Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all these traditions, ever reminding us us to place principles before personalities. ~ AA 12 X 12
“The day inevitably came when that person failed us is some way, and our own recovery was threatened”. ~ Anon. I ran over this phrase I had heard years ago. It still strikes true for me. We are just human beings, trying to live in a human world, imperfect, flawed, and frail. The key word in Tradition #12 is Spirituality. We are striving for progress, not perfection. In the process of that striving, we may mistakenly believe that our sponsors will be there forever. That they alone are the magical thing that keeps us sober, or that they alone understand us. After a few big losses in AA, I have learned that a reliance and relationship with HP is the only thing I can be assured of over the long haul. I believe that sponsors are put in our paths to guide us to a certain level of recovery, then it is time for something new.
Letting go does not have to be traumatic or chaotic. My first experience in letting go was not pretty, but ever since then, I have decided that when there is a parting of the ways, both people grow as a result. Both people move on to better and greater things. We humans are a silly lot: we think the world revolves around us. When in fact, it may revolve, but we are not part of the revolution. It is like the ants on a log, that think they are steering the log down the river. Tradition #12 asks us to be trusted servants or service providers. It asks us to carry the message of recovery, not be the end all/ be all answer. No one can be asked to carry that burden. If I have learned anything: It is that my job as a sponsor is to engender a desire in the sponsee to have a constant and conscious contact with a God of his/her understanding. Then, get out of the way.
~ Big Book, pg. 151
On the other hand, there is also the counterbalance: The 4 Horsemen of Recovery: Love, Peace, Serenity, and Hope. There is a yin/yang in the universe. Good VS evil. Positive VS negative. If I have learned anything in this 12 step recovery program, is that there is always balance. Thank goodness for that. If we did not have balance, we would all be insane. So, when it comes to working with others, the first key guideline is to maintain your balance! Slow down, take a breath, relax, and recognize you are not responsible for saving others or AA as a whole. There is a G.O.D., and it isn’t you! You do not have to have all of the answers all of the time. That is why we have intergroups, group consensus, G.S.O., literature, old timers, and speakers to guide us.
What all alcoholics need in a sponsor is a loving witness and a listening ear; someone to show them how to apply the 12 steps of AA to their lives: a mentor in recovery. That is the sum total of all that is needed. Whether of not he/she has a job or no job, $ or no $, married or single, health or illness, aged or young or housed or homeless are outside issues. The solutions for these (and any life problem) come from their commitment to living the 12 step recovery program. Your wallet, wisdom, or wit cannot save them. And, they should not. I suggest staying out of their way, give them plenty of room to learn from their own mistakes, and let G.O.D. intervene. When someone comes to you with a life problem, I suggest that you give them the option: get off the hideous horse or climb onto a recovery horse and hang on! Seek balance.
Through prayer and meditation, we align ourselves with a higher spiritual power which gives us everything we need to live to our highest potential. ~ 12 Step Literature
Upon rising, I use prayer, meditation, writing and reading to put things into perspective. All people, things, institutions, and situations are within the realm of HP to handle. I just ask for direction and protection in how to do the next best thing. Simple prayers such as “thank you” and “thy will be done” help me maintain my morning mood into the day and night. My greatest spiritual potential exists in my service to others. I cannot give what I do not have. So, I try to stay in my own lane. If people come to me for solutions, somewhere in my answer will be the suggestion that they take a 24 hour pause, pray on it, and ask HP to lift and carry the problem. Their solutions do not rest in my finite self/ego/brain. Thank goodness for that!
But, rather, their solutions come in developing and maintaining a constant spiritual connection with an HP of their own understanding. Keeping this attitude makes sponsoring and working with others on a saner plane. Before I figured this out, I tried to be everything and everywhere for others. I thought I had to have all the answers for everyone all the time! I wore myself and others out in trying to be in charge. The best question anyone has ever asked me in AA was and is, “do you have a loving and merciful G.O.D.?” I now know that there is a loving and merciful G.O.D., and it is not me!! Be kind to yourself, align yourself with a power greater than yourself, and enjoy the process. It is that simple.
If HP wanted us to be born into perfect homes with perfect parents, he could have arranged that. He trusted us to be able to learn and grow from those families that we were given in life. ~ Anonymous
I will tell you a story I heard when I first came in:
There was this guy who stumbled around AA for a long time, until he finally asked someone to help him. That sponsor suggested that he find a Higher Power greater and bigger than himself to pray to. So, the guy went out looking for a Higher Power. One day, while on a walk, he saw this great big old tree. It had great shade, hug arms, and seemed to be very old and wise. After all, had it not weathered severe weather and the ages? So, he decided that the tree was his Higher Power. He was filled with glee, as he could go out there and pray to the tree every day. He could touch and feel the tree, so he was pretty sure that his HP was real. This kept the guy sober and happy for many years. He knew that he had an HP that was sturdy, timeless, and strong enough to handle whatever problem he brought to it. Then one day, the guy came into his home meeting crying. He was inconsolable. Finally, the group asked what was wrong. All he could mutter was: “Dutch Elm’s Disease”.
Whatever your concept of HP is, is what will work for you for the time being. As you grow in the program, this concept will mature, much like any relationship. As you grow in sobriety, you will be more forgiving, less demanding, and more mature in the give and take that defines all relationships. We get back all that we give in this program. I know we could all be more serene and more sober on a mountain top or at a beach in the sunshine and away from all of life’s troubles. But, we are in the human element, trying to be spiritual in our day to day human surroundings. The best advice is I can give is to do the next best thing. Breathe. Lighten up. Don’t take things or people so seriously. Laugh. Relax. Suit up and show up for life. When you screw up, get back up. When you mess up, clean it up. Move on. If you get lost, look down at your shoes and realize that you are exactly where you need to be….in the moment. It is that simple.
As we grow in the AA program, we learn to rely more and more on our higher power, realizing that through prayer and meditation, we will be taken care of in a way we never thought possible. ~ 12 Step Literature
The job of the sponsor is to be a loving witness and a mentor in this program. We are not there to fix the person or be a professional counselor or therapist. We are not loan officers, social workers, family therapists, or anything but loving witnesses and mentors in how to live the 12 X 12 in daily life. So, in Step #11, we need to be ardent in our work to teach our fellow alcoholics how to rely on HP, grow in a relationship with that HP, and trust HP when it comes to decision making and making choices in this life. I had one sponsor who would meet all negative things in my life with this question: “Do you have a loving and merciful HP in your life?” When I would say yes, she would then go through a litany of questions about that HP: Is HP all powerful? If HP all knowing? Do you trust HP? Blah, blah, blah….she would keep at me until I finally would relent and ask HP to lift and carry whatever burden was troubling me. This worked.
The same goes for the sponsor. You do not have to have anyone else’s answers. You do not have to be HP. You do not have to do anything but lovingly witness the other person’s process and growth. The more you hand your sponsee over to HP and let go, the more that person will grow closer and know more the HP of his/her own understanding. One guy said recently, I need not just an HP greater than myself, but an HP that is greater and bigger than alcoholism. That makes sense to me. The holidays are upon us. People will be consumed with manic consumerism, overeating, over imbibing, and over indulging on happiness (or the insane pursuit of the same). Our job is to lovingly direct the alcoholics around us to seek out HP, call before and after get-togethers, have a plan of action, go to meetings and just don’t drink. Happy holidays, but hand it over to HP.
It is often said that we only know what we know until we learn something better. Once we learn better, we can act better.
~ Maya Angelou
One of the assumptions running around our AA rooms is that everyone is Christian or is becoming Christian. I am here to say that that is not our goal in AA. What and who we believe or don’t believe in is an outside issue. To believe that everyone of the alcoholics in a room are exactly like me is misconception that will keep me sick. Just because someone is following a different spiritual path, does not make them or me lost. The only thing I can be sure of is that we are all alcoholics and we all want to be better mentally, physically, and spiritually. So, when we say Christian prayers such as the Our Father we are actually not following these 2 traditions of AA…..there can be no outside issues and we do not promote any sect, religion, or political persuasion.
In my years in AA, my concept of and relationship to a G.O.D. has grown in this way:
I was agnostic for the 17 years prior to AA and the G.O.D. word infuriated me. I was told to just use the group/AA as my HP, so G.O.D. meant = Group of Drunks. That worked and kept me sober, until I needed more. So, the sponsor at that time (some 5 years in) suggested G..O.D. could be = Good Orderly Direction. I needed that! Things like eating breakfast, paying the rent, staying in one home for more that a year, going to bed on time, etc. were things I needed to learn. In the last 10 years or so due to age, some severe medical issues, and becoming smug in sobriety, I needed a G.O.D. = Gift of Desperation! So, that is where I have come from and where I am now. It has not been perfect. It has been a process not a race. Just do the next best thing and ask yourself from time to time: is what I am doing working for me?
How do we know it is HP’s will for us and not our own self will or rationalization? A communication from HP may come in the form of a new idea or concept, a change in our motivations or attitudes, or our energies have been renewed or our bad mood has been lifted.
~ 12 Step Literature
I think this prayer thing is mostly words said that we hope to heck are heard. For the first time in my 31 years, I saw this thing in the 12 X 12 that it is suggested that we NOT pray for specific things, but for God’s will to be done; and that we can conform ourselves and our will to that alone. I don’t think there are any right or wrong ways to pray. So long as you are doing it, you cannot possibly make any mistakes. If your HP is strong and great enough, if HP is all powerful and all merciful and loving; don’t you think he/she/it can handle your imperfect humanness? I suggest we just lighten up and not take ourselves so seriously. I have met a great many religious zealots who would pray day and night, but never changed their attitudes or hate and intolerance toward their fellow humans. They will pray up and down in church, but commit road rage the minute they get out in the parking lot. Prayer life is about talking and then acting as if those prayers matter.
Here are a couple more Step #11 questions for you:
- Was I the best example of the AA program today? Was I useful to others?
- Here is a little poem I found years ago that may help:
I have enough
I have had enough
I have done enough
I am enough
You are enough. Take care. Be kind and gentle. Easy does it, but do it!