Over the many years I've been in Al-Anon, I have rarely changed sponsors, and apart from one other time, the changes have been a result of my having moved to a new city. This time, I decided to get a new sponsor when I went to see my sponsor and told her that the cancer had returned. I was in tears and very upset. She first told me that it was God's will, and then to "look on the bright side."
To say I was astounded, wouldn't be stretching the truth. I was gobsmacked. I don't happen to believe that our Higher Power is the agent of our sufferings - I believe our HP is there as comfort and support and encouragement during those times, but I don't think certain people get singled out for cancer, or any other disease. I think that it's genetics, and the randomness of nature. And, look on the bright side? What exactly is the bright side of cancer having returned?
I was not happy with her response, but apart from ducking a few of her phone calls, I hadn't quite decided what to do about it. Then at the last meeting of our home group, which my sponsor chaired, after we'd all gone around on the topic, she asked us to go around once more and talk about "what we could do to cheer ourselves up for the rest of the week." When it came to me, I passed.
She wouldn't accept my passing, and began asking me "What about such-and-such? Wouldn't that cheer you up? What about this? What about that?" I was stunned, because never in 29 years of Al-Anon meetings have I seen a chairperson refuse to allow a member to pass, or begin hounding them like that for an answer.
I managed to say again that I had nothing to say, thank you, and she finally went on to the next person, but I was livid.
I shot out of the room the moment the meeting was finished, and to my great gratitude, Robert was early, waiting there in the car to pick me up, lovely wonderful man that he is. I talked to him about it, and then yesterday, I talked to someone else who is a long-timer in program, without breaking my sponsor's anonymity, but explaining what had happened, and how I'd felt.
Through speaking with her, it dawned on me, that all along, since the first cancer diagnosis, I'd been feeling like my sponsor wasn't validating or acknowledging my feelings of pain, anger and sorrow. I don't know if she can't handle my feelings about it, or perhaps her own, but whatever the reason, her behavior has become less acceptable to me as time has passed, and I've been trying to deal with it.
Talking to my friend yesterday, I understood that with major surgery coming up in only 12 days, I do not need the hassle and stress of a sponsor who will not accept or validate my feelings. I need support, love and encouragement. So I told my old sponsor last night that I was going to look for a new sponsor, then called a woman I respect and enjoy and asked if she would sponsor me. She was warm and receptive and agreed happily. We meet next Wednesday for coffee, and I'm looking forward to it.
I'm not angry with my old sponsor, I think she was doing the best she could. As with so many of us, if we know better, we can do better.
In a while, I will be walking down to the finish line of the 10k run/walk in which Robert is entered with some friends for the walk. I want to be there to cheer him on when he comes across the finish line. He has been cheering me on the whole way of my struggle with cancer, and I feel blessed and grateful for him.
I want to thank all of you who have been supporting and encouraging me with your comments and emails. It means so much.