In February of 2013, after having had the same sponsor for 16 years, I decided it was time to find a new sponsor.
It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with that sponsor I’d had for such a long time, it was simply that I had changed and needed something different. I was at a point in my recovery that I needed something different than what he was able to give me. I had become fairly complacent in my relationship with my sponsor at that time and allowed (for myself) the relationship to be one of friendship more than sponsorship. I was at a point where I needed accountability because I had gotten somewhat lazy.
I was sitting in my then home group (in Forest Hills Queens, NY) and one night, this man who I’d never seen before in my home group spoke up and shared on the reading we had just read out of a piece of A.A. literature. I hadn’t noticed him up to that point, but when he started speaking, I noticed him and the words coming out of his mouth. I noticed an “authority” that was coming out of his mouth. I noticed the authenticity that was coming out of his mouth. I noticed a truth that was coming out of his mouth…. and over the coming weeks and months I started paying attention.
He kept showing up each week to my home group and every time he spoke, I listened intently because he seemed to be sharing an experience, strength, and hope about a recovery program that was the kind of recovery program I had been longing for. He shared simple things in profound ways.
About two months after I started seeing him and hearing him in my home group, one of my sponsees and I attended another group’s meeting and it was a speaker meeting. The woman who was the speaker from Philadelphia, PA spoke mainly about where she was in her program at that point and how after 9 years of having the same sponsor, it was time for her to get a new one. I left that meeting and when my sponsee and I got on the bus to head back to our neighborhood, when we sat down, the first words out of my mouth were, “I want to ask Chris D. to be my sponsor.” My sponsee said, “You got his number – call him.” So, in that moment I did.
I called him and asked him and he immediately said yes and gave me my first assignment. I was to call that sponsor I’d had for 16 years, let him know that I was transitioning to another sponsor and thank him for all he did for me while we worked together. DONE!
Chris told me from the very beginning of us working together (or, this is what I remember him telling me) that I could expect two things from him as a sponsor:
1.) “I will teach you how to take the 12 Steps the way I was taught so that you can go out there and teach others.”
That was important because I’d told him in our call that while I had been taken through the Steps with other sponsors, I wanted him to take me through them again at 22 years sober and learn how HE was taught to take the Steps and so I could learn what HE learned. The part he focused on was the part, “…so that I could go out and teach others.” He said something to me that I had never heard anyone say up to that point in my recovery (and haven’t heard anyone say since), “I sort of think of myself as a sponsor factory. My job when working with a guy is to make sure he takes the Steps and has a spiritual experience so that he can then go out and do the same with another man.” I absolutely loved that. In very plain and simple terms, that statement told me that his job as a sponsor is to create new sponsors through a complete understanding of the Steps and through a willingness to honor Step 12 so that new guy can go out and give it away.
2.) “I will hold you accountable to spiritual principles.”
This was so perfect for me because at that point in my recovery, I was not being held accountable to spiritual principles by anybody, a sponsor, my A.A. network, ANYBODY. It was exactly what I was craving at that point and he was more than ready to do it. That was exciting to me because I knew that having someone I respected making sure I was living a life that embodied the kind of personality change available to me through a spiritual experience was what I needed and wanted.
This idea of me being a “sponsor factory” was so simple and put an exclamation point on an idea that we all know but sometimes don’t look at it that way, I loved it. In the now 10 years that Chris and I have been working together, he never TELLS me what to do (well, one time he did, but he really needed to because I was a hot mess). He offers, through his own experience, very strong suggestions but always leaves it up to me as to what action I am going to take. He will always ensure that I do follow up and take action, but he never says I HAVE to do something, he just offers a suggestion and encourages me to pray about it and take action (which exemplifies his understanding of his own powerlessness over my alcoholism). As a result of the fact that A.A. and God have given me a conscience today (which by the way is something I never bargained for), I now do the same thing with those I sponsor.
I do feel today like my job is very simple: Create – New – Sponsors.
I am grateful beyond measure to Chris for all he has done in the time we’e been working together if for no other reason that I have a clear and adequate guideline on what my role as a sponsor is…. to help another member of A.A. that I am working with to take the Steps themselves, have a spiritual experience, and to go out and give that away for fun and for free.
Thank You Chris! I love ya brother.
In love and service,