Wisdom of Sponsorship Part D

More Gems of Sponsorship Wisdom

D.1 Helping Sponsees Recognize Their Half Measures By Anonymous

"Steve" is an SAA over-achiever. He is the kind of person who throws himself into a project and works very hard, whether it is school, a job, relationships or recreation. He has been in the program for almost four years and has everything going for him except for one thing: he can't seem to establish long-term abstinence from his addictive behaviors. He had seven months once, five months another time and lesser stretches clean at others. Some may say that's great, he's getting the program, don't worry about the occasional slips. The problem with his situation is two-fold: first Steve really wants long-term abstinence and second in the times when he has slipped his addiction progressed into successively more dangerous behaviors.

The thing that most bothered Steve is that he had done everything I had asked of him: First Step inventories, five or more phone calls a day, reading literature, and making Twelfth Step calls: you name it; he did it. He was thinking about "How It Works" when he said, "Darn it, I can't be accused of taking half measures; I've done everything I've been told to do 110%! It hasn't worked for me." Since nothing I had said was reaching him, I encouraged him to ask his groups to talk about half-measures. At his next few meetings he asked the members to talk about this, listened to what they had to say and then he discussed their insights with me.

One set of speakers basically suggested that he try harder; they said that he must only be trying half way and that he needed to give more effort. They also suggested that he should give himself credit for all he has done for his recovery. In talking about these ideas later Steve noted that each of the people who took this line of thinking, while good people, had the same trouble that he did; they couldn't stay abstinent either. He had put lots of effort into recovery work. He was not satisfied.

Other people said that at first they too put in maximum effort and couldn't stay clean; they made the point that they were more concerned about working hard than working smart. Some of them pointed out that they had been trying to be "successful" in recovery by doing everything they were told to do. One of them joked that he had to give up trying to win the "newcomer of the year" award. Instead, they said that the measures they did take were most effective when they consciously tried to limit this success mindset. They gave up ideas such as: my inventory must be done in so many days or be so many pages long, I must make sure I tell my stories in dramatic detail, or I will make sure that I call only the most recovered people in my meeting. Steve said that this group made a lot of sense to him. They helped him understand that his success-driven approach was actually a tool of his addiction. While he wasn't sure what the alternative was, he knew that he wanted to approach recovery differently.

Steve also heard one or two old-timers hit on a theme with which he was very uncomfortable. They suggested he look at what was actually in the "other half," the part that was missing from his recovery work. The half that was being omitted by his half measures was vital for getting abstinent. They noted that very often, when they tried hard they were leaving out things like honesty, emotional vulnerability and their fears of giving up addictive sex. They were thinking through their reactions rather than just letting themselves react spontaneously. They were constantly filtering their responses to their lives, including in their program work. Steve acknowledged that this scared him because he had spent his life trying to look like he had everything under control. He was hearing from these old timers that recovery was about heartfelt honesty, not control. He could see that his half measures were geared to making everything look good and go smoothly.

While he is still struggling to make sense of all of the ideas offered to him by these last two sets of speakers, Steve is starting to live his program rather than performing it. He has a renewed hope for getting fully abstinent.

PBR Volume 17, Issue 3 May - June 2005

D.2 Recovery New Year Resolutions By Anonymous

While not as popular as in the past, many people still make New Year's resolutions. With my sponsees, I help them formulate resolutions to advance their recoveries and the groups' recoveries. I sit down with each one to discuss what he has done this past year and what he is willing to commit to for the next year. We put these down on paper or in PDA's so that we can check up on their progress; in fact a midyear check in on their progress is one of my resolutions. We break down our examination into three general areas: their daily program, their participation in larger SAA offerings, and service work.

In the daily program, we cover the five basics of recovery (as AA identified them). I ask them to take a realistic look at their lives now and see what is realistic for the next year. How often are you going to call your sponsor and how often will you call other recovering addicts? How many days per week and how much daily will you read from recovery literature? How many meetings will you attend per week? For those in other 12 Step programs, they commit to them as well. How often will you pray and meditate and for how long? For those who don't the question becomes, what will you do to develop some kind of prayer and meditation routine in the year to come? What are you going to do for working one or more of the 12 Steps? Finally, as your sponsor how can I help you with these?

Then we look at their participation in larger SAA offerings. In this part of the country, ours and some of the surrounding states offer workshops, retreats, mini conferences lasting anywhere from a day to a full weekend. There also are a couple of SAA social events each year. Finally, there is the international convention which most of them find is within their reach. By participating in one or more of these, they can get other perspectives on recovery and get to know recovering people from other groups or states.

Finally, we look at service. This area includes outreach to newcomers, acting as a trusted servant in a meeting, starting a new meeting, writing an article for the local SAA newsletter or the PBR, and helping to organize the SAA convention. It also involves some of our intergroup services: committees, outreach efforts, telephone answering committee, and serving as a meeting rep.

Finally, service also includes examining their readiness to be sponsors. Most of them wanted to duck sponsorship, but I told each of them that after he had a year or more of abstinence-based recovery, he will want to be open to it. We talked about what they needed to do to be ready to sponsor, if and when the time came. I assured them that I would be there to help them work through any difficulties.

This took fifteen to thirty minutes with each sponsee. At our midyear check-in, each had made progress; and as I look at their various lists now all have grown substantially through work on each of these resolutions. Each one is better able to help other sex addicts recover now.

This is one way to help sponsees develop recovery resolutions for the New Year. Are there sponsors who would be willing to tell what you do to help some of your sponsees? Will some of the people who have made resolutions share what your sponsors suggested you do? Please send contributions, questions or any other feedback to:

PBR Volume 14, Issue 5 November - December 2002

D.3 Letting Go of Old Ideas By Anonymous

An interesting discussion question came up recently in a meeting about a phrase in "How It Works." All agreed with one individual who told how he kept struggling over the phrase in this passage that, in recovery "…the result was nil until we let go absolutely." He and some others noted that they were not finding abstinence despite writing thorough Step One inventories, praying, going to meetings and devoting themselves to SAA activities. They still felt bad and had lots of addictive thoughts. The one thing that most of them could point to was that they were acting out less frequently; unfortunately when they would get a week or a month or a couple of months clean, they would have a crisis and relapse. Each one of them was not satisfied that this was enough; they wanted full abstinence from all their addictive behaviors and they wanted the serenity that goes with that abstinence.

They berated themselves for a while about not trying hard enough to let go absolutely. Then one of the old-timers in the group spoke up. He noted that they sounded like they were a little unsure about what they were trying to let go of. He reminded them that the whole sentence reads, "Some of us held onto our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." He pointed out the dangers of taking part of a sentence out of context and suggested we talk about what it means to "hold onto old ideas" and how these can interfere with recovery.

There are two ways (at least) to interpret this phrase; the first is holding onto our old ways of thinking and the second addresses the content of our old ideas. Let's look at the content first.

The most obvious group of old ideas has to do with sex addiction. Most of us have held thoughts like sex is the best thing in life, that it can fix all our problems, that any sex is good sex and so on. A big part of early recovery and hitting bottom has to do with recognizing that these are lies and that pursuing these lies has made our lives a mess. But these are just the first layer; there are plenty of other old ideas.

We had beliefs about ourselves as well: that we are bad people, loners, victims, special, supermen or superwomen. We believed that we must be in control or smarter than others or perfect or the best, and simultaneously, that we couldn't do anything right. These contradictory ideas made us work very hard and set us up for an addictive life. We also held untrue beliefs about the world and other people, such as: the world is a dangerous or unloving place, others want to use us, life is about getting all you can, and so on.

These old ideas are cunningly woven together by the addiction to serve its purposes. Few of us have ever gotten free of them all at once. Instead, by working through the Twelve Steps many times we discover them to be lies and come to recognize our own truths. These lies are so numerous that as we spend time in SAA we see how all encompassing they were. Fortunately, we can have many "Aha moments" as we find that we weren't the only person who believed them; this helps us to make connections with others in recovery.

While growing free of the content of our old ideas is a big task in itself, "holding on" is a big obstacle to recovery, too. Holding on shows itself in rigid thinking and in the pridefulness that prevents us from opening up to what others have to say. It keeps us from being teachable. Believing that we know what we are doing is not being teachable. For example, when I first entered the program I assumed that I didn't need a group or sponsor to teach me how to live the Twelve Steps. I assumed that since I can read then I could figure the program out for myself.

Being teachable starts with mentally paraphrasing the First Step as, "I am powerless over my old ideas and my old ways of thinking - they have made my life unmanageable." Without this recognition, we end up trying to graft recovery thinking onto our addictive thinking. We might improve a little but the addiction soon expresses itself.

This is what happened to the members of that SAA group. They started to see how holding on and their old ideas had undermined their abstinence and led to slips and relapses. They also recognized that they had made some progress in recovery because they had let go of some old ideas and were developing greater open mindedness. They were each getting closer to letting go absolutely, and we hope soon be relieved of acting out.

PBR Volume 16, Issue 6 November - December 2004

D.4 Another View on the First Step By Santi L.

I read carefully the suggestions for the First Step outline suggested by an anonymous member in the November-December 2002 PBR. I found them very creative and will try to incorporate some of those as I sponsor new men in the program. I'd like to explain my approach to working the 1st step with newcomers or any new sponsee, which comes down to a compilation of ideas and work I've done with sponsors through the years.

When I work with newcomers I ask them to remember back as far as possible and write down in chronological order a brief, not detailed, one- or two-sentence description of their sexual activities. They are to do this not for every year lived but for every several years from the beginning up to the present. What happens in this exercise is that they are forced to review the progression of their disease. I particularly want them to focus in on the years when they first began to think or feel there might be a problem. For example, in my own history I remember during my honeymoon in Hawaii that I found it fascinating when there was a show on sexual addiction on TV. I guess since I am also a sober member of AA and GA my wife just thought nothing much of it. Looking back at that experience it is probably the first time I had considered that I might have an issue with sex, after all there aren't too many "normal" individuals who would sit around in Hawaii during their honeymoon to view a program on sex addiction!

After the newcomer has made a thorough but not detailed list of their lives and sexual misadventures it is not difficult for them to admit powerlessness over their addiction. We are part way there. Then comes the most important part, where the newcomer has to work on the second half of the first step, "and that our lives had become unmanageable." I believe this is the most important part of the first step because I know that self-knowledge ("Admitted we were powerless over our addiction") will not lead to sobriety. There are many homeless people who know they are alcoholics or addicted and yet continue their behavior. I ask my sponsees to put consequences to their sexual history and acting out behaviors. How many friends do they have and are they really friends? How is their relationship with family members, and have they lost some because of their selfishness and self-seeking expressed in their behavior? How about jobs, careers, business opportunities? How about immediate families? First wives and separated children living in divided homes? How about the ability to concentrate on projects and carry out the simple tasks of life? Isn't there always a struggle? It is essential that the addict make the leap from the powerlessness of the behavior to the total unmanageability of their lives. Unless they do this it will be very difficult to open the door to God's graces, because as long as an addict has any fantasy of controlling their lives they will not surrender totally. A relationship with God is the answer to all the difficulties of an addict but as long as he believes he can manage his life why would he surrender to a God he probably doesn't know, trust or understand? After a newcomer has made a list of the consequences of their history of acting out then they are able to see clearly the unmanageability of their lives and the poor results of a life lived for self. This is a wonderful way to bridge to the Second and Third Steps.

Although it may appear as if when working on this first step we are doing some Fourth Step work, that is not so and does not have to happen if the sponsor offers specific instructions. We do not go into detail of who, what, where, and when. This first step work is done in summary form and does not go into names, personal details and specifics.

I ask my sponsees to write everything out in pencil or pen and not to do the work on the computer. The heart and soul come out in written form. When one works on the computer too much mind is used and there is the likelihood that someone will go back and delete, cut and paste, etc. A work done on the computer is much less likely to address the spiritual aspects that are so important in this work.

I hope you find the description of the way I work the First Step with others to be useful. I am 25 years clean of gambling, 18 years sober from drugs and alcohol and 8 years sober in SAA. I've had the blessing of working with many sex addicts who are sober and in recovery today with several years of sobriety, and I treat my commitment to SAA as a ministry to serve others while honoring my Lord. We have a vibrant SAA community here in Charlotte and I am blessed to live in a city that is very God-conscious. We have no less than 20-30 men who are in the 1-8 year sobriety range and at our regular meetings a regular membership of around 60 to 70 folks. Thanks for considering my writing and may God bless all of you committed to serving Him and your fellow man.

In His Grace,

Santi L. PBR Volume 15, Issue 3 May - June 2003

D.5 Helping A Sponsee Get S - T - A - R - T - E - D

It's fun to watch. Maybe sometime after a few weeks, the newcomer stays around after a meeting looking uncomfortable and waiting for that moment alone with the experienced member of the program. As shy as a junior high student trying to negotiate the first dance, the SAA newcomer asks, "Would you be OK with sort of being my sponsor?" A "yes" begins a new adventure for both parties, one that can teach each one a lot about recovery.

Many times after saying that yes my next thought was, now what? What do I have to offer and what does this person need to develop a growing recovery? For the next few columns we will explore this topic, how to help a new sponsee.

My sponsors and sponsees have taught me that there are two basic needs each program newcomer has:

  1. to get help in stopping all addictive behaviors, and
  2. to begin working the Twelve Steps.

These needs come in many different disguises. The disguises are the motives that lead people to SAA in the first place: finding support after yet another relationship falls apart, getting a legal or work problem eased, or finding a sympathetic person to make the pain stop. The temptation as a sponsor is to try to fix the problem rather than offer this person the unique gifts of the program.

I ask my sponsees to begin with the basics: call me or someone else in the program daily, go to as many meetings per week as possible, obtain and read program literature daily, pick up some kind of spiritual activity and begin Step work.

I also make sure that the sponsees actually want to quit acting out all their sexually addictive behaviors. If not, I suggest they find another sponsor. Stopping addictive behavior is ultimately a gift from one's Higher Power. Since it helps to know what to ask for when seeking a gift, I suggest sponsees begin by recognizing the extent of their acting out.

Usually there are a few manifestations of the addiction that are most prominent and are causing most of the problems. Still, there are others that can easily replace the most conspicuous ones and cause just as much pain. So I ask sponsees to make a written list of all the manifestations that they recognize. One tool they can use is to listen closely at meetings when others check in and ask themselves, "Have I ever done that?" If so, put it on the list. Another is for them to look at the survey in the appendix to "Don't Call It Love", and to review their lives for these (and other) behaviors. I encourage them to take some time and to focus on being honest and thorough in their search. Next, I ask them to look at the "Three Circles" pamphlet and begin to figure out which of the behaviors they have identified belong in their inner circle (the "compulsive behaviors from which we feel it is necessary to abstain"). Then I ask them to review the list again and identify which of the behaviors fit into their middle circle ("those sexual behaviors which fall neither in the category of demoralizing addictions. nor of ideal behavior"). I encourage them to connect middle circle behaviors to inner ones; that is, to identify the pattern of behaviors that lead up to acting out. Usually this helps them begin to identify more of the middle circle behaviors, too. At this point, we spend little time on the outer circle; most just aren't ready to see that there is such a thing as healthy sexuality.

The final part of this exercise is to begin setting boundaries around the middle circle behaviors. While it may seem we should be focusing on the inner circle, it is the behaviors that lead up to acting out that need to stop. Understanding that we are trying to get abstinent from both inner and middle circles, I explain that the middle circle is the beginning of the addictive rituals and that if they intervene early in the process then they usually don't get to the inner circle.

What does this do for the sponsees? For one, it helps them get an accurate picture of what the addict looks like. Though we spend a lot of time with the addict, most don't really know it very well. In the act of getting to know the addict, an important Step One activity happens when sponsees begin to see how powerful their addictions are and how powerless they are in the face of it.

While the above can seem like an intellectual effort, when done as a soul searching exercise, a lot of honest emotions come out. This is one way to begin to work with sponsees.

Anonymous PBR Volume 12 Issue 5 Oct Nov 2000

D.6 Helping Sponsees Use the Telephone.

So many of the people I know in the program say they have a hard time using the phone as part of their recoveries. After we get past the jokes about how heavy it is, I acknowledge that I know what they mean: I was three years into the program when I recognized the benefit of making phone calls every day. It happened this way.

About two and a half years after I started into the program, I moved to a new city where there were no meetings. Fortunately, someone else with a few years in SAA also had just moved to that city; we got in touch and started a meeting. There was a helpline in town that was happy to give out my name and number as a contact for SAA. In one unusual Spring week, four newcomers called for information. I spent a great deal of time on the phone daily with each of them before our next meeting and noticed something. For the first time since long before I entered the program, I wasn't having any addictive fantasy. That's when I recognized that this phone thing works.

While I am very patient about their resistance because of my own experience, I urge my sponsees to use the phone daily. "Call me or call someone in the program. Call if you feel addictive, or call if you don't. Call no matter what the circumstances are and please don't wait until you have an emergency. And if you do have an emergency, call at any hour of the day or night." The thing that I try to get across is that calling is an exercise in willingness which allows the Higher Power to bring about recovery. What it says is, "I am willing to reach out to get help, to give help or both. I am willing to cut into my aloneness. I am willing to examine my life a little bit and to tell someone else what I find." As an expression of willingness, making phone calls is a powerful spiritual tool.

The next question is usually, what do I say? While just picking up the phone is a big step for many, the greatest benefit comes when the conversion includes recovery work. What follows are suggestions for basic things to discuss with another recovering person each day. Tell your contact. About any acting out. Not just slips or "inner circle" behavior, tell of any actions that were on the way to acting out like: going out on the net with no specific purpose, looking at the magazines in the rack next to the porn, etc.

All together, covering all these points in a phone conversation might take five or ten minutes.

Reviewing the first six points can be a mini-Step Ten before the call is even made. A person can write out the answers before making the call if that helps. Telling someone about these things can easily become a comfortable habit for sponsees, and any one of these points can be the starting point for an emergency call.

Chris C. PBR Volume 13 Issue 1 Feb Mar 2001

Currently under review

D.8 Affirmations By Karl W.

Here is a list of SAA-specific affirmations that I ask a sponsee to write out in longhand before we start working the steps. I do not claim credit for creating them--they were given to me by my first sponsor when I entered SAA in the spring of 2000. Every time I look at them, I realize how simple they are. When I first came into SAA and began working with my sponsor, I used to wonder why he always had me write out assignments and other information in longhand. I asked myself why he couldn't just make a copy for me and save me some time. I now realize that this was God's way of seeing whether I was really willing to do whatever it takes to get sober, to trust, and be ready to receive spiritual help.


I would suggest that you write them out by hand as soon as possible. I would suggest that you read them every day, say them aloud every day, and write them out every day.

  1. I see myself going to seven SAA meetings a week.
  2. I see going to meetings as fun and interesting.
  3. I will stay and talk to two people after each meeting: I will talk about the fact that I have a sponsor; I will talk about us working the steps together
  4. I see myself focusing on the needs of others rather than on my needs.
  5. I see myself establishing a relationship with God.
  6. I see myself reading the Big Book daily.
  7. I see myself fulfilling all assignments given to me by my sponsor with eager anticipation for the next one.
  8. I see myself being eager to forgive people for wrongs they have done to me.
  9. I recognize that maintenance and growth of my spiritual life is my only hope of recovery.
  10. I see myself loving every one in the fellowship even though I may not always agree with what they say and do.
  11. I see myself sexually sober, happy and self-fulfilled.

Don't know which issue this came from

D.9 My Experiences with Sponsorship

My experiences with sponsorship have been varied, and sponsorship and the steps have been the keys to my program. I generally tell my story through my relationships with my sponsors - and the steps they helped me work. What worked for me may not work for you or anyone else. This is my experience - take what you like and leave the rest.

Before I begin, I think it is important to share a little about my program. I have been in SAA for a little over eight years (Al-Anon six years) and have had nine official sponsors (seven SAA, two Al-Anon.) I currently sponsor four men in SAA. Although I'm still working through some 9th step amends from my first journey through the steps (186 people on my 8th step), I have worked through all of the steps three times in written form, and have been doing nightly written 10th steps for over three years. For those who focus on sobriety, I began getting seriously sober about four years ago. I have had two short binges and one slip since then, with my last slip 12/5/99. My bottom lines (inner circle) are:

  1. Any sex outside of my marriage including all masturbation and all sexual fantasy.
  2. Any sex within my marriage if I am not completely present or if I am using it to avoid feelings.
  3. Looking for, or at, pornography (primarily on internet.)

One of the first things to figure out is how to pick a sponsor. I learned some valuable things from each of my sponsors. When I moved from sponsor to sponsor, it was generally with the recognition that my needs had changed and I needed someone who was better equipped to meet them. My first sponsor had not worked beyond the 1st step, so I needed to find someone who had worked the next couple of steps to guide me. My second sponsor didn't have enough time for me, so I had to find someone who was willing to put more time into the relationship. I might still have my third sponsor if I hadn't moved across the country. In choosing a sponsor at that time, experience with the steps wasn't really needed; I thought I knew the steps pretty well by then. My fear was that I'd give up (since I was still slipping regularly) and drop out of the program. I chose someone who had lots of experience staying with the program in spite of periodic slips. We became good friends, but eventually his time became short and I had increasing difficulty with his drinking. It drove me into Al-Anon (which I needed desperately for a number of reasons) and eventually to seek another sponsor. This time I picked someone with lots of continuous sobriety, but found that it was difficult to relate to him; he had never acted out since coming into the program and had a very difficult time relating to my slips. I found myself comparing my program to his and finding myself wanting - regardless of how well I was doing. I began to dread our meetings, and eventually broke it off. My next sponsor was another person with lots of continuous sobriety, but his rule was that the sponsee was fired if a slip occurred; I had a slip. At the time, I resented it, but I see now that he was taking care of himself - He found that his program improved if he spent time around sober people, and that the opposite was true as well. I respect people who make healthy choices.

For the next three and a half years, I was without an SAA sponsor. I had begun working the Al-Anon program in earnest and after speaking to the few experienced Al-Anon men, found I was unable to work with any of them. Instead, I chose a much older woman who spent about a year and a half guiding me through a new process of working the steps. Although I was honest about my sexual addiction, (I told her my whole story), I only had one slip during that time, so there was not much to own in that area. I think things might have been more problematic if I had not been more sober. I chose her because she had worked the steps hard, and because she was very accepting - I knew that she would not shame me regardless of my poor choices. Eventually, her family needed more of her time, so I moved on to another sponsor. I picked him primarily because I felt led to by my Higher Power. He was in SA and Al-Anon, so although I used him for Al-Anon stuff only, at least I didn't need to explain sex addition stuff to him. We just never hit it off, and when I realized that again, I was dreading our meetings, I let him go as well. I went without a sponsor for another year and a half until my first sponsor in this area became active in our local SAA meetings again. I am glad to have him back. I had gotten bogged down with my 9th step because I feared making additional amends without a sponsor's input. I tried using other experienced program people, but I was unable to maintain momentum without the sponsorship commitment.

Based on my experience, I make a list of exactly what I want from a sponsor and share it with him/her as we consider such an arrangement. I have a similar list that I use in discussions with those who want me to sponsor them. Some of you out there might find them useful. Keep in mind that the lists have changed over the years depending on what I needed at each particular time.

What I want in an SAA sponsor:

  1. He must meet with me for at least an hour at a set time once each week.
  2. He must be honest and open with me about what is going on in his own life.
  3. He must have been in SAA at least one year.

Old requirements: He must have had (at one time since joining the program) more continuous sobriety than I have. He must have worked all the steps at least once in an S-group fellowship. Implied in these criteria is that I am looking for a male sponsor, and one that follows the traditions of 12 step programs including not giving advice. Those that I sponsor need to do three things:

  1. Work the steps. By this I mean written work on a weekly basis.
  2. Listen to me. By this I mean listen, not obey. I don't believe in giving advice because I do not know what is best for you (or anyone). From time to time, I may see things that you may miss. Its tough for anyone to be objective about himself/herself, so part of my job is to alert you to trends I see. It is my job to help you see your options before making program or other major decisions. Implicit in this requirement is that you:
    - discuss with me the difficulties you face in all areas of your life (work, relationships, etc.)
    - discuss significant choices with me prior to making major decisions
    - be rigorously honest with me
  3. Meet with me (alone) for a meal once a week to discuss your progress with the steps and what's going on for you.

Some other sponsorship thoughts:

I used to have a limit of two sponsees at a time, but after looking closely at my service work, I decided that I got more out of sponsorship than out of all the other service work I was doing. As a result, I gave the keys, treasuries, online work, retreats, etc. away to others and allowed two more sponsees. If you have been reading closely, you will realize what that means - five one hour meetings each week (one sponsor, four sponsees) on top of three 12 step meetings. This is the best way for me to give back today, plus I am always around people who are actively working (and discussing) the steps.

I have heard other experienced sponsors say that when they had a slip, they dropped all of their sponsees. I have had two acting out experiences while I was an active sponsor, and although my sponsees are always welcome to move on, none did so. I found that it not only kept me focused on the program, it also showed them that a slip did not mean starting over. It meant a poor choice, but didn't negate any of my experience, strength or hope. They now have a good model for recovering from a slip - they know that it need not lead into a binge or isolation from the program.

I find, as a sponsor, I can only deliver two things - a solid, healthy, friendship, and guidance in working the 12 steps. Sometimes I can remind them of their past decisions or experiences; sometimes I can help them see options that they have missed. Sometimes I can introduce them to a Power greater than themselves. I cannot keep them sober, and I don't know what is best for them. I can and do share my own ES&H as it seems appropriate, but I know from experience that what worked for me does not always work for my sponsees. We seek peace through written step work, with sobriety as a by-product only. Those seeking advice, or sobriety for its own sake, choose different sponsors.

When I was at a national convention about five years ago, I went to a sponsorship seminar. In it I heard lots of good stuff, but one thing really amazed me. The presenter, and several other old-timers in the discussion, said that they would never have gotten even 6 months sober if they had not started sponsoring others before reaching that mark. (They did emphasize that the sponsor needs to be at least one step ahead of the sponsee, and I don't encourage my sponsees to start sponsoring others until they have finished step 5 and have at least 30 days sober.) As a result of this discussion, I kept my eye out for people that I thought I could work well with, and offered my services as sponsor to people when appropriate. Although I had sponsored others, I had never been intentional about who I chose or what I required, and as a result, they had not proved rewarding for me or for my sponsees. Immediately after choosing my first sponsee (I had about 30 days sober) I had my longest run of continuous sobriety - 16 months. That was about three and a half years ago and I remain his sponsor. Before that time, I was unable to break the 6 month mark.

Bruce B. PBR Volume 13 Issue 2 Apr May 2001

D.10 Reality

Sponsorship is the place where the 12th Step meets reality. Sponsorship is where we as individuals begin the process of giving back what we have been given. For me, becoming a sponsor was the second most important decision of my recovery.

When I agreed to become a sponsor for the first time, I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, the way I work with individuals now is entirely different from the way I have done in the past. My own sponsor had simply made himself available for consultation but had otherwise left me to work my own program. In that case it was OK because we were both involved in a group working through Patrick Carnes' A Gentle Path Through the12 Steps. The book provided a structure for my work and the group dictated the pace at which we were able to work. That first process took nearly 3 years to complete. In the end, I knew that I had a need to move faster than that.

Since that first process I have made it a point to review each step at least once a year. I tend to write about it in my journal, talk about it in my groups, and with my sponsor. I have developed the view that the12 Steps are a process that I am integrating into my life. As a sponsor, I see my role as helping the person I sponsor do the same thing.

I encourage the person I sponsor to work through the steps the first time as quickly as possible. My recommendation is not more than 30 days per step for the initial work. This builds a basic foundation from which the process of personal growth can begin. For some that is too fast, for others it is too slow, at least the first time through. But that is why we make recommendations, not rules. We are all individuals and must work individual programs.

Working as quickly as possible the first time through created an overview of the process and reinforced the concept of process. It allowed me to build from hopelessness to hope. It gave me tangible progress while not demanding perfection. It gave me time to grow and a direction in which to grow.

Working quickly meant I did not need to lock every decision down. It allowed for change. Change is what brings growth for me. Change is reality. For me "reality is the only safe place to be".

Before I started working the program, the rules were set in stone carved by the hands of another. Growth was not possible because I had no control over the rules. The only option was blind obedience, and blind obedience is unacceptable to me.

Finally, working the steps as a process allowed me to review my thinking on each step and make the changes demanded by growth. Working the steps as a process has freed my soul. That is what I want to pass on.

Jim K. PBR Volume 13 Issue 3 Jun July 2001