When you walked into your very first meeting of recovery, was it plain to you what needed to be done in order to stay sober? Most people walk in and think the 12 steps are gibberish posted on the walls, hear nothing of what was shared, and simply want to get out as fast as they can their first few times.
We hear the same things over and over in meetings, if you want to stay sober, you have to get a sponsor, work the 12 steps, and go to meetings. If we try to live a sober life without any of these three components, chances are, we won’t last very long.
The first on that list of To Do’s is to find a sponsor. It doesn’t matter if you get one because you want to or because your house manager or treatment center forces you to, the point is that you need one.
First, You Don’t have ANY idea how to stay sober
If you did, you wouldn’t be sitting where you are right now. Plain and simple. Thousands, if not millions of us, come into these rooms, thinking we just need to figure out how to control our drinking and using. The lucky ones come in knowing they are screwed. We have tried to control our drinking and using hundreds of different ways, and all of them landed us here.
So how is a sponsor going to teach you how to stay sober?
- They will take you through the 12 steps
- They will introduce you to the principles of recovery
- They will (hopefully) teach you how to behave in the rooms (get off your cell phone and don’t war story)
- They will hold your hand as tough stuff comes up in your life
- They will provide you with an alternative perspective
- They will remind you to get out of your own head through helping someone else
This is only a short list, but you get the idea. On our own, especially in the beginning, we are raw nerves, irritated by everyone and anything that gets in our way. If we are left to our own devices, we stay sick and we go back out.
However, when we have a sponsor who has time sober, has worked the 12 steps, has experienced life on life’s terms, and continues to enjoy sobriety, we can be shown that a better way to live is actually a possibility, even if we don’t yet think it is for us.
Second, you don’t have any idea how to work the steps
Not sure about you, but the first time I tried to read through the Big Book, I couldn’t absorb any of it, and it felt like I was reading a book for school. I didn’t know what a lot of the words meant, I couldn’t relate to Bill, and I would never have been able to process The Doctor’s Opinion without someone explaining every point to me.
It is a wonderful thing that I eventually found a sponsor who had a passion for the literature, in-depth knowledge of the 12 steps, and enough patience to walk me through it all, line by line. I was finally taught how to relate with Bill, I now understand and can teach my sponsees what the words mean, and I am well aware that I have an obsession of the mind and an allergy of the body.
None of this would have ever been possible without a sponsor sitting me down and explaining all of this to me. It can seem pretty tedious to meet once a week and read a book with someone. However, these weekly meetings were the stepping stones to what became the first real deep and intimate personal relationship I had had in years.
Third, you don’t have any idea how to get involved in the fellowship
Left to my own devices, I would isolate constantly, not have any commitments to meetings, and I definitely wouldn’t reach out when I was struggling or if I knew someone else was. It just wasn’t the way that I knew.
Again, thanks to good sponsorship, I was “strongly urged” to get involved. So I picked up the easiest commitment I could and hated it in the beginning. I hated that I had to be there, and in the beginning, I felt like people were only talking to me out of pity.
By the time my three months was up making coffee, I actually felt sad that it was done! I had made so many friends, I was excited to be there every Tuesday and Thursday, and I actually looked forward to seeing the same old people every time.
As alcoholics and addicts, our M. O. is to look after ourselves – no matter what. When we get sober, it can be a challenge to create that shift in our mentality, and to be honest, having a sponsor give us a good kick in the pants is usually what we need in order to do so.
Picking a Sponsor
People are going to tell you not to worry about who you pick to be your sponsor, that they just read a book with you. Well, you know what I say to that?! Get outta here. Your sponsor should be a person whose sobriety you admire – someone who has their ish together, enjoys their life and takes pride in the program. Here are a few requirements that I think are a pretty good and easy starting point:
- This person has had a spiritual experience as a result of working the steps (ASK them if they have)
- This person works with a sponsor of their own
- This person is an active member of the fellowship you work
- This person has the time to read with you
Simple as that. It doesn’t matter what kind of car they drive or which watch or purse they have. What matters is that they have overcome the obsession to drink and get high through working the 12 steps of recovery. If you find yourself a sponsor who has managed that feat, you are going to be just fine.