Jo's Experience of Sponsoring
I’ve been asked to write an article by our Share rep. Since then, I have been racking my brains trying to think of an interesting subject. Today, it occurred to me that there are lots of articles about the benefits of having a sponsor and being sponsored. I don’t think I have seen many about the rewards and delights of sponsoring others. So, that’s my topic.
When I was a year sober (if I remember correctly) I was allowed to temporary sponsor (on the condition that I read ‘AA Comes of Age’ first). As a temporary sponsor, my job was to be a point of contact and encourage them to seek out a permanent sponsor. It was terrifying. I was so conscience of the fact that I had, in effect, someone else’s life in my hands. When I got my first one I checked out every little thing with my own sponsor, to make sure that I wasn’t selling the newcomer short. My sponsor really encouraged me and kept reminding me that having gone through the 12 steps I did have the experience to pass on.
I think the main thing I learnt from being a temporary sponsor, was how much my first sponsor had put up with when I was new. It really did feel like listening to myself talk every time I took a call. Unfortunately, the first one never went on to get a permanent sponsor. I remember being extremely upset that she didn’t make it, but it really did reinforce my step one and showed me what happens if we don’t do this stuff.
When I was two years sober, I was allowed to be a permanent sponsor. That meant I was able to take other women through the 12 steps. It took me a long time to build up confidence and to find the right way to put things. The sponsor I have now really helped with this. I used to be very intolerant and impatient but my sponsor kept reminding me that I am dealing with newcomers who have no experience of the programme. I also used to take it really personally when people would leave. Again, my sponsor reminded me that if someone has step one, they will follow guidance, if they don’t, they won’t.
I was a good few years before I heard my first step 5. It was amazing. The fact that someone trusted me enough to share their fifth step was such a privilege. Also, it was just like listening to mine! I know my sponsor reassured me that I was just an average alcoholic, but I don’t think I truly believed it until I heard someone else’s step 5. It was actually quite uncanny. At first I felt a bit wary of sharing my worst step 5 stuff with someone other than my sponsor. It was essential though, to encourage the newcomer to be honest. Once I saw the look on their face that said ‘Oh, I’m not that bad, I think I can do this after all’ it made it worthwhile.
Another important role is to sponsor people into service and pass on experience of the Traditions and Concepts. When people ask me questions about service or the home group I try to use it as an opportunity to talk about the relevant tradition and then encourage them to read up on it.
I have come to really, really love sponsoring people. It helps me work my programme because how can I ask someone else to do something if I’m not doing it myself?
The fact that people even think about asking guidance from someone who once couldn’t even be trusted to get out of bed in the mornings, always astounds me. Seeing someone’s life take off and knowing that I have had a part to play in it is a far cry from the days when I used to make peoples’ lives a living hell.
Jo P., Road to Recovery Group, Plymouth, 2011