, or full time occupation. Undoubtedly, sponsorship requires commitment and responsibilities but if we place the requirements and responsibilities of Sponsorship too high, we will have no Sponsors. I believe that it it is a privilege to sponsor someone. And it's one of the ways we keep what we have in our recovery. Every person I sponsor has taught me a lot about myself. I am most grateful to them for the trust that they have in me.


  1. I wish my sponsee was more active in program. I value the work I do with a sponsee so much,,,,great posting Syd, enjoy your weekend.

  2. All I know is that being a sponsor is a sacred, spiritual thing. I have always found special blessings in the sponsor-sponsee relationship. I agree that I believe I always end up receiving more than I give.

    Great post as always.


  3. we were not created to walk life alone. in that i find much truth.

  4. "Steps worked in solitary, are neither verifiable nor accountable"
    A superb comment. I too believe in sponsorship and consider it a great privelege to be asked to sponsor someone. And yes, it's my job to pass on my experience and knowledge of the programme, gained from my own journey. And that's it nothing more and nothing less. I am glad that is what I received from my sponsor and it seems you did too, which shows in the way you write. Have a good weekend on the boat with C

  5. Sponsorship good post as always
    Recently I picked up more literature on sponsorship. When a person takes the step of becoming vulnerable with another person in the program, there is a depth that evolves that is virtually indescribable. The program comes to life in a way that it simply couldn't without that intimate, personal, human connection.

  6. Amen Syd, well put! Sponsorship has brought so much growth to me. Helping others is the cornerstone of my recovery and that starts with sponsorship.

  7. There is no better way to learn something than to help others learn about it too.
    I have found this to be true in all aspects of life.

  8. The place I have learned the best to be quiet, listen and to not give advice has been through being a sponsor. I am so grateful for the privilege of walking with another through the 12 steps.

  9. Old to Al-anon but new to blogging. Enjoyed your perspective on sponsorship, look forward to reading more.

  10. great post on sponsorship. I love having a sponsor and being a sponsor to others. It is a vital part of my recovery program.

  11. Syd, I linked to this post on my most recent post HERE

    I wanted to let you know, get your permission really. Let me know if this is ok. Thanks!

  12. I appreciate it when someone wants to help and spend time with me. It's only when my sponsor shares with me her experience in conjunction with mine that I truly get the message on how the steps work. Working steps with others helps me as well.

  13. Good morning, Syd!

    I think I may have submitted this to you some time ago (my CRS - 'can't remember s----' is active' - but it seems so appropo with your very meaningful blog I just read. An Al-Anon friend gave me this bookmark she obtained at an AA Convention a few years ago.

    1. I will not help you stay and wallow in limbo.
    2. I will help you grow, to become more productive, by your own definition.
    3. I will help you become more autonomous, more loving of yourself, more free to continue becoming the authority of your own living.
    4. I cannot give you dreams or "fix you up," simply because I cannot.
    5. I cannot give you growth, or grow for you. You must grow yourself, by facing reality, grim as it may be at times.
    6. I cannot take away your loneliness or pain.
    7. I cannot sense your world for you, evaluate your goals, or tell you what is best for you in your world; you have your own world.
    8. I cannot convince you of the crucial choice of choosing the scary uncertainty of growing over the safe misery of not growing.
    9. I want to be with you and know you as a rich and growing friend, yet I cannot get close to you when you choose not to grow.
    10. When I begin to care for you out of pity, when I begin to lose trust in you, then I am toxic, bad and inhibiting for you, and you for me.
    11. You must know - - - my help is conditional. I will be with you, hang in there with you, as long as I continue to get even the slightest hints that you are trying to grow.
    12. If you can accept all of this, then perhaps we can help each other to become what God meant us to be . . . mature adults, leaving childishness forever to little children.

    I feel that you have accomplished - - - as well as continue to observe all of the suggestions outlined here.
    Thank you for being you.

    Love and hugs,
    Anonymous #1

  14. being new to sponsorship and the 12 Steps, this explanation certainly put all the puzzle pieces in line for me to sort out. it has in fact encouraged me to reach out to find a sponsor in al anon. for the first time it makes sense to actually find someone outside my own reasoning with similar circumstance. thank you!

  15. After being an addict and alcoholic and not worked the program and being able to be sober for 10 yrs on my own. Unfortunately the boot is on the other foot. Im now in al anon and work the steps on my own except for the steps where i have needed another.
    Inwhich case i have used a trusted friend from within AA (whom is a sponsor) to go thru those processes.
    Everyone is different and has different strengths and talents i do not believe that people who have sponsors or are sponsor should look down their noses or pass judgements on such.
    this is a reflection on you and not on the people who choose other methods. As we are all aware its sbout what works for the individual. What works for one does not mean it will work for another.
    Progress and not perfection


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