If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. –John Quincy Adams

A few weeks ago I wrote, very briefly, that I reached another milestone:  I have been asked to sponsor someone in the AA program.  I have not written about it since, primarily because not a lot has happened.  We see each other several times a week on an informal basis.  We attended one meeting, and shared our personal stories with one another.  And that’s about it.

From my perspective, very disappointing beginning to the sponsor/sponsee relationship.  Here’s what I imagined would happen:  after seeing the serenity and joy emanating from me, she would want what I have, and so she would go to any length to get it.  She would then take every suggestion I offer, thereby achieving the same joy and serenity I have.  Shockingly, thus far things are not going according to my plan.

In the past few weeks, I have been doing my own research, and have “interviewed” many people in the program with long-time sobriety to find out how they sponsor people.  And here’s what I have discovered:  there are as many definitions of the word sponsor as there are people in the AA program.  The good news is there is certainly room for flexibility.  The less good news:  absolutely no hard and fast rules by which to proceed.

My plan is to take my sponsee through the steps the same way my sponsor took me through them, which was almost academic in nature.  Weekly sessions, multiple hours at a shot, homework assigned, and lots of personal discussion.  This method worked brilliantly for me, and I still use the information I was given in this process on a daily basis.

Here’s the challenge I face with my new relationship:  I am unconvinced (and that word is an understatement) that my sponsee has any real desire to be taken through the steps.

You may be thinking, but then why would she ask to even have a sponsor if she does not want to go through the steps?  Unfortunately, there are many reasons someone would ask for help without really wanting the help… to get their loved ones off their back (been there, done that), because they want to appear as if they are serious about their recovery when in fact they are not (been there, done that), or they have some legal requirements that they are trying to fulfill.

Sadly, I suspect all of the above for my sponsee.

So where to go from here?  Several proverbs apply, the most obvious being that I can lead the horse to water, but I can’t make her drink it.  I have offered to get together, her schedule is an issue.  I have been with her on a Monday morning and offered to take her to the meeting I started, and then take her wherever she needs to go afterward, but she has “other things to do at home.”  We have made plans to do things, but a conflict arises and she must cancel.  And now I sound like I’m complaining, so I will stop.  I’m not complaining about her, I am just frustrated that I can’t give back what I have been so freely given.

Any advice is welcome, I am most certainly open to suggestion!


Today’s Miracle:

That I have the “privilege” problem of worrying about someone else’s recovery!


Posted on February 26, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. We are not in charge of the outcome (that’s God’s business) – we are responsible for the action. You are fulfilling your part of the bargain (helping one of his kids) She may not be willing. We just want to give it away! God will put someone else in your life who is willing! All part of the journey!


  2. It’s not in our hands, unfortunately, and like you said, it’s frustrating. Don’t we wish we had some wonderful and attentive student who does their homework and starts to emanate serenity moments after they have their first meeting with us? I laugh and say this because that is the kind of thinking I had at first when I got my first sponsee. But it’s not the way it goes. I have several sponsees now and some are more into than others…some will do the work more willingly, but it’s never going to be the way I envision it. I am like you – I tend to come at it at a more academic way – reading the book, doing the work, little exercises, etc. But unlike me, who loves stuff like that, many don’t get it that way. Some need more emotional support at first, or throughout, some need a more genteel touch, some need a more direct approach…these are things that I started to figure out the more I dealt with newcomers.

    There is a tinge of ego that comes with sponsorship, especially at the beginning. I was thrilled to get a guy, and worked so hard at it. But I found that I could be a bit smothering that way. He needed a bit of space to understand and process things. It’s taken us about 2-4 meetings for him to understand the inventory process. I have had to adapt at time to their understanding modes. Some like verbal, some like written. Regardless, I still go through the book as is.

    It’s frustrating especially when you feel you have so much to give! But I prayed and sat with it. If it didn’t happen, then it didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from making sure my old treatment center was giving my number as a contact, that I am giving my phone number to newcomers after taking time to talking to them, being available at home group, sharing, etc. If it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be.

    In the end, I am no more responsible for getting a guy sober as I am getting him drunk. It’s their path, not ours. We just show the way. If they want to jump off and go sideways, then that’s their choice. I stopped chasing people down. I stopped trying to put my rescue hat on. I was just telling my wife today about one of my guys who is isolating…I have called and texted many times, but he has chosen to isolate and avoid me. Nothing I can do. I will pray for him and I will be there whenever he calls. But I am not there to mother him or chase him…the big book tells us it’s useless, and a waste of time…time that could be spent with someone who truly wants it.

    Good luck – this is part of *our* journey too. Patience, love, tolerance, compassion. And keeping our boundaries.



    • Thanks so much, Paul, this is exactly what I needed to hear (as usual, with your writing!). There is more than a tinge of ego here, believe me I know it, but I also know that smothering is postively the worst way to go with a newcomer (it happened to me, and it couldn’t have turned me away quicker). I’m doing my best to keep the balance of being available and not holding too many expectations of the newcomer, and I just keep praying… that she is well, that she uses me the way she needs me!


    • Paul, I just knew you’d be on this post with a great reply. Your reputation proceeds you. Ditto to everything you said. The funniest thing I ever heard about sponsorship, “Sponsees are like pancakes, you burn the first few.” The first few who picked me taught me a ton about who I wanted to be as a sponsor. None of them were serious about sobriety and it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.


  3. As a sponsee who’s just finishing Step 9…my sponsor is taking me through the steps much like you say your sponsor did you and i can’t imagine having it any better.


  4. wow! super!

    Liked by 1 person

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