Frustrated with Sponsorship

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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Frustrated with Sponsorship

Postby AFriendofBillW » Sat May 27, 2006 7:31 pm

In January 2006, I celebrated 17 years of sobriety and I am extraordinarily grateful and still very much awed by this phenomenon. In fact, I hope I never lose that awe. :D The first ten years of my sobriety were in Portsmouth, NH. I had one sponsor and one Home Group and I credit both for the wonderful foundation I have today. They stressed the 12 steps, the 12 traditions, and the 12 concepts. They believed in service work, sponsorship, commitment, and responsibility. I spoke for the first time from the podium when I was 90 days sober and I completed the 12 steps in my first year of recovery. I served at the group level, district level and area assembly. All of this I credit to a strong sponsor and a wonderful home group. :lol:

Then in November, 1998, I relocated to South Carolina for a job. :cry: I found it extremely difficult to find a sponsor in SC. In fact, since 1998, I have had 7 sponsors. Six in SC and one in Florida. In SC, it was very difficult to find a woman who had more sobriety than I did and who sponsored. I found a woman's group but almost all of the woman had less sobriety than me. Inevitably, what happened was that the sponsor would stop returning my phone calls and that was how I discovered she no longer had time to sponsor me. One sponsor with 20 years was diagnosed with bi-polar and stopped coming to AA. Another began a relationship with one of my sponsees. There was such a lack of sponsorship that I was sponsoring 10 woman at any given time. I was even so desperate that I found a long distance sponsor. When I moved to Florida, I heard that the AA here was just like the AA up north so I had high hopes.

I found a woman's group and even found a woman with more sobriety than myself. She has a huge network of sponsees and grand sponsees. I asked her to take me through the steps again. She did. She had a very specific way of doing the steps but I was so grateful to have what I thought was a good sponsor that I didn't quibble over her methods. In January, she asked me if I would like to attend a Big Book Study that she was putting together. I said absolutely. I had conducted a number of Big Book Studies in SC and absolutely love them, especially if they are small. In fact, I bring a Big Book Meeting to a women's treatment facility. So I gathered up all my stuff and I was ready to go. Until I discovered that my sponsor wanted to run the Big Book Study a certain way. We don't actually discuss the BB. We just read it and answer one or two of the questions in the pamphlet. She follows the unofficial guide through the BB by Dr. Paul O., except, she substituted Scott L.'s version of the fourth step for Dr. Paul's version. I was doing okay with this until we got to the point in Scott L.'s version where he says that the Big Book tells us that the cause of the resentment should be only 19 words. I questioned this and was told that the example in the BB showed no cause longer than 19 words therefore we should not use more than 19 words. I indicated that I thought this was a huge assumption to suggest that Bill had used examples with less than 19 words so we should only use 19 words. My sponsor and her sponsees took offense to this by saying that they had always done it this way and it worked. I suggested that this was one way of doing it. Later in the same group, a woman asked me if I would stay after the group and discuss emotional sobriety with her. When I said I would, my sponsor said you can only discuss your perception of emotional sobriety, there is no absolute definition of it. I agreed and told the woman that Bill W. had actually spoken about it and I could give her a copy of it. My sponsor said then it will be her perception of emotional sobriety.

The day after this debacle, my sponsor called to say that in essence by disagreeing with her that I was disagreeing with her program. When I tried to explain to her that I was only disagreeing with the concept of 19 words and I wanted the people at the Big Book Study to know that this was only one way of doing it and it wasn't the only way, she said I was minimizing her feelings. She said that it was her way of doing it and if I didn't want to do it her way then maybe I needed to rethink my sponsorship. Now, unfortunately, I think she is right. I am rethinking my sponsorship because I don't want to be sponsored by someone who needs to be right "about 19 words."

I am really thinking that I am expecting too much from sponsors who have more sobriety than myself. But I really thought that by 20 years of sobriety, the ego would not be so prominant and peace and serenity would be a way of life. Someone please help me not to give up on sponsorship.

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Postby Dallas » Sun May 28, 2006 4:28 am

Hey aFriendofBillW,

Welcome to, nice to have you here.

When I chose my current sponsor, I had known him about five years and I knew many of the people that he sponsored. I made a decision that I wanted what he had, and wanted what the people had, that he sponsored. Their lives were working in remarkable ways.

I figured that, as with anything else in life... I could try it for a while and see what the results were. If the results were good... I would continue doing what I was doing... and if the results were bad... I could always do something different.


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Frustrated with sponsorship

Postby sheresq » Wed Aug 16, 2006 1:53 pm

Perhaps looking for a sponsor with "more sobriety than me" might be the problem. Since all of us have only a daily reprieve, it might be best to look for someone who has what you want rather than a certain roman numeral etched on her last chip. I have learned much about the program, (and about humility), by listening to those with "less sobriety" than myself.

Scott: Alcoholic
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Postby Scott: Alcoholic » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:26 pm

Hi FoBW!!

I will tell you that I have 21 + current sponsor has about 4 years. This person eminates such a great always working with people and has many people seeking what he has.

What I noticed about his program is that he is not self-efficient, is actively carrying the message and he has a lot of really great stuff happening in his life.

I had to get past that Roman Numeral thing mentioned above; my time in sobriety was really worth nothing if I wasn't seeing the Promises of AA in my life - and I wasn't. Quite the opposite.

As already mentioned, it is a matter of finding someone who has what you want and going after it. Action is the key - sounds like you already know that and are taking the message to others; now it's time to get some of that for you! It's a quality not quantity thing for me. :)


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Postby garden variety » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:26 pm

Sponsor shopping....ahh the "new freedom and happiness" of sobriety.

I swear I must be living in the cave man part of the USA. When I joined my home group, they said do you need a sponsor? I said yes. They pointed to the guy mopping the floor and said there he is. They didn't ask him or me, they just said you're his sponsor. That was the end of it. I just took it for granted thats how things was done.

Anyway, he's still my sponsor. He's younger than me and has less years than me. Funny thing is we are different as night and day, but we're good for each other. I can tell you that time sober or age don't make any difference for us. I know a young guy with only 4 years and he sponsors a guy with 22 years. It works for them too. I know another guy who was picky about sponsors, and the lady in treatment told him was he that particular about who he drank with? No he says, whoever bought, or whoever wasn't watching his drink. Good they said, then you don't have to be so particular about who you get sober with either. Made sense to me.

My call on what you said, its like this. If it aint in the Big Book, the 12-steps, or 4 absolutes, whatever it is is optional. I also think the 12 and 12 is pretty reliable. But what you got there is something simple getting way too complicated. I don't know anything about 19 words having anything to do with resentments. They told me if anybody says A.A. is hard or makes things too complicated, you better run the opposite way! Sounds like you better start, and get some good running shoes too!

The way I learned is a sponsor don't have to be your buddy. He just has to help you with the program when you need help. I call my sponsor every day because that's what they told me to do for accountability. It don't matter if the answering machine picks up. But he says if I want him to return my call, to say so in the message, and he does.

He also helped me, like you, re-do the steps. Whenever I have to make a major decision, I always call him aside and run it past him. All he does is run it through the 4 absolutes, then he tells me the pros and the cons. He's kinda like a "refelctive" sponsor. I make the decision. The good thing is with him, when he gets to "not having time" for a social life, I can tell him. If I see a "defect" in him, he lets me point it out. When he's having trouble with a decision, he'll even ask me for my opinion.

I guess what I'm saying is, you are responsible for "working a program" that keeps you sober and also makes you happy, joyous, and free. Your sponsor should be there to help you get the most out of your program the way you work it...and with your sobriety time, more like a "facilitator" and not a "dictator". But if you start getting stupid, she really should rattle your cage. By stupid, I mean thinking like you want to drink, or go to a bar to drink coke and socialize and make friends with drinkers or drunks.

The lady you have sponsoring you now sounds like she might have her own spin on things. And some folks are real set in their ways, and some are so darn crazy it wouldn't be good for them to change anyhow. I'd say if she is taking you in a ditrection toward a drink instead of away from a drink, you have to inventory yourself to be sure you don't have a character defect that needs attention. The way I do that is I talk to more than just my sponsor on a regular basis...not only when my sponsor or somebody gets under my skin (he really doesn't though). The whole idea to me is the accountability thing. If I'm talking to a bunch of friends in the Fellowship, someone is going to catch me if I'm getting dangerous. If nobody is "catching you" getting dangerous, then maybe another sponsor is in order.

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Postby Anne » Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:32 pm

Having begun to click the "view posts..." button, I find myself in this thread.

Wow. I have lots of input, I hope.

Unfortunately, us women are terribly hard on each other and really need to work at not competing and not trying to control. We're nurturers and we think we know what's best for everyone, tho we really don't. We don't reach out much---I was taught to let the newcomer come to me. That's BS I don't live by anymore. Give your number AND TAKE THEIRS and call them the next day! Our sobriety depends on helping another alcoholic, NOT WHETHER WE SUCCEED at it.

It does sound to me like your sponsor is somewhat controlling. I've learned that NO ONE IS PERFECT. I picked who I felt was "the best". If I expect perfection from a sponsor, I'd better be darn willing AND able to become perfect, which can never happen. I do have a sponsor who can be somewhat controlling, but once I am able to get my words out, she doesn't argue too much. :)

Truth is, I shouldn't be calling on my sponsor for anything except how to sponsor another, anyway. After 14 years, I would think I should be able to get by without the help of a sponsor, per se, but definitely might want to get with someone who has what I want and ask them for sponsorship advice when I need it. Also, if I don't have an answer for my sponsee, then I can tell them I'll get an answer. It's not my job to tell them where to work or whether to divorce, etc. When sponsorship becomes too much, I'm probably trying to control their lives instead of working on our primary purpose.

If I simply move my feet (help the newcomer) to get through the steps and push them forward to help another newcomer, I am doing my job as a sponsor.

With 14 years, I should be "working the steps" by taking a newcomer through them--not going through them again with a sponsor. Each time I take a newcomer through the steps, I take myself, too, and my steps get more and more thorough every day.

I don't like "guides", etc. Matter of fact, I hate them. AA has provided us with the Big Book. Anything else may be helpful, but is not necessary and certainly shouldn't be found at an "AA function", so I hope that Big Book meeting isn't touted as an AA function! 19 words...indeed. And I think *I* take the BB literally??? I don't even have them write the words.

If you ever want to have a gripe session, PM me and I'll call you. You are experiencing many of the problems I have. Quite honestly, I have had male sponsors. Some people would scream about that, but nowhere in the BB does it say you cannot have a sponsor of the opposite sex.


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Postby Dallas » Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:29 pm

Hey Anne! Thanks for that great sharing on sponsorship and the 12 Steps!! Good stuff!


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re; friend of Bill W.

Postby musicmode » Thu Oct 12, 2006 5:13 pm

)My name is Anne, I'm an alcoholic,

I see that this is a rather old topic, however I was drawn to it, and I thank everyone for opening up and sharing their point of view on this. I can completely relate to Friend of Bill W., and for the most part, I've taken myself through the steps, and, instead of getting all riled up and worried about "I need a sponsor, oh fret, oh bother (like I used to :oops:) ," when it comes time, and following the suggestions laid out in the BB...when it comes time to share with someone, I will pray for someone to be placed in my path...and always...someone is placed in my path. It has been my experience, by observation, where "you need to get a sponsor" is responded to those getting a sponsor just so that they can say that they have a sponsor when they sit down at a meeting(I've done that too). Where I currently live, there's not a whole lotta women-folk to start with, & quite frankly, it's been my experience that sometimes it's the men who are more understandin' 'bout some of my stuff, maybe it's the lifestyle I've led, I dunno?? Talkin' to a male, though, does put my husband a little off, therefore it's less stress to say I'm talkin' to women, y'know... (and I thank Anne--previous post--as it was hounded into me that I had to have a female sponsor...and, now that ch'all brought it to my, it doesn't say that in the BB, does it?...known that, but not consciously aware of it).

Don't get me wrong gang...I have had sponsors. The first of my last 2, after saying she would be, in the same breath said that it would help her git thru her steps, as she had been stuck on step 4 for a time, and that she didn't want me to "beat her". I chuckled, 'n said to her that this in't no competition--like who could drink more, is it? Nearly a year ago, she stopped returning my calls. I didn't git resentful, but rather thought: u-oh. My u-oh was correct, she'd slipped. When she called to tell me, or in her words, confess to me...I said I figured as much when ya'll weren't returnin' my calls, but, don't be beatin' yirself up, ya stayed sober for 8 years, so ya know you can, right? Pick yirself up, dust yirself off n keep comin' back. The bright part of this is that AA is still in yir vocabulary. I did a whole bunch-a talkin', & when done, she said: Now who's who's sponsor? I said,'s about us helpin' each other, it's not a contest...give yirself a break. My current sponsor, I gotta say, I'm quite concerned. I hadn't talked to 'er all summer, talked to 'er machine, but not her...fin'lly is Sept., a 'person' answered the phone, I teased her, but we talked. She's been doin' somethin' else called Landmark...I won't go into detail, but sounds like they do the same stuff as what doin' the steps is s'posed to do, only ya gotta pay for it, & she's hyped up about it, says it's workin' for 'er. She had this assignment that she had to do somethin' of a project for the good of her community, so she had this idea, a good one, & I thought-a someone in town who she could talk to about it. She asked me to go w/ 'er, so I did...& quite frankly, I was surprised as this gal seemed to be flyin' at mach speed. Since that day, I've left messages on 'er machine...&, I tell ya friends, I'm concerned. From my perspective only, my concern is that she's dangerously close to a slip. I'd share this concern w/ 'er if the chance occured--it's not somethin' ya'll leave on a machine y'know. So...I gotta accept things as they are, n I pray I'm wrong, yet, I also pray that that brick wall she's headed for is equipped w/ either an eject button & a parachute, or an air-bag. Mostly, I pray that I'm wrong, n maybe she's experiencing growth??

I had a sponsor who-where I had to work the program her way, that BB is only an example. She self-appointed herself to bein' my sponsor, handed me a page & a half of her rules, then said she'd be gone travellin' for the next few months :? , that was my first week ever inside the doors of AA. One-a her rules was that I was to absolutely, in no way shape or form, have anything to do w/ the men in the program, & to say very little at meetings :wink: ya, okay. I might-a been only sober 10 seconds, but my spidey-senses tingled. There were 3 other women in that group, 1 w/ barely 3 months & she was a trainwreck (she'd tell ya)..yet, I did watch 'er very close, & benefited highly from doin' the risk of soundin' contradictory, she was just a bit ahead-a me, so I watched her to see where I should be "at", in all the senses of well-being, physical, emotional, mental & spiritual. Ever so often, she'd figuratively turn back to me (if we think of this as a path) & say, how yir feelin' is normal, yir on the right track. The other 2 admitted to not bein' well enough to sponsor. Thankfully, there were the men in the program who, bar none, had what I wanted. They shared at meetings, & weren't afraid to 'git deep'& share from the heart. The one, it seemed, he'd crawled inside my head & had a look around, me thinkin' "how'd he do that?" This group was the first where it was hounded that men sponsor men & women sponsor women. Well...I thought...where does that leave me? (Back to I need a sponsor, oh fret, oh bother). Thankfully, too though...these men were not blind to the sponsorship available to women, & the one who'd wanted me to follow her rules & not BB, usually her sponsees went back out. One would not be my sponsor, but, there were 3 who said, lean on us, talk to us, etc. haven't been around this forum in months...and here I go...seemingly makin' up fir lost time :roll: . The topic jumped out at me though, cuz, at the moment, I'm in the same position, the women have no time to sponsor, or for what ever reason (respectfully) cannot sponsor. I'm grateful to this program though, b/ alkies are everywhere...up at the coffee shop, on-line, heck, ya'll kin even sit down & use snail mail, & there's always the meeting table. Unload what 'cha gotta where ever ya can, cuz keepin' it inside & lettin' it fester...we know where that can go. Hangin' on to it for one person may result in retaining the ole habit of 'hangin on to it for the sake of hangin on to it...perhaps any excuse will do, even not havin' a sponsor. What we've done is no secret anyway, is it? We drank ourselves to our wake, we've left a path of destruction, that only by sharin it, do we actually tell others its okay, let it go & give yirself a break. We've all done the detestable, the unthinkable, the undesireable, the shameful...and we're rotten w/ guilt & fear, so we drank. Granted, there may be things we don't want to unload on a table in a room full of people, but are we not placing a condition of sorts, by waiting to tell one specific person? If ya can't share that ugliness with the one person (the sponsor) for what ever reason...pray about it, & share w/ someone else. Who knows? It might be HP at work, sayin' that person won't understand this anyway...but here's someone who will. This way too, I've learned...opens me up to more people in general, & that in itself--for me--is growth.

In the spirit of the fellowship,
Annie 8)

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