I am 14 years sober this year and have been sponsoring women for the last 10 years. I say that not because I am wanting to impress or because I think I am somehow special but because I want to emphasize just how important sponsorship is to my sobriety.
I know that without the gift of sponsorship I wouldn’t have the same quality of sobriety that I have today and who knows I may not even be sober. Having a relationship with my sponsor and also sponsoring women has kept me in the middle of Alcoholics Anonymous which is essential for my long term sobriety.
Being in the middle means I am accountable, that I have responsibility and that I am connected spiritually and physically to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. All of this is vital to my sobriety and provides purpose and meaning.
I must admit I didn’t start sponsoring until I was 4 years sober, in fact until that time I was rather closed minded to the whole idea. I had moved here to Nanaimo from Vancouver less than a year before and was getting settled in nicely. I had a sponsor, I had a homegroup and was regularly attending 3-4 meetings per week. I was starting to feel a part of Nanaimo’s AA community. Then life happened. I experienced a significant uprooting in my personal life and I didn’t know how to cope. I was going to meetings and talking to my sponsor but I still felt like my emotional sobriety was taking a real hit. During one of these emotionally charged phone calls to my sponsor she gave me a ridiculous piece of advice; she told me I needed to “work with others.”
I asked, “What does that even mean? And how is that going to help ME and MY situation?”
My sponsor patiently replied that I needed to get a sponsee and carry the message. She further explained that working with others would help me get out of self and improve my sense of purpose and gratitude.
Now, I trusted my sponsor and so far her suggestions had been bang on and even helpful but at this point I couldn’t fathom why she thought I had anything to offer anyone. But I had been in the program long enough to know that I don’t always know what is best for me and I don’t always have the best ideas. Also my sponsor was kind enough to point out to me that I had already received the miracle of sobriety it was time that I shared that with someone else. She may have even said, “Good for you for staying sober but shame on you for not sharing how you did it.” Hard to argue with that!
Of course at first I wasn’t very willing, so my sponsor told me to pray for the willingness to be of service to others. So I did. And If I have my dates correct, 3 days later a young woman approached me and asked if I would be her sponsor!
And that is how it started for me. In the 10 years since, I have been blessed with the gift of sponsoring many women (and I do mean gift). These women have taught me so much that I am not sure I can articulate it here. But I will specifically speak to how it works in my life.
1) Because I have sponsees I cannot ever be thinking of only MY sobriety, they give me the opportunity to think of others and how I can help.
2) Sponsees continually allow me to see how AA and sobriety have worked in my life and have given me a life. They come to me to learn how to do life and because they “want what I have” but all that I have today is because of my continued commitment to the program of AA and its principles. That is a miracle.
3) Sponsees allow me to do actual work on building meaningful and often lasting relationships. When I arrived at the door of AA, I had no idea how to have a healthy relationship (no exaggeration here). Sponsorship gives me a unique opportunity to work with others in a meaningful way that ties me to them but also insists that I work on tolerance, love, patience and boundaries.
4) Most importantly sharing my story helps me with step one and acceptance. Because I share my experience, strength and hope freely with sponsees I am deeply rooted in the understanding that my story is valuable, I am valuable and it has helped me release the shame I carried with me about my alcoholism.
Today I can truly say that I am grateful for sponsorship. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned and the growing up I have done and firmly believe that this would not have been possible without the gift of sponsorship. Sponsorship is giving freely what was given to me by the women and men of Alcoholics Anonymous that went before me.