sponsor relationship advice

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?
mikeyinrecovery
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sponsor relationship advice

Post by mikeyinrecovery » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:40 am

Hi guys, I'm only 70 days into recovery and I really need some good advice or personal reflections. I've prayed very hard on this and I think I need some help from some sober folks.

I was desperate to not to drink again, so I didn't hesitate to get a sponsor after 10 days of sobriety. My grand sponsor introduced me early on to the guy whom I ended up asking to be my sponsor. He clearly was making himself available to be my sponsor and I felt so fortunate. He and I have very similar family and professional situations, but I feel like we are so different spiritually. His sponsor is huge in AA and I see him helping so many alcoholics and seems so God-centered, so that right away made me think that my own sponsor would be similar. Being new to recovery and full of honest gratittude that someone would so freely offer help to a poor sap like me, I've been battling with myself to just shut up, accept my sponsor for who he is and to listen for the messages that I can learn from him. But I keep feeling like I don't have enough support and that I can't seem to communicate or relate to him. There's a few aspects of what he has that I want, but not a whole lot.

The last thing I wanted to do was take my own sponsor's inventory or judge anyone, because he certainly doesn't openly take mine. But my sponsor is either purposely very hands-off, or just very busy, or? He rarely gives me suggestions. He doesn't advise me to read the big book, but he knows I have already read it, so maybe that's part of it. He doesn't suggest how often I should contact him. When I do, I get the feeling that I'm being too needy. The truth is, i've felt like I've really been pulling myself through my first days in recovery. He tells me that I need balance in my life and that even though everyone else says I should do 90 meetings in 90 days, he suggests I just do what I think is enough. He never goes to meetings with me, except I do see him at our home group meeting. We are working the steps, but I don't know if it's going slowly or not. We are starting step 4 next week, but I feel like I just don't know this guy well enough and he barely knows me. I have a very deep spiritual faith, so step 2 and 3 weren't difficult for me. We've skipped a few weekly step work nights because he said he "really needs a meeting tonight." So, I wonder if he' struggling at times.

So, I keep trying to reach out. I try to email or text him every day just to at least say hello and stay in touch with him, because I feel like I should only call him when something is really troubling me. I've only done that twice, and the conversations generally include him saying, "you're no different than any other alcoholic" to whatever is wrong that day Some days, I just wish he would tell me a story of his own recovery and how he felt the same way. I feel like the one aspect missing out of my early recovery is the fellowship aspect, so I've been trying really hard to get phone #s of guys in the rooms.

My sponsor has told me that when he has a resentment towards someone, he flat out can't pray for that person. That kind of shocked me since he's been sober for 18 years. All of our interaction is very short and to the point. So, I've tried to keep the attitude that this is my recovery and I have to do everything I can to make my foundation solid by going to meetings, reading literature and trying to grow my network. The problem is, the more I hear about sponsor relationships and the spirituality shared between sponsors and sponcees, I feel like I'm totally missing the boat. I'm not looking for a crutch, and having this hands-off sponsor has really helped me to work hard at developing my reliance on God, not people.

So, some advise me that maybe this guy doesn't have what I'm looking for, and that maybe I should look for another. Some say that you can have your sponsor work the steps with you and leave it at that, while I could try to find another guy who has the spiritual foundation i'm hoping to learn from. In AA, does anyone have more than one sponsor? Can you have a sponsor you depend on for step work, and another for spiritual advice? I took a leap of faith and feel like I may yet have a lesson to learn from my sponsor. I feel like I should keep praying to God to guide me through this relationship. I don't like some of the things I hear from my sponsor. He tells me he doesn't like a lot of meetings or the people who share at meetings. I'm so early in my recovery, I don't want to judge anyone though. I judge people enough in my head as it is. lol

Sorry for going so long. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts on this. I sometimes feel like sticking with this sponsor could have some wonderful results for him as well. He felt like he was drifting and wanted to get more involved with the program, but I feel like he's just not into it and would rather be playing tennis. It gets me down and it troubles me every day on what I should do.

thanks, guys!
mike

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avaneesh912
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by avaneesh912 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:49 am

Your foremost important task is to work the steps and have a spiritual awakening. You go thru the Big Book with your sponsor or some workshop (there are some awesome workshops freely available on the web today) and then do the 5th with your sponsor...And then the higher power you get connected to will lead you to all the answers.. Thats been my experience...When it comes to spirituality its about you. If the sponsor does not work, move to another, you should not be tied to a person anytime. But its good to have a person whom you can trust always.
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: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Lali » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:12 am

If a sponsor/sponsee relationship doesn't feel right, most likely it isn't (IMO). Here, in my town, some people do have more than one sponsor. Ask around at your home group if this is done there. You are asking some really intelligent questions so you are better off at 70 days than I was. :oops: Oh, and welcome...
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Ken_the_Geordie
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Ken_the_Geordie » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:44 am

Mickey,

I had a similar relationship with my first sponsor in that we had very little contact. I too was looking for some 'leadership', some guidance, but received very little and being new I didn't want to ask for it. If my sponsor had said 'read this' and phone me to talk about it, I would've done just that; I would've done anything within reason.

In the end, using speakertapes and the help of this forum I worked through the Steps, I did my Step 5 with a Long Timer of 38 years sobriety, and I have had the psychic change; it really worked; the desire to drink was removed early on for me.

But since I sponsor, I think I ought to have a sponsor; if only to learn how to be more effective at working with others; so I've recently asked another guy - a Big Book guy - to be my sponsor, and things are very different. I am getting clear direction; mutual satisfactory dates are booked for us to begin working together and we start this Sunday, and it appears as if I will be getting clear directions for a change; and although I'm a bit tentative about having a Big Book guy whom I know sponsors a lot of guys and who'll possibly see all my weaknesses and procrastination; I'm also looking forward to it.

I would suggest you speak to your sponsor about the lack of direction you're receiving, not easy I know; I don't think I could've done that with my original sponsor; he was dead against me working the steps rapidly - 'take your time' was the advice I received; (sometimes I think they forget what it's like when you're just wanting to drink at almost every waking moment, life's looking pretty crappy, and you're far from feeling well mentally or physically). Or you get yourself another sponsor whose willing to go through the Steps with you rapidly.

Whatever you decide to do, as Avaneesh pointed out, your priority is to work the steps, have a spiritual awakening and get rid of that mental obsession; once that's gone you can work on the finer points of your spirituality.

PS. Have you discovered XA Speakers? Google for it, it's a site crammed with speaker tapes; I recommend Joe and Charlie, Chris R and Clancy I; just do a search on the XA Speakers site for them; they're good.
I'm more commonly known as Tosh (it's a nick name, but everyone I know in real life calls me it); just in case there's any confusion; I tend to use Tosh or Ken interchangeably and it confuses some; including me. ;-)

mikeyinrecovery
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by mikeyinrecovery » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:15 pm

thanks to all of you for your thoughts!

As the day went on today, I thought about my post and your responses. I guess I don't trust my instincts yet being so early in sobriety. It doesn't help that I have a lot of father issues growing up, and my sponsor is in his early 50s, while I'm in my mid-30s. My biases against trusting or relying on male father figures (or big brothers) is definitely a factor that makes me second guess myself. I can give a woman a million second chances, but I will mentally (and sometimes outwardly) crucify a guy if he makes one wrong move. (ah, I'm anxiously await my upcoming steps...lol) I'm the king of shortcuts and I'm trying to be as cautious as ever for the first time in my life to take not one shortcut in my road to recovery. I don't want to drop my sponsor too hastily. Luckily, my compulsion to drink has not been with me for over two months, so I don't think my mixed disappointment over my sponsor relationship makes me vulnerable to drink. It's not like the guy is telling me that the big book is full of sh*t or that it's ok for me to go have a beer. lol

I have to pray a lot on this, and hopefully keep reaching out to my other fellow alcoholics in the rooms for good messages. For me, I must attend a lot of meetings and be in human contact because my disease loves for me to isolate myself. (I was a closet drinker, and drank very hard, very fast so as to not be caught with the bottle in my hand.)

The one thing that has helped me stay with my sponsor is that his own sponsor has what I want. His sponsor also hosts a yearly step meeting in his house, which will start in october. I feel like what I can't get through my own sponsor, I have a big open door waiting for me in october and hopefully I will build my network better and feel some security.

Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this newcomer. I love AA and my fellow alcoholics!

final questions for you. A poll if you will..
1) How often in your early recovery did you talk to your sponsor? (you initiating the calls, emails, etc.)
2) Did your sponsor go with you to meetings other than your home-group very often? (mine never does) If so, how often?
3) Did your sponsor elect not to tell you how his/her day was when you asked them how they were doing? (mine just says "not bad" or "good." and no details...)
4) Did you invite your sponsor to meet your family and/or have your sponsor over for dinner, or casual outings? (I mentioned it once in email and got no response.)
5) How often did your sponsor go to meetings each week? (I think mine just goes to our home group meeting) He has 4 years of sobriety.
6) How many sponcees did your sponsor have at the time?
7) Did your sponsor choose not to tell you that his/her sobriety anniversary arrived? (I had to find out through his best buddy who is also in program)

mike

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Marc L
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Marc L » Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:01 pm

Hi Mike;
I'm Marc and I'm alcoholic.
I don't have a sponsor so my sponsor is an idiot. :lol:
It's an old saying in AA.
Hang around and participate in threads which interest you.
Eventually a Higher Power will send you the help you need.

Marc
Recovery won't just happen by Osmosis. You gonna' have to work at it some.
12th Step work ain't just a job... It's an Adventure.

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Lali » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:25 am

Mikey, your questions/statements are in italics. Mine are not.

Mikey stated:
It doesn't help that I have a lot of father issues growing up, and my sponsor is in his early 50s, while I'm in my mid-30s. My biases against trusting or relying on male father figures (or big brothers) is definitely a factor that makes me second guess myself.


I had a similar situation and I changed sponsors. My new sponsor is closer to my age. It turned out to be the right thing.

Mikey stated:
It's not like the guy is telling me that the big book is full of sh*t or that it's ok for me to go have a beer. lol


Don’t lower the bar or sell yourself short as far as your needs in a sponsor. This is YOUR life.

final questions for you. A poll if you will..
1) How often in your early recovery did you talk to your sponsor? (you initiating the calls, emails, etc.) – I was asked to call every day at first, then once a week was okay as long as I saw my sponsor once or twice a week at meetings.

2) Did your sponsor go with you to meetings other than your home-group very often? (mine never does) If so, how often?
No, never, but she did require 2 meetings of hers that I had not been attending.

3) Did your sponsor elect not to tell you how his/her day was when you asked them how they were doing? (mine just says "not bad" or "good." and no details...)

They aren’t supposed to tell you how they are doing. You are supposed to tell them how you are doing.

4) Did you invite your sponsor to meet your family and/or have your sponsor over for dinner, or casual outings? (I mentioned it once in email and got no response.)

Inviting your sponsor to meet your family is not a good idea in my opinion. You could be opening a can of worms and they don’t need to know your family in order to sponsor you. If you are talking about your wife, then I would probably have them meet once over coffee, the three of you. You don’t want your family trying to contact your sponsor and getting too involved in that aspect of your recovery. It could be a real distraction to the sponsor/sponsee relationship.

5) How often did your sponsor go to meetings each week? (I think mine just goes to our home group meeting) He has 4 years of sobriety.

She goes to about 5. She has 22 years of sobriety.

6) How many sponcees did your sponsor have at the time? About 5, but being retired she could handle that many.

7) Did your sponsor choose not to tell you that his/her sobriety anniversary arrived? (I had to find out through his best buddy who is also in program)
Why would they? It’s up to you to care enough to ask.
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Layne » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:41 am

Your sponsor may not be right for you.

Your sponsor may be right for you.

Hard for anyone else to say.

Just be careful that you don't let expectations run amok and cloud your judgment.
A good sponsor may not be what we want them to be, but they be what we need them to be.

In my case, I am not always a good judge of what is best for me, especially with my first thoughts. Second, third, and even fourth thoughts sometimes provide me with better information on which to make an intelligent decision.

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ann2
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by ann2 » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:01 pm

How about meeting up with the sponsor's sponsor some time and getting this off your shoulders? Call him or ask him out for coffee. You need someone who sees you both to help you understand the situation. Sometimes we have to admit that we can't handle something by ourselves.

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

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Lali » Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:46 pm

Mikey, do you have to keep the sponsor you have now in order to get an invite to his sponsor's step meeting?
Step 1: I can't
Step 2: He can
Step 3: I think I'll let him

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Karl R
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Karl R » Sat Jul 17, 2010 5:57 pm

in order to get an invite to his sponsor's step meeting
I didn't know that one needed an invite to an AA step meeting? Third tradition of AA? Maybe I'm uninformed about the ways of our fellowship? Or perhaps it's a private non-AA related function.

K.

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by mikeyinrecovery » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:06 am

Wow, great insight from ya'll. So, I was unclear about the step meeting at my grand sponsor's house. I don't have to get an invite. I meant to say is that I'm looking forward to it a lot and I know some old-timers with great sobriety and messages will be there to shed their wisdom and for me to feel some added fellowship. I failed to mention that one of my irrational fears is that I feel like the new guy who is worried that I'm not "one of the guys" yet. I think a lot of that is just in my head. So, joining that step group will probably go a long way to help me feel like I belong and for me to find a connection with someone. I've been debating for a long time on the advice Ann gave...to just go and meet my sponsor's sponsor. It's the only thought that has felt right so far. He in fact was the first person to come up to me at my first meeting and made such a profound effect on me by offering me his phone #, telling me where the meetings are that he could recommend, etc. I made a connection right at day one and that was critical for me. So, when he clearly tried to match-make me with my current sponsor, I knew I had to take a leap of faith and go with it.

That thought still sustains me today. I just need to ask God to help me with my fear of rejection and scarcity. I thought that I couldn't tell my grand sponsor how my relationship with my current sponsor is going, b/c I would expect the info to go right back to my sponsor. It's not like this is a doctor-patient confidentiality thing going on here. lol And of course, I would anticipate him just saying, "I think you need to have an honest chat with your sponsor instead of coming to me." Problem is, I know that my sponsor is struggling with a few things. And although one person advised that my sponsor doesn't have to tell me how he's doing, it's just hard to develop a relationship with anyone if it's a one-way thing. It's been told to me too many times that sponsoring and giving back to AA is critical for sober AA members to remain sober. I naturally would like to develop a deeper relationship with my sponsor.

As far as getting to know my sponsor and offering him to know my family...he already has a huge network of his AA buddies whom he golfs with. I don't golf. Sucks to be me? lol

So, I feel like my thoughts on my sponsor will be interpreted as critique, when I should just be grateful. Maybe this is a lesson on expectations that I need to lear through sober eyes. I hear all too often that my sponsor may not say what I want to hear, but it's what I need to hear, even if it's a message of taking it easy, nothing is perfect, depend more on God not just people or things. And of course, one thing is for sure, I need to believe my network and AA friendship will grow up around me and that I need to do my part to reach out.

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by jak » Sun Jul 18, 2010 10:30 am

Wow, great insight from ya'll. So, I was unclear about the step meeting at my grand sponsor's house. I don't have to get an invite. I meant to say is that I'm looking forward to it a lot and I know some old-timers with great sobriety and messages will be there to shed their wisdom and for me to feel some added fellowship. I failed to mention that one of my irrational fears is that I feel like the new guy who is worried that I'm not "one of the guys" yet. I think a lot of that is just in my head. So, joining that step group will probably go a long way to help me feel like I belong and for me to find a connection with someone. I've been debating for a long time on the advice Ann gave...to just go and meet my sponsor's sponsor. It's the only thought that has felt right so far. He in fact was the first person to come up to me at my first meeting and made such a profound effect on me by offering me his phone #, telling me where the meetings are that he could recommend, etc. I made a connection right at day one and that was critical for me. So, when he clearly tried to match-make me with my current sponsor, I knew I had to take a leap of faith and go with it.

That thought still sustains me today. I just need to ask God to help me with my fear of rejection and scarcity. I thought that I couldn't tell my grand sponsor how my relationship with my current sponsor is going, b/c I would expect the info to go right back to my sponsor. It's not like this is a doctor-patient confidentiality thing going on here. lol And of course, I would anticipate him just saying, "I think you need to have an honest chat with your sponsor instead of coming to me." Problem is, I know that my sponsor is struggling with a few things. And although one person advised that my sponsor doesn't have to tell me how he's doing, it's just hard to develop a relationship with anyone if it's a one-way thing. It's been told to me too many times that sponsoring and giving back to AA is critical for sober AA members to remain sober. I naturally would like to develop a deeper relationship with my sponsor.

As far as getting to know my sponsor and offering him to know my family...he already has a huge network of his AA buddies whom he golfs with. I don't golf. Sucks to be me? lol

So, I feel like my thoughts on my sponsor will be interpreted as critique, when I should just be grateful. Maybe this is a lesson on expectations that I need to lear through sober eyes. I hear all too often that my sponsor may not say what I want to hear, but it's what I need to hear, even if it's a message of taking it easy, nothing is perfect, depend more on God not just people or things. And of course, one thing is for sure, I need to believe my network and AA friendship will grow up around me and that I need to do my part to reach out.
I was led to chose a Home Group and to commit to rigorous attendance at that group and to help that group do the things that the group needs done.

I did that and was further led to 'develop a deeper relationship' with the members of that group, not just one member/sponsor. That gave me a brotherhood, an intimate relationship with AA, not just one of it's members. That led to an intimate relationship with a Higher Power.

We each in our turns with 'struggling with a few things' even the 'grand sponsors'. Having a support system beyond just the relationship with a sponsor, and a regular program, lends to our receiving the sponsorship we need.

jim k

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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by Blue Moon » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:27 pm

You, not your sponsor, are responsible for your sobriety. A hands-off sponsor is not necessarily a bad thing - if anything, codependent sponsorship is worse. But IMO a sponsor should be guiding you through the program - why else have a sponsor?

To answer the questions:

1) How often in your early recovery did you talk to your sponsor? (you initiating the calls, emails, etc.) As often as needed. I saw him once a week at my home, often saw him at one or two other meetings during the week. We didn't need persistent telephone contact. Some weeks, if I was going through something difficult, I'd call every day. Other times I just talked with him when we met in person.

2) Did your sponsor go with you to meetings other than your home-group very often? (mine never does) If so, how often? We went to a few over the months I was working with him. Not many, though. We did have the same home group.

3) Did your sponsor elect not to tell you how his/her day was when you asked them how they were doing? (mine just says "not bad" or "good." and no details...) Sometimes we talked about our day, but more often about the fellowship and the program than about his day went.

4) Did you invite your sponsor to meet your family and/or have your sponsor over for dinner, or casual outings? (I mentioned it once in email and got no response.) No. As I said, he visited my place weekly, but it was just us working the program.

5) How often did your sponsor go to meetings each week? (I think mine just goes to our home group meeting) He has 4 years of sobriety. Who cares? I've no idea how many meetings he did a week. 2 or 3, I think.

6) How many sponcees did your sponsor have at the time? As few, or as many, as he needed. IMO more than 1 or 2 is not possible unless the sponsor is retired from working life. Yes, some do collect sponsees, but I believe they do the sponsee a disservice in doing so as it's more about ego than being of any help.

7) Did your sponsor choose not to tell you that his/her sobriety anniversary arrived? (I had to find out through his best buddy who is also in program) He didn't make a big deal of it. After a few years, I even forget my own unless I'm actively thinking about it.
Ian S
AKA Blue Moon

mikeyinrecovery
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Re: sponsor relationship advice

Post by mikeyinrecovery » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:34 pm

thanks, Jim. After a good meeting this morning, I kind of shared with a guy in our group about my second guessing. Just by talking to him I felt better and got his phone #. I plan to call him tonight, and not just add to my phone # list. I just 12 and 12's step 4 chapter, and one point really caught my eye. Paraphrasing...that sponsors will encourage the depressed-type sponcee wallow in his bog, because that is just a reverse pride. The sponsor will instead try to help his sponcee find balance, letting him know that the sponcee's problems are not any more numerous or strange than most AA members. So, maybe my sponsor's hands-off approach and brief responses to my long-winded diatribes really serves me a good purpose. And perhaps it just wasn't time to go on and on about my character defects until step 4 arrived. I think prayer is working for me and progress is happening slowly and sometimes quickly for me.

I thank you guys for helping me stay sober!
mike

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