What is a Sponsor?
Alcoholics Anonymous suggests its members have a sponsor. What does a sponsor do and how do you select one?
Imagine going to a foreign country and trying to get from the airport to your hotel which is located in the middle of the town. You have never been to this city, you’re tired from your flight and you don’t speak the language. How would you find your hotel?
Listen to my friend Joe’s story. I sat in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and felt comfortable but I didn’t know what they were talking about. They asked for people with less than 30 days to stand, introduce themselves and give the nature of their disease. What disease? This is my first AA meeting. I do not know that alcoholism is a disease and, even if I do know that, I don’t know that I am an alcoholic. Do I sometimes drink too much? Yes, yes I do. Do I drink at times when I planned to absolutely not drink? Yes, I have done that a few times. Have I had some really serious consequences as a result of drinking? Well, that’s why I was in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. My attorney suggested I go to several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings before I went to court for my driving under the influence charge. Is this my first drunk driving arrest? No, but the first one was two years ago.
I’ve been coming to Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings every night for two weeks. This is my fifteenth meeting and I cannot believe they are reading that portion of chapter five again, They seem to read it at every meeting. They talk so much about the first 164 pages of their book. Maybe they only read that portion of chapter five in May. Maybe they read a different portion every month.
Day 31 and I am miserable. I feel like my skin is on fire. Everything annoys me. I feel as though I am going to start screaming and that I will never stop. I’m not drinking and I am going to AA but it is not helping.
Every meeting someone talks about the steps. Yes, I have heard them. They read them at every meeting. People are always seeming to compare their progress by how far along they are in the steps. They seem to have favorites. I haven’t been going to AA for long but I am certain I have taken as many of their steps as I need.
Let me show you:
1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.
I guess I am powerless over alcohol or at least the consequences of alcohol. Although they have only started occurring recently, I have had a couple really bad hangovers. Once I even called work and said I wasn’t going to be in that day. I was pretty certain I had the flu. There’s that drunk driving. I have had some serious consequences attached to that. I missed Open House at my son’s school because I stopped for a drink and that drink turned in to two, then three and well then it was just too late to go. “Powerless”? OK, yes but unmanageable? I work full time and the bills get paid. I haven’t taken a vacation in a while. There just doesn’t seem to be the financial resources available. I am not sure why, I make a decent wage. I have avoided some friends and some activities because they seem to bring up my drinking more often than not. Maybe alcohol has held me prisoner. I sit on bar stools and dream dreams and plan plans but can’t get off the bar stool to get them done. Unmanageable? OK, maybe a little.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This is one of the steps I don’t have to take. First, I am not crazy and second, I do not believe in any power that changes man’s basic nature. There’s not something inside that’s broken and it’s just a matter of reaching inside to turn it and the insane become sane.
Just what is “sanity”? Listening in AA for a while I have begun to hear sanity defined as “soundness of mind, soundness of judgment.” Someone in AA told this story: trying to rationalize (although I didn’t know that’s what I was doing) my third driving under the influence charge I blamed the police. They always sit outside a particular restaurant in town. A place I like to go after work for a few drinks and possibly some dinner. It’s just after I have left here that they have stopped me all three times. It doesn’t seem fair that they sit there and wait.
And it doesn’t sound like sound judgment that I continue to drink there and drive off believing I won’t be caught. That story caught my attention. How many times have I don’t the same thing over and over and expected the results to be different? Perhaps I didn’t have as sound of judgment as I credited myself.
I have been going to AA more than 30 days so I am no longer being asked to stand up and identify. Now they want me to do stuff. They want me to come early to help set up. They ask me to stay late to help clean up. They are suggesting I stand at the door and greet. It seems they are coming at me from all directions and everyone is saying something and I hear, “do you have a sponsor”?
I was almost as if a volcano exploded inside of me. I screamed uncontrollably, “I don’t know what a sponsor is, I don’t know where to find one, I don’t know what they do”
If AA members are doing their job they way it was done in 1935 when AA started, a member would approach this newcomer , extent their hand and say, “I am your sponsor”. Sponsorship is a first friendly face in Alcoholics Anonymous. Someone who can show you to a seat, get you a cup of coffee and introduce you to other members. The sponsor would take the newcomer’s phone number and call the next day. The sponsor would explain the foreign language spoken in AA and most important the sponsor’s primary responsibility is to take the new person through the steps. The sponsor is the guide, the trail blazer, the teacher. No one should short change themselves by attempting the steps without a sponsor. My efforts to do so were minimal and the benefit of the steps was almost nonexistent.
With sponsor direction through the steps, all sorts of interesting things happen as the principles of the 12 steps are applied to people’s lives. No one who has taken the steps has reported any negative results. Non alcoholic people coming to AA ordered by the court are better people for working the steps to the same degree as alcoholics are better people for working the steps.
When asked the question, do you have a sponsor? Reply back with a question, “will you be my sponsor?”
Email your questions or topic suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous.