Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

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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AlisonT
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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by AlisonT » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:13 am

My first sponsor did this with me and I have carried on the tradition. When I asked her to sponsor me she asked me to meet her for breakfast the following day to discuss it. At breakfast she asked me if I was willing to go to any lengths and she laid out her expectations of me. I was to call her once a day at a particular time for at least the first 30 days and I was to also call another alcoholic once a day. I think both of those daily phone calls are very important. The phone call to me is so I can get to know them better and they know they have a certain time of day that they can talk to me. The phone call to someone else is so they can start to build a network of other alcoholics so if they can't reach me they have someone else to call and just to build friendships within the program. It is a willingness test of sorts but I can only sponsor so many people and I need to know if they are willing to do the work necessary.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by JohnZ » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:26 am

AlisonT wrote:My first sponsor did this with me and I have carried on the tradition. When I asked her to sponsor me she asked me to meet her for breakfast the following day to discuss it. At breakfast she asked me if I was willing to go to any lengths and she laid out her expectations of me. I was to call her once a day at a particular time for at least the first 30 days and I was to also call another alcoholic once a day. I think both of those daily phone calls are very important. The phone call to me is so I can get to know them better and they know they have a certain time of day that they can talk to me. The phone call to someone else is so they can start to build a network of other alcoholics so if they can't reach me they have someone else to call and just to build friendships within the program. It is a willingness test of sorts but I can only sponsor so many people and I need to know if they are willing to do the work necessary.
Those actually sound like very useful willingness tests, if we must call them that. For one thing, the calls begin to establish the connections between the newcomer and the fellowship, and the newcomer will hopefully realize just how powerful the group can be when it comes to sobriety. Many newcomers begins with the Fellowship as a Higher Power, so in those calls, there is an excellent opportunity to begin working the first two steps.

Also, it gives the newcomer an opportunity do start doing some 12th Step work. By calling another alcoholic, they are helping the other person to stay sober, and that's precisely what the first half of the 12th Step is all about.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by JohnZ » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:33 am

I'm assuming the calls to other alcoholics are calls to people that are already on group lists. Asking a newcomer to make calls to drinking alcoholics that are not part of the Fellowship would be a very bad idea.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by FeenixxRising » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:14 pm

AlisonT wrote:My first sponsor did this with me and I have carried on the tradition. When I asked her to sponsor me she asked me to meet her for breakfast the following day to discuss it. At breakfast she asked me if I was willing to go to any lengths and she laid out her expectations of me. I was to call her once a day at a particular time for at least the first 30 days and I was to also call another alcoholic once a day. I think both of those daily phone calls are very important. The phone call to me is so I can get to know them better and they know they have a certain time of day that they can talk to me. The phone call to someone else is so they can start to build a network of other alcoholics so if they can't reach me they have someone else to call and just to build friendships within the program. It is a willingness test of sorts but I can only sponsor so many people and I need to know if they are willing to do the work necessary.
I would not agree to do what you've described above, especially the request to make daily phone calls to other alcoholics .

As far as I know neither the BB or the 12 Steps require that action. I came to AA on my own, I read the BB daily, I attend 3 to 4 meetings per week. I can honestly state I'm willing to work the Steps. If that's not good enough, then it's the potential sponsor's problem, not my problem. If a sponsor would ask me to do what you've described, I would simply say thanks but no thanks. As I've said previously, I already have a boss and a father, and in this stage of my recovery I do not need someone making unwarranted demands. These "requests" appear to be in direct contradiction to the words from pages 18 & 19, "that there are not fees to be paid, no axes to grind, no people to please, no lectures to be endured--these are the conditions we have found most effective".

Unless a phone call is directly related to my working the Steps, I don't see it as necessary.
Last edited by FeenixxRising on Fri Aug 16, 2013 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by FeenixxRising » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:20 pm

JohnZ wrote:
AlisonT wrote:My first sponsor did this with me and I have carried on the tradition. When I asked her to sponsor me she asked me to meet her for breakfast the following day to discuss it. At breakfast she asked me if I was willing to go to any lengths and she laid out her expectations of me. I was to call her once a day at a particular time for at least the first 30 days and I was to also call another alcoholic once a day. I think both of those daily phone calls are very important. The phone call to me is so I can get to know them better and they know they have a certain time of day that they can talk to me. The phone call to someone else is so they can start to build a network of other alcoholics so if they can't reach me they have someone else to call and just to build friendships within the program. It is a willingness test of sorts but I can only sponsor so many people and I need to know if they are willing to do the work necessary.
Those actually sound like very useful willingness tests, if we must call them that. For one thing, the calls begin to establish the connections between the newcomer and the fellowship, and the newcomer will hopefully realize just how powerful the group can be when it comes to sobriety. Many newcomers begins with the Fellowship as a Higher Power, so in those calls, there is an excellent opportunity to begin working the first two steps.

Also, it gives the newcomer an opportunity do start doing some 12th Step work. By calling another alcoholic, they are helping the other person to stay sober, and that's precisely what the first half of the 12th Step is all about.

From my understanding, the phone calls to other alcoholics would only be related to Step 12. And since a newcomer has only begun to work the Steps and has probably not had a spiritual awakening, there would be no reason for the newcomer to call other alcoholics.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by JohnZ » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:22 pm

Nobody should be cold-calling drinking alcoholics. There's a right way and a wrong way to make a 12th Step call. But calling AA members that have volunteered their numbers on a call list IS a good idea.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by Brock » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:29 pm

Alison did say that the calls to other alcoholics, was to have other people to speak to, if the person being sponsored couldn't reach her, so she didn't mean 12th. step type calls. Having said that however, I do agree with Feenixx, I won't be doing that. Then someone reading this is probably thinking I am a fool, after all it says go to any lengths, and I wish that whole statement had somehow been clarified in the book, & guidelines given as to what the sponsors role is, in determining what these lengths are. And what's so hard about calling other people, not much really, but it should be optional, just a suggestion, not like she says "a willingness test of sorts", but I do respect the fact that her time is limited, and she can't waste it on people who are not "willing to do the work necessary". It's just I believe that some people can read the literature, and see very well for themselves, the various pitfalls that may lay ahead, it's all there in the book. And when an intelligent person has read the material, and just wants some help with the process, they should be able to ask a sponsor to assist, without being treated like a child.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by FeenixxRising » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:44 pm

Brock wrote:And when an intelligent person has read the material, and just wants some help with the process, they should be able to ask a sponsor to assist, without being treated like a child.
Well said, that's how I feel. I'm an adult, and I will be treated like an adult. I understand a sponsor's time is limited. But it should be quickly apparent when a sponsee is unwilling to do the necessary step work. An arcane "willingness test" of any kind is unnecessary.

And yes, the "willing to go to any length" passage should have been clarified. It's open to interpretation, so much so that some sponsors may think it gives them license to have their sponsees perform all manner of inappropriate tasks. However, it is what it is, that's why I find it important to read and understand what's been written in the Big Book and the 12&12. I want to make sure my sponsor isn't going off the reservation with his own "hybrid" program.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by Squawking Hawk » Fri Aug 16, 2013 6:57 pm

Have read the posts in response to the OP (below). I've been around the rooms for more than few 24s and I don't recall hearing about this type of willingness test. Of if I did, I shut my ears because I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

When I came in, I was willing to stop drinking a day a time through the rooms and steps of A.A. As for phone calls, even before I got a permanent sponsor, I was told to get lots of telephone numbers and to use them. And when I did get a permanent sponsor, she told me the same thing. Get a lot of phone numbers because you might not always be able to reach me. My sponsor did not tell me to call at a certain time every day. She just told me to call her, and to call other women in the program. No time table or number of calls per day. But that is my ESH, and there are those who have a different experience. I can only speak for what works for me.

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I've now heard a number of stories about sponsors giving sponsees "willingness tests". For example, telling a sponsee to park at the far end of the parking lot and then pick up all the liter before coming into the meeting. Other sponsees have mentioned being told to wear different color clothing or park on the other side of the street. Apparently, the point of these demands is not about utility (i.e. the parking lot exercise wasn't actually about picking up liter), rather they were used to test the sponsee's willingness to 1) obey the sponsor and 2) work the steps.

Whatever the case, it all sounds wildly inappropriate. Furthermore, these "tests" seem to have no grounding in AA literature.

I don't yet have a sponsor, and stories such as these are one reason why I don't. Are these tests common? Am I missing something?
Last edited by Squawking Hawk on Sat Aug 17, 2013 6:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by AlisonT » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:41 am

There are many different types of people and many different types of sponsoring. I only know what worked for me. This is why I sit down with potential sponsees and spell out my way of sponsoring. If they don't feel it would work for them I can usually suggest another person who sponsors a different way. As for calling at a particular time I certainly don't say it is the only time they can call. It is just a time that we mutually agree on that I leave open for them. They know if they call at that time they won't get my voice mail.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by PaigeB » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:41 pm

I had a new comer ask me to sponsor her. She slipped a few times but came right back. It was around that time that I had been thinking how each of us, no matter how far down the scale we have gone, are specialists in helping another alcoholic get sober. I had heard around the tables of a guy who refers to the old-timers that told him to come early and stand at the door and greet everyone that came in - and he still does it 30+ years later. I thought about how my sponsee said to me that she didn't get it about staying sober for a year, that she did get it from the person across the table who was struggling to get a month.

After her third slip I had to chair a Public Information Committee meeting and I took her with me. That night I had her stand at the door and shake hands even though it was not her home group. I asked her to approach the person who just came in and tell them how she stayed sober today. These are NOT things my sponsor had me do. But they are things I have seen work.

On Monday she picks up a 6 month chip. She still does service for the PI Committee and she still works with the new comers - making sure they have a ride and phone numbers. Sometimes she calls them too. :wink:
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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by Mike D. » Sun Aug 18, 2013 5:18 am

Hi everyone! To address the whole "willingness test" idea, it sounds pretty ego-driven. I have not really ever seen anything that extreme going on in my particular area, but I know that people sometimes do get a little controlling with new sponsorees. Misguided sponsorship can be hazardous to the sponsor. We have to keep ourselves in check with the 10th Step. To keep it honest and simple, let me tell you what I've done with my young newcomer sponsees. Quite a few years ago, I started setting up chairs and making coffee for my home group. Therefore, I would gently ASK (not demand) my sponsoree to come a little early and help me set up tables and chairs -- which they gladly did without hesitation. After a couple of times doing this, I would see that they'd show up at the meeting place even before I got there and were eager to get started on these little A.A. "chores". I saw that it seemed to make them feel good to be doing something helpful, and they began to take an interest in making sure that everything was set up "just right". It usually took about 20 minutes, but it got them out of themselves for hours. Did I really need their help with setting up chairs? Heck no. So, what was my motive for asking their help? I asked them to do those small things because very soon I would be asking them to do some big things -- like writing a 4th Step inventory. I learned that doing smaller things now gives us the willingness to do the bigger things later on. I've learned that willingness to take action grows inside us as we take action. The willingness to clean coffee pots now will grow into the willingness to clean house later on. When I was new I'm sure that I probably would've failed any "willingness test" you ever gave me. But, my sponsor started me out with small things and my willingness grew bigger. Thanks for letting me share. You folks bring up some very interesting topics. Thanks again, Mike D.

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by danderisup » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:12 pm

I was shocked and appalled when I heard of some of the "willingness tests" that some sponsors put their sponsees to.

I thought it was being used jokingly when people would say things like "at that point, I'd have been willing to beat a drum with a fish while doing a two step if it would have kept me sober." I thought they were saying that to make a point, not as a suggestion for sponsees to prove their worthiness.

On a more serious, or at least closer to home note...my 1st sponsor was very much a "this is what my sponsor told me" sort of gal. When it came to step 3 she said I must get on my knees and read the prayer exactly as it is in the Big Book. Issue was that doing so went against the religion I practice. The knees, wording was against my religion, not the spirit and meaning of the step. Yet she insisted I do it, that it was the only way, and I must be willing to go to any lengths. I was willing, to do the step with alternate wording. Now I have met others who have said I must have some "issue" because I shouldn't have made a stink over a couple three words...but I take my faith to be as important in my life as sobriety is. I wasn't making a stink to be cussed. I was expressing honest conflict.

Was that an instance of me being prideful, will full and unwilling? Or was that me speaking up with integrity?

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by becksdad » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:56 pm

I don't see the point of repeating rote words that touch nothing inside you. The BB says that ...."the wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation." While I would have no problem today in repeating the prayer just as written in the book, having no reservation with the idea, this would have no impact on me as profound as when I first did this, in my own words and truly from the heart. Oh, while I did share this step with my sponsor afterwards, I did this alone initially because that is when it hit me dramatically that it is what I want to do. When I did the 3rd step, I was not on my knees, it was a very quiet thing that affected me deeply in the moment.

The BB also states that...."it is better to meet God alone than with one who might misunderstand." I generally do not do this... please forgive me an injection of personal belief here.... But in my mind, someone who places more emphasis on ritual and rote than spirit and substance... misunderstands.

Just for what it's worth. Thanks, Danderisup, I thought it was a great question.

Ed

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Re: Sponsors Giving "Willingness Tests"?

Post by Tosh » Thu Aug 22, 2013 3:36 pm

The only 'willingness test' is the sponsor's willingness to give up his time and do the stuff he/she should be doing and we have a book to follow for that.
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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