Selfish Sponsorship

[fa icon="calendar"] May 30, 2024 4:18:24 PM / by Maj Donovan

Selfish Sponsorship

“You have to get involved in service. You have to get involved in service. You have to get involved with service.” The phrase seemed to echo off the walls of our meeting room.  Well intentioned recovery members repeated the phrase incessantly to me in my early sobriety.  And much to their credit I did get involved and I did stay sober.  Afterall, they told me, “nothing will so much ensure our immunity from the first drink as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when all else fails.”  

Years later in my sobriety journey, I repeated the same well intentioned phrase to sponsees with whom I was working.  Sadly and regrettably, I lacked the emotional insight that the old-timers who worked with me seemingly had. The recovery members who worked with me intuitively knew that I was ready for service work.  Unfortunately, I lacked that same insight with some of the men with whom I was working.  

In looking back on some of my early sponsorship work, I pushed my sponsees too quickly into service.  Not the kind of service one performs at their home group by making coffee or chairing a meeting, but the kind of service work one renders at a District or Area. 

The District and Area meetings were rife with arguing and bickering and many of my sponsees were crestfallen when they encountered the scenes. They were hoping to find the same loving and caring atmosphere they had in our home group, but instead they found the service meetings inhospitable, and antithetical to our design for living. They were disillusioned. One told me he would help with work at the group level, but he didn’t want to do general service work anymore. Another told me he was done with recovery completely. 

So why did I push them into service?  

I told myself that I was doing it for their own good and the overall good of the program, but I now see that I did it for my own ego needs. I put my ego before the needs of my sponsee. Some of my sponsees weren’t ready for service work and I pushed them too hard and too quickly.  Had I been more patient and compassionate the outcome might have been quite different.  

Today, I still sponsor and encourage service work, but I do it at a slower, more practical pace.  We start off with service work at the group level and only when they have become comfortable with that do we graduate with service work at our local level. We focus on carrying the message and not the mess. We try to ensure that our creeds match our deeds.  And we remind ourselves that we do service work to stay sober and help others to find sobriety.


Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, Recovery, AA meetings, Recovery Program, Support Group

Maj Donovan

Written by Maj Donovan

Maj Donovan is a person in long-term recovery with over four decades of sobriety. He is an author, blogger, lecturer and teaches a monthly workshop at “The Retreat” on the 12 Steps and Sponsorship.

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