I met the Skateboard Pup for an early dinner.
They had been telling me about work, and how unhappy they are there now. After a long string of triumphs business had been going down, and their boss, not a strong leader, was floundering and, in their opinion, communicating poorly. In fact, their boss actually had the nerve to ask the Skateboard Pup to come out of his office and interact with/help the other people on the job! "Not interested." The Pup said, tone flat and lip curled. "Not. Fucking. Interested. I can either do my thing and try and make money for the company, or go out and babysit a bunch of... like I said, not interested." I set aside the observation that this was classic black-and-white thinking. This kind of angry, "I can either do THIS or I can do THAT. Period!" was typically just a construct we use to justify not doing the thing we don't want/are scared of doing. I also set aside -- for the moment -- the observation that when they started this job, the New Sponsee was all eager willingness, and happy to do whatever was asked of them. Now, after having been the rainmaker for a little while, the boss makes a request and it goes through the "Do I Feel Like Doing That" Filter. And thus do mighty egos from little triumphs grow. I also thought I would table for the moment the very direct observation that generally speaking, when one's boss asks you to do something within the general scope of one's job, one does it.
The burning fuse on this pile of dynamite was this last conversation with their boss, which was, they said, confusing. To me it sounded like their boss asked them to do something and they did not do it, but I believed to the Skateboard Pup it seemed that their reasons justified their defiance. (And really, children, don't they always?)
Now they felt like their boss was angry with them, or didn't like them, or had something to say to them that they weren't willing to say. I had been steadily asking questions as they were speaking, each question like placing another log on a growing fire. There was so much anger there I knew it was going to come out no matter what, so I kept asking, kept stoking, kept gently poking so we could get to the heart of it.
He wound down his list of grievances, with the sweet, familiar, triumphant ring of justifiable anger coloring this last declaration: "So I'm going to go into his office and say something like 'We need to talk. Are you angry with me? Do you have something you want to tell me?'"
As they described the imagined start to this conversation -- which of course was going to be a confrontation, if it happened, and decidedly not a "conversation" -- I flashed for a moment on the part in the Big Book where it talks about "we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate, seemingly without provocation..." and how so often we create the very problem we are trying to resolve -- I wanted to be clear on what they were saying, what was happening with them, so I looked across the table and tried to really see him, sitting there, his dinner mostly untouched. He sat across from me but he did not see me. Instead he was transported to his boss's office, his vision full of this imagined scene and as I looked at him I thought of how easy it is for us to slide into these fantasy confrontations, stoking our anger, polishing our resentment, savoring these sad, childish hero/villain scenarios.
I thought of how far this young man had come. What a privilege it had been to sponsor him for these past many months now. And I knew he would not like what I had to say next, but it was time to say what needed to be said. It was time to be his sponsor, not his dinner companion and not his friend. "What's your objective? What are you trying to accomplish with this conversation?" I asked.
They came back to themselves and looked at me as if I was stupid. "Like I said... to... to clear the air."
"Ah." I pushed a french fry around on my plate, chasing the last little bit of ketchup there. "Well, in my experience, when I'm really angry and I try to clear the air it usually doesn't get cleared. In fact..."
"What then. What do you suggest I do." As you can imagine, this was not framed as a question. It was framed as a demand. And came it out like a threat. He had made up his mind, he had his plan, and he was merely doing me the courtesy of letting me know what it was. If I was either too stupid or too rude to agree with it, well, that was my problem not his.
"In fact," I continued, unruffled, "although I don't realize it at the time, I am only telling myself I want to clear the air. What I really want is my day in court. I want to tell whomever it is that I am angry, and why I am angry, and challenge them about it."
"Really. Really." I knew the good hearted young man I had come to admire was right there inside this angry alcoholic sitting across from me now. In fact, not to get too fanciful, I could easily imagine that good hearted young man asking me to reach in and pull him out, and help him vanquish this toxic pretender. Would that the process were so direct. Or the toxic parts of ourselves vanquished so easily. "Then tell me, Mr. SponsorPants, what is the alternative? Really. What is the alternative? We had a confusing conversation and now I need to clear the air."
"I think clearing the air is always a good thing. I just can't recall a time when I've been very successful at the attempt when I've been as angry as... well, frankly, as you seem to be."
"Really. Reeeally." Each time he said it he stretched the first syllable out a little longer, and painted it with a little more sarcasm. "Well what do you suggest then, Mr. SponsorPants?" He actually said 'Mr. SponsorPants,' instead of my name. He's known about the blog and my writing for quite some time now, and fueled by rage, he seemed to savor spitting the pen name out at me. (To be fair, with all those "S's" and "P's" it really is an excellent phrase to spit at me. I couldn't have done it better myself.)
"Well, really, what I suggest is that you write an inventory, so that..."
"I don't need to write a FUCKING inventory to tell me I have a FUCKING RESENTMENT against my boss!" The busboy had approached to clear some of our plates, but thought better of interrupting and instead backed slowly away, like one might if they rounded a corner and accidentally encountered a rabid dog.
I kept my tone completely neutral. "Come on now, you know that we don't write an inventory to discover IF we are resentful, or who we're feeling resentful of."
They glowered at me across the table, face as red as a crayon. I could see their affection for me barely muzzle another stinging retort.
I felt not one iota of defensiveness or aggression. I felt deep compassion for what they were going through; the hurt and the anger, and underneath that, the fear. The obstinate digging in of heels and closing of ears, and the reflexive contempt of anything which might help, since that would contradict this beloved, deeply grooved narrative they had inside. A narrative with roots in some very old hurts.
I went on. "We write an inventory to see what our part in the resentment is. So that we can reverse engineer it and find a way to be free of it."
"Oh please," they spat "there is nothing an inventory is going to tell me that I don't already know."
"Okay," I said, my voice quiet, looking him straight in the eye, "I want you to repeat that please."
The request completely did not compute for him. "Huh?"
"Just say that again."
"Say what again?"
I quoted him without imitating his rage, "There is nothing an inventory is going to tell me that I don't already know."
"Look, Mr. SponsorPants," (now he is using my name) "I don't want to play one of your little..."
"Nope. I've earned some cooperation here. Just repeat it please."
He rolled his eyes but with considerably less heat said, "There is nothing an inventory is going to tell me that I don't already know."
"Once more please."
"There is nothing an inventory is going to tell me that I don't already know."
He looked uncomfortable now as he said it, full of neither contempt nor anger, which was most definitely the point.
"Now, let me ask you, do you really believe that?"
He looked down at the table. "Yes. No. I don't know."
"Okay. Well that's a good place to start from. We both know where the bigger issue, what this is really about maybe, is coming from."
"Yes," he said, looking back up at me. "From [Old, old childhood resentment]."
"Yup," I said. "Neither of us needed to get a degree in psychology to connect those dots. You hate -- really hate -- men you think are weak. And you think your boss is weak, and you think you are being asked to save everyone and clean up his mess and..."
"Aren't I though?" the rage was back, quick as a flash flood.
Gently I asked, "And the other part of the inventory?
He looked at me, anger and confusion flicking back and forth. Oh, it is so sweet to hold on to that anger, isn't it? Confusion won by the most slender of margins, prompting, "What 'other part'?"
I quoted what is, for me, the key to unlocking so much in the inventory process: "'The world and its people are often quite wrong.' No compassion for your boss? A man who's struggling to stay afloat maybe? Who has his own ego, his own fears running him? No compassion for the responsibility he might feel to everyone in that place to keep you all employed? Or, if you think that's painting him with too noble a brush, then just his own survival fears? His own pride on the line? No compassion for him? No forgiveness for him fumbling and buckling under the weight of all that?"
He looked back down at the table, and everything about him was clenched: Jaw, shoulders, fists.
Now that we had come to this point, I had to go all the way there. I had to say it, even though I knew it would set him off like a Roman Candle. This was about putting the words in his head, and maybe later they would be taken back out and considered. But I knew what hearing this next thought, this next question, was going to trigger. "And what about for [He of the old, old childhood resentment]. No compassion for him either? Ever?"
He had been looking down at the table but as I said this his eyes snapped up, and got very big. An angry red slowly climbed his neck and colored his ears.
I went on. Gentle. Relentless. "No compassion for them? No forgiveness even? Ever? Have you ever prayed to forgive them?"
He jumped to his feet, almost knocking his chair over.
I looked up at him, standing there. In that moment I felt absolute clarity about the words I should say next. And I felt compassion for how hard this was to hear, to take these deep hurts and those old villains and consider what recovery and the 12 Steps really asked us to do with them. "Do you believe that you ever could? Do you believe that if you pray to forgive them you might someday be..."
He threw a twenty on the table. "I'm leaving now. I'm..." He reached out his hand towards me, woodenly, as if to shake my hand, then dropped it and moved half way around the table, his arms raising a little as if to give me a hug, then he stopped. "I'm leaving now."
He turned and left.
I took a long breath and said a little prayer. Finished the last of my french fries and checked my phone for messages.
Sitting on the bus, on the way home, the light did that thing where my window was both mirror and window: I could either see my face or the scenery, depending on how I focused. I watched the city pass by. It was a nice neighborhood, very nice actually, and everything through the window was pretty. I looked at my face, and thought about forgiveness. And God. I let my mind drift to those people I had had to forgive. How hard it was. How invested I was in not doing so. I asked myself as I had at so many times, in so many ways over the years, if I believed in God. Really, truly believed. I looked in my heart and rooted around, again asking did I believe that if you prayed for God to heal something inside of you, to bring forgiveness or allow compassion or even permit a kind of loving understanding of what drove people that those prayers could be -- would be -- answered.
I looked back out the window and considered that this is one of the gifts of service; of sponsorship. These clear, quiet moments -- and sometimes they are just moments -- of deep reflection, which then loop back around to compassion for the process our sponsees must go through.
My phone chirped and I looked at my texts.
The Skateboard Pup: Thank U. Don't want to talk now. Give me a few days. Will wait on talking to boss. Will pray about it. All of it.
I hit Reply: Ok.
I looked at my reflection again. The face in the window offered me a quiet smile. Comfortable. Contented.
Full of faith.
There are more essays like this in "Mr. SponsorPants: Adventures in Sobriety and The 12 Steps for AA's and Others." Available as an eBook on Kindle via Amazon. Download the Kindle reader app for free on any device or platform, from PC to Smartphone.
Apologies for the late posting today. Apparently TypePad is recovering from a DDoS hacking attempt which impacted authors' access to our blogs. (I guess this is a thing now, in the 21st Century.) TypePad is all over it though, and no information was lost or compromised.
When I read about -- or someone tells me about -- a "great new study" from X University about some Important Topic my initial reaction is usually something like: "Wow! I'm glad someone is studying that!" followed closely by "Wow! I bet that Study is really long and boring to read!"
Fortunately I can assure you that the link below may reference a Study, but it is neither long nor boring.
Brown University recently completed a study on Mindfulness Meditation, the results of which have been circulating around the news of late. To absolutely no one who studies meditation's surprise, the results add to an already impressive body of concrete, scientific evidence as to its positive effects on a person's health.
The link will take you to a page summarizing the Study, with simple definitions of terms and a few commonly asked questions. Beyond that -- and here is what I was excited to find and share here, and what I will be exploring myself -- are twelve links (including two for phone apps!) that take you to everything from examples to guided exercises.
The 11th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out" does not include the word "or." It does not say "prayer OR meditation" as if you can opt out of one by choosing the other. Yet I know any number of people who give themselves a pass on actively trying to develop a meditation practice. I am certainly not perfect on this myself, but hopefully, if you're stuck for whatever reason, some things at the link below will help you either get started or get back on track.
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
Thank you for your blog. I have read it compulsively since I stumbled over you and it has helped me a lot.
I am [around six months sober] and I am an atheist. And I have a very specific and personal favor to ask you. I am very serious about getting through the 12 Steps. I completely buy the whole Psychic Upheaval idea but not the Spiritual Experience in the way most people in my meetings mean it.
But since I am serious about my Steps I need help with the 3rd Step. I read the email you answered a while ago about making a group your higher power and that made a lot of sense to me. [Surrendering to AA's sober experience and letting that be kind of your higher power.] But even though I don't pray I want something to say when I "do" my 3rd Step. You've written all those prayers and letters to and from God and stuff. Can you please write a non God "prayer" for me to say?
Newly Sober Atheist
Dear Newly Sober Atheist,
First, thank you for all the kind words you said in your email, and I apologize for editing down your heartfelt letter, but I wanted to focus on the crux of your request, with enough context so that it made sense to other readers.
Most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS on your sobriety. If you take working the 12 Steps seriously (as you clearly do), you'll have a strong foundation, experience relief from active alcoholism and have a powerful transformative experience. I have seen it time and again, I know this is true.
In the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" (AA's Big Book) when it discusses the 3rd Step Prayer (and for the new kids, the 3rd Step is: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him") it says very clearly that the wording is quite optional, and that the key factor in taking this step is to really mean it in your heart. And over the years I have found that worrying about if you "really mean something" can drive you crazy - just assume that if you're worried about really meaning it then at some level you probably really mean it. But I respect wanting to take an action to make "taking your 3rd Step" real. So... you asked, and though I feel somewhat inadequate to the task... here goes.
The 3rd Step Prayer for Atheists
(or The Non-Prayer 3rd Step)
I commit myself to a set of principles, for my ongoing sobriety and my growth.
I am now open to accepting whatever life brings me, as I know that through living by AA's principles of love, tolerance, service and sobriety, every day is a chance to do and be better for myself and towards others.
I will continually turn away from self obsession and self involvement, and rather, in a healthy and balanced way, focus on how I can be of service to whomever I meet, wherever I am and however I can.
I affirm that walking this sober path of service will transform what appear to be difficulties into opportunities;
opportunities to help others, to embrace humility and to try to bring a little harmony to my corner of the world. In so doing I demonstrate to others and myself that this is a real and vital commitment, and a way of living which will ensure my sobriety and my ongoing growth out of addiction and into a rich new way of being.
May I live this commitment today and every day.
I hope that is helpful, Newly Sober Atheist. I won't try and sell you on any form of spirituality whatsoever in this email reply, as I know from what you've written that plenty of people are doing that to you and it's really not very helpful. I respect that. Let me offer you three final things:
1. AA says at every point in the literature that it is God/Higher Power as you understand them. Some will say that the 3rd Step is very clearly that you turn your will and life over to God. So, no God, no 3rd Step. I would suggest that if how you understand god is that there isn't one, well, that's how you understand them. I might further suggest you lay that on a couple of the most ardent proselytizers you encounter as a way of getting a little breathing space. Remember, they really are only trying to help, even though from what you wrote it feels a lot more like condescension or a sales pitch.
2. What I wrote above was a lot harder to come up with than I thought. I tried to capture the essence of what we are saying when we make that prayer, but I fear still there may be more focus on self than is healthy for an alcoholic. Many AA's have prayed even though we didn't believe. I have continued to pray through long (long) stretches when I did not have any faith whatsoever, and the act of praying was still helpful to me. The body of your email was so passionate and sincere that I had to offer the above to you, but my strong suggestion -- without sliding into "selling you" on anything -- is that you try prayer anyway, and just table the question of belief for a little while.
3. If that's not palatable, okay. I know you are taking deeply to heart every other suggestion AA makes, so it is not really a question of willingness for you. All I will do in conclusion is echo the idea set out in the Big Book in "Bill's Story," in the "Chapter to the Agnostics," in many of the personal stories in the back of the book and in the Appendix titled "Spiritual Experience" (and in much of what I've written here over the years): We don't know everything there is to know about the world around us. Keep an open mind. There is clearly -- even from a solely scientific perspective, rather than a spiritual one -- far more to the Universe, and thus our existence, than we can perceive with our limited intellects and puny five senses. Maybe reflect on that when considering the Big Questions.
And please, keep coming back. By your own admission you feel better after you leave a meeting than when you walked into it. Keep coming back, don't pick up the first drink, and continue to believe in AA's sober experience as a path to keeping your balance and sobriety through life's ups and downs (and twists, turns, switchbacks and loop-de-loops).
Do that, and if you are capable of being honest with yourself and others, you'll be fine.
I sincerely wish you the best and hope that you have found in this answer something helpful.
Please keep in touch. Regardless of what we call ourselves, believers or agnostics, we are all brothers and sisters in recovery from a deadly disease.
I think about this in relation to Step 7, and how I partner with God (via footwork, I am not passive in any part of my spiritual transformation) to continue to grow and become my best me... ultimately so that I can be of maximum service to whomever I meet.
In other words, begin where you are.
Sometimes in recovery delay can have very serious consequences.
As alcoholics we want the grand gesture, the regal launch, the ceremonial countdown, the press conference, the complete preparation with the guarantee of success before we think we can start -- before we can visualize what starting even looks like.
Working through these things, waiting to make them happen, burns through precious time.
Begin where you are, but begin.
If all you can do is crawl,
One day at a time, if you stay sober you'll be up and dancing eventually.
(Though at first alcoholics tend to complain about the music a bit till they find their rhythm, but that's okay too. It's just a mask for our fear of being judged for how we dance. Stay on the dance floor and that will fall away.)
Bill W. and Dr. Bob were the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill is perhaps slightly better known, but Bob was certainly as instrumental as Bill in helping to set the stage for what has become AA as we know it today.
Regarding the 3rd Step ("Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him") what the Big Book says about this Step (and by extrapolation -- for me -- all prayer) is that "The wording was, of course, quite optional so long as we expressed the idea, voicing it without reservation." And so while I have come to find the 3rd Step Prayer printed in the Big Book to be just about perfect, I think it's well worth reflecting on Bob's more personal version.
I'm particularly fond of the line: "I'm not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow."
On many some days I can only say to that, "Amen, Bob."
I'm sorry about the mess I've made of my life.
I want to turn away from all the wrong things I've ever done and all the wrong things I've ever been. Please forgive me for it all.
know You have the power to change my life and can turn me into a
winner. Thank You, God for getting my attention long enough to interest
me in trying it Your way.
God, please take over the management of
my life and everything about me. I am making this conscious decision to
turn my will and my life over to Your care and am asking You to please
take over all parts of my life.
Please, God, move into my heart.
However You do it is Your business, but make Yourself real inside me
and fill my awful emptiness. Fill me with your love and Holy Spirit and
make me know Your will for me. And now, God, help Yourself to me and
keep on doing it. I'm not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow.
I rejoice that I am now a part of Your people, that my uncertainty is gone forever, and that You now have control of my will and my life. Thank You and I praise Your name. Amen.
Dear Mr. SponsorPants,
I love your blog with its beautiful simplicity, your words of wisdom and your sponsor/sponsee advice. I am close to a year and a half sober, in the fellowship and live in South Africa. I have a sponsor who has a good bit more than two decades of sobriety and I have recently began sponsoring a sponsee. I am also doing active service and redoing my steps. These are some pertinent things happening to me during the week and I feel lost and confused and generally in a rather "grey" space.
1. I began a detailed fourth step (did a glossed over version a year ago) separating my life in seven year segments so that I could go through each with a fine tooth comb. In the process, toxic feelings, pain and despair started to come through. My sponsor had to leave the country for a short while and I feel like I have been deserted (all in my head) during this step. I have increased my meetings, meditation, service and literature work but still feel pretty glum. I invited my higher power into the process. What has helped you when you are deep in grey space?
2. What is the difference between sponsorship and "carrying the message?"
Congratulations on your almost year-and-a-half of sobriety! Each 24 hours sober is a miracle; a reprieve from a shuttered mind stuffed with twisted thinking -- a life driven by obsession and riven by addiction. It is a miracle even on the grey days, and (not to get too far ahead of myself) that's one thing I focus on when I am not at peace.
My first inventory work was what you call "glossed over" as well. That is, I was as searching and thorough as I could be at the time, but I was clumsy with the tools of self examination and still in a bit of a fog. Not to mix my images too broadly but it took me a long time to thaw, and that was not just emotionally, that was mentally as well. So I applaud you for the willingness to go back and use the fine toothed comb approach. Such a foundation will serve you well as life throws what it will at you over the course of the one-day-at-a-times ahead.
Anyone with even a passing familiarity to how the 12 Step world suggests we handle things would have nodded and said to themselves, "good. right. good. good." as you cataloged what you are already doing to address the glum, grey space you feel caught in right now. So I offer you this, to begin with: Keep doing what you are doing! As with any medicine, some treatments require regular application to see a result, and I have found that to be as true for my spiritual malady and my spiritual medicine as it is for any physical illness I may suffer. We often talk about "earning our seat" in AA in reference to the drinking and using and wreckage we created before we got sober, but I often think there is another kind of earning our seat: The purposeful, heroic, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other trudge we sometimes do when we are mired in despair and using AA's suggested tools to walk through it. You cannot fail if you keep close to meetings, continue to be honest, ask for help from your H.P., meditate and lean into service. You cannot fail. It is proven time and again -- simple but not easy, that is true -- but absolutely effective. I offer you this as a supportive hug and a hearty slap on the back across the thousands of miles between us. Keep on keeping on, H. Another part of my answer to you is that basically, I do what you are doing, and while I am doing it I try to remember that my feelings are not facts, they do not define me, I do not have to act on them and eventually, though it may not feel like it at the time, they WILL pass.
But I would also like to offer you something more specific, something more "hand on," across those same miles, in addition to the bit of sincere cheerleading above.
Toxic feelings, pain and despair coming through as a result of looking closely at our past are not uncommon. Even without specifics I deeply understand how that can be. And also, even without specifics I have some thoughts about it -- as I share them please understand I am not saying that all of this applies to you, I am merely offering them as possibilities for you to consider and that may, perhaps, prove helpful during this grey passage.
I think it is always important to remember this point made in the Big Book when the inventory process is discussed: "The world and its people are often quite wrong." The inventory process is in no way an exercise in trying to put a smile on a corpse. Terrible things happen, sometimes to the innocent, and when we detail our resentments, and then try to find our part in them, we may be stymied as to how we might possibly find much of a part for us to have played. So sometimes when doing an inventory we get more enraged and resentful rather than less as we look at how we were wronged and literally cannot find our part because there is not one for us to have had. (Special Note: In the VAST MAJORITY of the time, in my own inventories, I did have a part. This is not about finding a loophole for ourselves.) In such cases, what I find is that there is not a part to have HAD, but there may be a part to have NOW. In other words, my part in the resentment is morbidly hanging onto this wrong from long ago. Be honest with yourself, grieve innocence lost, rage at what is to our mortal perception a deeply unjust Universe, and then... then set it aside. Yes, whatever happened did happen, but there are choices to be made TODAY about what I focus on and how I let my past influence me. I am not talking about ignoring something, I am talking about turning my face to the light, instead of looking always at my wounds, pulling at them and keeping them from healing. Also, as you will discover as you move deeper into being of service, using whatever happened in our past to help another alcoholic transforms our pain into something greater than a wound -- it becomes a way to pass on recovery and in helping others find peace we ourselves find it too.
The main point of the resentment part of the inventory is to determine what our part is in the resentment, which then becomes a catalog of our character defects, which in Steps 6 and 7 I ask God to heal (remove) so that I may be of better service to the people around me. Sometimes my part in the resentment about what happened in the past is that my self obsession prevents me from leaving the past in the past. Denial is not healing, true, but morbid self reflection is not self examination, either. Where the line for each of us is on these things is unique to each situation and to each of us as well. Again, I am throwing out there some things for you to consider, that is all -- they may only partially apply -- or perhaps not at all.
Sometimes the toxicity, rage and despair comes from not being able to forgive those who may have wronged us. Again I look at what the Big Book suggests about these things: That those who wronged us are themselves spiritually sick. We were wounded by the shrapnel of someone else's spiritual land mine exploding under foot. It was not about us -- it was never about us -- and when I work to see others as spiritually sick too I begin to build the foundation for viewing them with a compassionate heart -- and when I can come from that place no suffering from despair can occur. The world and its people are often quite wrong -- and sometimes any feeling of God's Plan is far out of reach. I offer you this, too, if it can be of any help.
Of course sometimes it is crushing guilt which tortures us, and the person we cannot forgive is ourselves. We look at the patterns of our own wrongs, or see the lost opportunities, squandered in the wasteland of our drinking and drug use, and fear we will never have those chances again. And you know what? We may not. If you were a great athelete up to the age of 15 and an illness put you in a wheelchair for ten years and you finally got back on your feet at age 25, you would have lost ten prime years of training and play and you will not get them back. Sometimes my part is wishing for a different path, or a different past. It was what it was and it is what it is. Active alcoholism is about escaping reality. My recovery is about seeing it and accepting it. I raise my head and I act as if I feel better than I do and I turn my focus to helping others and I feel better. Eventually, I heal.
As for the difference between sponsorship and carrying the message, I'm not really sure there is one. A sponsor is carrying the message to a sponsee in some very specific ways, and yet we also carry the message of sobriety to others suffering by the example of our lives, living AA's principles and discovering joy and fellowship we could never have imagined when drinking. It is not my business to know who I may help by carrying the message by being an example -- it is my business to be the example.
I assure you, H., from what I've read of you in your email, you are doing just that.