Enjoying life on two-way street of sponsorship
Sponsorship is a foundation of 12-Step recovery programs, and this weekend, I experienced the blessings that come with both having one and being one.
The Wife and I recently bought our first house, and while we don’t have a large accumulation of material things, we’ve amassed quite a collection of stuff over our five-plus years together. It wouldn’t seem to be a big deal to most a 950-square-foot home into a more spacious dwelling, but it never ceases to amaze me how much “stuff” we store away in every available nook and cranny of the places we live.
Fortunately, my sponsor stepped up and provided much-needed packing material, and when moving day arrived on Saturday, three of the guys I’ve been honored to sponsor showed up at 10 a.m., ready and willing to help load and unload furniture, boxes and odds and ends galore. We hustled and moved two 20-foot box truckloads in half a day, laughing and cutting up and taking the time to talk about the program that binds us together.
When sponsorship was first introduced, its goal was to provide those new to sobriety a mentor, someone who had experience, strength and hope to share navigating the sometimes confusing and baffling new way of life that awaits those who first walk through the door. To this day, a sponsor’s primary purpose is to guide his or her charges through the 12 Steps, to offer suggestions (not advice) on applying those Steps to everyday problems and to share the experience and wisdom that comes from working our own programs.
The general guidelines in the program I attend is for men to sponsor men and women to sponsor women, for a sponsor to have at least a year clean and have a working knowledge of the 12 Steps, and for that individual to have a sponsor themselves. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but over the years it’s been proven that they’re the most effective means of passing the gift of sobriety and recovery forward to newcomers.
We often say that a sponsor isn’t a banker or a taxi driver or a psychologist; many sponsors see their role as a guide through the Steps and eschew developing close personal friendships with their charges. A sponsor’s part in a newcomer’s recovery is not to help with material development but with spiritual growth. Friendship isn’t a requirement, but my experience is that it’s a by-product that comes with time.
I’ve sponsored Jeremy for eight years; Nelson, more than two; Abraham, almost two. They’re not the only guys who have asked me to sponsor them, and I’m blessed by the fact that all of my guys are solid. They’re good men who take seriously the promises of recovery: That an addict, any addict, can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use and find a new way to live. They’ve worked hard to achieve those promises, and they continue to put in the work necessary to improve not only their lives, but the lives of others.
And they’ve become some of the truest friends I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t hesitate to call any one of them, at any time of the day or night, with a problem or to ask for help, and I know they would stop what they’re doing and rush to my aid. And vice-versa. They define what it means to be a good person and a good man, and while they thank me daily for being there for them, I also thank them: For their loyalty, for their love and for their inspiration.
Because sponsorship is a two-way street. This isn’t “The Karate Kid,” where I’m in the role of Mr. Miyagi, teaching them to wax on and wax off. I’m just a guy with a little more time who apparently has something valuable to share, and that’s profoundly humbling. I give all credit to my Higher Power, and thank him regularly for these relationships.
I’ve never had one like them. The “friends” I had when I was using drugs were in name only; if I had no money, no drugs and nothing of value to the person with whom I was getting high, they were nowhere to be found.
These guys are an integral part of my journey. I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and this weekend, I was reminded of how vital they are to my recovery and my life.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.