My husband asked me once, as I was putting down my phone after a long conversation, “How many women do you sponsor? Isn’t it a big burden?”
I laughed and told him, “Honey, you don’t understand. This is a team effort. It takes a lot of sober women to keep me sober!”
My own sponsor didn’t have a rigid format for working the steps. When I was ready for the next one, she was available, even though she had a full-time job and was taking care of her mother, who was seriously ill. If I needed a deadline, for example, to finish my Fourth Step, she gave me a deadline. When I called her, she called me back. We went to the same home group, a Big Book meeting. After a few years, we started going out to dinner together and she introduced me to her sponsor and then the three of us started going out to dinner together, and showing up for each other at chip meetings. Before long, I was sharing more of my life with my sponsor and eventually we became like sisters.
I imagined myself in a coffee shop surrounded by admiring, newly-sober women
Being a sponsor is not what I thought it would be when I first got sober. I imagined myself in a coffee shop surrounded by admiring newly sober women, with them listening to my every pronouncement, maybe even taking notes. We would read the Big Book together, go to meetings. They would ask my advice on how to make their lives better.
For my first eight years of sobriety I didn’t have a single sponsee. No one wanted what I had. A sober friend consoled me when I whined to him about it: “Your Higher Power probably doesn’t want you to have any sponsees yet because you are a screaming co-dependent.”
Unfortunately, he was right. Early in sobriety, I was dragging people to meetings when they didn’t want to go, sometimes when they were drunk. My first sponsee was passed along to me by her first choice, a woman with terrific sobriety who was on the verge of moving to Arizona. “How about Kathleen?” the first sponsor asked.
So the hand-me-down sponsee and I started working together. She was an inspiration. She and her husband gathered an AA crew around them. They all went to meetings together, got chips together and celebrated sober birthdays with dinners together. My program up to then had been very solitary and she showed me what fun an AA social life could be. She moved too, to Nevada, but we stayed in touch by phone and e-mail and eventually my sponsor and I took a road trip to visit her for a conference.
Being a sponsor is not what I thought it would be
What happens now is I call my sponsees and they call me when we are feeling restless, irritable and discontent and need an attitude adjustment. We go to meetings together and chat in coffeehouses, for sure, but it is usually about mundane topics like men, money, work or children. Once in a while, we do get around to talking about the solution in AA. Which of course is spiritual and has nothing to do with the problem.
I try to pass along what my sponsor communicated to me, in the years we have been working together. Mostly I try to live my life as a decent sober human being who insists on enjoying life. My sponsor didn’t tell me how to be a good AA; she showed me how to be a good AA. That’s what I try to do for my own sponsees.