As someone in AA and Al-Anon, the word “sponsor” always conjures up many memories. I can still see the face of my first sponsor, Marilyn. Round face and big eyeglasses. Brown, wavy hair cut in a short, practical do. A little on the “mature” side. She had 10 years of sobriety and liked to have fun but understood the seriousness of her task as a sponsor.

Back when I was 2-3 months sober, I told her that I was thinking about finding a new group. When she asked why I would want to do that, I answered her that the other members had given me a warm welcome and now it seems that the newness has worn off; I didn’t feel “special” anymore (I really did say that!). She listened and didn’t say much about it. And I didn’t change groups.

At that time, my home group happened to have a lot of members in my age group who took me under their wing and helped me learn how to socialize without drink; we’d often go to a local restaurant for the “meeting after the meeting”. So a few days later, several of us were sitting around some tables that we’d pushed together at the restaurant and were conversing about how our journey to sobriety was going (and having lots of laughs, too). Out of the blue, I hear a familiar voice speaking to those at the table, “Hey, you guys. Pam tells me that she’s looking for another home group because she doesn’t feel special anymore. What do you say to that?”

Oh – my – gosh. Tell me I didn’t just hear what I just heard. And tell me I don’t hear what I am now hearing: howling laughter, sarcastic ribbing, and my heart beating out of my chest!  With all the “earnestness at my command”, I tried shrinking away into nothingness. No go. Still here. How am I going to survive this?

Well, I did survive it. It didn’t kill me. I didn’t die. And later on, I put it in my 4th step to read to Marilyn in my 5th step. So what did I learn from this experience? That there really are “safe” people in this world who will love me right where I live. The people at the table did give me a hard time for a few days, but they’d always include a nightmare story of their own, which not only made me feel a little better, but taught me that we’re much more alike than we are different.

Some may say that Marilyn violated a trust between Sponsor and Sponsee; I say that a good sponsor often knows their sponsee better than they know their own self. And a good sponsor could sometimes be the difference between life and death in this disease we call alcoholism. And not just for the sponsee.

Dr. Bob said this about Sponsorship:

I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons: 1) Sense of duty, 2) It is a pleasure, 3) Because in doing so, I’m paying my debt to the man who took time to pass it on to me, 4) Because every time I do it, I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.

Have you hugged your sponsor lately?