Wednesday, December 15, 2010


“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.

I went to a good meeting last night in which we discussed sponsorship.  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.  It has been a great honor for me to work with those who have asked.  I know that I have gotten so much from helping others to understand the steps and their application in life.  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.

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.

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.   Some people find it difficult to ask someone to work with them, while some who work with others tend to take over the lives of their sponsees.  I believe that the choices people make are theirs.  A sponsor isn't supposed to dominate others.  

I like the idea of listening to people in meetings and looking for those who have what you want.  These are the ones who have worked the steps and are practicing the principles in their life.  They are to me the "winners" who are able to laugh and exude joy.  I am a people watcher and like to observe what others do and say outside of meetings.  Living the program is different from sharing for an hour in a meeting.  

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.


  1. I love my sponsor and my sponsees...that my sponsor considers me worth her time is an honor. That my sponsees see something in me and entrust me with their secrets is not only an honor but humbling. Great post Syd. Thanks.

  2. Sponsorship is a great gift. I'm grateful to have two amazing sponsors in my life, my present sponsor who continues to help to direct me when I'm confused, experiencing frustration, fear, resentment or anger and who is willing to make suggestions about where to start in the direction of the big book, well usually suggestions one direction above all, pray and meditate then take a little action in practicing love, tolerance, patience, kindness or any combination there of... it's bound to put me right back on the road of Happy Destiny :)

  3. Well said. My experience with sponsors involved doing my first set of steps in email (IMO works the same as face-to-face if the match is good) due to lack of available local sponsors. When I started sponsoring, I never had a sponsee get past Step 5. Most bolted on Step 3. I was reminded by sponsoring that it was their journey, not mine.

    When I started CODA work my first sponsor died of Hep C, and the second wasn't compatible. I have a co-sponsor I meet with every week in video chat now, and that works well for me.

  4. Originally, I tried to work the steps on my own, like I did everything else, but when things got really bad, I finally broke down and asked a sponsor for help. I realize now that trying to do it on my own was just another attempt to be in control and it wasn't until I was able to ask for a sponsor's help, that I also learned to ask my HP for help. There's a reason that program is set up the way it is, and I am grateful for the wisdom of it. Thanks for your post Syd.

  5. i like your thoughts and they work in the program and man was meant to walk alone...

  6. I don't know anything about this subject, but I would be very happy and comfortable to have you as a sponsor. You are a good guy.

    Happy holidays!

  7. How does one learn to be a "proper" sponsor?

    I think I am ready to be a sponsor.

    I have worked the steps with an online sponsor.

    Thanks for your great post.

  8. Wow - what a tremendously informative definition of sponsorship!

    I aponaor a few wonderful souls, and I, like you, glean much love and acceptance from their trust in me.

    The trust I find in the halls of Al-Anon is the most precious thing I cherish.

    And with that, I will sign off with, "I keep coming back, because I need to be able to give away what I have been given,"

    Hugs, Anonymous #1

  9. Doing the steps by ourselves might help some, but working with a sponsor helps me open up and learn to trust someone with my deepest stuff. She has worked the steps with me and helped me see things clearly and she doesn't let me skate. For someone like me, to learn how to trust enough to work the steps honestly is a new experience and is teaching me so much. I like the way you describe the benefits of having a sponsor.

  10. I chose my sponsor carefully and I'm glad that I did. She is an aweseome force who has spent countless hours working with me. We have laughed, and cried, and grown. Every Friday night we work together. When most people want to come off their week, I get to analyze mine, but it's worth it! Great post!

  11. Great post, Syd. When I was new to Al-Anon, I needed a sponsor who wouldn't accept my vision of myself as the world's greatest victim/martyr, and who could make me laugh at my own frailties.

  12. Having a sponsor that is the right fit is so important for me. In the beginning I needed someone that would be gentle. I was plenty hard on myself and needed someone to guide me gently through the steps. I chose someone that always had a smile on her face and peace I thought wasn't possible.

  13. I tried sponsoring myself for awhile. Fail.

    Excellent post worth sharing again.


  14. This is lovely. I am currently about to tear my hair out with my sponsoree.

    I don't have a sponsor now, it's been about two years. My home group is mostly people with less than a year sobriety, most have only about 3 or 4 months. No one feels up to sponsoring an old AA of 14 plus years.

    It's hard to find a good sponsor but when you do the results are magic. Just like finding a good boyfriend/girlfriend.


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