A Sponsorship Guide for 12-Step Programs offers the reader far-ranging suggestions, based on concrete experience, for the most common issues and dilemma that arise when one agrees to become a sponsor in any 12-step program Seventeen sponsors (with collective recovery time of over 250 years) share their experience and insights as they describe common situations sponsors face and relate the solutions they used. This is the first book of its kindfor sponsors, by sponsors.
Dived into three main sections"Sponsorship Basics," "Working the Steps with a Sponsee," and "Common issues that Come Up"this book will be of use to anyone who has agreed to be a sponsor, or anyone who does not have access to a sponsor.
A Sponsorship Guide is like having a sponsor in a book.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.52(d)|
About the Author
M.T. is a Hollywood screenwriter and director with nine years of recovery. She lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
In the Beginning
"I tell [my sponsees] not to compare their recovery to anyone else's; I can only compare me to me."
What makes a good sponsor? Some suggestions to give a newcomer who has asked you to sponsor them. The most important things told to our sponsors by their sponsors.
There is a common belief that a strong foundation is instrumental to long-term recovery. What newcomers do in their first ninety days and in their first months with a sponsor are key to how they will work the rest of their program. During this formative time, what basic things can you have your sponsees do to set this foundation and establish your relationship with them? Below are some suggestions. Quite honestly, I believed that our sponsor participants, especially on a question as basic as this one, would have pretty much the same answers. I was quite surprised to find out otherwise. It is consistent throughout this book that the answers are inconsistent. Everyone has an individual approach, and it's a plus to have so many perspectives to choose from. You may not choose to do what they did, but what they did may help you choose what to do.
What makes a good sponsor?
M.T.: I think a good sponsor is someone who has worked the steps, has a strong program, and is passionate and inspired about her recovery.
Charles: I think a great sponsor is one who is available whenever possible, one who always reminds us of who we are and why we're doing what we're doing. In other words, our biggest problem is we forget. I recently (in the past three years) moved away from somebody I loved very much, and then got back with that person and continued the relationship. My sponsor reminded me of why I moved out. I'm ten years sober, and I moved out at seven years sober. Moving out was one of the best things I ever did. I forgot why I moved out, and after he asked me the question three times, I remembered why. But I had to hear the question asked three times. I consider myself a pretty good listener. So, for all of us, not just for my own experience, our biggest problem is we forget.
That's what Bob and Bill did for each other. They didn't talk to each other; they listened to each other.
I don't like "don'ts." I like "dos." I think "don'ts" have a way of being self-defeating. I'd like to see: "This is what we do." I'd like to see that over and over again. "This is what we do to stay sober." I don't want to hear anything about, "We don't do that." That's crap. We do everything. So I think, if we get into what we do to stay sober, that's where the emphasis should be.
My responsibility as your sponsor is for you to see that I love you, that the only purpose I have in life is to be loving to you, and, in that sense, loving to myself. As your sponsor, I also try to get you to see (no matter how big, mean and tough or nasty you are or how many things you've gone through) that your parents aren't responsible for your actions, even if your family was dysfunctional. You are responsible for your own actions. And, again, I'm here to love you and to be loved. That's the key to the program.
Suzanne: I think it's the same thing that makes a really good person: to be a good sponsor, you have to live what you're teaching. I don't think it works to tell people what to do if you're not doing it yourself. It's really easy to boss people around, give them direction, and act like you're a know-it-all. It's much more difficult to live and practice these principles in all of our affairs. I think if that's what you're doing in your life, than you're going to be a good sponsor, because you're an example. That's what this program is, a program of attraction, not promotion, to share my experience, strength, and hope for fun and for free.
Being a sponsor doesn't mean you have to know everything. It means you're just down the road, a few steps ahead of the person behind you. If you don't know, there are lots of other people you can ask. It's like a mentoring program, more than anything else, not like being someone's mother, father, baby-sitter, boss, or caretaker. It's a loving extension of your knowledge, your experience, your strength, and your hope. You do it for fun and for free. If you're not having fun doing it, there's something wrong with your attitude and your approach. I really have a problem with this party line in a lot of AA meetings: if you don't go to meetings all the time, you're going to die, if you don't get a sponsor, you're going to drink and die — a kind of fear-driven focus to go to meetings and have a sponsor. I know a lot of people who are sober who don't go to AA and don't have a sponsor. I think people can stay sober and work the steps by being involved in the fellowship and by participating. I don't think you get the degree and the depth of sobriety without working with someone, because someone doesn't get to know you intimately. I have friends on the East Coast who have been sober for many, many years, and they've never written a Fourth Step. I also feel they don't have the same kind of serenity and spiritual connectedness as people who I know who have written a Fourth Step. The Big Book doesn't say you have to have a sponsor, it's not written anywhere. But it is written that we help another alcoholic. So, I think in all of our relationships with people in meetings, we're really sponsoring anyone we have a conversation with. There may just be somebody who we're more particularly connected to in sponsoring.
Marge: Someone who's willing to share all of her experience, strength, and hope, not just the fluffy parts; someone who is willing to try to pursue her spiritual search so that she is the best human being that she can be at any given time. And someone who's willing to put aside her stuff to direct her attention to someone else. Sometimes that requires a lot of willingness.
Mariasha: Sponsorship means different things to different people. Do they need to be controlled? Do they need to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it? No. Do we need ongoing love and support in our recovery? Yes. I think we could all benefit from having a mentor or a partner to walk the path with and just check in with and touch base with. When you're in isolation, recovery is measured by the degree you participate in it. To think you've arrived and no longer need to check out reality with another human being is a dangerous position to take.
I've chosen to sign up for the long run because of what I receive as a result of that surrender. I've never been totally comfortable with labeling myself. But that is partially why it took me two years to find a sponsor. When I first was clean, I was about to be married, I was in a committed relationship, I had just been accepted into graduate school, and I had never been arrested. I had good relations with my family. I had never written a bad check. I'd never been evicted. I was not a "curb creature," as I heard talked about in a meeting. I was pretty much an upstanding member of society. When I looked around the room, there weren't too many people who fit that bill. There wasn't a lot of clean time in this area; there was very little. I can count on one hand the people who had as much or more time than I had in this area. What was suggested to me (I think it was one of the most valuable things I ever heard) was try to find somebody whose life seems to be improved as a result of working the Twelve Steps of NA who can teach me about working the steps. It doesn't matter what she looks like, what her sexuality is, what her experience has been, what her religion is, or what her familial status is. What matters is, Is she staying clean and does she work the Twelve Steps of NA? Choose somebody based upon those criteria and let go of the other stuff. I picked a sponsor who was as opposite from me as you could probably imagine. But she was working the Twelve Steps, and she was of service and still is today. She has not relapsed; she doesn't relate to some of the experiences I've had, but she relates to the feelings. She always relates to me on a "feel" level. That's my biggest suggestion: if you're looking for a sponsor, try not to think twice about the criteria you're using to make that selection. Do you respect her and see her as knowledgeable? Do you speak the language of the heart with one another? Do you feel she is a positive role model? That is what your decision should be based upon. Not how similar you are in terms of status symbols.
Bea: I don't know what a good sponsor is. What does that mean, "a really good sponsor?" Sponsors are good because they're there for you in your life, and even if they're not there the way you want them to be, you get something out of it, you still learn something. I don't like this idea of firing sponsors. I don't like that lingo. If someone takes the time to care about you, that's very special.
Danny: I think the most basic thing that makes a really good sponsor is caring. If somebody comes into this program and connects with someone who cares, then he'll start to care about himself. I think that's one of things that's so intimidating about asking someone to sponsor you. When somebody asks you, it's like, "Wow!" "Why?" and "Thank you!" at the same time. Most of the people I sponsor have approached me at meetings I go to regularly where they have heard me share. I think it's also important for a sponsor to stay humble. By that I mean I have to share my stuff with my sponsees and stay open to learning from them and not be so arrogant that I feel I know it all and can tell them everything they need to do. Sometimes I'm in awe of the mystery that presents itself. Sometimes a sponsee presents a problem and I'll say, "I don't know; let's figure it out." I think those things help to cement that bond that allows the work to be done. If it's not there, the work won't get done.
Ed: Work the steps in every area of your life. And when you don't, learn to laugh at yourself.
SOME SUGGESTIONS TO GIVE A NEWCOMER WHO HAS ASKED YOU TO SPONSOR HIM/HER.
M.T.: The suggestions given to me were simple — and numerous. In New York, where I got clean, at the beginning of almost every meeting, written into the format, were the suggestions (so every group acted as a collective sponsor to the newcomer): "If you're new, there are no rules in NA, but there are some suggestions." They went on to read: "Make ninety meetings in ninety days, and if that sounds like a lot make a meeting a day and the ninety will take care of itself [this made sense to me and told me I only had to worry about it a day at a time]; get a phone number at every meeting you go to so, at the end of ninety days, you will have ninety numbers; use the phone: a meeting is only an hour-and-a-half long; your disease is with you twenty-four hours a day. Get to meetings early and help set up, stay after and help clean up; sit up front, relax and listen, you may hear something that will help you to stay clean tonight; stay away from slippery people, places, and things — they will get you high before you get them clean." When I had 11 days, my sponsor asked me to write my first step.
Leigh: They have to make at least ninety meetings in ninety days, to get phone numbers and to use them to call three people a day. They must make one or two meetings a day; some people need three meetings a day, depending on how they've used. What I recommend depends on the state they're in. If they're having seizures or not bathing, I tell them the most important thing is not to use. Some people have big problems going on, and I try to get them to focus on staying clean and the concept of having a successful day. If they're coherent, I'll have them write a first step.
J.P.: The first thing is to call me every day and leave a message if I'm not home. The main thing is that they go through the motions. If they want me to call back, they need to ask for it. I tell them to make meetings regularly. Sometimes there's a cloudy zone with people coming out of rehabs and detoxes who are exposed to multiple fellowships. I ask them to choose one fellowship. If they choose other than NA, I tell them they can call me until they find someone in the other fellowship. No one is left out in the cold.
Natalie: I ask them, "To what lengths are you willing to go to for your sobriety? To what lengths are you willing to go to follow the program?" The "correct" response is, "Any lengths to change my life." If they're not sure, I tell them to ask themselves, "Why did I come in to AA?" When I first came in I wanted to do it my way. I thought you didn't understand that all my problems were everyone else's fault. Only later did I realize I was to blame. I was told to "just do it" and I did. That's how I pass it on.
Jeanette: I tell them to keep a rock in their pocket to remind them to call their sponsor. I suppose calling every day is the most important thing. It begins to get them into good habits. I tell them to go to meetings, no set amount, because they won't be using in a meeting. If they're messed up, they need to be in a meeting. I feel my way along with the person I'm dealing with and then see what to suggest. Sometimes they just have to get comfortable going to meetings. I'll have them read the book so they become familiar with the program; it's not like a demand. Mostly, I get women with three, four, or five years clean, so I tell them just to read the Twelve and Twelve through.
Karen: My suggestions to a newcomer: Make a meeting a day, especially if she is struggling on a daily basis to stay clean; if she isn't, I still suggest a meeting a day, but definitely not less than three or four times a week. I also suggest beginning prayer and meditation immediately and getting one number from each meeting and calling that person the next day just to get into the habit of doing so.
Sunny: I tell a new sponsee to call me every day for the first month. Don't drink between meetings. Go to a meeting every day and read the AA sponsorship pamphlet so she has some sense of how this relationship works. I emphasize making meetings every day and that I'm there for her. I don't give her any other directions beyond these at first. But I do expect her to show up if she says she will.
Patrice: I tell them AA is backwards; it's not how you feel, think, or believe that is important; it's taking recovery actions and to keep taking them until your feelings, thoughts, beliefs catch up with your actions. I tell them how this disease doesn't want them to recover, and it will try to stop them from being successful. It's going to tell them they're safe when their not, that they've done enough when they've barely started. The only way to beat this disease is to stay in action, stay connected with people in recovery. Recovery is really very simple; it's about learning how to spot danger, then acting appropriately. I go over the actions necessary to stay clean and sober (no set number of meetings, some may need several a day, others several a week). The most important thing is to get connected with recovering people and stay connected. This disease thrives on isolation. Most addicts and alcoholics are like the Lone Ranger who killed Tonto because they could do it better themselves.
Suzanne: The first thing I suggest they do is create a schedule, just like a work schedule, of meetings they're going to go to on a regular basis and keep going back to. If they're just starting and don't know which ones they want to go to, I suggest very strongly that men go to all men's meetings (men's stag meetings) and women go to all women's meetings. I find the quality of sharing and authenticity is greater and the focus of sobriety, per se, is stronger in same gender meetings. I ask them to generate a schedule of where they're going to be every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday — what meetings they're going to be at, and work that out, so they commit to that and keep going back to those same meetings so people get to know them. I also suggest they start taking phone lists from the meetings they're going to and getting names and numbers from people and making a commitment: once a day they make a minimum of three program calls, to just call and say hello and check in with people from the meetings they go to, in order to start establishing phone relationships with people.
I have never been somebody who insisted somebody call me every day. I find most alcoholics don't take direction very well. If somebody is nearly sober, vacillating and wondering whether or not she is an alcoholic, that kind of expectation and direction may be overwhelming. So I may suggest that I'm available to her, and if she wants, she can call me. I also let her know that it probably would be helpful for her to check in with me, at least on my machine, on a daily basis, but I don't insist upon it.
Excerpted from "A Sponsorship Guide For 12-Step Programs"
Copyright © 1998 M. T..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface: Why a Book on Sponsorship?,
1. In the Beginning,
2. Gender Issues,
3. Sponsor/Sponsee Relationships,
Working the Steps with a Sponsee,
4. Steps One, Two, and Three,
5. Steps Four and Five,
6. Steps Six and Seven,
7. The Amends Steps,
Some Common Issues That Come Up and What to Do When They Arise,
8. Addressing Common Issues,
9. Learning from Others,
10. Some Other Common Issues That May Arise,
11. Additional Thoughts on Sponsorship,
Writing The Steps,