Day 225: Why We Need Sponsors

You’ve read it here before. I was never hot on the idea of having a sponsor.

Whether it’s my independent nature, need to rebel, or my extremely opinionated view of my own life an behavior, I just never thought that anyone could help me out more than I could help myself.

It’s one thing that I still really struggle with: Taking advice. I always know better in my own head. And, even though I’ve turned my life and will over to my higher power, I still have battle clashes with the humans in my life. I can take a hint from God, but, another layperson? No thanks. I got it.

Well, today I got a pretty humbling lesson. One where I realized that my ideas, while they may not be completely off the tracks, are not always the best ideas. Nor are my ideas the route to the best solution to my problems. I learned today, perhaps from sheer distress, that sometimes we need a little help. And, sometimes help doesn’t feel good. Sometimes help looks and feels like judgement, superiority, elitism, and you just want to shout that it’s all completely misguided. But, that’s just my alcoholism making me feel that way. Most of the time help, is well, just help.

I met my sponsor for our weekly session and debriefing. I unloaded about all my stress around booking and taking a trip to Ireland. And, I really hesitated to tell her all this, because frankly, I thought she would shut me down, and that was something I did not want to hear. But, after considering and considering it all again, I realized I could draw no conclusions myself. I needed help. And, I knew that if I asked my sponsor for help, she would give it to me. I also knew that there was a possibility that I was going to hear the thing that I didn’t want to hear. So, before telling her I had to accept that. I also had to accept the fact that, I might not agree with her, and I might go against what she said, and, that too would be OK. But, no matter what the outcome, I knew that if I kept it bottled up inside myself for much longer, nothing good was going to come of it.

So, I told my sponsor my idea. My trip. I told her all the risks and roadblocks. I told her all the meaning and significance it would have for me. I told her I was confident in my sobriety. That, I’d already looked up AA meetings in Ireland, and I was prepared for the event of, perhaps, needing a meeting abroad. I made myself sound ready as ready could be, but, there was the feeling that something was holding me back. What should I do? What’s stopping me? Should I just do it? Bust out and break free, no reservations, caution thrown to the wind?

My sponsor stared at me blankly, as she often does, almost entertained by my level of excitement and panic. And, much to my surprise, she didn’t shut me down. But, she didn’t advise me to throw caution to the wind either. She noted that my anxiety was really a type that came from a compassionate place. I was worried about what the important people in my life would think and feel about this. On some level, I was worried that they would shut me down. And, in this moment of freedom and bravery, where I want to take a trip for myself, and by myself, in sobriety, the last thing I wanted was to be shut down. And, that was why it’d been so hard to confront these people, my parents and my boyfriend. I was worried what they’d think of me. I was worried that they wouldn’t give me “permission.”

My sponsor put it rather bluntly. So much so that at first it sounded harsh. But, as I digested it, it made me fee better and more confident. She said, “You can take a trip if you want to take a trip and you’re able to take a trip. But, just because you do it alone and don’t ask for permission doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect anybody. It does. You don’t need their permission, but, it might help you all to know what you think and feel about the situation. Talk about it. Don’t have any expectations. And, don’t expect to hear what you want to hear. You all get your say, and you all still get to make your own decisions. So, have that conversation. And talk to your parents and Lars like they are just regular people, no your family and your significant other. Just hear their feelings. You may be on the same page after all.”

As I drove back to my apartment from our meeting at Starbucks, I let all that sink in. And, suddenly, it seemed really simple. This subject that I’d been putting off the whole week. All these concerns, expectations, and self-judgments festering, and it was so fucking simple. I just had to have an honest conversation. One where I say what I think, feel, and want, and then, I get to hear what you think, feel, and want. Then, we go from there. Easy. Nothing to predict or expect. A conversation. Something that seems so simple to the outside world, yet, inside the head of an alcoholic becomes a jumbled mess of active field mines, set to detonate at any given moment.

So, I went home and I Facetimed my parents. I told them everything that was going on and what I was thinking and feeling about the whole situation. And, what do you know, they couldn’t have been more awesome about it. And, I think that was in part because, they felt good that I asked. I asked what they thought and felt, I didn’t just give myself permission without all the information I needed. Not only did they understand me, but, they were in more support of my trip than I could have imagined.

My conversation with Lars went in a similar fashion. He was able to share his concerns, most were about, of course, my recovery. But, after certain assurances from me, he seemed satisfied, and he’s been rooting for me and my trip like a little, metal head cheerleader ever since.

So, as it turns out, I got what I was hoping for, and for far less trouble than I was anticipating. But, bigger than that development, is my new understanding of sponsorship. It was the first time that I felt really helpless in front of my sponsor. And sure, it wasn’t over alcohol, but, it was behavior that was built up with that alcoholic mindset. That practice of avoiding until the pain is just too great. And, as much as I didn’t want to take her advice. As hard as it seemed to me to take those actions. I didn’t know what else to do. And, so, I did what she said, and, it worked out.

I know that not every piece of advice will get you to the finish line. I know, for sure, that I will continue to disagree with my sponsor and think I am the wiser one. But, as of today, I can say that she saved my butt. And, she showed me that we don’t have to do it alone. We aren’t helpless in the world if we have people in our life whio guide us. And, sometimes, the solution is one that you can’t see or refuse to see because it’s uncomfortable. But, my sponsor showed me that I can walk through that discomfort and be OK, heck, better than OK.

So, I may deny it before the day is out, because, well, you know, I know best. But, in this moment I understand why we need sponsors. No matter how much success you’ve had, no matter how much sobriety, there is a person out there that has a solution that you don’t have. A solution you haven’t arrived at, and probably won’t arrive at on your own. And, you can stand on ceremony, or, you can book a fucking trip to Ireland.

Your choice.


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