Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I have been sober just shy of two years. I have found a great freedom and a new way of living as a result of the the 12 Steps and the Program.
I have a new sponsee and this is my first time sponsoring someone. My sponsee and I are doing well. They are moving right along with diligence and willingness. Upon occasion I will ask my sponsor's advice about what is the best way to handle my sponsee's questions or situation.
The other night, during a meeting, my sponsor shared something about one of these trusted conversations (no names mentioned) but it was clear to me and my sponsee that they were talking about us. I was devastated, uncomfortable and felt personally convicted at the same time.
So here is my part in it:
Although I feel a trust was broken between me and my sponsor I am responsible for sharing something that was confided in me. What was shared was more of a conversation than a deep, dark secret from a 4th Step. (I can hear myself minimizing already.) When in truth it is a good lesson for me about gossip! If I am honest I did not have to share what I did with my sponsor (or anyone else) for guidance.
So here is my dilemma:
What should I do now? My sponsee and I are OK. She was very gracious and did not feel at all threatened. I however have a trust issue now with my sponsor and feel guarded. (Guilt for gossip will do that every time.)
Should I take from the lesson learned and move on with the intention of holding myself to a higher level of integrity (a living amends)...
Should I confront my sponsor who is clearly oblivious to the situation? Or both?
I take the privilege of sponsorship very seriously. I want to be of the highest level of service possible and share what has been so freely given to me.
Your insight would be greatly appreciated.
At the very least, I think your sponsor used pretty poor judgement, and (no doubt unthinkingly, but still) placed the trust between you and your sponsee at risk.
But I have to tell you, K., I think you are reaching a little bit to condemn yourself as a "gossip." You should be able to talk with your sponsor about anything -- including, as you describe, "asking your sponsor's advice about what is the best way to handle our sponsee's questions or situation."
At the same time, you have done some terrific self examination to determine that in this instance, you didn't need guidance, so some other motivation was at work when you were sharing with your sponsor about your sponsee. That's worth continued reflection. If it wasn't a need for guidance, then what was it? I could offer you some ideas but honestly, based on your email, I have no doubt you'll get a true insight without any prompting from me.
What should you do now?
Firstly I believe you had a bad scare and a little bit of a shock. Your trust was violated -- not in an earthshaking way, maybe (your sponsor did omit names after all. Based on your description of the event no one in the meeting but you and your sponsee knew who your sponsor was talking about) but still and all, trust was violated. So that shock is probably fueling some of the "gossip guilt." You are rightly taking some responsibility, but in my opinion you are not at fault.
You should be able to speak freely to your sponsor and not be dogged by the nagging fear that the incident will repeat itself. If I feel it necessary to share something about another sober member with someone (a sponsor, or a friend who's sobriety I respect and counsel I value) -- and hopefully I am doing it to be helpful to someone in this scenario -- then I sometimes say something like "I know you're circumspect, great at keeping confidences, but this especially I would ask you to keep private..." or some other request to refrain from repeating what I am about to share. While one would think everything you say to a sponsor sort of by default falls under this umbrella, obviously people sometimes feel that if they omit the identities of the people involved the situation itself might be discussed -- again, hopefully in an effort to illustrate a point and/or to be helpful to someone.
You make good use of AA's tools, I can tell that from your email, but I might suggest -- if you haven't done it already -- to lean heavily into some writing and praying about the right course to choose and the right words to use.
And it might be worth talking to your sponsor directly about it, not only for your own sake, but to help them be a better sponsor in the future. After all, we're all learning how to be better sponsors all the time. Your sponsor (and I!) need to keep learning about how to be a better sponsor at this point in our journey equally as much as anyone with their first sponsee does.
Ultimately, I believe your new sponsee has a terrific sponsor, because that sponsor is deeply committed to being of service to them, and takes the responsibility of carrying the message very seriously.
Good luck, trust your instincts (because you are placing being of service first, and thus your instincts can be trusted) and please, by all means, let me know how it works out.