Just the other day one of the men I sponsor (let’s call him My Guy) wanted to know if he should encourage one of the men he sponsors—a man who had been sober less than 6 months—to “work with” another man who had expressed a desire to stop drinking.
Silly question? I think not, especially in a “recovery culture” that places so much emphasis — wisely or unwisely — on a person’s time in recovery as a measure of their ability to help, or work with, others.
First off, I reminded My Guy that Bill Wilson had his last drink on December 11, 1934, and was barely six months before Dr. Bob Smith took his last drink on June 10, 1935 — “a soothing warm beer handed to him by Bill W. to steady his hands for surgery” (“Who Really Founded AA,”). When Bill and Bob met, they didn’t have the 12 Steps or a Big Book to consult, and they didn’t have a meeting to go to. They were the meeting. All Bill and Bob had on June 10, 1935 was each other.
Second, I reminded myself “practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 89). To suggest that one alcoholic with a desire to stop drinking cannot in some way help another alcoholic with a desire to stop drinking is, of course, ludicrous. The very notion flies in the face of the principles that bind all of us in recovery.
Nonetheless, I understood My Guy’s question the instant he texted me. The question wasn’t really whether His Guy could “help” the Other Guy; the real question was should he “allow” His Guy to “sponsor” the Other Guy.
I don’t know what it’s like in your town or at your meetings, but in my experience the phrase “working with others” is too often equated with sponsorship — as if “to work with is to sponsor” were a spiritual axiom of some sort. For nearly 16 years now, I’ve worn my sponsor like a life jacket. But he certainly isn’t the only person in recovery who has helped me or “worked with” me. Many men and women have aided my recovery — some with more sobriety than I have and just as many with less time on the wagon. Quite possibly, those who are new to sobriety help me the most because they challenge me to explain things, and remind me time and again why I do the things I do to stay sober, one day at a time.
The bottom line, always, is that any kind of work I do with other alcoholics, any contact I have with others who are on (or interested in finding) a path to recovery, will only serve to “insure” my own “immunity from drinking.” It’s the primary reason I still go to so many meetings and certainly the reason I take time to write about my experience in recovery. Sharing that experience makes it real, and making it real makes me all the more accountable not only to my self, my sponsor and the men I sponsor, but also to the very concept of a recovery that happens one day at a time itself.
So my answer to My Guy was yes, of course His Guy should work with the Other Guy. But My Guy and I were not Pollyanna about the situation either. We agreed we needed to remind His Guy that you “cannot transmit something you haven’t got”(164). His Guy’s first order of business with the Other Guy would be to introduce the new man to the fellowship that has grown up around the rest of us. Somewhere in that shared experience, we can only hope the Other Guy might find the strength to hang around until it’s his time to pass it on to yet Another Guy.
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