I Am Not Anyone’s Therapist

The concept of sponsorship is actually quite amazing. He or she is a person who you can call on a daily basis. When we do so, we are free to tell them anything we want. We can be totally open and honest with them. Part of the conversation can include advice on some of our issues. Part of sponsorship is to share how we handled similar situations. Most amazingly, all this is done without paying the sponsor for any of his or her time.
Where some sponsees make a mistake is when they start thinking of their sponsor as a therapist. Sponsors are not trained mental health professionals. They don’t have advanced degrees in psychology or social work. What they do have is life experience in alcohol and drug addiction and more importantly in recovery. If you are looking for understanding how your family of origin contributed to your addiction or how your issues of self esteem can be addressed, it is more appropriate for you to talk to a therapist. They are trained to help you examine these areas. In the program, we encourage members to seek out professional help. As sponsors, we are more concerned with how you will live life in the future; as opposed to understanding your past. If your sponsor starts analyzing you, maybe you should think about getting a new sponsor.

Personal Reflection: Am I playing therapist or patient?

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In early sobriety, the idea of getting a sponsor was quite alien to our way of thinking. Being masters of isolation, the thought of calling someone on a daily basis was quite strange. We felt very uncomfortable talking about ourselves with someone. Behind all these feelings was fear. We were afraid to reveal to another person that we were less than perfect. In fact, many of us deep down inside really did believe that we were perfect. For those of us that admitted that work needed to be done, we had concerns that we would be judged unfavorably. Then of course there was the belief that few people could sponsor us because we were so much smarter and more together than almost anyone else in program.
It was for these very reasons and many more that it was essential that we have a sponsor. The discipline of calling another person on a daily basis was very strengthening for us. Having the opportunity to open up to another person in a completely honest way was very liberating. We began to speak about issues that we had carried around for years and even decades. We found that our sponsors were not there to give us unsolicited advice but to share their life experience and insights from the program. Then one day something quite amazing happened. A person came up to us at the end of a meeting and asked us to sponsor them.

Personal Reflection: How deep is my relationship with my sponsor?

Sponsors: Have One; Use One; Be One

A cornerstone of all 12 step programs is the idea of a sponsor. A sponsor is someone in the program who you can turn to discuss your upsets, weigh your options and share your secrets. The benefits of sponsorship are threefold.

Have one – When we ask someone to be our sponsor, we are making a definite statement about ourselves. It is actually a declaration of our humility. We are saying that we don’t have all the answers. It declares we are humble enough to ask others for their help and to show our vulnerability.
Use one – There are many people with a lot of sober time who still call their sponsor on an almost daily basis. We have found that even when we don’t think we have something to talk to our sponsor about; issues come out in our conversation which need to be addressed. Perhaps it’s an unresolved resentment or a decision which requires feedback. Calling also challenges our complacency.
Be one – A big part of the program is giving back. When we sponsor someone, it allows us to repay in some way what others did for us in helping to maintain our sobriety. Assisting others also helps to develop and strengthen our own program.

Personal Reflection: Do I fulfill the 3 parts of sponsorship?

There Are Only 2 Mistakes. To Stand In The Way Of Someone Else’s Growth; Or To Stand In The Way of Your Own

A healthy person takes joy in assisting others in their personal growth. As parents we swell with pride when our children surpass us. We do everything in our power to facilitate their success. In the program we often help others to grow thru sponsorship. We guide our sponsees through the steps or celebrate their anniversaries with them. We also need to exercise caution. It is all to easy to prevent growth by attempting to exercise too much control. When you begin to have a belief that says “I know better what’s good or right for you so you had better follow my advice”, a red flag should go up. You need to examine your motives. Is your advice coming from pride and ego, or do you really have the person’s best interests in mind.
The same holds true with our own personal growth. Because growth can produce fear and anxiety, sometimes we need to examine to see, if on some level we are sabotaging ourselves. Just like with others we need to see if we have our own best interests in mind.

Personal Reflection: To what degree do I help facilitate the growth of myself and others?

A Twelve Step Riddle

There is an old riddle from the Rooms.

Question: What do you tell someone who acts as their own sponsor?
Answer: You have an idiot for a sponsor.
Perhaps this riddle is a bit harsh, but it contains an important lesson. The entire point of sponsorship is to allow us to get a fresh perspective. A sponsor is the person who will call us on something when we are being dishonest. Many times we are not even aware that we are in denial or lying to ourselves. He or she is the person who shares their “experience strength and hope” with us so that we can hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls of life and of recovery in particular. When you call your sponsor you have the opportunity to review your day and assess your behavior. Perhaps most importantly, a sponsor is the person who will guide you thru the 12 steps. So, how can we possibly thank our sponsor for all they do in helping us?
That’s a good question to ask your sponsor.

Personal Reflection: Is there something I’ve been holding back from speaking with my sponsor about?