I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor...

Most of us who recovered with AA's program did so with the help of a "sponsor". But what is sponsorship? How do I get one? Who can be a sponsor? What makes a good sponsor?
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Tosh
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I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor...

Post by Tosh »

I had a chat with my sponsor this morning about a guy I've been working with.

The background is that this guy has a religion, goes to church every Sunday, and he's an alcoholic. He got six weeks sober and then had two one-day-relapses with about three days sober inbetween. He's now two days sober, I've been through the Big Book with him upto Chapter 3, he's had Chapter 4 (We agnostics) for his homework and my plan was to go around, re-cap what we've went through so far with regards Step 1, ask him if he has a Higher Power (which he has), and then do a formal Step 3 with him, and then get on through to book so I can show him how to do a Step 4.

My sponsor disagrees. He says I should impress upon him the importance of not picking up that first drink, that he's effectively still drinking (that confused me, I should've asked what he meant by that) and that we should cover Step 1 again, and that something's missing if he picked up a drink. He also said that getting a guy to do a Step 4 (a tough step) after just stopping drinking isn't a good idea. He'll be feeling bad enough already, so heaping a Step 4 on top of that wouldn't be helpful.

I take my sponsors last point, but still kinda disagree with my sponsor; I think this guy needs God - he already understands Step 1 (Step 1 doesn't keep us sober otherwise why have we another 11 Steps? To stay sober I needed some measure of inner peace and that doesn't come from Step 1) - so I want to get him moving along with the program. I did mention Dr Bob's story (he didn't mess about going through Step 1 again after his last drunk) and my sponsor suggested I get to some out of area meetings to hear some different takes on sponsorship (sponsorship is weak in my area). I will do that.

But, in the first instance, I'm asking for your experience? What have you done in circumstances such as this?

Thanks in advance. :mrgreen:
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

becksdad
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by becksdad »

Hey Tosh! As always, good to read you. I relate to what you posted, as I have a similar situation with a guy I am working with. He says he wants to stop drinking, but I sense that what he would really prefer to be able to drink successfully. While he admits that he seems to be powerless over alcohol once he picks up a drink, he cannot admit that his life is unmanageable. He simply cannot let go of control, and will decide for himself what he is willing to do from there. How in the world can anyone follow through with the rest of the steps when they cannot or will not arrive at the 1st step?

I remember being in that position myself for years. My refusal to see how my own self will was spiraling my life wildly out of control was a massive bar to doing any other step in the program. Anything else that I possibly could have done within AA would have been MY program, not the AA program of recovery. I certainly would have met every other step with great resistance (and at least "modification") because I would have neither agreed with nor understood any of them.

Near the very end of my drinking, I had a temporary sponsor who gave me some written excercises designed to help me see not just powerlessness, but unmanageability. I understand that today, but I wasn't quite there, yet. I had to go out one last time. Finally, at the end of my last adventure drinkiing, I saw with utter clarity the absolute insanity of life as I lived. I saw devastating wreckage everywhere I turned, and I saw that it didn't affect just me, but everyone around me. I felt complete, utter defeat and hopelessness. I also knew in that moment that things were going to get EVEN WORSE, that I could stand no more, but that I was powerless to stop it. That moment, I really did understand the 1st step. I lived it, I could feel the truth of it in my gut.

Suddenly, I was willing in a way I never had been before. I listened with new ears. I didn't care if I agreed with or understood anything, I would now do them, do ANYTHING as best I could. Suddenly, I had surrendered. That, I believe, was the only key that allowed me entry into recovery. Surrender, willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness to try first, and maybe understand or agree later. It didn't matter anyway, I had nothing left to lose but time.

I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with your sponsor. First things first. The first step comes first. For me, I couldn't even begin to approach either the 2nd or 3rd step if I still had any notion of "managing" a program of recovery myself. And for me, if I still wanted to manage a program of recovery myself, then I really hadn't accepted the first step.

Just my 2 cents worth there, and I do thank you for letting me share here!

Ed

becksdad
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by becksdad »

It just occured to me that I didn't really address the question! I'm sorry, Tosh! As you might see in my first post, alcohol itself became the great persuader for me. With my new guy, I am also at a bit of a loss. I have suggested to listen in meetings with as much open-mindedness as he can, to pray for willingness, and to write out a history, focusing on where he has been powerless over alcohol, but particularly where his own will, in the form of his decisions and actions have actually made life unmanageable instead of better. I must say, though that I have some misgivings about this..... it is like trying to talk somebody into the first step. Nobody could have talked me into the first step. I understood it intellectually, but until I felt it in my gut, nothing else could have happened. My own sponsor says that he doesn't believe there is anything else to do, either, but again, if necessary, alcohol is a great persuader.

When I suggest something to my new guy and he responds with refusal or wants to know why and understand first.... I know he still is not at the first step.

Not much help, huh? Sorry, man. Hopefully, someone with a lot more experience here will be along shortly! Perhaps I should have just listened instead of spoken.....

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PaigeB
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by PaigeB »

so far with regards Step 1, ask him if he has a Higher Power (which he has), and then do a formal Step 3 with him, and then get on through to book so I can show him how to do a Step 4.
In my humble or not so humble opinion, you missed a big part of Step 2!!

Something about sanity maybe? After all your new guy IS acting a bit insanely - just like we all did.

My relief actually came from Chapter 3's:

Fully
Conceded to our
Inner-most
Self

That I had a disease.... It was a deep (no deeper than that!) DEEP quiet thought to inner feeling that I was sick.

Recovery began at Step 2 when I realized if I wanted what you had I had to do what you did. Service, meetings, practicing the principles associated with the Steps like honesty and altruism... Action in the rooms and out... be nice to the clerk, say something pleasant to a stranger, introduce myself and greet people that came to my home group ~ yes even the home group members.

Practicing living in the solution... that is what Step 2 meant to me.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

Mike O
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Mike O »

Tosh wrote:
... - so I want to get him moving along with the program.
I agree with you here, Tosh. Get on with it. The programme is what works. No need to change it or impose conditions on it.

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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Jaywalker Steve »

If he's still romancing the idea that he can still 'control and enjoy his drinking', then little can be done ("Probably now human power could have relieved our alcoholism"). If he has admitted complete defeat and has surrendered; or "fully conceded to his innermost self", but doesn't have the needed power to combat the obsession, then he needs to start tapping into the Power through step work. "We beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start" means just that. No lolly-gagging, just effort. Many of the Pioneers left the psych wards with their amends list in hand and made them their first order of business upon release.

A couple of days between drunks isn't sobriety, it's more like recuperation, IMHO.
Every group has men and women who put too much thought and effort into their daily sobriety and not enough of themselves into their daily living. - Ed B., Akron, OH

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Tommy-S
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Tommy-S »

Thanks folks.

First, Trust the sponsor. By no means infallible, they have the advantage of experience and HAVE to know the area/culture/ people where you are better than us 'arm chair quarterbacks' thousands of miles away :)

Second, the 'why' he drank. Was he doing AA the days he picked up? Or did he figure since he was feeling OK, he could slack off that day? Does he still believe there is 'relief' in a drink? Did he 'forget' he couldn't drink?etc

"Drive home the hopelessness ...the fatal malady. The more hopeless (and helpless) he feels, the better" (BB, pg 94) is how it was presented to me, and what I try to pass on. The "statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recover on their own resources" (12 x 12, pg 22)

The literature also suggests that IF a man already has religion 'far superior to ours", he's going to wonder what AA has to offer (BB, pg 93). Reminding someone in that situation would seem equivalent to saying "You still got it wrong" like everyone who ever told me "You shouldn't be doing that" on those mornings after...Hell, I knew that!. All they did was fuel my frustration so I drank more.

Dr. Silkworth changed Bill W's approach by telling him to drop the preaching and give them the medical part and hard (AACoA,pg 67-68). The Allergy/Obsession, that 'More Switch" which plagues people like me. "One's too many and a thousand never enough" Death or alcoholic insanity is my fate unless I am willing to go to any lengths for Victory DAILY. It's a daily reprieve, and everyday is a day I must do my AA exercises.

And since I don't know how to do "GOD", I keep it simple and do AA. Maybe it's Not G O D he needs as much as AA action... driving home that helplessness and hopelessness was how they helped me find the 'desperation of a drowning man'.

As was stated, those slips can be the launch point for renewed effort... the Gift of Desperation to do whatever it takes, as it was for me. One day, one hour if needed at a time, I postpone the drink... And make the same decision the following day..."To quit for good and suffer ay extreme to get well".

Obviously, something is working, Tosh... You ain't drinking, and that may be as good as gets. For someone like me, that's more than enough :)

Don't drink, keep trying, trust that sponsor. Plant the seed.

Thanks... Tommy
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!

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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Lali »

Jaywalker Steve wrote:A couple of days between drunks isn't sobriety, it's more like recuperation, IMHO.
I have to agree and I'm not sure he's done yet.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

kenyal
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by kenyal »

"then had two one-day-relapses with about three days sober inbetween. He's now two days sober"

He's drinking twice a week now, which might be in the neighborhood of his usual drinking pattern. If so, he's back to drinking, whereas you see him back to sobriety. I'd say a guy like this missed getting the first step down inside, and his understandings proved out to be superficial ones at best.

So I'd work with him around that subject and keep the focus on gaining more from what will become his foundation. It might be enlightening to hear how the drunks started. If he was blindsided or they were planned, or if he was too sure of himself in a drinking situation. That can give you insight regarding where he is lacking. How does he rationalize it to himself? Why is he ok today and was not ok on the days he drank...what does he see as different there?

If he wants to stay sober is he willing to commit to himself to talk with you before picking up the next drink? Does he have a commitment to himself to make particular meetings on particular nights?

I'd probe him hard regarding how he understands alcoholism and where his reservations are regarding a drink being a good thing for him in some circumstances. I'd make sure he examined closely a few of the times he was going to have a couple no more, and what happened through the evening. So he would have proof of his powerlessness from specific events from his experience, and not just a vague agreement with some theory. Makes it personal.

If ego has been his tripping point, I'd be blunt about how well he's done in securing a solution and how you expect it to play out. Maybe he's confusing attending church with taking action on his problem...if so I'd introduce him to some sober religious professionals to get their slant on that. Fr Terry is available for downloading if you've no one handy. Perhaps he can discover what he knows already that he is not applying to his life.

Just do your part and let the guy come along if he will. And if he won't, you've still done your part.

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Tosh
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Tosh »

Lali wrote:
Jaywalker Steve wrote:A couple of days between drunks isn't sobriety, it's more like recuperation, IMHO.
I have to agree and I'm not sure he's done yet.
See, 'sobriety' is a concept; it's difficult to pin down. If you mean emotional sobriety, he didn't have that during his six week sober spell.

I also think about Dr Bob when he went on that convention, returned hammered, was given a bottle of beer in the morning, then performed an operation on someone's bottom (naughty) and then was making amends that afternoon. He died sober.

Well, I didn't get the chance to read your replies before I went to see my sponsee. My sponsee is fully aware of the ins-and-outs of Step 1 and what being 'powerless' really means. He knows he's an alcoholic (he's been detoxed four times; he's pretty hardcore). I carefully explained my sponsor's viewpoint to my sponsee and I explained the next phase of the program, we spoke about God and Step 3; I even showed him my Step 4 and did a mini Step 5 with my worst in stock; just so it was perfectly clear what is in store for him. He's an intelligent fellow.

I then asked him what he wanted to do; it's his sobriety - not mine - and he said he wanted 'crack on'. He was sure about it.

So we read through the relevant parts of the book, did a Step 3 prayer side-by-side on our knees, and I showed him how to do a Step 4 inventory. My feelings? It felt right. He's taking his Big Book to his church tomorrow morning to do the Step 3 prayer again.

Thanks for all your replies, I enjoyed reading them. I don't know if I've done the 'right thing'; I kinda suspect there's no right or wrong in these situations and it's not in my hands anyway.

Regards

Tosh
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)

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Tommy-S
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Tommy-S »

You're still sober, so AA is working :)
Together, we don't have to cave in or wimp out to that Fatal First One, no matter what today!

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PaigeB
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

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You're still sober, so AA is working
Hear! Hear! :mrgreen:
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by ann2 »

Tosh wrote: I don't know if I've done the 'right thing'; I kinda suspect there's no right or wrong in these situations and it's not in my hands anyway.
That's how I feel. I have a sponsee who was gung-ho on step 4, her dog died, and she relapsed. We are back on step 1 naturally but not merely because of the relapse -- we had gone ahead with step 4 previously because she had taken steps 1, 2 and 3 on her own and felt ready to continue. Now we can start over again using some of the exercises that I've found useful over the years (the drunk history for example).

Should I have insisted we start with step 1 previously? Who knows? I'm not an insistent sort, basically. It really is up to the drunk imho, or rather, as I hope, the drunk's HP. She said she learned something from this last episode -- my outside observation is that her conception of God died with the dog and she has to find a new one through the program. But that's just me.

Ann
"If I don't take twenty walks, Billy Beane send me to Mexico" -- Miguel Tejada

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PaigeB
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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by PaigeB »

Death is sooo hard. I think it was the closest I got to wanting to drink. In the same week a well loved AA died sober of cancer and the other, a childhood friend of mine, died of drugs and booze. One funeral was packed to the hilt and the other not attended except by 3 or 4.

Death aside, life was acting weird too.... god would have made it even harder to understand. My random chaos is actually easier to understand.
Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have - the key to life and happiness for others. With it you can avert death and misery for them. page 124 BB

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Re: I've had a slight difference of opinion with my sponsor.

Post by Sally »

Tosh- you said your sponsee was *fully aware of the ins and outs of powerlessness**- step 1-
hmmmmm- so was i - i had plenty of brain cells left- i could *understand* the words and concepts-
i could quote with the best of you-
but i sure wasn't applying them to myself- it took me about 2 years - in AA - before i
really *came to believe* that i was really powerless-
i thank God my sponsor had me do a ton of Step 1 work-
not just flippant- ok i'm powerless- what's next??- seen way too much of that.
Sally

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