Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sponsor vs. Friend

In my opinion, getting a sponsor and then actually calling her is one of the most important things we can do to stay sober. Sponsors are there to guide us through the 12 Steps, assist us in studying the Big Book, and understanding recovery culture. My sponsor knows things about me that no one else on this planet earth knows, and shows me how to deal with that Deep Dark Stuff without taking it to Happy Hour.

However, it's important to understand that this relationship is meant to go one way only: I am not to counsel my sponsor on things. My sponsor has a sponsor she does her work with. While my sponsor knows everything about me, she is not my "buddy". Why not? Thanks for asking!

1) A friend is someone who wants me to like her. My sponsor tells me the cold, hard truth as I need to hear it, and that has repeatedly saved my ass. Her delivery is not clouded by whether or not I will still like her after she tells me what she knows I need to hear.

2) I know where my friends' "buttons" are. We know most of our friends well enough to know their emotional weaknesses, and, let's face it, we sometimes exploit them when it serves our purposes. Example: if I'm doing something that I know my sponsor-who's-become-my-buddy doesn't approve of, I start "earning" her approval with things that will shift her focus off of my (probably sick) behavior, such as giving gifts, loaning money, and generally kissing ass. My buddy now feels all warm and gushy about me, while I continue to engage in wrong stuff.

3) My friends don't have any formal authority over me. Because I am careful to recognize my sponsor as my sponsor, I have a respect for her that I might not show my friends. For example, if she tells me something that rubs me the wrong way, I pretty much sit there and take it because I know I need to hear it. I don't argue with my sponsor, because I have too much respect for her to disagree. If I'm arguing with my sponsor, I do not have the kind of respect for those that have figured this thing out that will help me stay sober.

4) My friends might develop a resentment towards me, but my sponsor won't. Doctors aren't allowed to operate on members of their immediate family for a reason: their judgement will be too clouded to award the family member their best ability. Sponsors know how to react to sponsees: with (tough) love and tolerance, and that's about it. They should not become so emotionally involved with sponsees that they develop resentments.

5) My sponsor will not violate my trust. Friends sometimes blab, especially when they feel that blabbing may help you (and it typically doesn't). Sponsors understand the grave importance of their relationships with sponsees, and that complete confidentiality is to maintained at just about any cost. Note: I tell women I work with that I will get them the appriate help if they tell me that they are thinking about harming themselves or someone else.


Gabriella Moonlight said...

This is a great post, I found you via Jilli Java (Kristin H.) and really enjoyed's very true and often not what folks wish to hear. Thank you, Gabi H.

PhoenixRising said...

Very good! I see that you are learning Meredith-san. :P Seriously, though, you do have a good grasp on sponsorship pitfalls and I can only think of one other thing to add to the list. Pretty much, I tell anyone that wants to sponsor me that it is all on them to contact me because it shows a degree of willingness and respect if they will contact me. Otherwise, I feel like I am following them when I could be using my energy to help another alcoholic if need be. Good to see you on here and I will be writing here for one of my courses so maybe you can keep updated with me through here. Hope that your week is going well and I am glad to have you as a friend.

Steve H.