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by Bill M.

As sponsors, we all want to work with sponsees who are willing and committed, however, that’s often not the case. We alcoholics are rebellious, ego-driven and fearful people who may or may not have received the “gift of desperation” that opens the door to willingness. As a chronic early relapser, my heart aches with frustration for those who want what we have, but just can’t seem to put the plug in the jug. How much is too much? How long is too long? When do we throw in the sponsorial towel?

And what about the sponsee who is dry but knows a better way to work the program, or who doesn’t feel the need to do all (or any) of the steps?  The Foreword to the First Edition of the Big Book states, “To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book.” The best I can do as a sponsor is to keep bringing a sponsee back to the Big Book and showing them the way to recovery as practiced by the alcoholics who came before me.

When I was stuck in the AA “revolving door,” struggling to stay sober, trying to work the program my way, and picking up lots of 24-hour chips, an old timer suggested, “If your program isn’t working, why don’t you try ours?” The AA program is the solution and it’s my responsibility to help a sponsee begin to see that as “home.”

Yet, despite our best efforts and caring sincerity as sponsors, we may still find ourselves scratching our heads over that sponsee who went out again, or the one who sees no need to do steps 3, 4, 5 or 9. We get to a point where we find ourselves asking, “Am I helping this person or holding them back from recovery? By not cutting them loose, have I become an enabler?”

Before I had my last drink I was fired by two sponsors. At the time it didn’t faze me, because after all, I could still drink. I guess that’s the point: I wasn’t ready, wasn’t willing to go to any length, and they could see it plainly. But they did show me that sobriety is precious, and it is critical that we spend our energies helping those who want to be helped.

In Chapter 7 of the Big Book, Working With Others, it says “We find it a waste of time to keep chasing a man who cannot or will not work with you…To  spend too much time on any one situation is to deny some other alcoholic an opportunity to live and be happy.” So maybe the question I should be asking is, “Am I spending my time and spiritual energies where they can do the most good for others?” Ours is a program for those who want it, not those who need it.

Bill M.’s Home Group is BYOBook, 9 am, Saturdays, at Faith Lutheran Church in Castro Valley. Hybrid Meeting – Zoom Code is 871-0897-4652. Passcode is 110619.