I love sponsoring others in 12 Step recovery, as it’s very rewarding spiritually, but at times it can also be extremely draining, especially when a sponsee indirectly or directly blames me for their own issues, baggage, and addiction itself.
Just over a month ago now, I had a former sponsee tell me they didn’t want to call me every day to check in, which is one of my requirements. They had over 13 years of sobriety from another program, but very little sober time in the one I was working with them in. They felt it was beneath them to check in each day because of how long they’ve remained sober in their other program. After talking with them at length though about this, the real root wasn’t about me at all, it was about them not wanting to do the work in the 12 Step program I was sponsoring them in anymore and them feeling they could handle their addiction on their own.
And just recently, I had another sponsee infer that the work I was doing with them and the traditional 12 Step recovery method itself was the very thing leading them into one relapse after another. What they failed to see was that before I even started the work with them, they were in a chronic relapse pattern over and over again for years, which was very evident a few days after stopping the work with me when they had another relapse. Here again, the problem wasn’t in my style of sponsoring, nor was it with the 12 Step program either, it was that they just didn’t want to do the work necessary to remain clean and sober.
The fact is, addicts are notorious for believing they can handle their addiction on their own, especially after getting some sober time under their belt. It’s a false assumption that’s often made, specifically when a sponsee begins to grow weary of the amount of work involved in the 12 Step process. And when that starts to happen, it’s typically their ego that often drives them to attack the very person trying to help them, in this case the sponsor, solely to allow them to be back on their own. Why would one’s ego want that? Because if there is no sponsor or 12 Step recovery program guiding them, it becomes very easy to allow the smallest of circumstances to guide them straight back into their addiction without anyone or anything to help keep it in check.
How many times I’ve had sponsees attack my style of sponsoring or the 12 Step method itself is countless at this point over the 14 years I’ve been doing this type of work with others. Hell, I even did this myself during my previous 12 years of sobriety prior to that with all the sponsors I had during that time. Nevertheless, it’s always the same reason why this happens. It’s because addicts are addicts and addicts don’t like facing the pain of themselves and their disease, which is precisely what sponsors and the 12 Step process does. It makes an addict face themselves, the very thing their addiction causes them to run from like I did during the first 12 years of my sobriety where I just became a dry drunk.
I have a lot of sadness for any sponsee who attacks my style of sponsorship or the 12 Step process because most tend to disappear after doing so and ultimately end up reengaging in their disease not too long after with very few ever returning. Those who do are usually quite apologetic, realizing how sick their mind and ego actually was. Having succumbed myself to so many addictions throughout my life, I know addiction behavior all too well and how my ego always is trying to lead me back into it. That’s why I have a sponsor and a sober support network. It’s why I’m still going to meetings all these years later in both of my recovery programs. And it’s why I remain very active in sponsoring others and volunteering.
Because the last thing I want is to start believing the problem is in my sponsor, a 12 Step program, the meetings I go to, or anything else that’s outside of me. The problem is within me, always was and always will be. Addiction is not out there, it’s in us. It’s never anyone or anything else’s fault. It never was and never will be. Believing anything otherwise will only give power to our addiction itself and that’s something I absolutely don’t want to ever do again…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson