Trust at Arms Length

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?

Trust at Arms Length

Postby Rain » Tue Sep 27, 2016 8:48 am

I like having a sponsor, they make good sounding boards

I think, the best sponsors I've had were the ones I created just to show off in meetings, "the old timer who took me under their wing and lovingly guided me and showed me the light" and using the line from "The Breakfast Club" and Brian, “[my sponsor] lives in Canada, I met [my sponsor] at Niagara Falls. You wouldn’t know [my sponsor].”

As far as real people sponsors, I kinda already knew that real people are real people and did not put a real person on a fantastic angelic A.A. pedestal, since my beginning in A.A. and to the present, this "hero worship" has always amused me when I see many other A.A. members do it. I'm thinking I know this guy and he's a real p****, not a nice guy.

Having a good sponsor to me, is one who is straight-forward, one who has strong beliefs but also a realist and challenges me.
I only know a few drunks that have actually hit their bottom, used the program and are truly recovering, these folks are actually sharing their experience and not flexing their imaginative story telling A.A. speak.

Being a little skeptic is always helpful, not the sarcastic type, but just enough arms length to keep a wannabe Nigerian Prince sponsor at bay.
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby Barbara D. » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:41 am

Welcome to Forums, Rain!

I was a desperate housewife coming from a nice suburban neighborhood when I walked into my first AA meeting. I was high-bottom and atheist and female armed only with the knowledge that my father had been able to stop drinking temporarily when he attended meetings. I did not trust those hardcore, religious background, male drunks and certainly didn't want anyone to hug me. Holding hands for the circle-up at the end of the meeting was almost more than I could stand, not to mention listening to them say the Lord's Prayer. But they knew about blackouts, the Jekyl and Hyde thing, suicidal thinking, and some had even preferred to drink alone like I did.

Today, it seems folks want newcomers to have a sponsor by the time they leave their first meeting. As I got more comfortable with the meeting format, AA speak, and the literature, I began to monitor shares to see if I could find a sponsor I thought could relate to my story. I thought a sponsor had to understand ME before he could help me. In my area in the 1980s, I was told to get more than one sponsor because 1 might drink again, 1 might be on a business trip, etcetera. I wanted male Christian feedback, but I didn't want to invite a 13th Step, so I eventually chose 2 sponsor couples who were open-minded enough to accept me. They did help me enormously because I made a point to track them down and talk to them/ask them questions at meetings but I always relied on group feedback as well as other 1 on 1s, too. I really only let my sponsors be my guide specifically for the 4th & 5th Steps. I don't remember making up fantasy sponsors or being impressed by how "bad" we all are. I did go through some years wanting to be popular and to feel like a guru. :oops: Truly, my recovery has been a process!

My sponsors were there for me but they did not get personal. I corrected that "mistake" when I got sponsees of my own. As it turned out, unconditional love drunk to drunk remained objective whereas getting personal made me subjective and less able to be a good sponsor! For some reason, I can't learn much just by mentally mulling over a new concept. I learn by trial and error, by pain and consequences. And all I have to give is my experience, strength, and hope.

In hindsight, I know that all kinds of sponsor/sponsee relationships work for different people. I could never "obey" a sponsor, check in every day, try to establish my own program by working their program. But that is exactly what some of us need. As long as I don't drink today and keep exploring the Steps, my sobriety has grown to a point that I am still okay even when reality doesn't suit me.
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby positrac » Wed Sep 28, 2016 9:44 am

Barbara I can relate to your post a wee more because our initial era of entering the rooms is at least in the same decade. (1989)
A lot socially has changed and IMHO more people than even are so wired into texting, FB and whatever else kind of site that it is narcissistic of sorts. Kind of in the other life they were kings and queens and I was merely the garbage man because I haven't evolved to that level of royalty yet I'm just a blue collar truck driver/systems engineer.

So my sponsor (s) are people who are being sponsored and independent enough and yet have time when I call and or visit depending on where I am and what kind of job I have for that day. I spent almost 8 hours with my sponsor one day drove all the way across Arkansas and 1/2 way across Texas and a lot was hashed out with both of us.

Maybe this whole deal these days is more in the eye of the beholder?

Early years no hugs, handshakes or we'll love you until you love yourself as I was more interested in not going back out because I didn't like it and in the rooms I did feel safe from relapsing.
I've learned to embrace the above and I know it is all apart of recovery. 13 stepping was also on my to do list but not with anyone in the rooms because I am selfish and I don't want to be responsible for them going out because I didn't spoon after heavy breathing. Like I said a lot has changed with me over the years and I learned to trust someone I could stay with until I leave this joint.
You must live your life from beginning to end: No one else can do it for you.
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby Rain » Sun Oct 02, 2016 8:35 pm

Thank you both for you replies. I've been told I'm getting better.

My first meeting wasn't so great. I was court-ordered and I remember there was this 'shunning' thing about that. There was this guy who said "I came in on my own and I didn't need anything to make me come-in here, children get told what to do, not me, I'm a grown-up man with my own...blah blah" and I was thinking whoopee-fu..flipping-do, do you want a medal or something? and sure enough, they gave him a friggin' medal, I was surprised. [I later learned it was a bronze chip]

The meeting closed and I wanted out but some guy ran up to me, held me in a tight hug for a long time, that was awkward and awful. I trashed my court sheet and my hard-a'd PO sent me to two weeks in county jail, at first I wanted to avoid jail, but did the time as I didn't want to go back to aa.

Long story short, I attended a few aa jail meetings, hooked up with some aa people and visited many different groups, much, much, much later I found a few I like and now have a homegroup. I had that 'wanting to fit-in, so I too can have a good strong program' but at the same wasn't too keen on sticking my neck out on the aa chopping block, so I thought.

As of late, I'm doing good so far and to my Sponsors prodding I welcome newcomers, especially court-ordered folks, I greet, get to know them, give them aa info and throw the aa welcome mat in front of them and let them use it or not.
My aa bucket list includes helping with aa jail meetings.. so.. that's something different for me.. but I'm told that I'm a natural in jail and so I'm like gee thanks, that's one thing I wasn't expecting to be good at. I guess its all good; comparing my aa jail to all of my career choices which pretty much sucks

Right now, I'm still pretty low key but I'll usually hug people if the vibe is cool.
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby lanka2x » Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:30 am

Nothing at all wrong with being skeptical, imo. After a whie you'll figure out who's for real, and which of those might be worth getting to know. As far as hugging, it's something I will do for others if it seems to be important to them, but rarely initiate.

Some weeks ago my wife and I were working outside a house we're fixing up in a surrounding small town and a car stopped. Before I knew it a lady I'd seen at 2 meetings was hugging first her, then me. Her parents were in the car and wanted to know if we were AA. The lady was drunk and I hugged her back as much as she wanted and encouraged her to start hitting meetings, gave her our phone number to call before she drank.

She began showing up regularly and sober, likes to sit with and hang out with my wife after the meeting. Looking and sounding much better already.

Had one of us or both refused her hugs or cut them short it might have turned out differently. Best I think to be warm and welcoming, when we can do that.
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby Brock » Mon Oct 03, 2016 5:29 am

I am not happy that Rain had a few bad experiences with AA, but happy he spoke about it here. In another thread a new member is finding it all a great experience, it might not be appropriate to tell him there to keep an eye out for the possibly not so great AA members, but I think new people should be reminded it's an organization like any other, which has all types.I believe speaking about these things not only alerts new persons here what to look out for, but may also help others see where their behavior may make others uncomfortable.

The excessive hugging is a case in point, and we have discussed it before, because a person doesn’t like being hugged by virtual strangers he is not antisocial. To me the best move is arm extended to shake as soon as the person gets close to 'arms length,' that way if a hug does end up happening it's one of those newer half hugs with arms in-between.

The other thing I have experienced putting people off, is how some of us treat them if they attend for a while and then leave. I live in a relatively small community, and members will see each other from time to time going about their normal business. One newer person who I hadn't seen at meetings for a few weeks I saw and said 'hi how are you,' they said 'fine thanks' and we walked on, but the person turned back to thank me. Thank me for not giving them a lecture about not attending AA, as another person had done the day before, and also for not phoning over and over. If a person sees what we have to offer by attending for a while, then we don't see them again, one call to see if they are OK, without a lecture thrown in, and just asking if they are OK if we should meet them is enough. It appears people are being put off possibly for life, by those who overdo the follow up of somebody who decides they no longer want AA, and we should be careful of this.

What lanka did for the drunk lady I admire, there is a time when hugging is necessary, welcome here, I enjoyed reading your other posts as well.
"Good morning, this is your Higher Power speaking. I will not be needing your help today."
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby Reborn » Mon Oct 03, 2016 10:21 am

I know when I was new I was put off a bit by the huggers. There are a few people that I will hug now but it took a bit to get to that point. I agree with Brock's point about being to pushy...I recently had a good friend of mine relapse...when he told me I did not go after him with the holier than thou speech. I simply told him that I was still here for him...just because he drank it doesn't change how I feel about him. I met up with him yesterday and he got completely honest with me and thanked me for not jumping down his throat. There will be a time and a place for me to be blunt and to the point with him but not when he's reaching out for a caring hand. Don't get me wrong I will get on his ass but when folks are coming in new or fresh off a relapse I have to be careful not to jump on my soap box...I don't think that does anyone any good.
Last edited by Reborn on Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. BB pg 132
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Re: Trust at Arms Length

Postby ezdzit247 » Mon Oct 03, 2016 2:08 pm

My first meeting wasn't so great. I was court-ordered and I remember there was this 'shunning' thing about that. There was this guy who said "I came in on my own and I didn't need anything to make me come-in here, children get told what to do, not me, I'm a grown-up man with my own...blah blah" and I was thinking whoopee-fu..flipping-do, do you want a medal or something? and sure enough, they gave him a friggin' medal, I was surprised. [I later learned it was a bronze chip]


Hi Rain.

Yup, unfortunately there are still members like you described above and their "holier than thou" attitudes are still pushing newcomers out of the rooms...and worse. Some of those newcomers never make it back, never give AA another try. So glad that even though you preferred jail to their kind of AA, you finally hooked up with some AA members there who were actually practicing AA's principles and carrying AA's real message of recovery to newcomers. Your ESH will be a great asset in reaching out to other newcomers and helping them achieve sobriety.

Keep coming back....
“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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