Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

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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Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by No.3 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:03 pm

26 years sober, I've sponsored +60 men for a number of years now. I've seen a lot, been challenged in ways I could not have imagined, and I'm very very grateful for the opportunity to carry the message as best I know how to detox & facilities as well as newcomer meetings. I pray to be of service, that prayer is answered daily.

I've watched listened and learned from others - the variety of sponsorship "styles" I perceive could be innumerable. But my brain always wants to sort, organize and improve what I do - even as KEEP IT SIMPLE echoes loudly in my head. I found the AA Grapevine book One on One insightful, even if it skewed female and seemed almost all had just 1-3 sponsees. I also didn't read much emphasis on the topic of ACCOUNTABILITY. How does a sponsor get & hold a sponsee accountable, particularly in the ethical/moral dept?

Outside issue experiences (I can't personally relate to: like heroin addiction, living on streets, prostitution, prison, etc.) don't phase me - I've successsfully sponsored guys who have gotten clean & sober, rebuilding their lives from zilch into decent citizenship (literally, from jail to owning condos.) But I still feel I'm 'just not right' for many of the Cluster B men who ask - because of their Dishonesty, that type relapses so frequently, "we are all familiar with the type." I understand well the urge to qualify "the sincere desire to STOP" - I don't (know how to be, or) want to feel responsible for someone who can't get or won't stay sober (when they say they do). I do believe many higher-functioning psychopaths can get their lives on track - in legit programs that micromanage such cases - but I feel like a failure against their (& their families') expectations, after they self-sabotage in total shitshow episodes of Self-Will run riot. I'm powerless over outcomes, I know that. And I'm certainly not a professional, I'm just an AA step sponsor. Intellectually, I know that's the limitation of my "job" ... but people do expect more. Realistically, statistically, the vast number of alcholic psychopaths are doomed to fail. There's not a lot of Hope there, but even the Big Book is brutally honest on that point.

Some sober bruisers seem to enjoy it, but I'm no drill sargent. I have difficulty holding large alphas or deviant functioning psychopaths ACCOUNTABLE, and I feel unfit for the task. They won't pray, they make me their HP, they defy me and then hide lol Three halfway house sponsees have recently gone back out, so I'm dwelling on this now. What could I do better? What is the lesson to be learned? Learn to say JUST SAY NO to rodeo regulars who won't accept the alternate sponsors I suggest?
Last edited by No.3 on Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by Tosh » Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:39 pm

Being an ex-soldier, I tend to associate the word 'discipline' with punishment, and I've been disciplined many times for my drunken and boorish behaviour! :lol:

I know I'm going to use a line of the Big Book out of context here, but maybe it's still in context:
So we let God discipline us...
I know when I 'get it wrong', I'm still disciplined by God (aka the Universe). If I'm not living an ethical life - even if I'm not caught for it - I know I've done wrong. I don't really need my sponsor to keep me accountable (is that even in the Big Book?); if I'm not doing it right, I'm not as happy as I could be. If I really get it wrong, I could end up drunk.

A quote from Elbert Hubbard:

"We are not punished for our sins, but by them."

And if a guy I'm trying to help lies to me, then that's fine, I'll let them lie. I won't challenge them. I'll go home, eat my dinner, watch some TV, meditate and go to bed. I'll leave God to hold them accountable - and I'm not talking in a magical 'woo woo' kind of way. If they can't get honest, I doubt they'll stay sober. It's like the Universe saying "You're doing it wrong!"

I'm pretty sure that the philosophical stance the Big Book takes is that we concentrate on what we do or don't do, not on what others do or don't do. Which is why I don't think holding someone 'accountable' is A.A. sponsorship. For example it talks about 'our side of the street' and in Chapter 7 there is nothing about what our prospects should be doing, only what we should be doing.

I'm open to new information though, No3, and I reserve the right - at all times - to be wrong.
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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There's almost NOTHING in the BB on "sponsorship"

Post by No.3 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 1:57 pm

Does that mean it doesn't or shouldn't exist? I suppose that's one interpretation, an extreme literalist view IMO.

I look to the other very old AA materials (sponsees as "babies," exhortations to Be Responsible for Your Man!, etc.) and can see what AA was doing, the reality of the Fellowship in practice, messy bits left out of the BB for whatever reasons.

I also read Bill W. describing the "heartbreak" of sponsees drinking (not dying, mind, just getting drunk) and I think I'm definitely NOT as emotionally invested as he was! That doesn't mean I don't have a defect - my sponsor calls it over-empathy - or two, three here (perfectionism, self-doubt, etc.) But I was wondering how others hold sponsees accountable for the shitbag behavior which often signals or precipitates a relapse.

Remember, we treat Sex as we would any other problem. Our Sex Ideal is not special, our dangerous misbehavior is not unique there. All harms we knowingly perpetuate ... and so caring sponsors call us out, when they see our blind spots, right?
Suppose you fall short of the chosen ideal and stumble. Does this mean you are going to get drunk? Some people will tell you so. If they do, it will be only a half-truth. It depends on you and your motive. If you are sorry for what you have done, and have the honest desire to let God take you to better things, you will be forgiven and will have learned your lesson. If you are not sorry, and your conduct continues to harm others, you are quite sure to drink. We are not theorizing. These are facts out of our experience.
Last edited by No.3 on Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.

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Re: There's almost NOTHING in the BB on "sponsorship"

Post by Tosh » Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:06 pm

No.3 wrote:Does that mean it doesn't or shouldn't exist? I suppose that's one interpretation, an extreme literalist view IMO.
Funny, I've never considered myself to hold 'extreme literalist' views; I always considered myself a bit fluffy.

I shall think on it.
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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The BB is one source. I use it!

Post by No.3 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:22 pm

Tosh wrote:I'm pretty sure that the philosophical stance the Big Book takes is that we concentrate on what we do or don't do, not on what others do or don't do. Which is why I don't think holding someone 'accountable' is A.A. sponsorship.
The first 164 pp of the BB doesn't describe sponsorship; other sources do. I don't view any source to be infallible either.

The 1939 Manual for Alcoholics Anonymous came from the dynamic and successful side of AA, where the converts were. How did they do it? If you believe their 93% success rate, copy them?
TO THE NEWCOMER: The booklet is designed to give you a practical explanation of what to do and what not to do in your search for sobriety. The editors, too, were pretty bewildered by the program at first. They realize that very likely you are groping for answers and offer this pamphlet in order that it may make a little straighter and less confusing the highway you are about to travel.

TO THE SPONSOR: lf you have never before brought anyone into A.A. the booklet attempts to tell you what your duties are by your "Baby," how you should conduct yourself while visiting patients...

III
A WORD TO THE SPONSOR who is putting his first newcomer into a hospital or otherwise introducing him to this new way of life: You must assume full responsibility for this man. He trusts you, otherwise he would not submit to hospitalization. You must fulfill all pledges you make to him, either tangible or intangible. If you cannot fulfill a promise, do not make it. It is easy enough to promise a man that he will get his job back if he sobers up. But unless you are certain that it can be fulfilled, don't make that promise. Don't promise financial aid unless you are ready to fulfill your part of the bargain. If you don't know how he is going to pay his hospital bill, don't put him in the hospital unless you are willing to assume financial responsibility.

It is definitely your job to see that he has visitors, and you must visit him frequently yourself. If you hospitalize a man and then neglect him, he will naturally lose confidence in you, assume a "nobody loves me" attitude, and your half-hearted labors will be lost.

This is a very critical time in his life. He looks to you for courage, hope, comfort and guidance. He fears the past. He is uncertain of the future. And he is in a frame of mind that the least neglect on your part will fill him with resentment and self-pity. ... You are literally responsible for his life. ... You should be able to judge if a man is sincere in his desire to quit drinking. Use this judgment. Otherwise you will find yourself needlessly bumping your head into a stone wall and wondering why your "babies" don't stay sober.
Last edited by No.3 on Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by Tosh » Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:37 pm

Yes, I understand the 'baby' thing. Clarence S also talks about the phrase 'fixing drunks', e.g. "I'm going to fix this drunk". A.A. certainly has evolved. And while the Big Book doesn't use the word 'sponsor', it does give plenty of guidance and the attitude to adopt when working with others. Holding someone accountable doesn't seem to jibe with that.

My sponsor is hot on sponsorship (and we don't agree on everything); he has a similar sobriety time as yourself and he has sponsored many guys; he's a bit of an enigma in his tactical area of operations. When I have a difficult sponsee he tells me to:

a. Be honest with them (which sounds like your 'pointing out their blind spots')
b. Show them some leadership (by example and by giving clear-cut suggestions)

Maybe that's what you mean by 'holding someone accountable'? Are we disagreeing over words? Can I ask what do you mean by 'holding someone accountable' exactly?

Maybe we're in agreement but just failing to understand each others concepts?
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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Same page, same concept (expressed differently)

Post by No.3 » Sat Nov 21, 2015 2:42 pm

Yes, same-same.
Accountability is getting honest. It can be brutal or subtle. Perhaps I'm too subtle in suggestions to tough guys? I will think on that, thank you.

Here I'm less interested in anyone's particular interpretation of the BB, it's sponsorship experience and "fixing drunks" IRL, particularly the psychopath type.
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.

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Re: Same page, same concept (expressed differently)

Post by tyg » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:26 am

It has been my experience, when a person has decided to go to any lengths to recover from alcoholism, these things are not an issue, psychopath or not.
~The secret to the AA program is the first three words on page 112~

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Re: Same page, same concept (expressed differently)

Post by Tosh » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:05 am

tyg wrote:It has been my experience, when a person is ready to go to any lengths to recover from alcoholism, these things are not an issue, psychopath or not.
I don't like the word 'accountable' it has too many negative connotations for me, like in the military when I was told "I'm holding you accountable for this!" and that was followed by a subsequent punishment. Accountability seems to have connotations of someone being my judge, jury and executioner (I'm probably being a bit of a drama queen here).

But can we help them to be able to get to any lengths? What's my experience? I think my sponsor did help me to be able to get to any lengths - especially around the honesty department. He was honest with me, sharing his worst in stock and when it came to doing my Step 4 and I dragged my heels, he helped me with a bit of pressure to get it done by the date we had both agreed upon for a Step 5. I'd probably still be on my Step 4 if it weren't for his gentle prodding.

I also think it's a great topic; No3 is decades sober with years of experience at sponsoring others and is still looking to grow in effectiveness and understanding; he's not inferring he knows it all. I find something about that quite inspiring. Thanks. And I look forward to reading some other views.
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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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by avaneesh912 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 9:15 am

My resposibility ends with walking a person from point A to point B. After that, if the person sticks around that is a great thing. I have a doctor and a geologist whom I helped and we meet at the waffle house once in a while. And currently helping a plumber. I hope he sticks around reaches a spot where he taps into the power, already he puched a dry wall and is on pain medication.

I try to practise this (BTW its from power of now):

So do not be concerned with the fruit of your action - just give attention to the action itself. The fruit will come of its own accord. This is a powerful spiritual practice. In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and most beautiful spiritual teachings in existence, non-attachment to the fruit of your action is called Karma Yoga. It is described as the path of "consecrated action."
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by avaneesh912 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 9:29 am

Also want to add that an excerpt from Bills Story after he goes through that psychic change:

My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems. Belief in the power of God, plus enough willingness, honesty and humility to establish and maintain the new order of things, were the essential requirements. Simple, but not easy; a price had to be paid. It meant destruction of self-centeredness. I must turn in all things to the Father of Light who presides over us all. These were revolutionary and drastic proposals, but the moment I fully accepted them, the effect was electric. There was a sense of victory, followed by such a peace and serenity as I had never know. There was utter confidence. I felt lifted up, as though the great clean wind of a mountain top blew through and through. God comes to most men gradually, but His impact on me was sudden and profound. For a moment I was alarmed, and called my friend, the doctor, to ask if I were still sane. He listened in wonder as I talked. Finally he shook his head saying, "Something has happened to you I don't understand. But you had better hang on to it. Anything is better than the way you were." The good doctor now sees many men who have such experiences. He knows that they are real. While I lay in the hospital the thought came that there were thousands of hopeless alcoholics who might be glad to have what had been so freely given me. Perhaps I could help some of them. They in turn might work with others. My friend had emphasized the absolute necessity of demonstrating these principles in all my affairs. Particularly was it imperative to work with others as he had worked with me. Faith without works was dead, he said. And how appallingly true for the alcoholic! For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that.

What I see is going on is, people simply get complacent. Just last week a guy threw away long term sobriety, been abusing Zanax and got a DUI. He shares of the glory days when he was sober from 1991 but doesnt' share what went on around the how he came to abuse the medication.
Show him, from your own experience, how the peculiar mental condition surrounding that first drink prevents normal functioning of the will power (Alcoholics Anonymous, Page 92)

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by Tosh » Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:03 pm

A thought came to me during meditation (so from God obviously); and that's with sponsees who can't or who refuse to go to any lengths, what we should do is water-board them, using coffee from the AA coffee pot, until they are willing.

And if you're a bit of a wooly-liberal, you could wait till the coffee has cooled down a bit.

I'll run that past my sponsor, but I'm working with a guy that really needs this.
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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Re: Same page, same concept (expressed differently)

Post by ezdzit247 » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:08 pm

No.3 wrote:Yes, same-same.
Accountability is getting honest. It can be brutal or subtle. Perhaps I'm too subtle in suggestions to tough guys? I will think on that, thank you.

Here I'm less interested in anyone's particular interpretation of the BB, it's sponsorship experience and "fixing drunks" IRL, particularly the psychopath type.
I'm not clear on your use of the term "psychopath". Are you using it as a collective slang term for alcoholics with various mental disorders or do you mean the clinical definition of a psychopath? I ask because given the clinical definition, I wouldn't expect to see many of them become alcoholics in the first place, even fewer willing to sit through an AA meeting, and none who would ever ask anyone to sponsor them through the Steps.

Also, on the accountability thing, I agree that accountability is getting honest. I also agree that it can be a brutal process for some alcoholics, especially those with repressed memories of horrific physical and/or sexual abuse, so brutal that it drives some alcoholics back to drinking or even suicide when they get to their 4th Step. That said, do I think I'm qualified to pressure or coerce someone into digging into their stuff before they're ready and willing just to suit MY time table for their recovery? I think not.
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children...to leave the world a better place...to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by No.3 » Mon Nov 23, 2015 1:51 pm

Great topic! May I address it in detail later?
...do you mean the clinical definition of a psychopath? I ask because given the clinical definition, I wouldn't expect to see many of them become alcoholics in the first place, even fewer willing to sit through an AA meeting, and none who would ever ask anyone to sponsor them through the Steps.

Well, I'm not a psych/med/soc professional but I do sponsor lots of halfway-house guys (from urban AA meetings) and I see psychopathy all the time. Most are 'on the spectrum' - I try to screen out obvious Cluster Bs but others are very high functioning or camouflaged. Some ASPDs (that I have sponsored) DO get sober, that's a genuine honest-to-G_d miracle. They exhaust me, however.

I didn't need to read this study; it only confirms what I already knew firsthand. Please see "Co-occuring Antisocial Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorder: Treatment Interventions" Joleen M. Haase (2009)
About 40% to 50% of individuals with a substance use disorder meet the criteria for ASPD and approximately 90% of individuals diagnosed with ASPD also have a co‐occurring substance use disorder (Messina, Wish, & Nemes,1999). There continues to be a widely held belief that personality disorders in general and ASPD in particular, are untreatable (Verheul & Herbrink,2007). There is also a reluctance to work with this population because of their difficult clinical management. Furthermore, individuals with ASPD are often excluded from substance abuse treatment programs due to the symptoms of their personality disorder. Likewise individuals with a substance use disorder are often excluded from personality pathology treatment because they are often disruptive and uncooperative (Messinaet al., 1999).


That's the definition of "hopeless" I think. I was seeking ESH with this type, in particular. Of my last 60 sponsees, maybe ~40% are on the spectrum for ASPD and another ~40% for NPD; I've had precious few "normal people."
"The Group demands total loyalty to the inner group. Some have had to leave the movement because of the Groups' demands which conflict with truth or duty." The Oxford Groups by Herbert H. Henson, 1933, pages 73-74.

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Re: Sponsorship and ACCOUNTABILITY

Post by ezdzit247 » Mon Nov 23, 2015 4:43 pm

No.3 wrote: Well, I'm not a psych/med/soc professional but I do sponsor lots of halfway-house guys (from urban AA meetings) and I see psychopathy all the time. Most are 'on the spectrum' - I try to screen out obvious Cluster Bs but others are very high functioning or camouflaged. Some ASPDs (that I have sponsored) DO get sober, that's a genuine honest-to-G_d miracle. They exhaust me, however....That's the definition of "hopeless" I think. I was seeking ESH with this type, in particular. Of my last 60 sponsees, maybe ~40% are on the spectrum for ASPD and another ~40% for NPD; I've had precious few "normal people."
Okay. My experience, from both AA 12th Step work and recovery treatment professional, is that every alcoholic displays some degree of psychopathic tendencies, especially while still detoxing. That doesn't mean an alcoholic at that stage of recovery is a "psychopath". In medical model treatment facilities, because the physical detox period varies among individual alcoholics from 3 months up to a year, clinical psych tests are generally considered useless for determining ASPD or any other mental/emotional disorder. Until the "true" personality of an alcoholic begins to emerge after the booze/drugs are flushed out of their systems, it's a crap shoot. Anyone, alkie or normie, is subject to having a psychotic episode or "break" if exposed to sufficient stress but that doesn't mean that alkie or normie is a psychopath. According to my understanding of the psych/personality profile, few if any true psychopaths ever become alcoholic. Among other things, psychopaths don't have a conscience or care about right or wrong, so they don't experience the kind of conflict or cognitive dissonance that drives a garden variety alcoholic to escape into a bottle when they've compromised themselves. It isn't a label I'd use lightly is what I'm trying to say here.

Male and female alcoholics coming out of jails/prisons into a half-way house system are dealing with an enormous amount of stress from just that transition alone. I've worked with both and bonding is difficult unless and until they know I know where they're coming from and trust me. Takes a lot of time. My ESH is that alcoholics in this situation generally respond very well to someone with a good sense of humor and zero expectations. Hope that helps.
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