Sponsorship: A Primer

                                       by Scottie H. (AARF Blaze)

It's among the first instructions given when joining the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. "Get a sponsor." "Do you have a sponsor?" "Have you found a sponsor yet?" "So what about it, did you get a sponsor?" What is a sponsor and why do I have to have one? And why won't these people stop bugging me about it? These and other frequently unasked questions will be answered, or at least satirized, here in the "Sponsorship Primer." There are several approaches to obtaining a sponsor. There's the unsolicited announcement while sharing in a meeting during the first 90 days that goes "Oh and by the way, I need a sponsor, so if anyone's interested, see me after the meeting." This has been tried many times, and rarely works. But at least it's an effort you can bemoan as having failed when people ask, "So, do you have a sponsor yet?" Then there's the "decoy" sponsor. This can work for or against you. A decoy is a random choice of a sponsor made by the newcomer in haste, indecision, and most especially the desire not to answer the question "So do you have a sponsor yet?" with anything but "You betcha." This can work for you if you've selected someone only days or weeks more clean and sober than yourself. You can probably remain uncomfortable in self-will as long as you want. However, if in your hasty selection you've chosen a well-seasoned, no-nonsense, time-on-his/her-side-type sponsor, well, I'm sorry. You'll have to let go absolutely, pretty darn quick.

Why do we need a sponsor? Well, we need a sponsor to stare us down in meetings when it appears we've fallen short of manners by getting up too many times for coffee -- or have lost our senses by actually having the audacity to share in our first 30 to 90 days.

We need a sponsor to tell us everything we've been thinking up until we finally decided to pick up the phone essentially stinks. And, of course, we need a sponsor to walk us through the steps. The 12 steps. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Yeah, those black and red words on those yellowed posters on the wall.

A word about the steps: It's been heard in many AA meetings that we work the steps, in order, to the best of our ability, in our own time. I'm here to say that if you have a sponsor with any sort of recovery -- hence, knowledge of your proclivity toward self-delusion and procrastination -- that is a complete lie. You will work those steps just as soon as your sponsor tells you to.

Frequently asked questions

"Do I really have to call my sponsor every day?" No. You only have to call your sponsor today.

"What does my sponsor mean when he/she says, 'Call me before you take that first drink'?"  If you call your sponsor drunk during Seinfeld or ER, you're not going to get a lot of sympathy. No, the time to call in an emergency is before you take that first drink.

"Do I really have to take all the direction given by my sponsor?" No. By all means, pick and choose, answer shop. Besides, didn't your very best thinking get you here?"

Get a sponsor. Walk up to the person in the meeting that makes you sit up and listen (or maybe the one that makes you resentful and angry) and ask, "Will you be my sponsor?"

A word to the rest of you: don't say no.