What Sponsorship Means to Me

by Lisa B.

At first it was like riding a bike for the first time, wobbly, and about to fall this way and that. I kept trying to intellectually understand just how I could help a person and how I was “supposed” to sponsor them.
I had had some tremendous sponsors before I became one myself. They took me through the Big Book, challenged me to work the Steps, were patient with me when I had a slip, a relapse or took one foot out of recovery and played with fire. They were there for me and I sensed that each of these people who sponsored me, cared about me very deeply.
They were all agents of Godmy Higher Power working through them; divine guidance given to me with grace, or loving force, when I needed it. Most of them were very humble. Of course they were human too–and made mistakes with me and in other areas of their lives. I did not take their suggestions as gospel, and was more the rebellious type. But offering me options, perceptions or suggestions gave me time to be with God, meditate and listen to my gut, to see how each felt and to make a decision from there. I am the type of 12-stepper who was always looking for more actions to take, to increase my own self-care, and to inspire others. Sometimes I fuck up. Of course–it comes with being human.
One day, I went to a Saturday morning meeting and this creative artist-looking young woman came up to me and asked if I’d be her sponsor. I told her I could temporarily, and we could see how it went from there.
We had lunch at a Thai place and she immediately began telling me her story. And I thought, “Geez, I am not alone. Not at all. Really, not at all.”  I shared some of my story. We were both open and honest with each other. We were going to do some good work together.
Sharing her story, she sounded solid and scared in doing the work. She wanted freedom from this disease, this dangerous addiction. I felt her bravery, her sorrow, her thirst for change. I immediately cared about the wellbeing of this person.
My last sponsor had been an AAer and had an old-timer sponsor, also in AA. Although my drug of choice was sex and “love,” he guided me through the Big Book of AA. We read the whole thing together and talked about it too. AA was the progenitor of all 12 step programs, and I was honored to go through all Twelve Steps of AA.
In that tradition, I took my sponsee through the Steps. I made sure not to tell her what to do, but instead make suggestions, and encourage her to take a look at something. I watched this hurt and fearfilled woman who had been through so much and had clung to the very thing that was destroying her—grow into a new life filled with taking responsibility for herself, having the courage to feel and express emotions, take positive risks in areas of career, relationship and relocation all in the same year. Her Higher Power placed temptation in her path and she rigorously worked the Steps, not perfectly, but the momentum of her strength and gusto to live an addiction-free life was high, having a snowball effect pulverizing all bullshit in its path.
I had many spiritual experiences working with her. Having never taken someone so far into the program as her, for me was like watching fireworks and miracles as this woman grew, I was astounded.
The Fourth Step is a huge and thorough inventory. I hugged her and prayed for her as she put pen to page to re-examine the pain and sift through her memories for things she was responsible for. Tunnels of grief, rage and resentment deliberately tapped into, shook her to the core. I remembered. Working with my sponsee was not going to let me forget.
Finally, it came time for her to do the 5th Step. She poured her soul out to the universe with me as a human witness, and God, in the small room we had rented inside of a coffee shop. I watched her face practically the entire time, her eyes swelling up with tears, running down her face and on to the table top.
It all felt so human, what we were doing, yet guided from above.
We would stop and reflect at times, look at things from different angles–see things through the lenses of 12 Step wisdom. She grew up before my very eyes that day. My heart swelled with so much love and compassion for her. The depth of knowledge, her emotional expression of her history was a gift for my own growth.
The compassion and empathy I felt that day started bleeding all over me–I was feeling this intense energy, a warm closeness intermingled with emotional exhaustion. I felt high from the intimacy of knowing someone so deeply.
Many times at our meetings, I was amazed at the things that just flowed out of my mouth. It was like higher wisdom, beyond me. It was the answer to my prayers–to do God’s Will and not my own. I don’t know for sure what was going on–but it felt that way.
Sponsorship is the most effective way to stay sober. The reflections, the mirror, the genuine caring, the work. You get well together. You fine tune your recovery. The comradery. Caring. Showing up. Being there for someone. Discovering truth and wisdom together. Being each other’s teacher and student all at once. Reminding each other of where you’ve been and sharing the ambitions and successes in the present into the future. My sponsee is my creative sister. She is a beautiful child of God. I love her. I genuinely care about her very deeply. God granted me a blessing in my life–and that is my sponsee.
When they ask at a meeting, “Who is available to sponsor?” raise your hand.  

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