Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out (and in) like a lamb ...

Does anyone else spend all day thinking of topics you could write a blog article about and then sit down and not remember any of those things?

I thought so...

The old adage of March coming " like a a lamb, out like a lion..."  (or visa-versa) seems to be false for us this year as it's been remarkably lamb-like at both ends of this month here.  Weird some in the middle, but definitely mild at both ends.

Granted, we had a little breeze yesterday (in my little community, we call anything less than a sustained 30 mph gale a breeze), but we're wonderfully mild again this morning.

Don't worry - this is not a weather blog.

I was just wondering how often this phrase we've all heard is true in fact?  As an engineer/scientist, I think I can appreciate how little direct effect the weather on one end of a month has on the other end of a month.  Probably, this "belief" in lions and lambs comes from the level of variability that happens in March.  Last week we had a foot of snow (no exaggeration) and today we're having 70 degrees and sunny skies.

But yet, I found myself expecting harsh weather at the end of the month since it was mild 4 weeks ago.

I suppose this is the most minor of "old ideas" that I am challenged to let go of.  I clearly know that it has no likely basis in fact, but it's still what I heard from my grade school teachers (the ultimate authorities of all things true).  But, even though we got lambs on both ends of the month this year, I will probably be among the first to recite the lion/lamb balance next year.

I wonder how many other "old ideas" I hang on to?

"I will die poor and alone."  "My life means nothing."  "Everybody else gets what they want, I can't have what I need." "I just need to try harder."

A few...

But then, next year it could be true that March will...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

... a loving invitation ...

I got an unexpected letter from A.A.'s General Service Office last week.  It starts out: "Please accept a loving invitation on behalf of the General Service Board..."

They've asked me to chair a workshop on "A.A. Web Sites" at the International Convention.  The workshop is scheduled from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM on Saturday, July 3 in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, Room 217 A-C.

This is great in that, as chair, I get to participate and I don't have to worry about putting something together to create a cogent talk.  The format is that there are 3 presenters who share for about 15 minutes each and then the floor is open for general sharing from anyone attending.

The reason I'm sharing this here now, 4 months before the event is because:
  1. I'm excited, honored and humbled.
  2. Since I blog anonymously, I figured the few of you who might be at the Convention and reading this now could figure out a chance that we could hook up at this session (if we've not figured out a way to meet earlier).  I don't plan to drop my anonymous participation here but I see no potential harm in meeting and greeting each other during and after this session.
  3. I don't plan to mention it (my particular participation in this session) again here but it's in my calendar to show up and it would be nice if some of the rest of us could be there as well.
I'm sure this will not be the only session at the International dealing with online experiences (e.g. there is another session titled: "A.A. in Cyberspace: Carrying the Message") - I will probably see some of you at other sessions but I may not know who you are - there will only be 50,000 of us there...

Anyway, I really appreciate the opportunity and wanted to share my exciting news with y'all.

Note: If you want to chair or present at an A.A. International (I think it might be too late for this year as I think the program is set - so you might want to mark your calendar to plug in around 2013-14), the process is to let someone in General Service (GSR, DCM, Delegate, etc.) know of your interest and have them recommend you.  While you can send requests and suggestions to G.S.O. directly, I've heard they are deluged with myriad requests and they tend to give preference to those requests that come as recommendations from people they know.

How I was "found" for this slot was that a G.S.O. staffer looked at our Area's web site, contacted the Area Web Chair who, in turn, passed my name along since I'd worked some on the site with her as well as led the Area Web Task Force that created the guidelines which support our Area's web efforts.

I truly hope to see you there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nunca! Nunca!

I attended another Spanish speaking AA meeting yesterday.  A 3-1/2 hour meeting (no breaks) followed by a 1-hour feast/fiesta really takes a bite out of your day - it's especially tiring when you've already been sitting in meetings for the whole weekend.

It was important to attend though in that one of the pillars of that community (Spanish-speaking AA) was celebrating his 26 years of sobriety.  He's been a good friend to me and many others - there were about 150 people there from all over the state.

Since I don't speak Spanish, these meetings are hard for me but there is so much I can learn.  I see what they do as largely an AA Public Information pitch for families and friends in addition to an AA meeting.

The format runs something like this:
  1. After the starting rituals (prayer, reading, etc.), they invite some of the new people (under 30 days) up to share.  While they talk about "...really meaning it this time..." and "...going to try harder...", some of the audience laugh and catcall him - suggest they probably aren't really done - etc.
  2. Then people (mostly men) with generally increasing lengths of sobriety and experience, share what they did to get and stay sober and how their lives have changed.
  3. Then (about 2+ hours into the deal), they call special guests to share - people who are General Service Representatives, District Committee Members, Intergroup officers, the area Delegate, etc. about what AA is and is not and how it has impacted their lives and honoring the person celebrating.
  4. Next family members are given a chance to talk.  A brother who had 2 years sober at one time and would love to get sober again but just can't seem to make it through a day without drinking.  A sister who came from Oklahoma just to say that she is proud of her brother and grateful to AA,  Alanon members, kids, grandkids, cousins, everyone is given a chance to say what they think of the birthday boy or anything at all.
  5. Finally, the target of this celebration is given the chance to talk.
As he walked to the podium, tears were already streaming down his dark, handsome face.  Even with my exceedingly poor Spanish, I could clearly hear much of what he shared: "Nothing! Nothing! could have prepared me for so much love and gratitude from the miracle of what AA has done for me and my family!!!" ; "...all that I am today, all that I have today, all that I will ever be, I owe to AA...";  "...from a life of hopeless dispair and nothingness, I am now the happiest man in the world, thanks to AA...";  "...AA and God never gave up on my, long after I'd given up on myself..."

I hope you get the idea.  Not a dry eye anywhere.

Then, this community who are mostly unemployed or work below minimum wage, fed us all.

Rich, thick, meaty mole. Hearty green chili.  Pasta.  Fresh tortillas.  Cake.  All homemade and delicious.

As embarrassed as we were, it was clear that we would offend them if we didn't take extra plates of food home.

My heart is still full.  This "work" that we do in AA is important.  For ourselves and, more importantly, for others.  AA can and will change my life if I let it.

And, it tastes good too...

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I'm sitting at our Area Assembly business meeting which is one of those things that I've observed most of us love to hate.  I've certainly have hated my share of these meetings.

But, I've grown more than I can imagine in the 20 years I've attended.  As the punchline of that old joke goes, I just can't see how I could have gotten here from there, except through this path.

I hear a lot of comments from sponsees and other members about how "...those meetings are all just AA politics..." or "...I get tired of all the fighting and controversy..."

I've certainly seen more politics and fighting than I've wanted to see.

But, I sometimes wonder how everyone (including me, when discouraged) thinks AA, as a whole (meaning, outside my home group and around the world) will grow and find its way without these conversations and corrections?

So, I feel badly that people like Mary in Africa may not ever experience a meeting like this.  I feel blessed and happy that I get to be a part of this deal that is way bigger than my little home group.

I love this deal.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat around it...

The picture on Dave's blog this morning reminded me of a meeting of a Big Book study I was co-leading a few years ago.

We were talking about the 6th step and becoming willing to have these defects removed.  A sponsee of mine thought of and shared something that I use as a metaphor yet today.  He said:
" relationship with my character defects in my life today is like, I'm eating a 1/2 gallon of ice cream out of the carton and suddenly discover a turd - right there in the middle of my ice cream.  I am disgusted and it sickens me.  I feel violated and angry.
Then, I think about it some and I notice that it looks like it's really just one solid chunk in the middle.  I really like the ice cream and it seems like a waste to throw out the whole carton.  I'm sort of hungry.  I think 'I could probably just nibble around the edges of the carton a little...'  I wonder how close to the chunk is safe to eat. ..."
I do exactly the same thing with character defects.  I've been around long enough and done the work in the program of A.A. so that I always recognize them when they crop up.  But, after initially being repulsed by them, I will think "...maybe I'm really OK with self pity this time..."  or "...yeah, it's resentment but it's justified and I'm only human..." or "'s true I'm being selfish but she's being more selfish..." or ...

It's really exactly the same thing as rationalizing how close I can eat without being so disgusting that I can't live with myself.

Probably not the standard I want to live down to today.

The solution is to throw the whole thing out - now!!!

"...Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." BB p. 58

'nuf said...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anybody there...?

Several of my most favorite bloggers have stopped doing daily blogs - at least where I know of them - and it's really all I can do not feel like I was once more "...too late to the party because all the cool people are leaving to the next cool place to hang out..."

Or, something like that.

In fact, the number of people that are showing up at this blog is growing slowly (though nowhere nearly as large as those who've left the building).  Also, I recently took a 3-week hiatus which, in part, cleared my head a little bit about what I'm doing here.  The one thing that is really clear to me is that if I really am either in competition with others, I will loose, or if I try to do anything to drive up my readership, I will lose.

As I figured out yesterday, this (as is the rest of my life) is just not about me.  My only hope and sustenance is that I can remember the biggest promise offered in the program of AA is that I can be "useful."  On a really good day, that is my intention here along with the other areas of my life.

I will miss those who've gone.  I already do.  But, as others have observed, seasons change, people come and go and I really need to just learn to deal with it.

Doesn't mean I have to like it (I don't!) - but, it was not my decision that they leave (amazingly, I wasn't even consulted! ;-) ) .  It does mean that I will get to learn and grow with it.


Or not...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

About me...

I sometimes get the mistaken belief that my life and what I do in it has something to do with me.  Imagine!

Yesterday, I fought myself all the way to show up for a job that I'd put off since last October.  Just think of it as a heavy ball and chain around my neck that gets heavier every day since October.  To say I was dreading it and the dread was increasing was just such an understatement.

But, God is good, and by His grace I showed up with the best attitude I could muster.  The weather was predicted to change and I wanted to make progress before that happened.

When I work, I often leave my cell phone aside as I often make bad decisions (compromising my safety or ability to get work done) about when to accept calls.  I noticed a former sponsee was calling and I was in between tasks so I took the call.

He works at a detox and had just spent some time with a "live one" who he wanted me to meet.  We talked briefly, set up something for after the weather changed and I started back to work.

I noticed another former sponsee was calling during another work lull.  I had not spoken to this guy in over 5 years.  I was surprised my phone directory still had his number and that he was still at that number.  He called because a mutual friend (and, another former sponsee of mine - we'll call him Don), was out and having a hard time getting back to the program.  We talked about Don, caught up a little, he thanked me for saving his life, tears were shed, we made a nebulous plan to grab some coffee, typical stuff.

I prayed a bit and called Don.  I think it sort of creeped him out a bit initially because he was just looking up my number to call me.  He talked about needing to "get back into the book..."  (some jargon we use around these parts) and get back to the solution he'd found a few years ago.  His was the typical story of the life that AA had given him taking him away from the solution that AA had provided.  We talked some about the nature of the disease, the problems with reservations and ego, problems and solutions.  We laughed and cried a little, made a plan to get together, and I connected him up with another sponsee who lives in his town.

I finished up the part of the work that I had to get done just as the weather was bearing down and, still dirty, headed out to the detox to meet the new guy.  We talked for nearly two hours about willingness and life.  He might be ready.  I hope so.  Of course, the similarity of our stories was sort of, well, again, creepy.

I so get that my life really has precious little to do with me...

On a good day...

This was the best day recently...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring again, maybe...

So, we had 12 inches of snow on Friday, 65 degrees yesterday (the snow's mostly gone), and we're likely back to more snow tomorrow.

We're going to ignore all that looks like leaves and trash around the pretty posies in the picture, right?

As Mary writes of fall as relief for the oppressive summer, I keep trying to find a toe-hold of optimism in spring.  And then, the weather fails us again.  That whole circle-of-life thingy just doesn't seem to do it (provide the answer and solution I need/want), some days.

I think that's why I'm encouraged to place my faith, belief, trust in something that is bigger than all the circumstances in my life.  Bigger than my family.  Bigger than my job and the relationships I have.  Bigger than the politics, society and culture in my land.  Bigger than the weather.

Today, with any luck at all, I will have a chance to grow that faith.

Monday, March 22, 2010


In my little community, there's a story in this morning's paper that talks about removing limits to the sizes of basements.

We have some old neighborhoods where the average house size is less than 1,000 square feet (not exaggerating).  These neighborhoods have become quite desirable (over $500k) and, of course, some people with more money than brains have moved into town and either scraped or "remodeled" these houses and put up 15,000 square foot (again, not exaggerating) manor houses.  Needless to say, the neighborhoods are in arms about this and have finally, in the past 3 years, gotten control to where these sorts of upgrades are limited.

Now, however, we are looking at basements.

I've always loved looking for loopholes - reasons why the rules that should rightly apply to you and everyone else should not apply to me.

As my wife (also an admitted drunk) was reading parts of the story to me, she seemed disappointed when I suggested that they would probably limit the basement size to the dimensions of the lot.  Our minds were "off to the races!!!"  Maybe you could just put in multiple levels of basements?  You could preserve the 1,000 square foot footprint of the house and have a 3+ level, 14,000 square foot basement underneath it.  Why not?

The idea that the same rules that apply to everyone else should apply to me has been a hard-fought concept.  The posted speed limit seemed to be a good place to start.

Granted, getting 2 speeding tickets last year helped me to my surrender.  The $500/month surcharge on my car insurance helps keep me surrendered.

But, the spiritual principle of humility has not come easy for me.  A dear spiritual guide and friend of mine who died 5 years ago last Sunday was fond of the saying: "I'm not a human being trying to attain a spiritual state.  I am a spiritual being trying to learn to live in a human state."

For today, without looking for loopholes....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Avoidance, evasion, distraction ... fear

Welcome to Spring.  Really.  (Image is from my front yard after sponsee left this morning.)

I love that the 12x12 talks about me: "...our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables..." (12x12 p. 67)

I've had ample opportunity the past few weeks to become clear about what "stuck" can look like - even with a bit of sobriety and spiritual insight and experience.

Just to be clear - I do this to me.

Today, I am warm.  I am well fed.  There is beauty and love in my life in abundance.  I am healthy.  I have more opportunities to be useful and of service than I can shake a stick at.

And, that's the problem.  For the past few weeks I've spent much more energy shaking sticks than I have at being productive and engaged in my life.

What that really looks like, on a real basis, is that I sit down at my computer and, rather than looking for opportunities to make progress on any one of the dozens (not an exaggeration) of things I might be doing to be useful, instead I find some bright fun thing to distract me for hours.  Or, I play Freecell.  Or, I follow one wild hare or another.  For days.

Until the last minute.

Then, with all the heroic efforts I can muster, I try like the devil to protect my image.  What that looks like is often: "So, I can't do what I'd intended to do - what's the minimum effort I can put forth and still look like a great guy."  You get the picture - we're not talking anything I'm proud of here...

As best I can figure, the basis for most of this non-activity which looks a lot like "sloth" is fear.  Fear that, if don't agree to "take on" what you'd like me to do, you'll think less of me.  Fear that my best effort won't give be enough to build or sustain the "image" that my ego think it has to have in order to survive.


So, now you have it.  My dirty little secret.  My primary purpose in admitting it here is probably something like a blogged 5th step.  (I've already been down this road with my sponsor as my '...another person...' per our program of recovery.)  It is truly my hope and prayer that this flaw in my character gets repaired before it kills me.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


All of my sponsees eventually get very tired of the expression of my fundamental expression of life: "...consequences are a bitch..."

Some of my sponsees hear that as many as 4-5 times when they call on a day where they are really trying to sell their drama.  The ones that have been with me for a while usually will beat me to the punch line when they feel one coming on.  I really don't say it to be cruel or to hurt someone's feelings or to do anything other than to seek the acknowledgment that much of what happens that I don't like in my life happens as a consequence of reactions to my beliefs and actions.  Just that.

Except, I forget.

This morning, a former sponsee and good friend of mine for 15+ years was having tea with me and he talked about "...the time he blew up his brain on acid..."  His life, but, more importantly, his brain was never the same after that fateful time when he was 17.  It was just one of those conversations you have around this fellowship - as matter of fact as discussing the weather, he discussed when his brain just ceased to function the way it did before that time of seeking "more."

We postulated on what we know and what we don't know about the experiences of our lives today.  He's 30+ years past that time and, although he's got a case of diagnosed mental illness, the best psychiatrist he could get to declared that the problems he suffers from today has nothing to do with his use and abuse of 30+ years ago.  I wonder.  How could they possibly not be related?  It just makes no sense to me when you jack around with neurons and synapses and neuro-function like that, how can it not at the very least scar the brain and nerves?  Or give one a serious trauma to the limbic brain.

Then, I thought about all the folks I know who have seriously done in brain cells with a vengeance - or, are seemingly beyond hope and still at it - and again, I wonder.

For people with a spiritual malady like mine, we just like to presume there will never be a piper to pay.  We get a lot of relief in our recovery, but I wonder to this day why it is that it seems my emotions or my nerves or just my sense of the world feels out of whack.

Consequences, are, in fact...

OTOH, God's grace is a pretty good deal too...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sponsorship 6...

An exercise I often  challenge my sponsees (and also myself) with is: "What exactly would you have to give up to call this moment perfect?"

Mr. Sponsor Pants posted an article today that was much along the same lines I was thinking.  As usual, he says it better than I.

I am often struck by how hard we try to take a perfect moment and make it into something less than or worse, different than what it is.

I think that's often the hardest thing to do in sponsorship - to be the unflinching mirror of the reality that we get to support those who not only don't want support, but want someone who will instead buy into the drama of the moment. 

Instead, I might get to be the cheering section for letting go of those old ideas of what life ought to look like, shedding the myth of a world in which we can control all of the circumstances, discarding the avoidance of consequences we're certain will be unpleasant and permanent.

Coaching someone toward surrender may not feel much like a noble endeavor, but it's often the best 15 minutes on the phone that I can get for a day.

...because sometimes, I can hear what I'm telling someone else....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sponsorship 5...

I was reading with a sponsee this morning (our regular Saturday AM gig) from "There is a Solution":
"... We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds.  We are people who normally would not mix. ..." BB p. 17
It wasn't until just reflecting on that now, some 7 hours later, that this young man is less than 1/2 my age.  I've been sober longer than this guy has been alive.  He has never known a world "before the Internet."  etc.  He's in school.  I've forgotten what that could even possibly feel like.  He's dating and wildly raging in hormones and life and death feelings about acceptance and approval.  I've pretty much forgotten what that feels like as well.

Anyway, as I stated in an earlier posting, this is what I often do - read the book with someone and see if we can have the same experience that they talk about in the book.

This ancient, imperfect book seems to have reached down and grabbed this young drunk with a solution.

I love to see that happen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sponsorship 4...

We had one of the best jail AA meetings we've ever had at the facility I'm at monthly last night.  However, increasingly I feel we do folks a dis-service to attempt to have a regular AA meeting behind the walls.  As I've shared here in the past, this meeting has gone from behaving like an AA meeting to completely off the wall and now seems to vary somewhere in between.

It doesn't take much to figure out why:
  1. Most (probably 95%+) of the folks there are really unclear about what AA is and what it is not
  2. As I am only there once every month (and most of the other volunteers rotate the same), it's hard to "own" a program when as many as 75% of those attending rotate through in a month
  3. Few of those that generally attend (including those who chair) identify as alcoholics
  4. Occasionally, we have well-meaning case managers who "require" their charges to to come to the AA meetings
So, as we went around the room with the 8 people there last night (thankfully, case managers seem to not be requiring meeting attendance now), it was a small miracle that everyone shared and at least 2-3 of them might be willing to look for a solution to their drinking problems while outside.  One of them mentioned how he wished they could get AA sponsors to work with them while they are incarcerated.

I've been thinking for a long time what might serve these guys and AA a lot better would be to either develop a sponsorial relationship with them or to have a weekend workshop where we could completely explain the AA program of recovery and even get them started working on the 12 steps.  Both these have faced huge security roadblocks in the past.

In other areas, AA meetings are being shut down in prisons.  The reasons are varied and beyond what I want to go into here but it occurred to me last night that, in many cases, it might actually be a good thing for AA and the inmates to finally shut this meeting down.  Rather than experience what, to me, is often a caricature of what an AA meeting is, they could instead learn about an AA program of recovery that could help them sober up while locked up and then join the fellowship when released.

Hard to know.  As I related in that other article, up to 100% of them committed their last crime while drinking so I keep thinking that, at worst, what this meeting may be or become is some sort of Public Information opportunity.  As to a real solution, these guys need one-on-one time with someone who can take them through the program of AA as outlined in our Steps, Traditions and, Concepts.

For now, I pray that God's will be done and that, when that moment of Grace meets that moment of oportunity, they can and will find a solution in their lives.

I hope that God can handle that.

I think he can.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sponsorship 3...

One of the things that I've found myself least successful at is "...sponsoring others into AA service..."  I've been active in AA service at many different levels - from group to Area, as well as sponsorship itself - for at least 23 of the past 26 years.  Far from the drudgery that many people understand "service" to be, I've found it a vital and continuing part of my growth in recovery.  It's seldom been painless, but, as the way of my life has often gone, I couldn't have gotten from there to here over any other road.  It has been drudgery at times, but my life's most fast friends today are all folks who I got connected with through AA service gigs.

It's puzzling to me why so few people get engaged in some level of AA service.  I heard my wife (also in AA) make a statement today that "...It used to be that you took your AA service commitments very seriously and, as a part of that, you learned to take yourself less seriously.  Today the sentiment largely seems to be that I have to take myself seriously and that the only service I will do is what's fun and easy for me."

Evidence of her belief: our local District is hosting a "game night" to promote AA unity and fun.  Used to be the only thing we did as a District were things that directly furthered the causes and purposes of AA.


I don't think they are "wrong" for having a fun event - or even having a fun event sponsored by an AA District.  What I marvel at is that, among my current slate of sponsees, so few (about 1/2) can seem to make time in their busy, recovered, lives to do 12-step work, PI work, take meetings into jails or anything that gets in the way of their busy, recovered, lives.

The fact that I see my life and my program in almost the opposite terms - I do what I do as a consequence of and often because of my commitment to AA - and they choose another path sometimes feels like I've failed them and the program.

On the other hand, I'm sober today and so are they.

I guess AA works.

I hope so.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sponsorship 2...

During my 3 weeks away from blogging, I thought some about discussing how I sponsor the guys I sponsor (all guys - no gals).

This is not intended as a "how to" guide as I feel I've had many relationships that were not satisfying or "successful."  In fact, I really try not to look at relationships - including sponsorship - as success or failure any more.  Some of my most "successful" sponsees have drank or left the program and relationships that I questioned for many, many years turned out to be the joy of my life today.  I can't tell.

Early on I was encouraged by "...any 12-step call I make where I stay sober is a success!"  I guess I have the same attitude about sponsorship.  I'm sober 26+ years as a direct result of, not so much being sponsored or sponsoring others, but being willing to show up in an uncomfortable relationship with intimacy and honesty that is way outside my comfort zone - on a good day, I deliberately only look for ways I can be useful or learn how I can become who God would want me to be.  There are many good days I've had sponsoring people.

I spent the first several years in the program in "sponsor envy."  I would hear AA speakers talk at length about "how they were sponsored" and think what I was missing - that, one more time, I'd joined a club and not followed the rules or found the secret relationship that would lead to my success.

Truth is:
  1. I've never sponsored anyone the same way I was sponsored or have ever been sponsored
  2. I've never sponsored any 2 of my guys the exact same way
I've just sort of figured this thing out along the way.

My M.O. for the past 15+ years for most guys has been that we just sit down and read the book.  I usually read it to them - one paragraph at a time.  This 75+ year old, flawed (in my opinion) piece of literature still seems to speak to the heart of the "real alcoholic." 

You can't be around as long as I have and be as curious as I am and not pick up lots of history and stories and experience which seems relevant so I share that as I feel led.  That means this can be a really, really, really slow process.  Elapsed time from the start to a completed 5th step and working on amends varies greatly but has been as short as 3 months and as long as a year.  I try to be open to the spirit or the mood.

Since I live a pretty full life, the only times I can commit to consistently are early morning.  Right now, my earliest guy comes to my house at 6am (has been 5am in the past) - the latest at 7:30 am.  I generally have 5-6 mornings a week spoken for each week.  I've let go of the 1-hour time limit I used to have so sometimes we chat for an hour, sometimes for more than 2.

After we've gone through this process for a while (has varied from 9 months to 5 years), we seem to evolve into a sort of "checking in" with infrequent link-ups at lunch, service events, etc.  I am heavily involved with some members, only see others during scheduled times.

Again, this is just my experience.  I think I'll be sharing about it for a while so I hope it is useful to someone.  As Mary pointed out in a comment yesterday, your experience with sponsorship will vary if you're in the wilds of Africa.  I think a future article might relate some of my experience with blogging and sponsorship.  As a few of you have pointed out, sponsorship is a deeply, personal relationship that probably has nearly as many variations and differences as members trying to do/be sponsors/sponsees.  The blogger who has best, in my less than humble opinion, articulated much of my perspective of the AA program (including sponsorship) is Mr. SponsorPants.  I'm glad I don't have to compete with him at any level.

I'm just trying to share how sponsorship has worked for me - and not.  If you'd like to share some of your experiences, I'd love to hear and learn from them as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The picture above was taken Tuesday from a parking lot near where I've met with a sponsee every Tuesday morning for breakfast for over two years now.  It was actually taken 3 weeks ago when I thought I was going to return to blogging regularly.  That plan didn't work out.

All I think I'm going to say about my hiatus from blogging now is that, even with (or perhaps especially because of?) 26 years of continuous sobriety, one can still get really get sick in the head.  I have been.  Mercifully, I've not done anything stupid beyond repair (yet) and I hope I can get back to regular blogging.

As I've reflected some on the drama in my life and program and considered what others have written about recently, I realize that, for me, it all sort of boils down to what we call in AA: "sponsorship."

When I asked my current sponsor to sponsor me almost 3 years ago, it was after my previous sponsor had fired me (it was a really bad time in my life) and I was feeling desperate.  We were at a conference together and I finally buttonholed him on Sunday morning and asked him with more desperation than he was probably expecting from someone with over 2 decades in the program.  He took a deep breath, thanked me, and responded "...well, these days, I don't really like to think of myself as a sponsor.  I prefer to just be available to people as an AA 'special friend'."

I remember thinking at the time "...well alright a-hole, you can call yourself whatever you want to call yourself but I really need a sponsor and so I'm going to call you my sponsor."  In fact, I think I shared some such sentiment with him and he just sort of assured me that "he'd be there for me."

As I reflect back over the past 3 years, I've realized that I really needed more of a friend who I could be honest and accountable to more than someone to "instruct" me on this path.  I realize now how inadequate the word and definition of "sponsor" is to what I share with this man and how important it is.  I've never known an earthly brother, but even that is inadequate metaphor.  Someone who just genuinely cares about me and hurts when I hurt (whether self inflicted or not) - he often uses the word "simpatico" with me.  That's not it either but it's closer.

Another friend of mine in the program shares often that the "crisis" he sees in A.A. is a result of 2 things:
  1. Our unwillingness or inability to do our own 12th-step work
  2. Failures of sponsorship as an institution in A.A.
I'm not a perfect sponsor.  I know that because I don't compete.  I have guys that I "sponsor" that I'm reasonably sure I'm doing more harm than good for.  I hate it but I've not felt led to terminate our relationship yet.  I've "fired" other sponsees when it was not the "right time" and learned lessons from that.  So, I hang in there and try to be a friend, or at least useful to them.

Others, like my Tuesday breakfast, we share an intimacy that is probably only comparable to what might be shared with a psychiatrist or a priest.  And, I'm clear, the only real qualification I have for that trust from him is that I drank myself to the very brink of insanity and/or death and then, by the grace of God, found a program of recovery that has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Sorta wierd...

A.A. works that way....