And now, a word on my sponsor.


foggy hill with signI didn’t receive a whole lot of guidance on how to choose my AA sponsor.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a sponsor is someone who typically has a year of sobriety in the AA program, who has worked all 12 steps and who is ready to take a newcomer under her wing. She has to be willing to be there ’round the clock for her “sponsee,” to take her calls of desperation in the wee hours, to lend a sturdy shoulder to cry upon, to act as a confidante, and to offer encouragement and support.

Most importantly, she’s there to lead by example, to help her sponsee understand and work the AA program and its 12 steps by sharing her own experience, strength and hope. This site likens a sponsor to a “good friend, teacher, tutor, experienced guide, and older brother/sister.”

To me, getting a sponsor felt like a Big Deal. I desperately wanted my recovery to succeed and my sobriety to stick, and it seemed like my sponsor would be integral to making that happen, a crucial part of my journey. Surely I needed to choose my Sherpa wisely for my journey up Everest, lest I wind up bent and broken at the bottom of a blue crevasse.

And yet, for all that was riding on the decision, I wasn’t really clear on how to choose this Very Important Person.

Some AA’s advised me to listen to the women sharing at meetings, until I identified someone who seemed to have a similar story and to whom I could relate. On the other hand, some counseled that it was preferable to enlist a sponsor who wasn’t anything like me.

As the days went on, and as I attended meeting after meeting and carefully considered the women I heard speak and to whom I talked afterward, I still hadn’t encountered anyone who seemed like a good fit.

I’d heard people talk about having more than one sponsor, which seemed to indicate that they weren’t getting the needed results from one sponsor, so thus felt the need to secure another. Multiple sponsors? Heck, I couldn’t even find one.

It was all very confusing, and started to stress me out as the days went on and I was left Sherpa-less on my long trek.

And then, it happened.

It was two weeks after I got into AA – I know this because I just went back to check my emails and found my first message asking A. about possibly sponsoring me. What’s weird to me now is that it had seemed like I’d been going to meetings FOREVER at that point. And yet, it turns out it had been just 14 days.

I’d awakened early that morning, searched the online AA meeting list and found a 7:00 meeting at a church just minutes from my house.

It was a small group, just five or six in attendance. I hadn’t been to such a small meeting before, and being in such close quarters, seated around a coffee table, made me feel awkward and extremely self-conscious.

Surprisingly, I can’t recall what the topic was, but when A. shared some thoughts during the discussion, she mentioned something about “brand planning,” and I surmised she was somehow connected with my industry, the field of advertising. Sure enough, after the meeting, I asked her and it turned out that not only did we share the same line of work, we also had both business associates and friends in common. I shared a bit of my history and we commiserated over the Crazy World of Advertising. I felt a kinship with her, and was delighted when she offered me her card.

I emailed her that night, and, well, the rest is six months of history.

I know it was more than luck that brought me to that Wednesday morning meeting, and more than luck that brought me to A. I feel truly blessed to have her as my sponsor. She’s wise beyond words, and yet very human and humble. Even though she’s a few years younger than me, she feels like an older sister. (In a good way.) Incredibly, she lives just a few blocks from me, and has two daughters just a few years younger than mine.

I feel like our paths would have crossed at some point even if not for AA, and we would have become friends. I’m just happy we met when we did.

Since this is my first and only experience in seeking out and finding a sponsor, I’m not sure what advice I’d offer any readers who might find themselves in this situation. My best counsel is that by attending as many meetings as you can, listening closely when people are sharing, and keeping yourself open to possibility, you’re doing what it takes. Do that, and have faith that it will happen, and soon enough you’ll be on your way up the mountain, trusty guide by your side.


16 Responses to “And now, a word on my sponsor.”

  1. You hit the jackpot straight away. You are very blessed to have such guidance!

  2. Your post was right on the nose!!! My first time around in recovery I had a bunch of differant sponsor because I was in the Air Force and tended to choose sponsors based on how long they were going to be stationed at the same base I was at, when I finally planted my feet in one place I had started a bad pattern with sponsorship. I didn’t always pick a person who had a strong recovery program, this was my fault and ignorance, my pride kept me from really finding out what sponsorship was all about. When I came back after my 10 year relapse, the HP put a man in my path who I had known from my previous life in recovery. K is everything a good sponsor should be, he is tough but fair, uses his experiences and short comings as examples, he gave me rides during the 8 months I was lienceless, he has take me through the steps, he is involved in service at the state level and got me involved and much more, he has lead by example. I now sponsor other men and I follow K’s lead as much as possible, after all we are individuals so do things a bit differant, I have had sponsors who were dictator’s and never fullly trusted or respected them, K isn’t one of those so my sponsee’s reap the benefit of my sponsor’s 27 years of recovery. Having a good sponsor is a wonderful thing. Keep passing on what you have to others and you may save someone from making some of the mistakes I did.
    In Fellowship

  3. 3 Sharon

    I love your description of the process of connecting with a sponsor. I have not been as fortunate. My first sponsor was simply unavailable and my second sponsor thought I needed to start all over after 9 months at Step 1 instead of considering “Start where you Are”. So, now I do it on my own—–> successfully. I am constantly told, “You need a sponsor” and I think, “Been there, done that”.

    You have been blessed… pass it on 🙂

  4. 4 Micky

    We need to realize that we are not ALCOHOLICS in need of SOBRIETY ; we are SINNERS in need of GOD.

    We will never find God by trying to clean up our sinful behaviour one piece at a time.

    This is the wrong method to find true Biblical healing. A Christian does not keep their old clothes and simply sew new patches of unshrunk cloth on them, patching them up as they cleanse each sin.

    If they were to do that their clothes would be worse off with the patch, not better! Look at what Jesus said:

    “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.

    Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:16 – 17)

  5. 5 C

    Thanks to all for reading, and for your comments.

    Micky, I find it interesting that you use a quote from scripture that mentions wine, here on a blog about alcoholism…

  6. 6 Sharon

    For me, a sobriety journey has been a spirituality journey. It is an interior experience. I changed my faith community because of my sobriety journey. (Quaker in case, knowing that adds meaning). I searched and searched before I found one that resonated for me.

    The concept of salvation is a concept that I grew up with. I was baptized Southern Baptist. For me, I had to understand this biblical concept in the context that Jesus lived… the difference between the concepts of soteriology and sophiology…. before I could still accept it as an adult. Jesus in the West has always been a savior-oriented Jesus (soteriology). This is our Western filter for Christianity. Christianity of the East sees things radically different… through the lense of WISDOM (sophiology). For the earliest Christians, Jesus was not a savior, but a Life-Giver. Our job is to put on the “mind of Christ”… to follow the path of Jesus. This path is an internal path of spirituality and not an external path of Religion or Righteousness. This concept is well-documented in “The Wisdom of Jesus” by Cynthia Bourgeault… NOT a “new ager”, but an ordained Episcopalian priest. It is this concept… “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.”… that is radically different and is what made Jesus who he is. Even today, this is a very difficult path to follow… an interior spiritual path rather than an exterior path of “defects of character” (called the “false self” in many texts today) which are those things representing the “human condition”, such as an addiction… To be IN the world and not OF the world.

    Bear with me as I use the wine bottle example above. Healing means not to eliminate but EMBRACE our imperfections… for it is only with acceptance that we can heal. Acceptance creates an internal shift. We see things different. Our “wine bottle” has changed… our filters and perspectives have changed. Spirituality is at our very center… our core. We can not patch something up… “putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment”… we only get there with an interior transformation… “having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps” (BB).

    Mistakes are a part of being human called “the human condition” by Quakers. The word Hebrew word SIN is actually not an ACT but rather a STATE of wisdom… The real meaning of Sin is to “fall short” . AA calls these “character defects”… I like to use “false self”. There has been NOTHING in my life that has taught me more than Alcoholism… God’s grace, God’s acceptance, putting on the “mind of christ” which is an experential thing. I have also learned acceptance… tolerance…humility… forgiveness… of my “sinful behavior”. For me, that has been one step at a time. God has given me a gift 🙂

    I had better stop here… noone will read much more…
    I still struggle when I feel judged… it makes ME react.
    THAT is MY human condition… my defect of character… I am still learning!

  7. 7 C

    Wow. Lots to digest. Thanks, Sharon, for contributing your thoughts. This discussion has me thinking a lot about my own sobriety and spirituality.

    Some of the things I like about AA are that it seems to be non-judgmental, that one of its tenets is “attraction, not promotion,” and that it doesn’t require belief in any one religion — or any religion for that matter — to participate. All that’s required to join is the desire to stop drinking.

    This blog is about my personal experience with AA, and I personally feel that the program, in these short 6 months, has actually opened me up spiritually. Perhaps, somewhere down the road, I’ll even join an organized religion.

    I hope I don’t come off as proselytizing in any of my posts. That’s not my intention. I’m just happy and grateful for what AA has brought to my life, and felt the need to express it.

  8. 8 Sharon

    I LOVE your blog… it is refreshing and honest 🙂

    When we accept ourselves in all of our weaknesses, flaws and failings, we are in the position to begin to fulfill a much bigger responsibility… accepting the weaknesses, flaws and failings of others. AA is a group of people who connect not because of a common interest or a common religious or spiritual belief system… rather AA is a group that connects because of a shared weakness… a shared “sin”…. a desire to quit drinking… a desire for new “clothes”. We are are not patching ourselves but rather we are creating ourselves from within with the support and encouragement of others. Our weakness makes us alike… our strengths make us different… our journeys are individual… that can’t be proselytized… only experienced. It also can’t be judged… it’s too imperfect… too human. It grows gratitude in the heart and an openness for difference and a compassion because of likeness. Ultimately, it is our “sin” that teaches us more than we can imagine. We can be sober. We can be “saved”. We can be transformed. We can be enlightened. We understand… it’s experiential…it’s internal shifts. It is not either/ or… sobriety or salvation… it is both/and. In the original Aramaic language of Jesus’ time there was not word for “salvation”. The concept is meant to be a bestowal of life… to be made “alive”. In my humble opinion, AA does just that for many and to not embrace that is either/or, black and white thinking. 🙂

    I did it again… as you can see, I have thought about this subject extensively. AA helped me transform myself and create a new life. For that I am forever grateful.

  9. 9 C

    Yep. Me, too.

  10. Wow you did manage to hit the AA sponsor jackpot…I currently have no real sponsor, my first sponsor i needed to fire as she was incredibly controlling and fairly mean overall, my second sponsor has a brain tumor and is not sponsoring currently, but will again…I have wonderful AA friends who are my temporary sponsors in the mean time and I am so grateful!


  11. 12 Mary W.

    In the several 24 hours I have been in AA, I have had six sponsors. Each one has been the right one for what I needed at the time. I have had controlling ones who taught me to stand up for myself. I have had those who just gave me time to talk on the telephone and never gave me any Step work at all. I have had sponsors who knew that sobriety was all they could help me with, and fired me when I tried to get them to do more than they could humanly do. Those I respect the most took me through the Steps, even when I didn’t like their methods.

    I am a sponsor to two women right now. One is coming back from a slip with two weeks; one has two years and I have been her sponsor for the past 18 months. Both are as different as night and day. I use the same approach on both of them. I don’t sugar coat our malady. It kills and I give my experience strength and hope. I tell them both what didn’t work for me, as I relapsed the first time around. What these women give me is the reminder of what it was like when I came into the rooms. My new girl is resentful of the fact she has to ‘begin again’. She believes that she knows more than she does. She forgets that going back out gave her nothing and shows me she didn’t learn what she needed to learn the other times she has walked into AA.

    Not everyone can be a good sponsor. Like sobriety, it is a learning process. When I was about two years sober I was an awful sponsor. Even with double digit sobriety, I don’t always seem like the kind of sponsor that many women would want. But I hear myself saying the same words to my ladies that my sponsors have said to me. All I can give is my experience, strength and hope. All I can try to do is lead these ladies through the Steps.

    As one grows in sobriety, sponsorship needs change. I have gone for a couple of years with no sponsor at all and just talked to other women in the rooms that were more sober than I was. I am sponsored today by a woman with 22 years of solid sobriety. She doesn’t force me to do anything, but she does make suggestions, which I usually take.

    For me, sponsorship keeps me from being isolated and from being terminally unique. Without my sponsors, I would not be the sober woman I am today.

  12. 13 C

    Thanks, Mary, for reading and for sharing. So good to know there are many different types of sponsors and sponsees (such a weird word…) out there, and that somehow, we all end up finding what we need.

    I love that sponsorship is a two-way street. When I first got into the program, before I had my sponsor, I didn’t understand that. And I couldn’t help thinking what a huge burden I was going to be, and what a huge task I would be asking my potential sponsor to undertake. I am grateful that I have been able to help her in some ways, just as she has helped me.

  13. 14 Sharon

    I also like Mary W’s reply… it is real. Thanks for sharing.

  14. 15 Kimk

    Would love to read more blogs ! thanks

  15. 16 Lillian
    The main Alcoholics Anonymous website has AA conference-approved materials in online versions, one of which is a pamphlet, “questions and answers on sponsorship.”

    That has a specific section on how to pick a sponsor and many suggestions about what a sponsor is and isn’t. I read through it as the first thing i do with a new sponsee, and i learned this from my current sponsor.

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