I woke up grumpy and pessimistic this morning. I walked into the living room, sat in the recliner, and gave myself at least a dozen justifiable (okay, somewhat justifiable) reasons for not starting a healthier routine today.
I sipped my water, smoked my vape, and commenced brooding. And then suddenly, amidst the clamor of excuses to be a slug today, the thinnest, annoying little voice whispered, If you just do it, it’ll be done, ya’ big dummy. And you’ll probably feel better for it.
Begrudgingly I pulled on my pajama pants, turned on Zelinda from The Yoga Room, and started her seven day challenge for beginners. After just twenty-six minutes of practice I felt better. I ate a yogurt afterwards, started that load of laundry I’ve been putting off, and got showered and dressed for the day.
Then I checked my phone, and called (not texted, called) a friend who said she was feeling a little blue… and by the end of our conversation, she didn’t sound quite as sorrowful as when she answered, and (bonus!) my own spirits were lifted.
I found myself frustrated, however, by one of the reasons for my dear friend’s sadness… members of AA. And here’s the thing, folks: AA should not be a source of dissatisfaction in one’s life.
Often, when I hear folks speak about problems in the program, one issue resurfaces again and again: sponsorship.
Sponsorship is a challenge. It means different things to different folks. It’s misunderstood by some, and gets abused and/or misused by others.
Sponsors are not priests, clerics, clinical therapists, nor financiers. Sponsors are not fairy godmothers (or godfathers) that can wave a wand and fix all your problems for you. And sponsors are not your mother (or father).
As I mentioned before, the word “sponsor” doesn’t even appear in the program portion of the Big Book. All that is truly required to work your program is a close-mouthed friend to call on when step work (of life) gets challenging.
I further advise women to create a network of people they can call, because my experience and/or suggested solution to a problem may not always be the one they need. (The proverbial “It takes a village…” perspective.)
There should never be a hierarchy between sponsors and those they guide through step work. (i.e. If you’ve become a housemaid, chauffer, or laundry attendant for your sponsor, something has gone terribly awry.) All a sponsor should do is guide other members through step work — and the daily challenges of life — by sharing their own experience of having (hopefully) done the same.
If you expect your sponsor to listen to hours of “poor me” lamenting, or to confirm that you are in fact a victim of the cruel outside world, then you aren’t really looking for sponsorship. You’re looking for someone to co-sign your bullsh*t, and all that indicates (to me) is that you may not be ready to get yourself straight.
Sadly, this is where a lot of folks are when they enter the rooms. They cling to the delusion that their problems are of someone else’s making, and therefore, only someone else can solve them.
News flash: Bad things happen. People can be cruel. And I have yet to meet a fellow female in the program who has not been a victim of sexual abuse. But as a sponsor, I don’t have the expertise to walk someone through trauma or grief recovery. That’s what mental health care professionals are for.
And don’t leave with the impression that I don’t care about what you’ve gone through in this life. I absolutely care! But I can only share — and then keep — that which I freely give away… and if I spend all my time feeling burdened by events I am not qualified to walk through, both parties suffer for it.
I end up grouchy and resentful, and the person on the other end of the line hasn’t been offered the help they truly need. Thus, the cycle repeats. Leaving each of us emotionally and physically exhausted.
That’s not how AA should leave you feeling. The fourth and the fifth step can be tough (and daunting)… but if you’re working with someone who has done the work themselves, it can be easier to understand, gentler to approach, and I promise… there is nothing so terrible it can’t be faced.
AA is a simple program. It requires only two things: self-reflection and taking responsibility.
It’s work, people. Challenging work? Yes, but well worth the reward. Ultimately, it is the reconstruction of one’s self.
So. If you aren’t ready to pull yourself from the desolate mire of thought that fuels that desire to be rid (restless, irritable and discontent) of self, then… Don’t. Call. Me.
I cannot afford to return to the twisted, snarling vines that choke the alcoholic in their lonely mental swamps. I have absolutely no desire to do so… and I hope to help others feel the same. That is the power of program.
“We absolutely insist on enjoying life!”