Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Do I Have To Offer?

In Al-Anon, a sponsor can be of invaluable help. For those of us who start out with firmly closed minds and determined ideas, a sponsor can, with a combination of direct speaking, humour and encouragement, create a safe enough environment that we can begin to step out from behind our social mask of "Oh, fine thank you!" to reveal the true feelings we carry. These may include rage, fear, frustration, loneliness, or despair that we will ever attain the serenity about which we hear so much.

When I was first asked to sponsor someone, I was terrified; I couldn't see what on earth she thought I had to give. I still often felt like I was barely managing to maintain my newfound serenity. When I asked her, a long time later, it turned out that she liked my ability to laugh. She felt as though she'd lost her sense of humour completely, and she wanted it back more than anything else she could imagine; she wanted to be able to howl with laughter. This member felt that she'd evolved into a dry and serious woman who could barely muster a fake chuckle, and she wanted to be able to laugh until her eyes were wet, and her stomach muscles hurt. She remembered laughing like that in childhood, and early adulthood, before her marriage to an alcoholic. The constant financial problems, other stresses, strains and heartbreak, had slowly eroded her ability to find humour in everyday life.

When I hear those who have a strong program declare that they don't sponsor, because they don't belive they've got anything to give to a sponsee, I will sometimes tell them this story. Perhaps they have the idea that they need to be deeply involved in Al-Anon, with many years of experience, and lofty things to share at meetings, before they will be of value as a sponsor. For me, it was my ability to see the humour in the small things we observe, the silly choices we can make, the ironies of our behavior, that were attractive to my first sponsee. She wanted to hang out with someone who laughed often, in the hopes that she'd be able to regain her sense of humour, and she did. We used to have long involved philosophical discussions punctuated by helpless laughing fits. She told me many times over the years that it was my ability to laugh at my own craziness which made it possible for her to loosen her iron grip on her self-control, and let go of her desire to be perfect.

So please, don't refuse to sponsor because you don't think you've got anything to offer - what you have in abundance, may be just what another member so desperately needs.


  1. So thankful for all you've had to offer me in this blog. I never got to comment when I read of your good prognosis last week, but I am so thankful to God. You will be even more amazing because of what you are going through. Al-Anon is such a gift, and I'm glad for all the people who helped open my "firmly closed mind."

  2. A fellow that I sponsor was talking to me about laughter and humor just this morning. He agreed that recovery is joyful and there is a need to be filled with that joy manifested in laughter. I have liked what the alcoholics say about not being a glum lot. Exactly!

  3. I was asked this morning to sponsor someone for the first time. Your comments are exactly what I'm feeling, "what does she think I have to offer"? Thank you for writing this!