12 Step Programs

3 Sponsors in 1 Year: Honest Feedback for Changing Sponsors in AA

changing aa sponsor

Today’s post is up to date as far as I am concerned as I like I’m sure many of those reading find that finding the right sponsor is a difficult process. They always tell us to find someone who has what you want and run with the winners.  Or, my personal favorite is to find someone you can feel comfortable with.  While these are all things to consider and certain characteristics of what you want or even better, need from a sponsor, it’s really hard to know right off bat if someone is the right fit until you start working together. For me, it takes about 3 months of working with someone before I really comfortable. Now I’ll go into a unique situation that I found myself in but first I’d like to share my experience working with my first two sponsors. Let me know in the comments if you can relate or what your experience has been like.

My First AA Sponsor

When I was new to sobriety and by new, I mean trying to get sober for the first time, like the first 6 months or so, I went with a sponsor that was what I would call “high-touch”. He was perfect for me at the time because while I was in rehab he would come and do the big book study on Sunday morning so I had a lot of time to work with him one-on-one in my first 60 days.

When I got out of in-patient rehab he was there every day to pick me up and go to meetings. His car was always full and we had a solid support group. From a Big Book standpoint, he met all of the criteria and has continued to stay committed to the principles of the book when it comes to Working With Others in AA. 

But something curious happened and I think it happens with a lot of first-time Sponsors and Sponsees. Things started to drift further away from AA and sobriety and more towards a life coach. Every decision I was considering, down to what I would blog about was run by this guy, and soon I felt like a robot who could not make any of his own decisions. Furthermore, it caused me to over analyze his personal decisions and after putting him under the microscope for a variety of reasons, I decided that I did not want life coaching from him, I wanted simple and straightforward sobriety guidance.

I ended up relapsing and unfairly blamed him. It was all me and I know that.  There’s way more to the story but I rather abruptly decided to move on from him as a Sponsor. We’re still cordial because the book says nothing about hiring or firing a sponsor, which drives me nuts when people say they “fired their sponsor”. Nobody is getting fired, its just a matter of finding the right fit, just like in a relationship or with an employer.

Eventually, what you really want is someone you can be brutally honest with. And the spectrum of what makes one person feel comfortable with another is so broad that it takes time to build the trust needed to deliver the honesty within.

Personally, I had a hard time trusting my first sponsor towards the end and that shattered my ability to be honest. Not being honest, led to a poor program being run by me, and eventually another rehab due to relapse.

My Second Sponsor

Again, finding myself in rehab and looking for answers I decided to make a quick decision. The rehab I was in required us to find a sponsor within the first 7 days. This put me on a frenzied hunt to find the right guy. I found someone who had what I wanted. The guy has 17 years of sobriety and is a super solid AA. He’s very straightforward and a no BS kind of guy.

For some reason, I just always felt like I was fronting in front of him. Do you understand what I mean? I felt like I was constantly telling him what he wanted to hear instead of what was on my mind. Again, not being totally honest. We did not work nearly as much on the 12 Steps as I thought we should have. The rehab program I was in took us through them, and for me, it was my second time. But after the hands-on approach of my first sponsor, I had a high bar for interaction. I went from a helicopter sponsor with my first to a latch-key kid with my second. I felt alone and knew that if I could get honest, I would be in trouble.

Further evidence that the relationship with your sponsor is, in my mind the most important part of maintaining early sobriety.

My Third Sponsor

This guy pulls no punches but does pull the honesty right out of me. Why? I have no clue. After searching for a few different connections with old-timers I had met at meetings and looking for a good fit the organic way a conversation came up with another AA, who simply suggested I call his sponsor and start talking to him.

So took the suggestion and called this guy, who just for lack of better words, had a different approach. He listened and replied with earnestness and sincerity, but not in a fluffy way. More like the way a good Doctor would listen to a patient explain symptoms of an ailment. His replies were pragmatic and for some reason, this opened me right up. I started spilling my guts and soon I was crying to a complete stranger over the phone, the first time we ever spoke. After 3 more days of similar discourse, I felt like I had found my guy. I was able to share what I felt like were the highlights of my 4th step, and also my daily 10th step in a comfortable narrative without ever referencing the book or exchanging AA cliches.

We simply had a grown man conversation. I knew I found my guy, and the adventure continues on a daily basis as I peel back the onion of my life and share my innermost fears and hopes with this man.




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