I Was A Terrible Sponsor.

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To live out my step 12 I felt like I needed to be of service. I did practice the principles I had learned in my affairs but I felt like it needed to be more.
I had to reach out and I had give back.
It was important to make myself available and I felt like it was also my duty.
The very least that I could do.

and so I did.
I did, and I shouldn’t have.
Step 12 wasn’t for me, well, not in the traditional sense anyway.

One year sober just wasn’t long enough for me and if we’re being honest, it is safe to say that I did more harm than good when it came to trying to be a sponsor to anyone.

Thank GOD there were (only) two young women who had to deal with my over-inflated, grandiose view of my own sobriety and my own path that I used to get there.

At one year sober I can remember feeling so proud of myself and excited, invigorated, and determined; I felt like I was ready to jump out there and save the world!
Or, any one of the new bodies who walked through the doors of our next meeting.

Whichever.

I was so full of gratitude I cried every single time I thought about my new life.
I still did homework. I still went to meetings every single week, and at that time, I was also sharing my story at churches and co-leading meetings at the treatment center downtown.
Busy, busy, busy.
Giving back, giving back, giving back.

Giving back was good. It helped me to gain confidence and each time I told my story it provided a little bit more closure for me. Over time my story became less and less about the negative and the addiction and more and more about good things;  like sobriety and reflection, and coming into my own and embracing who I am.

And of course I wanted people to know that sobriety was a possibility for them too.
That recovery was a real-life actual thing, that could be done no matter what they had done.
That this program worked and there were real-life people to relate with and they really cared.

But none of this means that I was ready (or cut out to be) a sponsor.

I can remember my sponsees sharing their struggles or experiences with a relapse with me and I wondered why?

Why they hadn’t just taken my advice?
Why weren’t they listening?

“What in the absolute f*ck is wrong with them?”
“What a waste of their time, damn, our time..”
“They can’t be doing their homework.”
“Maybe they just don’t want it bad enough”
“Something isn’t going right and that something is them, not doing their part.”

Those are actual thoughts that I am ashamed to say that I had.
As we met every single week I would make a beeline for the table of snacks and coffee to get the hell out of the room for a few minutes.

Why wasn’t this program working for them the way it had for me?
Obviously because they weren’t working it correctly, that’s why.
That had to be why. I felt so annoyed.

It all makes more sense now, almost nine years later.
What was happening was that they were simply being honest with me and with themselves.
They were just sharing their experiences, and instead of being met with kindness they were met with disbelief and contempt.

How completely awful for them to reach out for help or guidance, and in return they get someone who closes the door on them for being who they are?

I truly wasn’t ready to be a sponsor.

Aside from sharing my story the only thing I should have been ‘giving back’ the first few years of my sobriety should have been hugs, smiles, knuckles, or any other morally supportive hand gestures that are in existence.

-I was still not emotionally regulated or stable enough to be relied on as a form of solid support. In my case sobriety didn’t equal stability. Obviously, I don’t think that sponsors or support people need to be a picture of perfection, but stable should definitely be a requirement. Most sponsor/sponsee relationships are some of the first new & healthy dynamics that a person in recovery will build. I wasn’t ready to be that or to offer that to any vulnerable someone’s yet. One day I would welcome their calls and other days I didn’t want to come out of my bedroom, let alone talk on the phone or meet for lunch. Blah.

-I hadn’t developed a whole lot of empathy for others at one year sober.
I am still a straight shooter, but not a straight shooter who lacks empathy.
Yes there is a difference.
The level of cold that I used to be was dangerous to a newly sober person or anyone remotely interested in recovery. I was forward, honest, and direct all right. All necessary qualities, but I needed a large cup of empathy and a few heaping tablespoons of balance; balance between being direct, and also lovingly able to spit out truth without being totally condescending with my delivery.

-I hadn’t yet done life with other people in recovery.
The main difference between how connect and encourage people now and how I did things at one year is simple.
I know more people.
I have met people from all walks of life, from all different programs, and people who are anti-program everything.
I have friends who like me, love God, and others who are atheists in recovery.
Some use counselors and therapies, others use essential oils, some rely on meditation or travel or medications, and others like myself rely on prayer and the Bible, and fellowship.

There are about a billion self-care techniques and combinations out there that we can use to maintain sobriety.

Not just…one.
Not just…mine.

The whole recovery process really isn’t all about the program we choose.
The program itself is merely a blueprint to help guide.
The program (if you look at all of them) are meant to prompt self-discovery and to reinforce certain bottom lines depending on which program you are a part of.
There are all different paths to one goal, and that is to figure out why we do what we do, hence, discovering who we are.
Recovery is truly about self-revelation.
Addiction is about hiding from the truth.
A sponsor should be there for their sponsees to help them through the  transition from one to the other until they ready to move forward on their own. To be there for them to be loving, kind, honest, and trustworthy.

Today I know:
*I can’t save everyone and I know it’s not my job to save anyone anyway.
*My personal recovery isn’t worthless if I am not sponsoring someone else one-on-one. I am raising three kids. That counts.
*My sobriety isn’t meaningless if I don’t go to meetings regularly. I go to al-anon now. That counts.
Because like I said, this isn’t about following the strict guidelines of any program.
It is about self-discovery and maintaining balance within ourselves.
So, of course my ‘program’ isn’t going to look like yours, and that’s okay.

I also know:
*My step 12 may not look like yours. You may not even care about step 12. You may not even know the steps and that’s okay.
*I still don’t sponsor people, and that’s okay too.

 

2 Comments

  1. Brittany

    Rose… thank you. I know how beneficial it has been to my journey to have solid, open, honest, examples who have allowed me to be me, as I learn and navigate. I have also learned that it’s okay not to be great at all things, and it’s also okay to transparently admit mistakes.
    I am good at both! Ha!
    I really do appreciate your encouragement and thank you for taking the time to read this one! 🙂

  2. Rose McKinney

    What a beautiful, honest post. You hit on several important points including don’t do something just because it’s next on the list (like the 12th step), don’t do something before you are ready, and don’ t be afraid to do it (or not do it) in your own way. In many ways, your blog is a living, breathing 12th step because it shares your perspective and encourages others to find the path that works for them.

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