Sponsorship and Service
The word sponsor is not mentioned in the Big Book explicitly although it is in the AA Service Manual, for example in Concept 9 (“every sponsor is a leader”, etc) What is not talked about so much is how helpful long term sponsorship can be to AA service. I will give some examples from my own experience. My first two service positions were nothing to do with my sponsor. My first service position was literature secretary, which was offered to me by my first home group. Then my sponsor started a new group so I joined that. My second service position as secretary of that group, and I was nominated and voted in by the group for that (though my sponsor would’ve have preferred me to do a different position).
My next memory of sponsorship and service was when my sponsor asked (when I was 2 years sober) whether I would like to be nominated for PI officer at Intergroup. I had no idea the position existed but it looked quite exciting, and intergroup seemed interesting, and he seemed keen, so I went for it. Soon the whole world of the 12 Traditions began to open up for me, and then AA politics. AA politics is not for everyone but it is part of the lifeblood of such a diverse Fellowship. Without the politics we could not exist in unity.
Now an interesting dynamic began to emerge. Before I became intergroup PI, my sponsor had been our group’s GSR – so he was already going to intergroup. After having a service position at intergroup, he went on to do service at Region. After that he went on to do service at Conference. I started my general service about 2-3 years behind him, so he was always one step ahead of me, setting an example. And also encouraging me to rotate on to the next position as I grew in experience and service usefulness. As a result of his example, and his encouragement I rotated to Region, and then to Conference.
At each point that my sponsor rotated to a new service position, he read and studied the appropriate AA literature. So when I came to be nominated for a new position he could tell me what to read, which I did. I was very fortunate in that regard, as our literature is a goldmine of ways to avoid making the same mistakes decade after decade.
This points towards another way in which sponsorship has helped me to grow in service: the quality of my service. Not only could my sponsor point me towards the right AA literature guidance, but he and I would often discuss my service. He could then point out from his own experience, and from a more objective viewpoint, any ways I could be more effective.
The quality was also helped by my sponsor being someone I could voice my nagging conscience to. Like most human beings I like to cut corners, to be lazy, to do less. But when I’ve done that, my conscience has nagged at me. I don’t know if this is me, or a habit I picked up from my sponsor (who has very high expectations of himself in AA service). But whichever it is, when I skimp on an aspect of my AA service – delay doing something, do something badly, and such – I feel a nagging urge to tell my sponsor. This is a timely warning to myself to raise my standards, to set myself in right relation to AA – the organisation that saved my life. Funnily enough, by raising my standards in AA service, I raise my standards in my professional life without even realising it! So my life outside or AA benefits as well. Occasionally I will actually say to my sponsor “I did this bit of service badly and I know it.” But often, it’s just the voice of my service conscience – an effective combination of God, myself and previous guidance from my sponsor – that drives me to improve or maintain my service standards.
Minor slippage in my service standards over a period of 3-6 years is probably not a big deal, but over 10-20 years it could slip me right out of Alcoholics Anonymous! So I am grateful for the gift of inspiring sponsorship to help me maintain my service momentum, my AA momentum, and the momentum of the AA Way of Life.
AK, Plymouth Road to Recovery Group