Directive Sponsorship

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?

Directive Sponsorship

Postby Larryp713 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 8:40 am

I have had some discussions here and with members in my area regarding directive sponsorship, and I thought it merited its own thread here.

My definition of directive sponsorship is sponsoring people through recovery with a very specific and disciplined way of living. My current sponsor believes in this type of sponsorship. He has stressed I should say "please" whenever I ask anybody in AA for help. He asks me to wear collared shirts to meetings, and suits to certain meetings if that is what other members of that homegroup wear. He has asked me to call him every day to discuss my day and how it relates to my recovery. He advises me to go to at least 4 meetings per week, and that I have at least two meetings which are regular meetings. I should always have a service commitment (preferably a service position in my homegroup) and that I greet any new comers. I am also supposed to speak to another alcoholic every day.

I need to stress this... I asked him to sponsor me because he seems to have serenity and is very selfless. I really admire how he treats others and how he acts. He asked me if I was willing to do what he asked, and I said yes. He does the same things he asks me to do. He has been sober for five years and I have been sober for just over one year. His sponsor has 17 years and does the same thing (not sure if he still calls his sponsor every day, but everything else on this list).

I changed sponsors at about 8 months sober because my first sponsor and I were not really working on recovery anymore. We were friends talking about our lives, and I still needed to work on my recovery. I was feeling lost... specifically I would feel like I needed to go to more and more meetings, and once I was there, I wanted to leave. My home life was toxic and I didn't want to be there, but I wasn't getting much out of meetings.

Since I changed sponsors, my experience has changed. I have a good home life vs AA balance, and I don't have that awkward feeling of needing to go to AA and then not wanting to be there. I feel a lot more grateful and I have been more productive. I am working the steps again with my new sponsor and feel like I am getting a lot more out of it. My home life is a lot better and my wife is much more supportive and understanding of my recovery.

Is this an endorsement of directive sponsorship? Or was the willingness to take action and continue to focus on my recovery the driver to improvements I felt? I don't know if anybody can answer that question.

I am sponsoring someone today, and my sponsor has stressed I should sponsor him as I am sponsored. I am struggling with this. I don't ever feel the need to stress that somebody says please when they ask me for help. I don't think wearing a collared shirt or suit is important. I think a person should go to as many meetings as they feel necessary, and that number will be different for individuals. Some people might need to go to meetings everyday, and others can stay plugged in with two meetings a week. I don't feel like somebody needs to call me every day, but I do think it is important to continue to talk to other alcoholics. But I also believe that the program is all about a recovered alcoholic sharing what has worked for him with a suffering alcoholic.

I really want to share my experience, strength, and hope with others so they can experience the freedom and recovery I have. But this is a paradox... Am I trying to play God by just sharing what I think is important in my recovery? Or should I show the people I work with exactly what I do and advise them to do the same, even though I don't know why I am doing it other than I have been asked to?

Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience on this... Larry
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby clouds » Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:47 am

I just don't know what to say to you. This is not been my experience in any way, at all, in AA. I've never heard of it before.

Of course, being late is uncaring and self centered. Saying please and thankyou are comman courteousness.


If we take the steps we become less self centered. I can't relate to wearing shirts with collars though, I'm a lady.

If it works for you, thats good.

The main thing is to take the steps and carry that message to other alcoholics.
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Tosh » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:29 am

I think for me, it took a while to find out who I was when I put down the bottle at age 39. For a while I felt a bit lost, like I didn't know who I was. I mean when I was drinking I would've liked to have been this tough ex-soldier who drank hard and womanised; but I wasn't really that bloke. Firstly I'm not that tough and secondly I wasn't very good at womanising. :lol:

And when the booze was gone, I was left not knowing who I was! It took a while to discover what works for me and what doesn't.

So I'm in recovery and I eventually find a sponsor; he's what I call my 'Victorian sponsor' and he's an older guy, he has a white collar job, he wears a shirt with a collar to meetings and suit-type jackets. I imagine he wears a tie to work. He's not bothered about what I wear and he just focusses me on the program with a huge emphasis on the 12th Step and sponsoring. As soon as we finished Chapter 7 he said "Now go find a sponsee!" Eventually I did and managed to get one to his 12th Step and when I excitedly phoned my sponsor he said "Very good, now go and find another!"

But the thing is, the 12 Steps, wonderful as they are; they still don't solve that human condition that I suspect all humans suffer with. We're still - albeit at reduced levels - still restless, irritable and discontent. I ended up doing a two year course in Buddhism to see if I could find the 'magic solution', and you might be looking for the 'perfect sponsor' to assist you with finding your 'magic solution'.

But I don't think there are 'magic solutions'; the booze was the closest one I had, but the pain and misery that caused means that's off the table.

Living sober isn't easy; I think you sound a little conflicted about some areas of your recovery and what your new sponsor kinda 'dictates'. But I also know we learn a lot from doing things 'the wrong way' too, so I'm still going to say that I think what you're doing is great; you're experimenting and finding out what works for you and what doesn't. I think you've got some balls, too, mate; getting a new sponsor like yours means coming out of your comfort zone. Respect.

Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness; you're doing 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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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Tosh » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:44 am

By the way, this is the first time I've ever heard of 'directive sponsorship'.
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: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Larryp713 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:11 am

Thanks Tosh and clouds. The term directive sponsorship gets used at a lot of groups here in the local KC AA meetings... I don't know if it is a local thing. I am trying different things because I really screw things up when I start to take charge and think I know what I am doing. Some of the recovered AAs I admire the most swear by this type of sponsorship, and that is why I am trying to follow it. I just don't think I can sponsor others like this. It just doesn't feel right to me. At least that is how I feel right now. Thanks...
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Spirit Flower » Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:15 am

Tosh wrote:By the way, this is the first time I've ever heard of 'directive sponsorship'.

It has a history from a group located near Omaha, Nebraska, USA. I can't remember the name of that group. All these rules came from there. And Olathe, KS is not too far from Nebraska.

But some of it, like saying please, is just politeness. Getting involved with service is pretty normal.
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Brock » Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:12 pm

Happy the directive sponsorship term was explained, I thought Larry just used a word that described his sponsor.

Like anyone else said, if this is working and improving your sobriety and home life, I say very good use it, but I can see the problem of not wanting to tell your own sponsees about doing it exactly this way. The problem I have is that even with our Big Book, the original draft used the word 'directions' in various places, when it was sent around for comment and suggestions from the others who were available to recommend changes, it was agreed by all that the word be suggestions not directions. I remember reading that even the rarely have we seen a person fail part, said 'who has thoroughly followed our directions,' this was changed to path. The reason being that most people, and apparently alcoholics in particular, dislike being told what to do.

Maybe you could use that approach and say this is the way that works best for me, and I suggest you do the same, but what happens if he decides not to take your suggestion, guess you have to drop him. I see the problem especially with the say please and what to wear directions, sure if I got some little young fellow, who dressed really badly and had no manners, perhaps I could say you need to do these things. But then someone like me comes along and at the very least I would say f you, no doubt your new sponsor would have no problem with that, he would just say I am not willing to go to any lengths so he can't help me. Don't know what he would say if I dropped every AA book at his feet, and said show me where they say anything like that, but my experience is that people who are OK with giving directions like these, would have an answer for that too.

I think sponsorship can be compared to bringing up a child, and only if I agreed that everything my parents did for me was right for my own kids, would I agree that everything my sponsor did was right for those I sponsor. Even where you say that a person should go to as many meetings as they feel necessary, and you don't see the need to call every day, it shows there are parts you would probably drop. Thanks for bringing this up, Tosh said - “I think you've got some balls, too, mate...” I agree.
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Larryp713 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:39 pm

Spirit Flower wrote:It has a history from a group located near Omaha, Nebraska, USA. I can't remember the name of that group. All these rules came from there. And Olathe, KS is not too far from Nebraska.


That makes sense, Spirit Flower, since a few of the long timers that practice this have direct ties with Omaha. They make at least a couple of pilgrimages each year, and at least two of the long-timers (including my sponsor's sponsor) are sponsored by folks in Omaha. Thanks for that historical note. Larry
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Larryp713 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:49 pm

Brock and Tosh, you guys are awesome and I enjoy reading your perspective. I think it is more humility than balls to try to follow this path... My ego took a beating before I finally surrendered, and I think that was a good thing for me. When I start feeling like I got a handle on things, I usually find a way to jack it all up. I am trying not to do that today. But I think I am going to take your advice... Tell sponsees this is how I was taught to do it, but share with them the principles I have learned and not sweat those parts I don't think relate to recovery.

And I don't care what anybody says, I would not drop a person who refused to wear a collared shirt to a meeting. I don't think that would be helpful to anybody. Thanks again! Larry
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Spirit Flower » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:03 pm

Larryp713 wrote:
Spirit Flower wrote:It has a history from a group located near Omaha, Nebraska, USA. I can't remember the name of that group. All these rules came from there. And Olathe, KS is not too far from Nebraska.


That makes sense, Spirit Flower, since a few of the long timers that practice this have direct ties with Omaha. They make at least a couple of pilgrimages each year, and at least two of the long-timers (including my sponsor's sponsor) are sponsored by folks in Omaha. Thanks for that historical note. Larry

That group would have made me wear a dress or something stupid like that. Out of the question of course. :lol: :lol:
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Tosh » Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:08 pm

Spirit Flower wrote:
Larryp713 wrote:
Spirit Flower wrote:It has a history from a group located near Omaha, Nebraska, USA. I can't remember the name of that group. All these rules came from there. And Olathe, KS is not too far from Nebraska.


That makes sense, Spirit Flower, since a few of the long timers that practice this have direct ties with Omaha. They make at least a couple of pilgrimages each year, and at least two of the long-timers (including my sponsor's sponsor) are sponsored by folks in Omaha. Thanks for that historical note. Larry

That group would have made me wear a dress or something stupid like that. Out of the question of course. :lol: :lol:


Isn't all this going to somewhere special to compare clothes with each other kind of a Christian-religious thing to do?

I don't even like showering and only do so out of compassion for others, the highly evolved spiritual creature I am (emphasis on the 'creature').

Progress not (etc).
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: Directive Sponsorship

Postby Lali » Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:07 pm

clouds wrote:I just don't know what to say to you. This is not been my experience in any way, at all, in AA. I've never heard of it before.



Me neither. A bit excessive and controlling in my book. But if it helps you stay sober, I'm glad for you.

I agree with what you say about your sponsorship of others. If there is anything that was shown to you to do that you don't agree with, then don't pass it on.
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Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby allan c » Sun Feb 14, 2016 11:37 pm

I think it's perfectly normal to have these uncertainties. Especially during the first couple years. As has been said, as time goes by you'll become grounded. Having a sponsor with "rules" can be a good thing. For me, when I was starting out, just the act of following directions was a good thing. Nothing he's asking of you is harmful and it will most likely build character in the long run. Sounds like your sponsor may have a military background. Just a hunch. Either way, your doing what is asked of you and I think that's the key. Has been for me. Eventually you may set aside some of his practices but for now I'd say go with it. I suppose those same rules won't hurt the folks you sponsor either. Sounds like your sponsor has an old school respect for the program and what he's suggesting is probably best for now.
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Re: Directive Sponsorship

Postby tyg » Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:05 am

Or should I show the people I work with exactly what I do and advise them to do the same, even though I don't know why I am doing it other than I have been asked to?
I don't have any words on how you or anyone should sponsor others. I know for my sobriety and spiritual growth, there were many things I did because it was asked (suggested) of me. I am so thankful I did these things because I look back now and see how it helped me recover.

If I knew "why" I was doing all the stuff suggested to me. I am almost positive I would have talked myself right out of most and refused. Making all too good rationale why not to do it. When in reality, these things I did, when I had a "directive sponsorship" situation it sure made my program, spiritual growth and quality of life a lot better for some odd reason. As seems to be what you have been experiencing from this type of sponsorship to.

Hmmm, wonder if there is something to this stuff, although I really don't want to agree with it (still a bit a Rebel :twisted:) and really I will never know for sure. I believe all these things are paradox's of this program and breaking free of self will and practicing turning it over.

I asked my 1 st sponsor about why I should dress up for speaking at a meeting. They said is wasn't about me and it was a type of service work, too clean up and get all nice, wearing something special, to pay respect and gratitude to a program that literally and absolutely saved my life from a condition that wanted me miserable or dead.
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