Steven D’ (NY)
Sponsorship. Well, if you want to get technical about it, American Heritage Dictionary puts it this way: Spon-sor, n. 1. One who assumes responsibility for another person or "a group during a period of instruction, apprenticeship, or probation". Our trusted fourfold defines it as two people with the same problem helping each other work the program. Hmmm… could a little of both definitions apply? That word responsibility, as read in the dictionary’s definition sends my red flags-a-flyin’ … and for good reasons. Responsibility is to my addiction as light is to the vampire. When I truly work with my sponsor, I take on a responsibility to keep contact with him/her, no matter what I have or haven’t done. This particular tool has been the most difficult for me to pick up and use. As a sex addict, my main goal is "not" to be seen. Period, case closed, the end. Isolation and working the tool of sponsorship don't go hand in hand. If I am to derive any real benefit from the tool of sponsorship, I must become willing to let my sponsor see me intimately in order for my healing to progress.
That means presenting myself when I'm in a restful and serene space and also if I've just had a slip or done something of which I am not proud, or having a feeling of which I'm embarrassed to share. That also means sharing my written step work with him/her at the risk of critique or feedback. I am slowly learning to moor the broken vessel of me in the safety of sponsorship's harbor. This is why it is SO important to work with someone around whom I feel comfortable and at ease.
Agreeing to honesty with a sponsor is a major step toward healing my intimacy issues, a testing ground if you will. It is a good place to experiment and see how I react in a one on one relationship. It is important for me to work with someone who has more experience than I in recovery. I don't know about you, but the addict writing this page has character defects of thinking he knows all, can do all and needs no help whatsoever… especially from another recovering addict! That brings me back to the definition of sponsorship being like an apprenticeship. I become willing to admit in the action of working with a sponsor that someone knows more than I in certain areas of recovery, has more serenity than I now possess, and has been sober longer than me. Did I mention I'm very competitive? I also used to think I could write my own sex plan, work the steps alone, and get along without being accountable to someone else for my recovery. I need another person to work intimately with me on these things, to ask for their help, to once again admit that I fail time and time again when I do it alone.
Finally agreeing to commit (ugh, that word!) to sponsorship means that I must admit to myself that I'm worth someone paying extra attention to me in my life. I have also come to know that committing to working with a sponsor does not mean signing over my rights as a person. I am still allowed to have my opinions and feelings. I still have my own Higher Power. I am entitled to feel all my feelings, even those which I think will scare away others. A good sponsor will give me the room I need to grow in these areas and encourage my individual experience of recovery. He/she also keeps me in check with their feedback and observations. Some of the qualities I look for in a sponsor today are: good listening skills, familiarity in working the Steps; reads the Big Book, knows how to encourage me in my recovery, embraces gentleness and spirituality, has the ability to be frank with me (even when he/she knows I'm not going to want to necessarily hear it), and most importantly, that s/he is someone who has enough recovery to gently guide me back to the Steps and my Higher Power.
I am so grateful to have a sponsor today who has these qualities and many more than I've listed above. If it’s true what they say about the people in our lives acting as our mirrors, then I am truly looking A-okay, as I witness my reflection through this gift of sponsorship. Thank you God.
Merle H (NY)
A pertinent moment in the great musical play “The King And I” occurs in Act One, when Mrs. Leonowens, as teacher to the Royal Court of Siam, tells her class of eager to learn children, "It’s a very ancient saying, but a true and honest thought, that if you become a teacher, by your pupils you’ll be taught.". And this maxim is one of the enduring strengths of my continuing relationships with those I am fortunate enough to sponsor in our program. Sponsees constantly remind me of many truths I have learned and have passed on to them, (that’s Talking the Talk), and more than once have had mirrored back to remind me and show me the way (that’s Walking the Walk). One could say the blind are leading the blind, but I find that in program there are no losers and no blindness to the utter simplicity that is inherent in walking in kindness and compassion to and from another suffering human.
Walking the Walk is the route of the Twelve Steps, but perhaps the first and most difficult step a person can take is that first walk into the rooms; that first admission of one’s need for help; that first assumption of a seat in a circle of love and growth that will go well beyond any conceivable desire to be sober; that first realization that you are not alone and that there are others like you.
At any beginner’s meeting you attend, be it your first or your thousandth, someone will call to your attention that we have an Interim Sponsorship Program, and that you can sign up to be matched to someone with more experience in program who has sufficient time and inclination to lead you through the process; a process in itself as revealing as any you will come across on your journey into healthy sexuality and self knowledge.
I was particularly willful when I entered in July of 1990, convinced from my first meeting that I was intelligent and willing enough to master the necessary tools to maintain that sobriety I so dearly wanted in record time. My first meeting was the Saturday 6:00 p.m. Beginner’s Step One meeting, a meeting I still attend regularly, as I remain to this day a beginner in the art of living and staying sober. It took me two years before I acknowledged the need for a sponsor, such was the desperate quality of my conceit and belief that I could do this all alone. But in those two years, I learned for the first time how to listen, and was finally able to understand the safety that encircled me and the trust that engulfed me. Only then was I able to ask for the simple help of sponsorship. And I picked a friend in program who could both Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk, and miraculously was willing to help me along the way. It is hard for an addict to admit needing help, much less ask for it, and our program is clear that we are committed to healing and helping each other.
How does it work? It works if you work it! You and your sponsor meet and discuss the terms by which you agree to live in recovery (how to use the tools of recovery, how to safeguard against delusory thinking), and in time, how to approach sex and to integrate it into your life as a healthy element.
How do you find the right sponsor? By listening for someone who has the recovery that you want, and by then asking that person to share his or her journey with you. This program is for the realization of individual needs arrived at by following the gentle path of the Twelve Steps, with the help of friends, strangers, other suffering addicts, people in recovery, all in the safety of the rooms, where healthy sexuality is born, bred and nurtured in communal good will.
Does this sound too good to be true? Indeed yes; and it is even more than that. I heard when I first came in, filled with self-loathing and low self esteem, that the program would love me until I could love myself, and now, almost ten years into my recovery, I find it remains a simple truth. And thanks to those who have sponsored me, and even more to the many I have sponsored, I feel I have accepted the challenge to change, and look to the promises to come true as they invariably do if we Walk the Walk with heart and mind wide open to the miracle of the Twelve Steps.