Saturday, April 17, 2010


This week I was approached to ask if I'd "take phone calls" by an Al-Anon member. I happily agreed. This is a vital aspect of my recovery - service to others. Because I'm new to this city, I don't yet have any sponsees here, and I've missed the time spent listening and learning. I enjoy offering, with no obligation, what has worked so well for me. The more I give it away, the more solidly it lives within me.

I know that for me to feel truly happy and satisfied in my life, I need to feel useful. Fufilling my own needs is all very well and good, but if there is no service in my life, I begin to feel rather hollow and adrift. In my search for meaning after I stopped working, and through working the program, this became apparent: I have a strong desire to help, and I need to satisfy that desire, in order to feel balanced.

It's that desire to help which drove so much of my co-dependent behavior and thinking, so I know what happens when I don't find a healthy outlet for it - chaos, confusion, and attempts to control.

Isn't this what so much of Al-Anon is about? Finding healthy ways to satisfy those innate traits of our character, which, if ignored or dismissed, will run amok?

From Hope for Today, page 101:

"The God of my understanding wants me for my availability as well as for my abilities."

When I was first approached to sponsor someone, many years ago, I was terrified that I wouldn't do it "correctly." That fear led me to reflect and respond with far less assertion than I might otherwise have done, and that made me much more approachable, less judgemental, and a softer, warmer sponsor. I found my way by letting the sponsee find hers, and we learned and grew together. I'm not a directive sponsor - I'd never tell someone what action to take, or what choices to make. I am, however, the Al-Anon equivalent of what an AA friend calls "a Big-Book pounder." I talk program. I offer my insights for whatever they are worth, and let the sponsee assign whatever importance or value they may or may not have for their own lives.

I may tell them "Emotion is a drunk driver, don't let it get behind the wheel of your life," or "Stopping to think is never a bad thing if acting on impulse is your usual behavior" or any of the other phrases which were offered to me, and have been so useful, but I never tell someone what to do in their daily life. I see very clearly that this is not my place, and I don't want the responsibility, if it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

As a sponsor, I know I have been maddening in my refusal to tell sponsees what they "should do" - I had a sponsee once who, after working with me for a while, flatly told me that I was useless to her, because I wouldn't give her "life directions." I agreed that no, I certainly wouldn't, and hoped she could find someone more helpful to her.

When it comes to specific problems, I ask open-ended questions, and my sponsees find the answers in their own replies. We often already know what to do, we just need to hear ourselves say it aloud.

Sponsorship keeps me grounded, and keeps me humble - with my ego always in the wings, looking for an opportunity to strut onto the stage and take over, that is a very good thing.


  1. I love that way of thinking about service. I learned early in my program that I couldn't help my alcoholic. As much as I wanted to, and as hard as I tried, it was never going to be me who reached her. So instead, I can help the friends and families of alcoholics. The ones who ask for my help. It was what I could do about the problem of alcoholism and addiction. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Service keeps me from self-pity, depression and isolation. It saved my life. I'll never forget my first service position. I was told that the group needed someone to organize the literature and could I help. That first step opened up a new world for me. You sound like an awesome sponsor!


  3. Like you, I don't want to direct another's life. I offer what I know and if they choose to follow that then great. Some are willing and others find their own way.