First, let me say thank you for the kind words in the comments on Friday's post. Sentiments like that don't go to your head; they go to your heart -- and mine is full of gratitude.
Of equal importance, however, is to get confirmation that AA blogging and anonymity can work together without violating the incredibly important spirit of our 12th Tradition. I thought that was the case -- but here I sit some nights, typing away in the dark (well, there are a few lights on, but they're dim -- more flattering that way) and I am all too aware of how people can justify anything to themselves -- alcoholics especially. I knew it was possible that I had been kidding myself, or crossed a line once I got rolling, or the like.
Some few people in my day-to-day life know of the blog now, but asking them is not the best litmus test -- there is no way the blog is ever anonymous to them when they read it now. It is you, the people reading who don't know me, who can offer the best and most accurate assessment on this topic. So I am grateful not just for the warmth, but for your insights and candor.
And now, let's get back to work, shall we?
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I'm in my first year sober, and after a few slips I feel pretty stable. I know I better get a sponsor though if I'm going to stay. I don't think I'm at all reluctant to get a sponsor, I'm just not sure how to choose someone. I hear stories of people kind of grabbing you and saying "I'm your sponsor!" and that is really not for me.
Any tips? Whatever you have on the topic would be great.
Someone's Future Sponsee
I have two things to congratulate you on! First is your sobriety: Go you! One day at a time, I don't pick up the first drink. Slips shmips, just live in the fact that today you don't pick up a drink no matter how happy, sad, bored, angry, hungry, horny, lonely, grumpy... wait, I'm about to start naming dwarfs. You get it. But rest assured, just because you did relapse doesn't mean you will relapse. It is not a fore-ordained cycle. Relapse is not inevitable. You are sober today. Full stop.
The other thing I have to congratulate you on is that you are quite possibly the very first alcoholic I have ever met who is not at all reluctant to get a sponsor.
I'm gently teasing, SFS -- what I hear from you is willingness, and that's the one thing you have to bring to the party on your own -- there's help available for everything else.
Let's not over think this, okay? ("That'll be a first for you, Mr. SponsorPants." Who said that? Security! Security! Show that troublemaker the door!)
Here are a few things to remember on choosing a sponsor:
A common description in choosing a sonsor is that you find someone that "you want what they've got." For me, the best interpretation of this idea is not that you want the details of their life, the "outside" things, as much as it is about some inner qualities someone has that might speak to you. Now it's fair to say that one's inner life can be reflected to a degree by the shape of the life they've built around them, but in my experience, recovery is measure not by what you drive, but by how you drive it -- I'll do better with someone in an older car who isn't screaming and flipping people off in traffic than I will with someone in a flash car with bad driving manners. (Doesn't mean that successful people are jerks or "bad" AA's or might not be deeply spiritual in any way though. And that works in the other direction, too, by the way. Just because someone's a janitor doesn't mean they're full of warm, folksy wisdom. Rich = mean/shallow and Poor = spiritual/noble is cheap, simplistic bullshit logic. I'm only making a rough analogy about looking past the surface when looking for a spiritual guide -- which is ultimately what a sponsor is. )
You're not signing a contract. You're not trapped by this. Yes, the idea is that you are willing to take some suggestions offered by your sponsor, but you're not indentured to them.
Just like some people hire a "mean" personal trainer to "make them" work out, some people choose to act on a sponsor's suggestions without question or push-back. They choose a "tough" sponsor to "make" them work a program. Nothing wrong with that, but there are many kinds of sponsors, so if that's the example you've seen, rest assured it's only one flavor out of many. For some sponsor/sponsee combinations trust is gradually established and some breathing room is key.
Your sponsor is a flawed, crazy alcoholic with their own propensity for self obsession, ego and fear. No one person can be your whole Program. This can be a great connection and an invaluable sober tool, but it's possible that sometimes your sponsor will just plain be a tool. So manage your expectations of the poor mortals around you. If you're waiting to find the "perfect" person you'll never find a sponsor. You can find the perfect sponsor for you -- but what will probably make them that is how they handle their imperfections.
You don't have to ask someone to be your sponsor to start calling them and asking for help, or talking to them about something that is troubling you, or discussing something from AA you want input on. It's not about the label as much as it is the dialog and the example.
Your sponsor is not doing you a favor -- by asking them to sponsor you, you are helping them to practice the 12th Step, and thereby stay sober -- they are sponsoring you so that they stay sober as much as to help you with your sobriety. So there is no debt, ever.
I guess the best sponsors for me are someone that I respect enough to want their thoughts on something and I'm willing to try what they suggest, but not that I'm intimidated by or scared of, so that I will be afraid to be honest with them for fear of looking bad or "getting in trouble." (Even though you can't, really -- that's just baggage we all bring to the sponsor party.) When I was new, though, I was a little afraid or intimidated by just about everyone, so that part was kinda tricky.
Don't get hung up on how much time someone has. If the right person to sponsor you has two years sober -- or even one -- that's great. Time sober has NOTHING to do with what might make someone the right sponsor for you.
Finally, maybe give yourself a tentative deadline. No big pressure thing, but if I don't have a deadline on something like this then I'm just always "going to" do it, but I might never actually get into action...
Hope some of that was helpful. Write back and let me know how it went.