How To Tell Whether Or Not A Sponsee Wants A Life Of Sobriety AND Recovery…

There are many things a sponsor in recovery learns pretty quickly when helping another newcomer in the program to find their 12 Step footing. One such thing are all the indicators as to whether the newcomer actually wants to do the work or not to stay on the path of sobriety and recovery.

Having sponsored many individuals over the years, I’ve come to identify those indicators pretty quickly when a sponsee isn’t really interested in learning what I have to teach with the 12 Steps. The very first indicator is one my first sponsor in recovery taught me and it deals with making daily phone calls.

One of her requirements with all her sponsees was to call her every day to check-in. Those calls were simply to let her know whether we had any triggers that day, made any meetings, and needed any help. She used to tell us that if we couldn’t take 2 minutes out of our day to contact her, then we weren’t thinking about our sobriety and recovery at all on those days we forgot. I worked diligently to never forget that and probably missed only a few days over the year and a half I worked with her. That’s why I now use this sponsorship tool for each of my sponsees and have noticed that when one starts to miss multiple days here and there, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they aren’t going to continue the step work with me and often end up in a relapse not too long after that.

Another strong indicator I have is the meeting attendance factor. It’s very important for newcomers to attend more than just a meeting or two each week, as on some level, it becomes part of their recovery medicine. Being amongst fellow addicts who are trying to do the right thing by attending meetings really does help to stay sober, mostly because they aren’t attempting to go it alone, something that addicts always do when active in their disease. My personal rule of thumb for those I work with in recovery is to attend at least 3 or 4 meetings a week. When I start seeing sponsees drop their meetings down to only one or two with excuses as to why they can’t get to more, it too is pretty much a guarantee that they aren’t going to continue the step work with me and often end up in a relapse not too long after that.

A few other indicators I’ve come to learn along the way as to whether a sponsee wants a healthy sober and recovering life include whether they keep up with the homework assignments I give them and how thorough they are, whether they begin picking up or engaging more heavily in substitute addictions, whether they start placing a higher priority on relationship seeking or dating, and lastly, and maybe even most importantly of all, whether they are praying on a daily basis to connect with their Higher Power.

There are plenty of other indicators as to whether a sponsee wants a life of sobriety and recovery or not and most sponsors will come to know them the longer they work with individuals in the 12 Steps. While sponsorship can be very fulfilling and rewarding, it also can be quite disheartening, especially when those signs begin to surface in a sponsee that are strongly indicating they don’t want to do the work anymore.

Case in point, I recently began working with a new sponsee who was gung ho the first few weeks with me as their sponsor, doing everything I asked and keeping up with all my guidelines as a sponsor. But when circumstances in their life suddenly changed giving them more freedom that wasn’t going to be dictated by the courts anymore, the calls to me started to be forgotten about, meetings weren’t attended, and homework wasn’t getting done. It’s been about a week now since I’ve spoken with them and sad to say, if they haven’t relapsed already, it’s probably just a matter of time.

In the end, the saying I’ve found that becomes most relevant through all these indicators again and again is how important it ultimately is for sponsees, or anyone living a life of sobriety for that matter, is to build their life around their recovery and not to build their recovery around their life, as anything placed in front of their recovery is bound to be lost…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Addiction is Addiction is Addiction!

The more I stick around in recovery from addiction, the more I’ve come to realize that addiction is addiction is addiction, no matter what the addiction.

The patterns are always the same. There’s a reliance on whatever the substance of the addiction is where one is usually up when they are engaging in their addiction and down when they aren’t. There’s a self-denial the addiction even exists with plenty of rationalizations that they’ve got everything under control. There’s the lies to cover up the engagement in the addiction where eventually they even believe their lies to be the truth. There’s the anger and irritability that comes from self-loathing of living in the addiction. There’s the pointing of fingers of other’s addictions and problems to create smoke and mirrors and shift the focus off of them. There’s the lack of integrity, reliability, and a life full of excuses and laziness. And there’s a general level of hopelessness and desperation underlying it all.

Having lived in so many addictions for the majority of my life, I see it so clearly now and sometimes it’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I’m often reminded of what addiction once did to me and a curse because I know there’s nothing I can do to help anyone living in an addiction until they clearly see it for themselves and want to do something about it.

Lately, I’ve had this struggle with my partner whose cup of poison when it comes to addiction is overeating. While he does work a program of recovery, I see where the addiction keeps trying to whither its way back into him. With each pound he gains back, I desperately try to grasp control of the situation at times by pointing out all the signs that his addiction is attempting to regain a firm hold upon his life. Unfortunately, it never goes over well at all and is always met with frustration and anger on both parts. I should know better than to do this behavior, because the harsh reality I’m always reminded of, especially this year, is that until the pain is great enough for a person who’s giving into an addiction, no matter what the addiction, that no amount of help offered will ever be welcomed until the pain is great enough for them to want it.

Frankly, I’ve been fearful lately of my partner gaining all the weight back that he lost over the years and returning to a state of mind and body that he was miserable with years ago. There have been times that his words and actions have reminded me of all those who came before him that said they weren’t worried about their addiction and had it under control, only to see them die a short time later. My mother, my father, multiple sponsees, friends, the list is endless of how an ego so easily convinces a person that their addiction is necessary for survival and eventually takes them to their death because of it.

Yet, I’m also reminded quite often in fact, that I’m still sober and that indeed is the biggest blessing that comes from seeing that addiction is addiction is addiction. While it’s not fun seeing a life torn apart from any addiction or seeing them hurt the others around them who love them or seeing the deception and the lies, and so on, I’m grateful to see it all nonetheless, to remember why I don’t want to ever go back to a life governed by a false god that came in the evil form of some type of addiction.

In the end, all I can do is trust that my Higher Power needs to remain in charge of me so that I may continue seeing addiction is addiction is addiction, in ALL it’s ugly forms. Doing so will be the only way my eyes can remain fully open to all the ways addiction attempts to rule a person’s life, as well as keeping me ever vigilant to a disease that far too often has taken good people living in sickened minds and bodies from this plane of existence, all because they couldn’t quite let go and let God take the reins…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

When You Miss Your Sister’s Surprise 50th Because Of Someone Else’s Resentments…

I missed my sister’s surprise 50th birthday celebration this year, not because I didn’t want to go, and not because I couldn’t go, but because my sister’s husband’s judgements, anger, and negativity of me prevented it from happening.

It’s no secret that he doesn’t like me much. After many years of me living a full life of recovery from my former addiction-fueled existence, he still can’t seem to see me beyond the mess I once was, when selfish addiction behaviors ruled my life. Instead of fully forgiving me for my past and seeing all the recovery work I’ve done to become a better person, he tends to still see me as a selfish addict, even though his own family has forgiven me and seen all the positive changes I’ve made to become a far more selfless person. It’s this very reason that led to the cancellation of my trip to surprise my sister for her 50th birthday.

Unfortunately, for someone who sees me in such a negative and judgmental light, it’s been next to impossible to prove to him I’ve changed, as was evident during the planning of this surprise birthday weekend. It began one Sunday afternoon when I received an email from him that said he was planning some surprises for her 50th and that he had booked a flight for me as part of the surprise using a combination of his money and frequent flyer miles. What he didn’t ask though was whether those dates and times actually worked for me, as I do have a life and health issues to consider whenever I’m making any sort of plans, especially to travel somewhere and on such short notice (two weeks out). Instead, he told me the flight was set and not changeable and only required of me to send him my full name and birth date to finalize the ticket. Ironically, I found out later that the other person he flew in, my sister’s best friend, didn’t receive the same treatment and instead was asked whether the flight date and times worked for her.

Nevertheless, when I called the airline later that night and asked if my flight was indeed not changeable, they said I actually could modify it and all I needed was to pay the difference if the switch made the flight more expensive. So, I modified the flight and ended up having a slight increase in price, which I paid for myself, that ultimately allowed for two things. One, transportation to and from the airport, as the previous flight times didn’t allow for that. And two, to arrive the evening before, so that I could take care of my health and do my normal spiritual routines the next morning to be more present mind, body, and soul for my sister.

Sadly, after notifying my sister’s husband of my changes, he cancelled my flight, told me not to come, and said I was selfish, even though none of my changes would have affected his plans, nor had I asked him to accommodate me any differently. When I booked my own flight after that, using none of his funds or miles, it only led to him becoming even more angry when he found out. He told me in a very unsettling phone call that I wasn’t welcomed in his house again, and that he’d be filled with so much animosity if I chose to still show up on my sister’s surprise 50th birthday weekend that she wouldn’t have a good time. That call ended with him hanging up on me in the midst of me attempting to work through the situation.

I’ve spent my whole life caving into bullies just like this, but I stood my ground and emailed him to say I was still coming, as this was about my sister and not him. That only led to him ruining my part of the surprise two days before my flight was leaving, as he told her I was coming and convinced her they would be busy until the end of the weekend. Because of this, she asked me to cancel and reschedule to a future date where she could spend more time with me. I did my best to suggest he wasn’t telling the truth and that there was more going on beyond what he was saying on her birthday weekend. Unfortunately, she became overwhelmed and said she couldn’t handle the anxiety this was causing her, and asked again for me to reschedule to a future date, of which I did, solely because I know my presence at that point would only have led to his animosity of me hurting her even more.

While I very much struggled with sadness throughout her 50th birthday weekend because it triggered some old childhood issues, I struggled more with sadness knowing how much my sister didn’t have the birthday weekend she originally asked for and deserved. Regrettably, she’s still living in the same pattern we both did with our mother, someone who controlled our very existence, who limited our ability to be ourselves, and rarely saw us in the love and light we deserved.

Regardless, while there’s a good chance my sister’s husband may never accept me with the unconditional love and light of Christ like my sister and my nephews do, I will continue to pray that one day he still might, where he no longer allows anger, resentments, judgments, and control to dominate his life and hurt others in the process.

As for me, I decided to set a boundary and not spend time around him anymore. I realized how unhealthy it is for me and my sister. And although I’ve forgiven him for this and all the pain he’s brought upon my life, I won’t allow myself to be treated again in the way he has, the same way I used to allow myself to be treated by my Mom and so many others.

And as for my sister, I want you to know how much I love you and wish I could have spent your surprise 50th birthday weekend with you, but I understand why I couldn’t. One day I’m convinced you will find your inner voice to stand up for what you truly need, for what you truly want, and for what you truly deserve…including having any birthday exactly as you wish, and seeing your brother whenever you want as well.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson