Thursday, April 14, 2011

"I Feel Like My Sponsor Judges Me."

"My sponsor moved, so I had to find a new one. I thought I'd picked well, but when I try to talk to this person to "reason things out" I feel like I'm being hurried along, and I feel like my sponsor judges me for still having problems, when I'm not a newcomer."

Choosing, and working with, a sponsor, is an important part of recovery in Al-Anon. It's vital that we feel accepted as we are right this minute, with no judgement of how we should be/could be/might be/ought to be, or any variation thereof.

I, too, have been in this same position, of having chosen as a sponsor, someone with whom I was not a good "fit." I'd call my sponsor, try to talk about whatever it was that was on my mind, and either receive the same pat answer every time, which wasn't at all helpful to me, or, (as the person writing to me does,) I'd feel judged and found wanting, in some subtle, unspoken way.

CAUTION: I'm going to make one of those blanket statements we aren't supposed to make in Al-Anon. Make of it what you will, it is purely my opinion, and, as my grandfather used to snort dismissively, when exposed to "Free!" offers, "worth what you paid for it." Ready? Ok, here we go:

If you feel judged by your sponsor, you need a different sponsor.

Perhaps I feel strongly about this, as a result of having experienced it myself, and in hindsight, understanding how this negatively affected my ability to work an honest program. Because I felt judged and found wanting, I began to edit my ideas and feelings when I talked to this person, so as to appear more "recovered" and "healthy." Only problem was, those weren't my true ideas and feelings, so I was pretending to be someone I wasn't, in my encounters with her.

I presented her with a facade, rather than the real me. This caused me to slowly begin to feel distanced from Al-Anon. My co-dependent thinking began to assure me that if my sponsor judged me, and she was supposed to be the most forgiving and accepting person in my program, then so must everyone else in my meeting, and my feelings of safety and comfort in the program began to seep away. I still attended meetings, but I talked less and less, because I was fearful of being judged, and instead of listening to what was being shared at meetings, I was caught up in trying to decide who liked me, and who didn't, what they must think of me from what I'd already shared up to that point, yada yada yada.

I had worked myself around to quite a state of misery, by the time I received an invitation to dinner, from a woman in my home group. I went, and we chatted about this and that over the meal. As we relaxed in her livingroom after dinner, one of those natural pauses in the conversation was ended by her looking over at me, and saying in that crisp British voice, "Ok, kiddo, what's really up with you? And don't give me any of that "fine, fine" crap!"

To my horror and shame, I burst into tears. (I'm still not comfortable crying in front of other people, but back then, it was excruciating.) In the time it took us to drink one cup of coffee, I spilled my guts. I then sat and listened, while she gave me a short version of what she was struggling with at that very point in her life, and as she'd been in program for a long time, I listened carefully. I was astounded to discover that she wasn't perfectly serene, that she still had ups and downs and sideways jaunts, and that she was willing to admit to them.

We talked and talked and talked, and when the evening drew to a close, and we were hugging goodbye at the door, I mustered all of my nerve and asked her to sponsor me. She agreed, and I think of her as my "first" sponsor, because she's the first person with whom I truly began to work the program, and learn to live my life differently - with serenity and wisdom, and great lashings of humour.

She held my feet to the fire countless times, because she was a woman who understood human nature, and she knew that if she didn't, I'd weasle my way out through some loophole, and continue with my misery unabated. When we were first starting out, I took offense at what she said many times, but even so, never, never, did I feel as though she judged me. She was always willing and able to share with me, how her character defects operated in her own life - she didn't present herself as all cured, looking down on me, the lowly beginner.  She made a point of letting me know that in Al-Anon, we are all equals. Period. No experts.

Even as I'd be driving home feeling offended at some question she'd asked, on another level, the portion of my spirit that craved recovery, kept me going back to her, with my best attempt to answer her honestly. She helped set me on the path of honest self-examination, and for that, I will always be deeply grateful.


  1. I appreciate this post about sponsorship. I sometimes hang up after speaking to my sponsor wondering who is sponsoring whom? Just for today I am serene.

  2. I know that at some point I will need another sponsor when mine moves out of state. I will still call him but also will need one where I am geographically. Good stuff to ponder.

  3. Thanks for this post. I am thinking about parting with my sponsor and it is good to know that others have gone through what I am going through.

  4. So glad I found this little gem!

    It took me several years and several false starts before finding the right woman I could come completely clean with. She gently opened up a little bit about herself and some of her kooky behavior, and then I'd find myself sharing some similar tidbit about myself. It was a lovely interchange that inevitably ended up with great big belly laughs at ourselves and our delusions of perfection and control. Such a massive relief!

    She reminded me of how we are ALWAYS doing the best that we can with what we have, and how useless guilt is. She was big on "Into Action" and service work. She taught me about consciously checking my ego at the door, which I had blown up and learned to use to hide my deepest insecurities. Yeah, she saw right through my facades because she had used them too!

    When I was ready to get totally REAL about how my mind operated, it was invaluable to clear out all of my cobwebs with someone who was just like me. Trying to get real. Trying to get better. :)

  5. Oh my goodness! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this! I, too, had been in Alanon a while and needed a new sponsor and waited over a year to ask a woman who not only had become the GR of our group but had started patronizing my business. I mistakenly judged (or ignored) some pretty big signs my higher power was trying to show me about where her growth was and strangely enough, learned the biggest lesson of my life. See, I'd always been worried about being judged about this one part of my life. I shared this with her and it was immediately an issue for her. I was judged and found guilty and told I needed to change or she couldn't be my sponsor. 4 sponsors before her had been alright until her. Well, there it was, my worst fear and guess what? I lived through it and came out with the original person I was supposed to be with, just like you. I am so grateful for this program and though I can't get to meetings right now, I use this blog and Alanon online and I'm doing really well. Thanks!