There is a Difference…

Recently, I had to let go of a sponsor in another fellowship. I didn’t do this lightly, and really searched my soul for why I did so. Over the course of weeks, I prayed, wrote, talked to others, and read. In the end, it all turned out perfectly.

The fact is that I was afraid of the sponsor. Yes, scared. It felt like walking on eggshells. I dreaded asking her questions. She was very nice as a person, but as a sponsor, it was a challenging match. We were working through the steps together and had just begun Step 4, but I knew I wouldn’t feel safe giving her my 5th Step.

Letting Go with Love

I’m glad I finally recognized that this was my issue, not hers. Sponsors are not paid to do service, and they give lovingly from the heart. A sponsor is just another member in recovery. If I have an issue, it is not my place to change someone else. People communicate in different ways and what works for you may not work for me. In the end, I took responsibility for my sensitivities without blame and she graciously said the door was always open to me.

I can respect my own feelings and boundaries. We are told to find someone who has what we want, ask how it was achieved, and follow her direction. But we are also told that we can change sponsors at will.

Self-Examination is Vital

The choice to change sponsor is never one to be taken lightly. I had to examine my motives for moving on. Was it because I was really afraid of the work? Was it because she was pointing out truths I didn’t want to see?

I had to be brutally honest with myself. And I found that I didn’t think that was the case. While I understand that it is principles, not personalities, I believe that there must be a basic feeling of comfort and safety between sponsor and sponsee for the intimate work we do together to be effective.

Through this examination, I was led to the following conclusions.

There is a Difference

There is a difference between being rigorous and rigid. And there is a difference between being firm and being mean.

Rigor Vs. Rigid

Here is an example of the difference between rigor and rigid from my point of view working DA HOW (remember, this is subjective and you may not agree!):

Rigor: I am being a rigorous sponsor by asking sponsees to commit every penny before spending it without exception. I ask that from them because that is what works for me and I don’t ask any less from myself. If someone finds that rigid, then the DA HOW approach may not be the best way for them to work their program.

Rigid: Let’s say a sponsee with a year’s recovery thought he had turned over spending in a category, spent it, went home to find that he had not committed it, and contacted me immediately upon discovering the mistake. Let’s say that up until then, the sponsee was absolutely precise in turning over his spending.

I believe it would be rigid for me to call it a slip rather than a mistake, and make him start back at day one. Yes, in DA HOW, not calling in spending before doing so is technically a slip, yet, I believe intention is part of the issue in determining a slip. And the fact that the sponsee called immediately shows there was no intention of dishonesty. Not being willing to see that difference would be rigidity to me.

Firm Vs. Mean

Now, here is an example of firm vs. mean.

Firm: I am very sensitive about time. I call my sponsor on time and expect my sponsees to do so as well. I sit waiting at the phone for the call and plan my schedule around it. I make it clear that I will not take calls that are more than a few minutes late in order to respect my own boundaries. It is an important way we begin to exhibit humility and courtesy to others (the opposite of self-centeredness), both of which I consider important components of recovery for me.

If a sponsee calls late or misses calls on more than a rare occasion, I will let her know that I cannot sponsor her if she does not respect my time, but I will give her one more chance.

Mean: A new sponsee with one week’s abstinence pays off her credit card debt without committing it first, not realizing that committing all spending includes paying off debt. She delightedly reports this action during our daily call.

I can commend her for her effort, but explain that such a major action needs to be discussed at a PRG to ensure her needs are met before her creditors’. And, I can make sure she is clear that any time money leaves her bank account (or her hand, in the case of cash), she needs to commit it first.

Or, I can berate her for losing her abstinence (as defined in DA HOW) and warn her that I will have to drop her if she does this two more times. From my point of view, the former is firm, the latter is mean.

What do You Think?

I recognize that to those who do not work the HOW format in DA, the expectation of committing all spending before doing so may be perceived as both rigid and mean. But, again, remember what I said up front — that we can only pass on what works for us, and that these designations are highly subjective. That is the point. What is rigid and mean to me may be firm and rigorous to you based on what keeps you in recovery. That is why the choice of a sponsor can be challenging.

What are your examples of rigid vs. rigorous and firm vs. mean? I’d love to hear them.

2 thoughts on “There is a Difference…

  1. Hi, I really like your blog. I´m a DA from Brazil, Rio. We are facing a lot of problems now in our DA groups. We lack literature and people with sobriety.
    I would really like to exchange some words and advice with you.
    Just for today,

  2. Thank you for those clarifications as it answers many questions I have about the sponsor/sponsee relationship. I am struggling with this issue right now and am hoping to resolve it by asking and getting ESH from anyone on this topic.

    One thing I am wondering is that is it also the sponsor’s responsibility to be available for the daily call and be on time? Repeatedly, like a few times a week, my sponsor asks me to wait or call a different time or call back 5 or 10 minutes later…or she just forgets. Overall, I think she is a good sponsor but am not sure how to approach her on this. Any ideas?
    Thank you!

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