Yes, I’ll be Your Sponsor

By Pat N.

Today, after the meeting, you asked me to be your sponsor, and I said “yes”.

You deserve to know what I meant by that, and you need to know what I’ll ask of you.

First, I know I may be the umpteenth guy you have asked, and you’re getting desperate, because a court worker or counselor is hounding you to get a sponsor. That’s a good lesson in humility for me – a reminder that I’m nobody special. But I’m choosing to believe that something I said made you think I might be helpful in these early days of recovery. In that case, I’m still humbled, because I know too well that I still have to work at wellness, although on different issues, all these years later. It’s probably now a lot easier for me than for you, but we’re on the same road to completeness together.  I’m just a fellow-traveler of whom you asked the way.

Here’s what I believe about sponsorship:

  • I can’t get or keep you sober. Only you can do that, with the help of other AA people, maybe with professionals, and with other folks in your life. You will always have control of your sobriety, and I respect that. I’ll do what I can, and you are always free to “fire” me.

  • My job is not to be your best friend, your boss, your clergyman, your counselor, your treasurer, your nurse, your attorney, or your doctor. You and I are not a new family. My job is to share what works for me in being sober, and to help you find what works for you and the way you’ll get and stay sober.

  • I am not religious. Although we hear a lot of religious talk in AA, you won’t hear it from me. At the same time, I respect whatever religious beliefs that are yours. The only goal is to get and stay sober. Whatever works.

  • We don’t have to be AA clones. I hope you go to more meetings than I do, but I want you to go to at least one of the meetings I attend, so that we’re sure to spend time together. I hope you will make other friendships within AA, and that you will go to some of the special conferences, roundups, picnics, dances, etc., that many AA people enjoy. I did that a lot in my early days, and it helped me to interact with sober people in different settings. And I hope you will feel free to get involved with groups outside AA that help you – things like NA, SMART Recovery, religious groups, hobby groups, fitness programs, etc. Any of those might make your sobriety easier and more rewarding.

  • I believe a person needs a set of steps or guidelines to live a sober life – a set of beliefs and/or practices that help you get and stay sober. For many people, these have been the traditional 12 Steps of AA. I respect that, but they are not for me, largely because there’s so much religion in them. I have my own set of principles that guide me (below), and I change their wording sometimes so they make more sense to me. Right now, there are 14 of them, and I believe they include all the objectives of the traditional 12 Steps, plus some other things as well that I think are important for my sobriety. I want you to read both sets of principles/steps, or any others you choose or compose, and we will go over them to help you think about what your plan should include.

Let’s meet once a week to talk about how things are going in your life. I will answer the phone or respond to an email any time you want to talk about anything, whether routine or emergency. You are the one who will live your life, so I can’t and won’t tell you what you have to do.

My understanding of the two basic principles of recovery are: don’t take the first drink or other mind-altering drugs, and connect with others in recovery by going to meetings.

My Principles

  1. I do not consume alcohol or any other non-prescribed mind-altering drug, since I have abundant evidence that I cannot do so safely.

  2. I stick with the winners – people who think and act the way I want to think and act.

  3. I stay in the Now. Past and Future only exist in imagination. I can plan and remember, but I only exist Now.

  4. I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  5. I seek whatever help I need.

  6. I work to change some of my thoughts, feelings, and actions because they can harm me and/or others; I work to increase the thoughts, feelings, and actions which help me toward greater serenity and service to others.

  7. When I have harmed anyone, including myself, by something I did or didn’t do, I make amends, directly if possible, as quickly as possible.

  8. I help others, especially other addicts and their loved ones.

  9. I forgive those, including myself, who have harmed me.

  10. I choose to express or not express my beliefs, and to responsibly choose my own actions; I accept the consequences; and I respect the same right for others.

  11. I continue to learn all I can about the Universe, especially as it pertains to being a whole, sober, loving, and useful person.

  12. I respect people with different histories, perceptions, beliefs, and values than mine, since I want mine respected.

  13. I try to consistently express gratitude, joy, and humility.

  14. I hold and act on these beliefs: the basic energy of the universe is love; all is well; there is nothing to fear; we are all in this together; all the children are everyone’s children. We all do the best we can with what we know at the moment, and it’s never perfect.

Last updated by Pat on January 28, 2020.

Pat N., a 40-year AA member, born in Montana, raised in Washington DC, and a longtime resident of Olympia, WA, is a retired school counselor. He has spent part of retirement as a national disaster volunteer with the Red Cross, and with his wife, as a housesitter and petsitter in Europe, Canada, and the USA. He was on the teams that started two secular AA meetings in Olympia, and of the team which held one of the very first secular AA regional conferences in Olympia in January, 2016. He has been privileged to attend 20-some secular AA meetings in 4 countries, has helped lead AA meetings in state prisons, and is about to resume AA jail work. He is also learning to play the autoharp (awkwardly).

For more information about sponsorship, here are two articles posted on AA Agnostica: Sponsorship in AA by Thomas B and Service and Sponsorship by Steve V.


14 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Sounds good to me.

  2. Daran N. says:

    Thank you, Pat! Solid, sane, and practical. I will refer to this often, appreciate you sharing this.

  3. Ralph B. says:

    Look forward to seeing you in May.

  4. Lance B. says:

    Great lead in picture as well as article. I notice it’s two left hands of different colors and sexes. And I love 14. Seems like I’ve always been trying to simplify and shorten for no good reason. 14 is much better than 12 or 7, ain’t it?

    Yeah, this is a great and useful article. One more to get printed out and then neglected due to all the other great ideas at our Sunday morning meeting in Montana – which is far, far away from most of you guys. Look it up on the meeting schedule on Secular AA website.

    Thanks, Pat.

  5. CathyM says:

    Well done.

    And from what I read above – I’ll get to meet you in May too (Langley, BC), the Pacific Northwest Secular AA conference May 16, 2020.

  6. Daniel says:

    Many thanks for a wonderful article. For me the single most important tool in AA is sponsorship, first to have a sponsor and second to be a sponsor.

    I was in terrible shape when I arrived in AA in the 80`s and it was suggested I get a sponsor and I did in the first month. It only took a few sit downs with him and I found out all about what was an open meeting, a closed meeting, a service meeting. It was explained to me how a monthly business meeting worked and a yearly group inventory was of help to new people. I found out about the language spoken here and the solution to my thinking problem. The most important thing I found out was that we are on a path here and the sponsor has been down the path and can tell us where the path is difficult and swampy. The most important thing about a sponsor for me is that he knows where the path comes out, he has taken the steps.

    I have sponsored for many years, and there is a saying in AA if you sponsor people you will not need a mirror. My sponsees bring to me the solutions to many of my problems.

  7. Bethany says:

    Thank you for your kind, nurturing and supportive approach to sponsorship, Pat. Your principles are so inspiring!

  8. Jabu says:

    Great insight Pat! Thank you very much. How I identify so much with your opinions! Great article. Jabu K – South Africa

  9. John B. says:

    Pat: When I finished reading your “principles” two things came to mind. None of us have to leave our minds at the door and fall into lockstep behind Mr. Wilson’s ideas concerning what sobriety is all about, and they also remind me of many of the ideas in the American Humanist Manifesto which I re-read every once in awhile just to remind myself of what life is really all about. Wonderful piece of thought – thank you.

  10. Jeanine B says:

    I appreciate letting new sponsees know what we expect and how we sponsor. As you said, I’m not a therapist or a friend, but rather a guide and a support. Thank you.

  11. Gord A says:

    Spot on. I agree with everything you’ve written here Pat.

    Come and visit us in Nelson at our Broad Highway Secular Group of AA. I think Lance has already.

    Gord A.

  12. Ann H. says:

    Great article Pat. I really miss the Wednesday meeting. Stay well!

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