Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sponsorship...

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....

6 comments:

dAAve said...

A sponsor can only be defined by the 2 people involved. It's no one elses business how that develops.

Mary Christine said...

So nice to read you ... It is my experience that sponsorship gets complicated, but I am grateful for both ends of the equation - sounds like you are too.

chitowngreg said...

Thanks for your comments. I think there are as many different types of sponsor/sponsee relationships as there are people. To me, whatever works, works!

Steve E said...

I have come to believe that sponsorship is at times the single most important part of our program/recovery.

Happy to see you blogging tonight, Ed!

PEACE!

Mary LA said...

Good to read you again Ed and I'm sorry you have had such a hard time.

Because of geographic isolation, I have never had a sponsor -- sponsorship is not common out here -- but my friends in AA know all about tough love!

Syd said...

I am grateful every day for the sponsor that I have. He is a trusted friend who knows more about me than my own family.