AA sponsorship Guide

Beach Sunrise

October 20, 2020

By Andy F

Categories: Sponsorship

The Gift Of Desperation (Acronym for God)

There is nothing more painful and uncomfortable than walking around with untreated alcoholism after we stop drinking. Some of us are lucky enough to get the gift of desperation immediately, and others are not so fortunate. Eventually, all alcoholics who get sober in AA realize that they need to change if they want to stay sober and live happily.

Having the gift of desperation is a hell of a place, literally, but it is a gift. When we receive this gift, we ask for sponsorship and begin taking suggestions. Step one is surrendering to the idea that we don’t have all the answers and need guidance. It is the first and most crucial step on our new path to freedom.

Avoid being reckless when asking for sponsorship.

When I initially got sober, I found myself in a pretty dark place. My life felt chaotic and unmanageable without the illusion of alcohol. It would tell me everything was fine once that first drink went down my throat. In recovery, I wanted relief as quickly as possible.

Being desperate, I was also irrational, reckless, and impatient. I would ask the first available person for sponsorship. That was good enough for me if they were confident and sounded good in meetings. Choosing a sponsor who appears self-assured has sometimes proved to be a big mistake.

Importance of patience and prudence

The pain and confusion of early sobriety impaired my ability to make a wise choice. Over the years, I have learned to avoid making reckless, impulsive, and impatient decisions when asking for sponsorship. It became essential to wait and better know a “prospective” sponsor. In some ways, getting to know someone was not unlike an interview.

Recklessness when wanting to sack your sponsor

As important as it is to be patient and discerning when seeking sponsorship, it is equally important not to be reckless when thinking of letting go of a sponsor. This may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t. When considering walking away from a sponsor, self-honesty is of paramount importance. It is, of course, entirely acceptable and advisable to walk away from a sponsor who is being abusive, manipulative, and bullying.

The phenomenon of Balking

Sometimes, there are other reasons that we want to walk away from our sponsors that we may need to be made aware of. Please ponder the following statement from chapter five of the Big Book:

“At some of these, we balked; we thought we could find an easier, softer way.”

Big Book – First page of chapter Five, “How it works” First Edition

It is a routine and predictable part of the recovery journey for an alcoholic to sometimes balk when going through the steps. I discuss ‘balking’ in my book, “The 12 Steps for Agnostics.” This phenomenon can sometimes be a part of the recovery journey, a normal and understandable reaction to change. It’s a good sign. It means that the program is working, and change is occurring!

I have sometimes mistakenly sacked sponsors while I was going through the steps. I sometimes got too close to issues I was too frightened to address. Over the years, I have learned that staying with a sponsor when every part of me wants to run has taken me to a new level of recovery.

What is ironic is that considerable growth and progress usually follow a period of balking. The impulse to balk may indicate that you are about to make a giant leap forward.

I have always liked looking up words in the dictionary if I’m unsure what they mean. Here is what the dictionary has to say about balking:

Balking: A sudden and obstinate stop; a failure – Wiktionary

Not cured of alcoholism

An alcoholic like me needs to have a sponsor, irrespective of how long I’ve been sober. The mental and emotional aspect of the alcoholic illness improves hugely with the help of a daily program of action. That said, we are always recovering and can never describe ourselves as ‘recovered alcoholics.’ We have always to remain vigilant and treat the illness accordingly. Steps ten, eleven, and twelve are insurance against the disease. They are known as the maintenance steps. They keep us stable and happy.

It isn’t easy to maintain our recovery without a sponsor. Suppose it’s true that our alcoholism is all about our distorted perceptions. In that case, a good sponsor can become our eyes, ears, and sometimes the voice of our conscience. They are excellent for keeping us on the straight path that leads to serenity. I hope that I still have a sponsor when I am 40 years sober if I am lucky enough to live that long.

As alcoholics, we are never entirely cured. Our alcoholism, or if you like, our disease of perception, is always with us. We learn how to maintain and live in peace with our illness. It needs to be treated daily with all the steps. We gradually know to put them into our lives. Here, the support of a sponsor is invaluable. After completing the first nine steps, Bill tells us:

“We are not cured of alcoholism. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” 

(BB p.85)

I have learned to think very carefully before letting go of a sponsor.

Love and Tolerance

In choosing a sponsor, making a healthy choice based on discernment was a skill I had to learn in AA. My current sponsor keeps reminding me that AA is essentially a psychiatric hospital. Some people are well, and others aren’t. Experience has taught me this is true even if they look and sound well.

Love, tolerance, and humility are highly desirable qualities to be present in a prospective sponsor. It can sometimes take time to find a sponsor that has grown into this level of spirituality.

 “Love and tolerance of others is our code.”

(BB p.84)

The AA literature instructs us about the importance of making a healthy choice when asking for sponsorship………

“Here, we ought to take much care, remembering that prudence is a virtue which carries a high rating.”

(12&12 p. 61)

In fellowship

Andy F

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