Mysterious recurring problem with sponsees - Whats my part?

Discussions related to 12 Step Sponsors, 12 Step Sponsoring, Working with others using the 12 Steps, for AA's, NA's, Al-Anons, Nar-Anons, OA, and others using the 12 Steps.
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Postby TrailerTrashDood » Mon Oct 10, 2011 12:07 am

I know I put too much of myself into this. That is why I'm not going to do it anymore. On the other hand, some people do not respond to your approach of just having someone sit down & read the book with them. But then again, at this point, that is neither here nor there...

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Postby Dallas » Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:52 am

When I was a little kid -- all the way back to about 7 yrs old -- I had an obsession with finding out "how and why things work." I'd take things a part look at them and try to put them back together again. On trash nights -- I'd take my wagon and go around looking for stuff that people were throwing away and then take it home and see if I could fix it.

That's one obsession that has never left me. It's like a hobby for me. Or, maybe, like a way of life.

Naturally, I did the same w/ the 12 Steps and with AA. And, it's what I was doing w/ the Big Book, when I had started drinking again and couldn't get sober. I kept thinking "what's the secret here? why does it work for Bill W. and all those people in AA, but it won't work for me? if I could figure out that secret -- I MIGHT have another chance at getting sober again."

If someone would have said to me "this is why and how it works" I probably couldn't or wouldn't have accepted their answer. I had to find out for myself.

I think I've figured it out. The "why" it works.

All this stuff we do, regardless if it's the Steps, making 12 Step calls, making coffee for a meeting, cleaning up after a meeting, sharing in meetings, sponsoring, being sponsored, and ALL the rest of the stuff -- does ONE thing. And, it does that ONE thing for each one of us -- that allows us to stay sober and get comfortable, and stay comfortable -- while sober.

That ONE thing? It gets us thinking about something OTHER THAN our self. It's real simple. And, that's all their is to it.

I'll bet if we started a worm farm -- and worked w/ the worms in such a way that we didn't thing about "us", or think in terms of "these are my worms"... we'd just automatically start getting better.

And, as soon as we went out and noticed have our worms died -- and we thought and said "Damn! Half MY WORMS died!" we'd be screwed.

I used to get really bugged out at watching women that would knit in meetings. I figured, "can't you leave your sewing outside... and participate in the meeting?"

Well -- now, I know. The knitting was keeping them from thinking about their self. :lol: So, they stayed sober.

The only time I can EVER have a problem greater than me is -- when I'm thinking of "I, me, and mine." People do what people do -- for THEIR reasons. The way they do it is for THEIR reason. As long as what they are doing is working -- they'll hang on to their reasons. When they prove to their self -- that a reason works -- they keep it. When they prove to themselves that it no longer works -- they start looking for another reason.

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Postby jzarvey » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:42 pm

Hi all. I've been following this topic since it started. I hadn't stopped by the site for a couple weeks and I caught up on it this (Monday) morning. I read what was posted and have been thinking about it all day. It has been in the back of my mind ALL DAY. Couldn't sleep, so I came down and fired up the 'puter and read it all again and it hit me.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we TRIED to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Big Book p. 60 Emphasis added by me.

I think we have been missing the key word "tried." It doesn't say we have to be successful in carrying the message, only that we TRY to carry the message to ALCOHOLICS.

What is the message?

The 12 steps as laid out in the Big Book.

I remember when I got my first sponsee about 7 months ago. I didn't even have a year in the program and was nervous about sponsoring someone. I didn't want to screw up and cause this guy more harm. I talked to my sponsor about it and he told me that all a sponsor is for is to show an alcoholic how to work the 12 steps as presented in the Big Book. I wanted some more advice so I came here and read Dallas' post about how he sponsors

and it hit me that if the person doesn't want what I have to give, they are free to find another sponsor. Either I wasn't reaching them or they weren't ready to work the steps. I found that Dallas' suggestions worked well with my first sponsee. I have since read the book "12 Step Sponsorship: How It Works" by Hamilton B. and it reinforced the idea that we can only present the sponsee with "suggestions" on how to work the steps. If they don't want to take the "suggestions," that is on them as long as I presented the program of recovery as laid out in the Big Book.

I had the privilege of giving my first sponsee his 1 year coin last week and that felt better than when I received mine at the end of May. I am working with my second sponsee and things are going well with him. I was quite surprised when he asked me to sponsor him, he is 20 years older than I and is a minister. Our stories were nearly identical, so that was probably why he asked. Come to think of it, I haven't asked either of my sponsees why they picked me, guess it really doesn't matter, they are staying sober and so am I.

I hope this makes sense to someone other than me. I felt the need to post about it after having it on my mind all day.

Jim H.

PS Thanks for this site, Dallas. It has been a help to me throughout my recovery. I even look at it at work when I have a chance.

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Postby cue » Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:08 pm

In the last year I have had two sponsees bail on me. It happens regular. In both cases they have stopped working with others. They say it is too much hassle and they want to a. enjoy life b. do some work on themselves. They say that I am too serious and need to change. They think I don't know that :roll: . I take on board what they say and try to use it to help others but its hard not to think that I should kick back and just goof around in AA and not bother with step work. However, I know they don't mean stop that. That's my own head.
Sometimes I go ages without anyone wanting what I have. My sponsor says to relax, that my ultimate dependence should be on hp, not sponsoring.
I'm trying to relax and enjoy AA while also demonstrating sound principles that can change lives. I have to meet another sponsee tomorrow who is balking at step one. Sometimes it's hard to be a sponsor and also get out of the way.
I find it helps if I talk to people about it.

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I'm an asshole & everyone hates me -- Get over it.

Postby TrailerTrashDood » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:03 pm

Once they get through the first few chapters of the Big Book - even if they don't really get much out of it the first time - I can get guys through the first 3 Steps in ONE 2 to 3 hour session.
The next session, I start them on the 4th. I don't have them do a SUPER thorough 4th, I want to get them through it as fast as I can - at least the 1st time. I tell them not to quit in the middle, and use the analogy of getting up and walking out in the middle of a surgery.
I explain the whole point to doing a 4th is to get rid of all the resentments & crap in your head that blocks you from getting some God in there, or "sunlight of the Spirit"...
(For some reason, newcomers always think the purpose of a 4th is to set yourself up to "tell your sponsor all the bad stuff you've done", so I have to reassure them that this has NOTHING to do with it and is totally missing the point of a 4th Step - then they usually feel better about doing it...)

90% of them quit sometime during the 4th Step. They usually try to drag it out as long as possible, and/or just quit showing up for weekly appointments with me, to work on it.
The last guy said I'm "overstepping my boundaries" by trying to get him to show up & do Step work. (I fockin love that

They all think I'm out of my mind & I'm a total asshole, for "making" them do this, when other sponsors around here don't "make" their sponsees do ANYTHING (but then blame God when their sponsees relapse).
My (ex)sponsees all think I made up the whole newcomers' ideal of working Steps, reading the Big Book, going to daily meetings, calling sponsor at least once a day, getting a home group & commitments, getting some (hopefully) stable sober friends, etc... For some reason, when I tell them AAs (at least the ones that stay sober) have been doing this the SAME way since the 1930's, they think I'm lying and making all this up, for some nefarious reason...
At this point, none of them want to have anything to do with me, because they think I'm a total weirdo for actually insisting that they do all these things.
There is a sponsee at our meeting hall who "fired" me 3 or 4 months ago because he absolutely refused to call me or do Step work. He just decided that I'm full of it, and both him (and his 90 day wonder girlfriend) decided that there is no "reason" for him to have to do that. The other (ex)sponsees use him as an example to "hold up" because he is "doing great" just going to dances & meetings, and has not relapsed.

(BTW: Forgot to mention this, but 3 out of 5 of the guys that fired me last month have already relapsed...)

I understand that sponsoring this way is setting myself up for a "lose/lose" situation, in the sense that I could keep sponsees if I let THEM run the show and do whatever THEY think is going to keep themselves sober. If I insist on doing AA, doing what works -- they eventually wind up all hating me for being a jerk. However, I refuse to back down & just let them do whatever they want - because the default in a situation like that, is them doing NOTHING. My JOB is to take them through the Steps and help them with AA, not go out to dances, restaurants, and social "group therapy" type lightweight meetings with them. They compare themselves to others in the group with "fun" sponsors who do whatever the sponsees want.

I can't MAKE anyone do this program. I can't help if they're no longer willing at 6 months or a year sober, to do the things they did when they were new.
I can't put more work into someone elses' sobriety, than I put into my own. If they think you're a jerk for wanting them to "do the deal" properly, then so be it.
I explain it like I'm their fight trainer: They have to do a bunch of things in combination, which ALWAYS work. I equate running stairs, eating right, doing bag drills, sparring, etc; with the set of things I have them do in AA. I can GUARANTEE THEM success & that they'll win the fight, if they actually "WORK the Program" instead of just sitting there and looking at it. But if they pick & chose what they do RE: their Program, and only just go to meetings or whatever they feel like doing; then ALL bets are off.
At this point, they compare themselves to someone else who doesn't do ANYTHING and is supposedly, for whatever reason, still sober; and want me to just back the fock off. I tell them they can watch as many fights as they want on TV, but that is not gonna help any, when they're actually in the ring themselves.

So don't feel bad about it - you're not the only one.
Personally, I've had it with sponsoring, & am on to other things that I can do to give back what I got, without having people getting all pissed off at me for helping them. :twisted:

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Postby Dallas » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:27 pm

I did that, too -- when I first got sober.

I looked around the rooms and didn't see people doing the deal -- and they appeared to be staying sober. I figured "the heck w/ anyone that says I have to do anything other than what I want to do -- as long as I don't drink." :lol: :lol:

What happened next? After 5 1/2 months I celebrated my six month chip early! :lol: I got drunk and COULDN'T get sober again!

I was the Humpty Dumpty of AA. I fell off the wagon and ALL AA's Kings Horses and King Men -- couldn't put me back together again!


When I lucked out and God wasn't looking -- and I got sober again (just joke about God looking)... I KNEW then that I WAS a REAL alcoholic and NOT just a "problem drinker."

Problem drinkers don't have to do the steps. Problem drinkers don't have to do much of anything to stay sober. You see their problem is: "alcohol." So, they just stop drinking and that's it! A lot of them -- even though they don't need to -- continue to go to AA meetings and identify as "alcoholics."

You see -- they think, after hearing the preamble so many times, that their problem is alcohol -- so if they just don't drink and go to meetings -- all will be fine.

That's okay w/ me. At least we're helping them.

However, in the same meetings, you've got a REAL alcoholic, like me, that his problem is NOT alcohol -- his problem is ALCOHOL-ISM. This is the REAL alcoholic. He can't stay stopped drinking -- regardless if he goes to meetings around the clock. This is the alcohol-ic. He can't live w/ drinking and he can't live w/out drinking -- UNLESS he experiences a psychic change. A personality change -- sufficient to recover from alcohol-ism. (Otherwise, known as "a Spiritual Awakening."

We can get way too serious about this topic, too serious about sponsoring, and too serious about ourselves.

Not until "ALCOHOL-ISM" drives them in -- and "ALCOHOL-ISM" forces them to do the deal -- they can't really do the deal. Bill eluded to this in the 12 & 12 -- when he was referring to "our way of life, the 12 Steps, is great for all people -- and even non-alcoholics." But, he didn't see how non-alcoholics could muster up the courage and effort needed to take the Steps -- without a death-sentence being passed on them -- as it is w/ the alcoholic.

My suggestion is: don't think about the people that aren't doing the deal. Their sobriety is their business. When they get in enough pain from being away from alcohol -- that they are to the point of slitting their wrist or put a rope around their neck -- to escape the pain & suffering -- that's when something can be done to help them -- because they become WILLING to do ANYTHING to get set free.

Isn't that the same way that it worked for nearly every one of us?

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Postby TrailerTrashDood » Fri Oct 14, 2011 12:08 pm


Actually, for me - When I first got sober, I just did what I had to do for myself & didn't worry too much about what everyone else was doing or if I was doing too much "work" in comparison to them, etc... So I never went through that, probably because I never thought like that, whether or not I was using.

As for everything else in your post: Correct, correct, correct, right, true, spot on, totally accurate, correct, & TRUE! You did a really nice job of summing it up, very nicely.

I, for one, seem to be missing that part of my brain which allows me to be able to tell if people really mean it or not. Thus causing me to waste incredible amounts of time and energy on "helping" people who really just could not give a shlt.

I know that in theory, none of this matters because I'm the one that is still sober & they can go out and do whatever they want with the "information", my job is just to show them how to do the deal, etc, etc, etc... ad infinitum.
However - in practice, not so much.
Hence my decision. :twisted:

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FYI - Somewhat irrelevant update...

Postby TrailerTrashDood » Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:28 pm

So here's a somewhat irrelevant update for everyone, if you think you can stand it... lol

I did a 4th Step on these 5 guys a couple weeks ago, just for fun.
Whats my role in all this? Why did they all get together & fire me at the same time, when I least expected it? Well - they all think I'm an asshole, so that's a good start.
I never did anything bad to them or anything I regret - just did what is my job as a sponsor. If I have to call someone on their ####, I'll do it regardless of whether or not they want to hear it. I know I don't have the most tactful demeanor, but I don't go out of my way to be a dick, either. I just do what I have to do.

However, I'll concede the "asshole" part, since it seems to be the majority opinion... (Although I'm pretty sure I told them that right when I first started sponsoring them - but that's somewhat tangential at this point...)
But somehow, I just didn't think that just "being an asshole" was a good enough answer for my 4th Step - there must be more to it, so far as MY role in getting fired.
Also: so what if they all think I'm an asshole? (They don't think so, but they're all kind of spoiled, anyway...) By their definition, anyone who doesn't do what they want, when they want it, is an "asshole"! They act like little badasses, but they're basically just young, spoiled, wealthy suburban kids with a different value system than me. I kept forgetting to take that into account.

Anyway, after meditating on it a while, for a few days, I came up with a semi-brilliant NEW revelation (to me... lol)


When I sponsor people, I always tell them right up front what I expect out of them and what they can expect from me. I'm always totally consistent. This is very important. I always have them go to daily meetings, meet up in person for a few hours to do weekly Step work, call me every day, get commitments, meet a few stable sober people to hang out with, get a home group, etc... (I've mentioned all this a few times in this thread already, ad nauseum).

EVERY one of these 5 guys who fired me had previously either missed doing weekly Step work meetings for a month (or more) in a row, quit going to the bulk of their daily meetings for a month or more, or quit calling me daily, etc...
I ignored my own rules and let it slide, HOPING they'd get it back together & start showing up again later.
I won't "fire" someone for missing a meeting or not calling once, or whatever -- but EVERY one of these guys showed signs of MAJOR lack of willingness to work, compared to when I first met them. Because of this lack of maintenance, and EVERY one of them got a major ### attitude. A couple of them were in FULL relapse mode, and when I told them about it they totally freaked out & became really antagonistic towards me.

Its MY fault for not just getting rid of them, at that point. I got too wrapped up in THEIR recovery, cared TOO much for them, and wanted to "protect" them from going back to prison, some horrible mental hospital, or etc..
If I had simply quit "covering" for them & fired them when I should have, then they would have just had the attitude of "Whatever, asshole" - and gone back to whatever THEY felt like doing, without really giving a #### one way or another.
NONE Of these guys have ever thanked me for anything - its MY mistake for getting WAY too wrapped up in it. So what if they go back to prison, or some mental institution, or whatever? Its their life, not mine. This is how I set myself up for getting totally shut down by these guys. I had WAY too much wrapped up in their well-being. In retrospect, the right thing to do is that I should have hung them out to dry, instead.

No matter how much I (used to) care about them, or how much they remind me of my missing kid, or how much I THINK I'm doing to help - I can only do so much. The "so much" part of the equation only works when they put in an EQUAL amount of work! So theres ANOTHER one of my rules I violated - I put more work into their recovery than THEY were willing to do, themselves!
I really try not to think about my kid, and how much he's like them, and how much I wanted him back. This also has a LOT to do with me setting myself up to get totally shut down by these guys. No wonder I was so jammed up for so long, about this!

I was basing my opinions of my sponsees on what I saw when I FIRST met them, when they were DESPERATE and willing to do ANYTHING to stay sober, and BEGGING for my help.
By the time they fired me, I had FAILED to see they had returned to spoiled brat mode - they had a new circle of "fellowship" friends, had become more or less comfortable in their new lives, got rid of their legal problems, etc... A TOTALLY different ball game, than when I first met them.
No wonder they all told me to fock off & all hate me now, for making them do Step work, when they are totally "cured" and don't need it anymore!

I'll never get my kid back from wherever he went, these guys are all eventually going to relapse (3 out of 5 of them already have), and no matter how much I try to help them, nothing I do will make any difference.
Thats just the way it is.


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Postby Toast » Fri Nov 04, 2011 1:37 pm

Hi trailer,

Just to let you know your predictions come true, the two guys i was sponsoring who managed to get what you called the 'AA Holy Trinity' have now fell off the radar completely, no calls returned, nada. They've both got addicted to ' busyness' in the last few months and now have no time for AA :?

But to balance things up there's a guy i've sponsored for a few years now doing a share at our local Step Meeting tonight. He's a fine example but he called me today to say he was a bit nervous about sharing. So to really help him out i'm going to stay at home tonight and leave him to it. :lol:

None of my business but it sounds like your missing kid is a big driving force in your life. Guess we'd all be the same. I have one who doesnt talk to me but i know where he is and he's doing OK so i'm pleased about that.

And thats all i'm going to say on that subject, dont want to overstep the mark.

God bless :D

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My two cents

Postby PeaceJoy » Mon Nov 07, 2011 1:51 pm

I have read through this entire thread and have gotten a LOT out of it. Thank you Trailer for being so open and sharing. I am still a 'newbie' with 18 months sober and working with my first sponsee. I am an alcoholic as well as very co-dependant so I am really watching myself for keeping a boundary and not getting too emotionally involved but that is going to be difficult, I can see. I have gone through the first 1.5 yrs with my original sponsor, who lives in another city from me. She has 25 years next month but is not really involved with AA anymore. So last December I got a new sponsor who is local, structured, and I respect. She took me through the steps by meeting regularly (once a week at first) but she kind of dwindled off and we met less often but we got through the steps and the 164 paGES of the Big Book. She had me call daily at first and not every day after several months. I continued to call my original sponsor daily, as we are also best friends...... My step sponsor cut me loose after we got through 12 steps. She said it was because I appeared to be more closely connected with my original sponsor and she didn't think 2 sponsors was healthy. She has 3 years sobriety. I was kind of devastated about it, especially being in the throes of a divorce I felt a little abandoned but I understood that she has to do what works for her. So my original sponsor feels that it's fine to have a local one and keep her too. She is not really active in AA so I feel I need a local one to continue to go through the steps and that will actually SEE me at meetings and actually MAKE me do the work. I know I need a firm, yet loving sponsor. That is working for me and I realize having 2 sponsors could be a bad thing if I decided to manipulate it. I am very conscious not to do that. It is rare that I've gotten conflicting advice but when I have, I look at where they are at in their recovery and their program and decide which one I want. Not sure if that's the "right" way or not but it's working for me and I'm being kept in check. My sponsors both are telling me the same thing usually and they both have over 20 yrs sobriety and I respect them both as people so I am trying to take Good Orderly Direction.
As for my sponsee, she is 36 days sober and struggling with it all. I really like her and really hope she makes it but I know statistically, most of us don't make it. :( That fact alone scares the heck out of me. I have not relapsed. May 7, 2010 was my first time walking in the doors of AA. Dallas, you might look at drinking history and say I was a "problem drinker" and not a bonafide alcoholic. But in my deepest innermost self I know without a doubt that I am an alcoholic. I think I just got of the elevator with a lot of YETS left. I see my mom, and I'm so much like her and she is still hanging on but the cirhossis of the liver is a nasty disease. I don't want to wait that long. I want recovery NOW. I want to live a life that is productive, functional and reasonably happy. I didn't lose everything to this disease YET but I lost enough to know that I needed to find a better way and that obviously I couldn't control my drinking so I had to cut it out of my life completely. Then the work began....and continues.
I love this forum. I dropped off for quite some time, mainly because my ex got the computer in the divorce. LOL but I'm able to get on line now, other than just with my phone so I will participate more often.
Thanks for the great thread, guys!


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