AA Sponsorship

     What is sponsorship?

     Is it approaching some newbie at an AA meeting and telling them that they need a sponsor and that you’re the man to do it? Is it then dragging your sponsee to AA meetings day after day after day? Is it calling your sponsee on Saturday night to make sure he isn’t drinking? Or is it fielding frantic and desperate phone calls from your sponsee as he teeters on the edge outside of a bar? Is it providing a social structure for your sponsee by taking him out for dinner, a movie, or some bowling? Is it telling your sponsee where to work, who to be with, or what friends they should have? Is it getting all militant and beating the shit out of him? Better yet, is it telling your sponsee what kind of clothes to wear? Is sponsorship determining what colored socks to wear on Monday? Sure that may sound ridiculous, but it’s just as ridiculous as all the other useless actions I just mentioned.

     Sponsorship is NONE of the above. Watered down, modern AA has spawned all sorts of new ideas and norms about what sponsorship is. Hollywood has well-defined the slew of AA cliches – the meeting room, the sob stories, the group prayer, and the sponsor who calls you when you’re in trouble. Sorry to say that none of these things have much to do with Alcoholics Anonymous, which was originally nothing more than a series of spiritual actions designed to restore the addict to sanity by accessing the power of God, or Spiritual Power, if you like. It is a way to God – nothing more, or rather less.

     The 12 Steps was the sole program of AA – a rigorous and life-changing set of actions to heal ourselves from deep within. An enormous amount of work is necessary to extract the life-detsroying character defects that sabotage all good things in life. The work continues as we make amends to all who we have harmed. We take Steps to prepare us for our new life of purpose, the purpose of helping others who still suffer. If all we did was to sit there in meetings, make some coffee, be the treasurer and pass out sobriety coins, we remain untreated, insane, and a threat to every newcomer who walks through the door. Why suffer? Why struggle through each day when there is a solution?

     Sponsorship is very simple. It is one person who has taken Steps and recovered taking another addict through the Steps as they are laid out in the Big Book. That person must be willing to change and grow along spiritual lines. Our job as sponsors is to hook the sponsee up to God and then get out of the way. Nothing more. I take them through the first 7 Steps, guide them with their first few amends and then they should be on their way.

     It is not my job to be their friend or to listen to them blab on all night about their feelings or struggles, allowing them to validate themselves as some sort of victim. It is definitely not my job to call them. If you want to get better, then it is you who have to call me and I’ll tell you what I did. Nothing more. And by the way, your feelings don’t matter. I don’t really care how you feel. Sound harsh? Well, it’s really not so harsh when you think that our pathological focus on ourselves and our feelings, our constant engagement with self-pity is the exact thing preventing us from getting better.

     Holding on by a thread is not AA. AA is a set of spiritual tools that we can use to build a foundation of strength, peace and freedom. We can be forever rid of the mental obsession, the insanity before a relapse. There are no such things as cravings. There are no such things as triggers. We are either okay or not okay, recovered or recovering, sane or insane. There is no in between. Same with sponsorship.

God, Make me a better man today…

Binge Drinkers

      Alcoholism is not a function of when you drink, it is a function of how you drink. I don’t care if you can sit there and wait a month or two between binges. Doesn’t matter. You could have the so-called willpower to hold out for an entire year, but still be a 100% deranged alcoholic. It really doesn’t matter how long you can personally bide your time.

     What matters is what happens to you once you take a drink. If you cannot stop once you start, you are an alcoholic. And if you think it’s not a problem because you only drink once in a while, then you have an alcoholic mind. A broken mind.

     In fact, binge drinkers are some of the worst. Because they wait so long to drink, what do you think happens? When they finally get their greedy paws on the bottle, they drink themselves almost to death. Furthermore, all of the off-time allows them to sink deeper and deeper into the depths of their depression, anger, fear and self-hatred. So you basically have a demonic, coiled spring just waiting to explode. Frightening. At least the daily drunk is constantly soothing and escaping his lunacy. He makes what takes place in his mind a bit more bearable.

     But the binge drinker is a shining example of extremes. And because of these extremes, they are some of the least likely to recover. Sure it’s possible, but it usually requires a complete overhaul of their lives. They cannot simply take Steps and then go back to some meaningless job. And they probably shouldn’t be living alone. Binge drinkers should go to a sober community after treatment and embark on a life of purpose.

God, please rid me of my alcoholic mind…

Too Much At Once

     One of the earliest lessons I learned as I returned home from treatment was trying to accomplish too much and failing. Having just shed my old self and suddenly filled up with spirit and willingness, I suddenly wanted to accomplish everything that I failed to in the first 28 years of my life. I wanted to immediately pay off debts, start new AA meetings, help everybody, get a counseling job, quit smoking, write a book, produce an album, pick up a martial art, join a monastery, and start a treatment center modeled after the one I’d just come from.

     I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Uh, nothing. Just the next thing in front of me.

     If we try to do too much at once, all of it may just blow up in our faces. I’ve heard several clinicians suggest that we should implement all the changes we want at once. They’re probably not addicts.

     First of all, it isn’t possible. Secondly, if we try to accomplish a million things at once, nothing will get our full attention and therefore all will suffer. Third, we will fail at a number of them, which will stress us out and selfishly focus our attention back inwards as opposed to outwards, where it should be. We may feel easily overwhelmed and begin moving backwards mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We will feel depressed and fearful. We will become anxious. Perhaps we will relapse. What the F is the point of that? Isn’t the reason we got better so that we could a) be free, b) live in peace, and c) become useful and helpful to others?

     So what I learned is that I had to accomplish one thing at a time, relax into that for a while, and then tackle the next. Plus, where are we rushing too? Eternity?

God, help me to be where my feet are…

Doctor’s Opinion

     “The unselfishness of these men as we have come to know them, the entire absence of profit motive, and their community spirit, is indeed inspiring to one who has labored long and wearily in this alcoholic field.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, xxvii

     Dr. Silkworth wrote a letter to Alcoholics Anonymous describing the nature of addiction as he saw it. He also stated that there is little science can accomplish regarding the full recovery of chronic alcoholics. In a doctor’s humble view, we are hopeless.
     Dr. Silkworth realized that man-made remedies often fail to change a man or woman fundamentally. He admits that some form of “moral psychology” is required but that such a thing cannot be applied via medicine or other type of physical remedy. Furthermore, he admits that the solution is effective only when carried by another alcoholic. Finally, he concedes that the spiritual and altruistic program contained within the Big Book has changed hopeless men, and changed them for good.
     By the way, the word psychology quite literally refers to the study of the soul. Dr. Silkworth was asserting that addicts and alcoholics need to somehow undergo a profound ‘soul change’, one which rearranges the addict’s entire moral foundation. Clearly, taking a pill or sitting in a group or writing down some triggers cannot elicit such a change, as the type of shift to which he refers is indeed miraculous. Such a change can only be powered by one source, which lies outside the boundaries of the physical world. Such a change can only be powered by GOD.
God, teach me how to be more honest, that I may better love others and serve You well…

Presence of Like Others

     Should we alcoholics and addicts spend time in the presence of other active alcoholics and addicts? If we are not yet recovered, then no. If we are recovered, then only if we have a good reason.

     I have several relatives and friends who are alcoholics and in a rather bitter denial. Sure I had to spend time with them through the process of making amends. But after all these years, many of them still haven’t changed in the slightest. In fact, their drinking and their respective character defects and personality disorders are getting considerably worse. So do I continue to allow them my presence?

     Even though they are relatives and friends, the answer, after praying and listening to my gut, is a resounding NO. Why? Because I have made my amends to them but now the relationships are simply toxic. To continue giving to them despite ongoing disrespect would be a way of dishonoring myself and all that I have accomplished since I took Steps and recovered more than 7 years ago.

     Once our side of the street has been cleaned up, we cannot continue to let others take from us so thoughtlessly. We are not doormats, and part of our recovery is removing any toxic relationships from our lives. For the good of ourselves, our recovery and our new families, we must remove such people from our lives.

     It is okay to let go sometimes. In fact, letting go of people who don’t serve us is the right thing to do. It is the strong thing to do. It is even the loving thing to do, as we no longer enable their destructive, negative, crazy behavior. And on a positive note, letting go feels good.

God, help me to let go of toxic relationships…