24 Hour Helpline   510-839-8900 English       510-502-8560 Espanol      Helplines are staffed 24/7 by A.A. member volunteers who have solved their drinking problem.

Alcoholism Recovery Program

by Bill M.

When is it ok to fire your sponsor? We all hear in meetings about sponsors who relapse or compromise anonymity or fail to return phone calls. Those are “bye-bye” no-brainers. But what about the more squishy “We’ve grown apart” types of reasons where there is no glaring “fault”? Or when your beliefs clash, and there is no common ground in that arena?

And what do you do when it happens to you?

Ostensibly, a sponsor is just a fellow drunk and a guide through the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In practice, anchored by our primary purpose, and blessed with trust, that relationship often grows deeper and more personal. So, isn’t it reasonable to think that as both sponsor and sponsee grow and change, there might be divergence, and eventually valid reasons, to end that relationship? Sure, but when is that point reached? How do we know?

During an election year a few years back, I realized my sponsor and I had “grown” toward different ideologies. We butted heads a couple of times and finally he asked if I wanted to move on. I said “No” (but was thinking “Yes”) and had no idea what to do. He suggested we apply some spiritual principles to the situation and see where it led us. We looked at: acceptance, honesty, humility, selflessness, willingness, tolerance and “contempt prior to investigation”. 

As a result of applying these spiritual principles, we were able to find a path that led us (back) to respect and understanding. We still vote differently, but it doesn’t get in the way of our working together.

As far as being on the receiving end, when it happened to me, it was halfway expected, but when it came it was still a shot to my ego. After working together into Step 11, a sponsee cancelled our next meeting and would not commit to any of the other times I offered. Sharing it with my sponsor, he said, “Don’t chase, let him come to you.” 

I followed my sponsor’s advice. I kept quiet and waited.  Some months later, my sponsee came to me and politely and calmly fired me, saying he was moving on to a new sponsor because I wasn’t “available enough.” After the initial sting, I thanked him for the integrity and courage he showed in calling and congratulated him for being responsible for his own recovery.

Yes, I can envision a situation where it makes sense to change sponsors for “no-fault” reasons or because that sponsor doesn’t have what I want anymore. Before I make that move, though, I will have to be completely satisfied in two areas: first, that I have held the situation up to the light of spiritual principles, and second, that I truly see, and accept, that some thing or some idea has become more important to my sobriety than continuing together.

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.