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The Value of Sponsorship.

17 May 2013

I am beginning to feel a tiny bit odd about my sponsorship situation. My sponsor is in St. Louis. I’m living on the East Coast. It’s not an ideal situation. But it’s also not awful, theoretically. I know people with out-of-town sponsors, and they do just fine. But I also know that I need to have regular contact with people in the program and someone who I’m directly accountable to in order to work the best program I can. And I’m not 100% certain that I can do that with a sponsor who is something like 1000 miles away. I’m also not sure that I can’t. But I’ve met a couple of men at my men’s meeting Wednesday nights that seem like they might fit the bill for a sponsor “in loco parentis” even if not the real full thing.

So, what is a sponsor? What to they do? When someone is new to AA we tell them to get a sponsor right away. We tell them that getting a sponsor and doing what they say will help them stay sober. Does it work? Well, hard to say. Now, obviously, if you get a sponsor and do what they say, you’ll stay sober, because one of the first things a sponsor tells you is: “Don’t drink.” But of course, the research is conflicting. A recent study suggests that meeting attendance and sponsorship are quite important, while noting that previous research has not shown the same[1]. But, as I’ve noted many times, I don’t know that we understand how to research recovery very well. So even when the research supports my own view – meetings and sponsorship matter – I remain skeptical.

Fundamentally, a sponsor is someone who has what I want. Long-term sobriety. A pleasant countenance. And optimistic view of the world. And the supposedly superficial things too. I wanted a sponsor with a family. A nice home. The things I wanted to have or to keep. AA allows us to engage with the world, and live good lives, while being of service to others and to fellow alcoholics. So I found a sponsor who had those things.

But I feel like I may need to adopt a local sponsor. I don’t want to risk my program getting out of whack. I’ve missed a few meetings lately, and I need to make sure that that doesn’t happen regularly. If I miss a meeting, I need to make up a different one. I need to talk to my sponsor more, or get a local one. It’s too easy for me to become complacent. Then I begin remembering my drinking differently from how it really was. I remember the euphoria. Not the misery and compulsion. My disease will use whatever tricks are available to satisfy its needs.

But I know the tricks. I know the score. I understand the consequences. And I know what I need to do. I need to engage with the program here, in ECC. It’s not enough to do what I’ve always done when my circumstances have changed. I need to take new measures. Life is too precious. And my sobriety is the cornerstone of my life. If I lose one, the other will follow shortly. This is how I work my program. But understanding the dire circumstances of my disease. And by being willing to do the things that are required to forestall it.

Which means understanding that I cannot relieve my alcoholism if I see it as a battle. I cannot approach my sobriety as if it comes from some inner strength in fighting my addiction. My war has been over for years; all my strengths and weapons lie broken on the field. I am lost. I am defeated. And so, I fight no more. Such freedom there is in true surrender. I do not have to struggle any more. I am unbound.


[1]Zemore SE, Subbaraman M, Tonigan JS, Involvement in 12-step activities and treatment outcomes. Subst Abus. 2013 Jan;34(1):60-9.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Syd permalink
    19 May 2013 05:56

    I have my first sponsor as a long distance one. And now have a local sponsor as well. It works for me.

  2. 22 May 2013 08:26

    I don’t count on what I “know” to help me. Our minds are strange and wonderful places that can distort what we knew yesterday into some dangerous stuff today.

    I currently have a long-distance sponsor, whose cognitive functioning is declining. I have several close friends who have been sober a long time and have known me as long, I talk with them as I used to talk with my sponsor. Not sure this is going to work in the long run though.

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