It is my personal opinion that without the strong sponsorship I have received I would not be sober now; in fact, I rate it as one of the most important components to my recovery. Without a strong sponsor I don’t think I would have come back to any more meetings, let alone progress through any of the Steps.
When I came into these rooms nineteen months ago I needed to stop drinking. My life was becoming increasingly chaotic and unpredictable, a situation I was finding incredibly unbearable. I needed a solution and fast. I slipped into my first meeting five minutes before it started and unbeknownst to me was greeted by the man who was to become my sponsor. This man had a kind demeanour that gave me the assurance I needed to tell me I was in the right place. I assumed he was a volunteer, drafted in to help us but surely not an alcoholic, he looked to well. How wrong I was, he briefly explained that he was a hopeless alcoholic as outlined in the Big Book (whatever that was!)
We sat down and the meeting commenced. Now I don’t remember a great deal of what was said at the first meeting I attended, but I remember hearing countless times throughout the evening “get a sponsor”, “get a sponsor”. At the end of the meeting I asked the man I was sat with where to get one of these sponsors, he suggested I ask the secretary, or maybe a person who I feel I could relate too. It seemed an obvious choice to ask the man who had first greeted me.
We walked to coffee after the meeting and this man (my new sponsor) talked more of the hopeless situations he had got himself into whilst drinking, and the futile attempts he had made at trying to give up or manage his drinking. This for me was when I started to relate to another person’s story; his story was different to mine but riddled with feelings of desperation and awful consequences that I immediately related to. This is when I realised there was hope – it may not be the end of the road for me yet.
At coffee, my new sponsor produced a small card with daily suggestions printed on it. He explained that a sober life was waiting for me but I would have to put in some effort, first things first, do these daily suggestions and make sure you call me every day at eight o’clock and that was it. My new sponsor had delivered these suggestions to me in a military fashion and there seemed to be no room for negotiation. This was the start of my relationship with my sponsor.
Apart from my daily suggestions my sponsor had also told me to go to at least three meetings a week and be there early to help set up the meeting. So instead of 7.25pm as before, I turned up at 6.45pm and was surprised to see that not only had the whole room been set up, but there were at least forty people doing it. I repeated the same procedure at the following meeting thinking I didn’t need to help set up any way. This led to the first strong words from my sponsor, who made it clear that turning up to meetings early meant 6.25pm, not 6.45pm!
Now like most alcoholics I was not all that comfortable with being told what to do by anyone, even if it was for my own good. I protested stubbornly claiming this is an outrage, I can’t possibly be expected to turn up early to every meeting. He asked why and I realised that I had absolutely no grounds for dispute with his comment, but when backed into a corner and with no answer, I did the only thing any self-respecting alcoholic who didn’t want to drink would do, I sulked.
I had a few more small altercations with my sponsor in the early days, but as time passed by, I realised that he had nothing to lose and I had everything to gain from this relationship. Looking back, this was the point when my ego was beginning to be crushed. I now started to want what this man had. He was a living example of what the twelve step programme can offer and he has been on the end of the phone whenever I have needed him, and believe me, I have needed him. As an alcoholic I am no stranger to making impulse decisions, or wildly overreacting to situations. However, on the occasions that I have run my thinking past my sponsor, the advice that he provides usually leads to a much more satisfactory outcome.
Fundamentally, having a sponsor is one of the main reasons I am sober today. Whilst working through the twelve step programme he never told me what to do, he merely strongly suggested I do things he was told to do by his sponsor. As an alcoholic, I have benefited greatly from the sound impartial advice I have received, and continue to receive, from my sponsor. There have been many situations where his caring advice has guided me through some of life’s pitfalls unscathed, and for that, I am always grateful.