Friday, October 3, 2008

Getting A Sponsor

Al-Anon, Sponsor, Sponsorship

When I first came to Al-Anon, I heard about this "sponsorship" thing a lot. I didn't want a sponsor because I thought "I was waaaay too smart for anyone to teach me anything." Plus, I thought - deep down - I don't want to "burden" anyone with my feeble foibles. And, how in the world would I explain what the hell is happening in my life.

Well, one day, a guy raised his hand when they asked who was willing to be sponsors. I heard him talk before and so I asked him later to be my sponsor. When we talked I was appalled to find out "how different he was than I." He was; a stay at home dad for the main thing, never traveled in his job, not in the"corporate world," and he was - well - physically different - as I am very tall.

This difference - was my ego talking - basically saying - "This is not going to work Joe. What the hell are you doing???"

I never called him. The "burden" of calling - and sharing my "troubles" were too much for me to allow myself to share what I thought would be things I could address "ALL BY MYSELF." For I am not a weak person - "I AM STRONG and POWERFUL." And - could HANDLE ANYTHING.

He called me one night. Amazing. I was dying. Under the burden of alcoholism - I was; lonely, tired, frustrated, and frankly - lost.

Four months later - maybe six - from the night he called me - I called him asking for advice about what to feed my child and get him/her off of pasta. I was on my way to an Al-Anon meeting at the time when I called and we talked. I had separated from my spouse a few months before, and I had joint custody. He explained what he had done and what he was doing. He said - "Every Wednesday is pasta night. This way they know what to expect and when to expect it."

The solution was so simple - of course - I thought. Then I thought - "Isn't this interesting." Seven or eight months ago when I first met him - I thought "we couldn't be more different" . . .

Now I thought - I am a "stay at home dad too" and my higher power or God - had placed this sponsor in front of me eight months ago and I had no clue how this would turn out. AND fortunately, it turned out for the good.

It turns out we are more similar in other areas too. I trust my sponsor. Even when he "criticizes" me in some form, I know he is doing it in a loving way - and he has the best interests for me and no hidden agenda. I say "criticizes" - only to mean this - I do something or I am about to do something - well - frankly - stupid - he asks me some pointed questions. I go - "oh yeah . . . that is not being honest or acting with utmost integrity." I figure it out by his questions and also - listening to myself "think outloud."

I am indebted to my sponsor. He is beginning to know me. I am beginning to admit things I never could or would admit to someone else. He gives me guidance sometimes, but most of the time, he listens, and when I talk, I hear myself and I hear the answer or I hear where I am steering off course.

Here is my message; If you do not have a sponsor, get one. Find a temporary sponsor, if you have to. They are free. They are invaluable.

AND . . .

We wind up helping them as much or if not more than they help us!! And we all are fixers and helpers - and that can be our "reason" to getting one and being honest - in order to trick ourselves into getting help for ourselves!!!

PEACE today. Hope for Today. Faith for Tomorrow


Syd said...

My sponsor is someone who has guided me through the steps and to whom I turn when things arise. We both lean on each other that way. It is a good relationship and so worthwhile.

mermaidgirl said...

Your comment today could not be more useful for me.

I am feeling lost, tired, lonely, angry and frustrated (I think we need a new word for all of those feelings). I have noticed that quite a bit of references are to those with current alcoholics in their midsts. My qualifer has been sober for 4 years, but has not worked the steps and up until 3 days ago, did not have a sponsor.

We are in couples counseling (again) because the first time he completely sabotaged all of the work we did while in counseling.

Lately-he has overdrawn his account 3 times in 6 weeks. He recently finished his Bachelor's degree (he is 54) and is looking for work and obsesses about it all of the time. He refuses to think of income as "our" money, and refers to income right now only as "your" money, thus he eliminates himself from activities if it involves spending money.

My days off are horrible anymore-all we do is argue and in the last 2 weeks I have noticed a huge change in his behavior although he swears he is not drinking. I finally had to tell him if he ever stops going to AA, he will need to live somewhere else.

I am at the end of my emotional rope-and plan on attending an Al-Anon meeting today or tomorrow and make it habit, although I have no hope anymore for this relationship-

My question to the wise owls here are how to handle the behaviors of a dry drunk? Is there is a difference? Do you handle it differently and expect differently vs if he were drinking?

Thank you for listening.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the topic of sponsorship. I am looking forward to reading more of the comments.

I have a fact there are two. They are both tremendous examples of people whose programs work for them because they work their programs.

I hear all the time in meetings, "Get a sponsor." Well I did. But nobody talks about what happens next. What do I do now that I have a sponsor? What is my responsibility toward cultivating that relationship?

It took some time before I learned to ask for help at meetings, but it feels fairly comfortable now. Where I absolutely stumble is the feeling of absolutely paralysis when it comes to *making calls* when I'm away from meetings.

I live 45 minutes away from both of them, and while I relate to both of them and am always eager to learn from their experience, strength and hope, the trust just isn't readily pouring forth from me.

What I have managed to do is fine-tune my already re-markable ability to avoid making the call and asking for help.
I was grateful to find this blog this evening.

Mermaidgirl...until I started sharing here about 20 minutes ago, I have been mired in those feelings most of the day, with no prospect of a live meeting near me this evening. Tired, frustrated, disappointed with myself...

My alcoholic is coming up on 5 years of sobriety, and for today I am grateful to the Higher Power working in our lives that he too has a program he relies on.

This was not always so. Early sobriety is rough. He had been sober more than 3 years when I was driven to Al-Anon. Occasional AA meetings were part of his sobriety, but the fellowship & Steps were not. I came to Al-Anon because I thought it was part of what I had to do to fix his anxiety and depression and get him to leave the house to interact with our friends and family, and to be able to hold down employment.

In fact for the first 6 months that I came to Al-Anon meetings, I was sure that I would one day be shown the door because I had never directly been exposed to his active alcoholism, and the possibility that he might start drinking again had never even crossed my mind. My mind was very much wired to work toward *my* goals and *my* view of how things should be. When it became clear to me that his sobriety today is no guarantee of the same tomorrow, his program became *my* program, and I started planning out his meetings for him on a weekly basis!

I have changed fundamentally since I came through the door of Al-Anon for the first time. It took many meetings in the beginning, (both Al-Anon & open AA meetings, which I still attend as they are more readily available where I live), but as the preamble says, little by little, one day at a time, changes began to take place with me. Miracles started taking place in my life as I started working the the steps.

I have been shown how distorted my thinking becomes when my alcoholic behaves like one. I have also been shown that I am not responsible for whether or not he drinks again, whether or not he attends a meeting, whether or not he calls his sponsor, or whether or not he meets his financial, spiritual, emotional or physical obligations.

I am responsible for me - and I am only responsible for me for this day. I am responsible for making use of the tools the program provides me *as they are revealed to me*.

Keep coming back, and listen, but also keep asking for help! The greatest gift I have received so far is to learn how to ask for help. In this program, when you ask for help and answers, you get them!

mermaidgirl said...


Thank you for the separate comment. I attend my 3rd al-anon meeting today. The last time I attended was over a year ago-when my alcoholic's dry behavior was a problem.

His behavior now, as I mentioned, has left me confused and scrambled and I do not want to make decisions in such an emotional state.

I do not know if I am meant to be with this person-I "stuck it out" with my first spouse for 15 years and do not want to repeat my mistakes. On the other hand, I feel I need to give him the benefit of the doubt as he has followed through with what he has promised so far-has attended regular meetings, has a sponsor and claims he is working the steps with his sponsor.

I think this is the point where I need to truly let God take over and lead me, and him for that matter, to where he wants us to be. Maybe it is together; maybe not, it will be up to Him to show us.

I plan on going back to the Al-anon meeting I attended today and plan on listening, learning and hoping that I will have some form of serenity, peace and most of all, hope.

Thanks for listening.

nona said...


You mention expectations. We learn to examine "our" expectations and as we change our attitudes about the diseases of alcoholism and addiction we find our expectations will change as well. Going to meetings, reading CAL (Conference Approved Literature)every day, getting a sponsor and working the steps are the tools of this program that help you to heal and become able to make healthy decisions for yourself. Keep coming back it works if you work it.

Living with A & A I learned that if I verbalized my feelings there was something terribly wrong with me. I was told I was paranoid, insecure and imagining things. This led to low self esteem, shame and loneliness. Having a sponsor has helped me to develop a trusting relationship without fear of being criticized or judged. She listens to me with respect and understanding and helps me on my journey for "Progress not Perfection." She is a valuable resource when I need to "reason things out" and when it came time to do my fourth and fifth steps. We have become friends and this friendship has been a gift from my HP. I'm going to call her right now and thank her for being in my life.


PattyB said...

I have only gone to a few Al-Anon meetings (they are not very plentiful in my area)and realize I need to attend them again and on a more regular basis. My boyfriend has been through some rehab classes and relapse prevention, but never has really been a "recovered" alcoholic. He always has exclaimed that he hasn't hit bottom...until recently - and even then I think he was giving me and himself lip service. He was arrested for DWI the other week (after years of driving while drunk) and until the court reviews his rehab records (he cannot drive. He will most likely get a restricted license or so his lawyer tells him. The problem is that since he cannot drive, he was supposed to stay here at my home so he could bus it to work. After 2 days of staying here he has started drinking at a bar on his way home from work and of course,lying about it, but it is all too apparent. His family (father, siblings, sons) have no idea of this recent arrest as he wants to keep it a secret from them. (Helps with his denial?) I feel this puts a great deal of pressure on me. I made him check into a hotel the other night after once again stopping off at a bar and drinking again last night. He put on the remorseful act with me, how he knows he is out of control and how he knows he has to really start working the program. He is drunk in his hotel room as we speak tonight- expecting me to pick him up in the morning since they don't have a room for tomorrow night. I don't want to be used as a means of keeping this his continued secret from his family, but do not know if it is my place to call one of his siblings and let them know how he is getting pretty bad with the drinking. Does anyone have any advice on if I should keep silent or let his family know? Thanks for any help.

Anonymous said...

this doesnt give ways to get a sponsor and going to meetings i still am unable to get one

Anonymous said...

Expectations lead to resentments. One of the sayings I learned in Alanon was "you can't get milk at the hardware store". As long as I continued to expect anyone to react and support my needs the way I wanted them to I was in a constant state of resentment. We all do the best we can. My character defects have a constant desire to control but when I let go and remember that when I don't have an opinion about my alcoholic I have a better day. Silence is also a form of control so I am not saying that,

Mario Granado said...

I have a question based on this blog. I am very happy that you have found such an awesome sponsor. I am a man who attends spanish meetings and have been searching in earnest to find a sponsor to help me with this program and the steps. I have had no luck. i do not speak english and so attend only spanish meetings where there are only 4 men. 2 who are sponsors but I se them asleep in the meetings and 2 who are also seeking sponsors. Please anyone in southern CA have any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I need a sponsor so bad, but I am afraid to ask for one.

Anonymous said...

I'm so new to this program and seeing others that have worked it is giving me hope that someday I'll be normal. I too am seeking a sponsor and finally found the courage to reach out to someone. I emailed her and received a response in less than 5 minutes. She is very busy with work and other sponsees but applauded me for reaching out. I don't have a yes or no from her yet because she is going to pray about it. Either way, I have broken that barrier and asked for help. If she can't sponsor me, it's alright - I have found the courage to ask and that was huge for me.

Anonymous said...

I'm a sponsor and have gotten so much from my sponsee's. I see amazing growth in some and not much in others. The amazing growth is in the people who do the steps, traditions and concepts. Those who refuse for one reason or another have very little growth, their lives are in the same rut. Nothing changes, nothing changes. I realize that I have to set guidelines for sponsorship. If you are not willing to do the steps, I cannot sponsor you and I have to tell them upfront. It can end a friendship that had begun before the request but sometimes you have to let go and let God. That is growth on my part. To me it's letting go of people pleasing. Another lesson learned. I can't save you, I can only save myself. Thank you God for the lesson. One of many I have been given. When I'm ready.