M(3), 10/24/16: The Freaks Come Out At…10 am on a Monday?
My head is still spinning a bit from the animation and wide array of shares from this morning’s meeting. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re approaching Halloween or what, but man were things interesting this morning!
And so I don’t forget, apologies for the missing post last week. I missed the meeting as well, since I had another job interview! Fingers crossed that this is the one that gets me back in the workforce!
Back to today: we read from the book Forming True Partnerships, which is a compilation of articles describing how people in recovery navigate their various relationships. Today’s reading focused on a relationship specific to 12-step programs, sponsorship.
I imagine most reading this blog have at least a nodding acquaintance of the concept of sponsorship. At the most basic level, a sponsor takes his or her sponsee through the 12 steps of recovery. From that foundation, the relationship can move in as many directions as there are people in the roles of sponsor and sponsee. The expectations from both sides of the sponsorship coin vary widely. Like most pieces of the 12-step puzzle, how you sponsor and how you are sponsored is entirely up to individual interpretation.
The story we read this morning detailed a woman’s account of being “dumped” by her sponsee. The author sponsored this woman, successfully in her opinion, for about a year, during which time she took the newly sober woman through the 12 steps of recovery, spent many hours on the phone with her, went to meetings together, and introduced her to a new network of sober people. Not long after a year into the relationship, the sponsee slowed down her phone calls, started ignoring texts, and finally sent the author an email that stated she did not feel she needed her anymore.
After concocting several snarky email responses in her head, the author did what she considered the next right thing to do, which was contact her sponsor for advice. Her sponsor had a similar tale of woe, and advised her to respond in honesty. The author replied to the email and let her know she was hurt by the decision to “fire” her over email, and left it at that.
From there the author describes several great things that came out of the situation. First, she was able to identify and sit with the feelings of sadness and hurt… a novelty for her. She recognized that she had placed quite a bit of value in the relationship, and it distressed her to realize that the reverse wasn’t quite the same.
The hurt and sadness caused the author to look at the relationships central in her life, and discover ways to deepen them. She reached out more to her family and friends, and especially to other women in recovery. She found that being a better friend was the best remedy for the hurt she was feeling.
That was the synopsis of the story, and the crowd (which in this case was about 18 meeting attendees) went wild with their interpretations of the story. Several in the crowd were almost offended by this woman’s sensibilities. For them, the relationship of sponsor/sponsee is a sacred one, and there are no room for hurt feelings within it. If the sponsee needed to move on, either to another sponsor, to try the fellowship without a sponsor, or even to go out and drink again, then that is their decision, and a sponsor’s hurt feelings should not come into play. No email back talking about hurt feelings should have happened.
A few thought expressing her feelings was the right thing to do, as it allowed the author to be true to herself, rather than cultivate a resentment which could lead to a relapse.
Others took a middle-of-the-road stance, and agreed that hurt feelings shouldn’t come into play; then again, sponsors and sponsees alike are human beings, and feelings come with the package.
Most who shared loved that she reached out to others in the program, rather than using hurt feelings as an excuse for isolating. One or two who shared related it to the expression “when God closes a door, he opens a window.” The author had to feel the pain of sponsee rejection to realize that her life would be fuller reaching out more to others, both in the program and outside of it.
The title of the post implies that there were a few shares that were difficult to put in the framework of this post. I’ll just chalk it up to the season of spookiness and leave it at that. I’m always grateful that people feel free to share and express themselves authentically!
It’s funny, the part everyone was debating in the story was the part I glossed over as I was reading. I’ve had several people fade out of my 12-step life, as I imagine people would say I’ve faded out of theirs. I believe I have a somewhat open-minded thought process about the relationships within the fellowship.
Two things did strike me as I read this woman’s account of her life in recovery. First, she explained at the start of the story that she considered herself a “fringe” member of AA. Meaning that she worked the 12 steps, attended meetings, and had congenial relationships, but she also had a very full life outside of AA. When she was asked to be a sponsor, she was frankly surprised, as she thought that generally happened for the “in” crowd.
While I’ve never considered there to be “in” or “out” crowds within the fellowship, I was grateful to read of a woman staying sober and having a rich life outside of the program. Sometimes it’s daunting to hear of people who, years into sobriety, continue to go to meetings every day, sponsor dozens of people, plan vacations and retreats with other folks in recovery, and do so with ease. It would appear as if their entire lives revolve around recovery.
So it’s a relief to read there are people out there like me, finding a balance between recovery life and non-recovery life that works.
The second part that stood out is the wisdom she gained, and the actions she took as a result of the hurt and sadness. Like the author, I am relatively new to feeling my feelings, and if I’m being really honest I’m not sure I’ve gotten to the point where I can learn the necessary lessons. I’ve had recent experiences involving similar hurt and sadness, and so far the most I can say is that I’m learning how to sit with the feelings, rather than berate myself for feeling them. Reading how she turned around those feelings into something good was inspirational.
Finally, something that my very wise regular attendee said struck home for me, albeit in a slightly off-topic way. He said what he is reading in the story is the grief process… the author is grieving a relationship that meant a lot to her. He said at the root of all grief is love, for you would not grieve something if you did not love it in some way. And for those of us who used to drink our feelings a way, isn’t feeling grief really a blessing, because we are acknowledging our love for another?
This brought me back immediately to a funeral I attended this weekend. And yes, 2016 remains the Year of Funerals for me. Too many to count at this point. This woman was very important to me in early sobriety, and she died with 40 years of recovery under her belt. I started crying before the funeral started, and I don’t think I stopped the entire Mass. At one point I looked around and, I kid you not, I am the only person crying in the place! This woman was older, and her health had been failing, so I assume her friends and family were relieved she was no longer suffering. So then, true to form, I berated myself: “For goodness sake, you are least important person in the room, quit crying!”
When my friend shared today, I felt better about my tears, for I truly loved this woman, and will remain forever grateful for the lessons she taught me. I will cry all I want from now on!
As I glance up at the length of this post, I wonder if the miracle is that I’m about to stop typing 😉
Posted on October 24, 2016, in Monday Meeting Miracles, Recovery and tagged 12 step program, Acceptance, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Conference Approved Literature, Friendship, Meeting, miracles, Monday, Recovery, Relationships, Sobriety, sponsorship. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.