Monday, May 11, 2009




One of the gifts of Alcoholics Anonymous, is the 'system' of sponsorship in place. It is voluntary for both the sponsor and the one being sponsored. That seems to work. If one does not use a sponsor and gets drunk, she/he probably was supposed to do that in order to be able to surrender, to become willing to accept a few spiritual principles.

There is a practice (in one of my home groups) where the chairperson announces to a gathering of 150-200 AA members, "Whoever is willing to be a sponsor, raise your hands, and keep them raised". I have been sponsoring men for many years. I do not need to be asked if I am "willing". I've never met someone in AA who is NOT willing.

If nobody answers the call (to raise hands), the group is asked to come on, be good AA's, etc., to the point of embarrassing those who might be qualified, but who do not believe in that process.

This "picking a sponsor out of a sea of hands in the air" takes away initiative we might be trying to transfuse to the new person: in early sobriety, she or he has but ONE choice--other than to drink, or not--which is theirs alone to make. "Who shall I ask to help me?" It has always worked well this way. Sort of like "Let God have a hand in this...please."

Long-time sober peeps might know what I'm talking about. They will also know these are only MY opinions. More-or-less "assigning" an unknown person to be a sponsor reduces even further the new person's capability to later "...make a decision." It also deletes a bit of the fun of wondering "Who" I should ask. The new person might seek advice from some who "looks and sounds OK". They will seldom be misled.

So let us PLEASE allow the new person to find their OWN first sponsor? (It worked for me!) Let them try, maybe make a bad choice, and try again, and make another poor choice, try again--and stay sober the whole time they are doing this.

I'm not used to "ranting" so I have one more rant (a better one!) for tomorrow night--tonight's is just practice!

I am grateful to be allowed to rant, to be allowed to be wrong, to be allowed to keep coming back (although I never have had to do that--yet!), to be allowed to love you all NMW, and to be allowed to stay sober NMW, thanks to you and my God!

Peace, and LOVE,
Steve E


Mary Christine said...

My home group has on the phone list - three asterisks *** if you are willing to be a temporary sponsor. WTF? My name has never had asterisks behind it. If someone wants me to sponsor them, they can walk up to me and ask me. I don't need to advertise.

Another group I attend does the raising hands thing. I keep them firmly at my side. I think it is silly.

Anonymous said...

Nighty night Steve. Read you tomorrow!

Ed G. said...

My home group has a beginners meeting (~30-40 people - usually ~10 newcomers) that asks folks to raise their hands if they're willing to sponsor and asks folks to raise their hands if they're looking for a sponsor.
I'm seldom in that meeting at that time - it's just better for all of us that way...

vicariousrising said...

I'm of a few minds of this. When I was in early sobriety, I was kind of terrified to approach anyone, so it was easiest to approach someone who was basically saying, "yes, I have time and willingness to take on someone new." Someone who has no knowledge of AA has no idea of how accepting and kind people in AA can be. Nor can all newbies be alright if they approach someone to sponsor them, and that person says "no." It has happened, and the newbie can feel pretty rejected and shitty after that.

On the other hand, people shouldn't feel guilted into raising their hand in sponsorship. And, I don't believe I would now or perhaps ever be a good sponsor. However, I would be more than happy to help any newcomer walking in the door to the best of my ability. Or anyone else who is struggling with alcohol -- I'd be glad to help.

Looking forward to your next rant, Rant O Roni! {{{Hugs}}}

Shadow said...

gotta let of steam. else your lid may pop.

Dammy said...

People tend to learn better from their mistakes but who says one can't learn to avoid those mistakes.

Whichever way works for you, as long as the desired change is achieved, JUST DO IT! (Caps intended)

Thanks for sharing and thanks for stopping by my blog.

P:S- Wish I could play the violin! I need to stop wishing and start acting! Oh, I got you...now it's a possibility (smiling).

Hope you are good?

Joe said...

As a newbie to meetings, I suppose that I could see a benefit to the hand raising exercise (I have not experienced it yet), but I see your point. Thanks for a thought provoking rant.

Kathy Lynne said...

I understand the reasoning and I think you are mostly right, but when I was brand spanking new (I'm still relatively new:), I felt like WTF..I'm really effed up, how am I (in bold) supposed to know who to ask to be a sponser let alone have the courage to ask someone. Let alone even know what a sponser was. I knew I was supposed to have one because I heard about it but I had no idea what that meant. So I personally was grateful for those hands. It gave me that extra push to ask someone to do it and then find out what exactly it was.

That said, I asked someone who raised their hand and she had no idea what and who I was and I had no idea what and who she was. In fact her first piece of advice to me was to get off the computer...away from the very people who had sent me to AA! I tried calling her and we just didn't connect and I never saw her at a meeting again. Thankfully I found someone else...I don't remember if she raised her hand or not..she was someone I knew from "before AA", that person you fear running into when you first start coming (the person in real life that knows you from the outside).

So yes, I see your reasoning, but I also remember the confusion and fear I felt at the whole issue getting a sponser. And I think about the beginnings of AA. Did they wait for the newcomer to ask for help or did they present the program and then see if the newcomer was willing? I suppose we've evolved from approaching people since we have meetings now but seems to me there is nothing wrong with giving the newcomer an extra opportunity to use the program.

I know, when you were my age you walked 10 miles in the snow, barefoot, to get to school:0!

love you Steve, xo

chubskulit said...

Wish my father could have done that... he was an alcoholic too and died because of it..

told you, i would come back hehehe.. added u in my list, hope u can add me here too!

Steve E. said...

Kehty-Lynne...it was twelve miles in the sleet and snow, no gloves, no coat. The log-cabin one-room school had no heat.

Befor going to school--and after, I had to milk 50 cows, feed them and shovel their...oh well, you get the picture...Here's a shovel--for picking up this comment!

THANK YOU everyone, for your REALLY thoughtful comments. I LOVE it, reading your ideas.

Prayer Girl said...

I wonder if God knows that connecting sponsor and sponsee with the raising of a hand is such a bad idea......

"Just sayin...."

Prayer Girl

Lou said...

Often in AlAnon people will say "I need to get a sponsor" and then their voice trails off.
I sometimes wonder if I should offer up my services, but then I think..if you are the kind of person who can't ask, maybe we are not right for each other.
Know what I mean, Steve-0-?

Gabriella Moonlight said...

Sponsoring for me is not self promotion, if you like what I say then ask me...if not, then don't.
I made a mistake the first sponsor choice, but I learned and I grew and I stayed sober through the transition of another sponsor, it all worked out...

Read you tomorrow.

Syd said...

I see this both ways: a newcomer who doesn't have a clue about the program or how to get a sponsor. And the long-timers who know that it's attraction not promotion. I would err on the side of the newcomer and reach out my hand, rather than sit on them.

Pam said...

This comes up in my group conscious all the time because one of the groups where we meet does this.
I personally don't like it because I can not raise my hand when I am full of sponsees then people think I don't sponsor. And I'm always full. If someone asks me in person then I may know "hey I've got someone on the 11th step and I can start with you in a week-but call me every day until then".
I don't know...I guess it works well for some groups, but it does not for me.

Findon said...

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Any idea that allows anyone to show willingness in a room where we all come when we've run out of will is good work.

Our group conscience at my first homegroup just decided to add if you are seeking a sponsor please raise your hand (to the "if you're willing to be a sponsor) so that people who are looking for a sponsor can be recognized as well so people will make a point of speaking to them if they are willing to raise their hand but unsure of approaching others.

God works in many and mysterious ways :)

Hannah said...

I agree God works in mysterious way:-)