A common occurrence between a sponsor and a sponsee is this: the sponsee wants to talk about an emotional difficulty, namely circumstances that are causing pain or discomfort, and what the sponsee might change externally to remove the pain or discomfort. The sponsee asks the sponsor what to do about this, and the sponsor replies with something along the lines of letting go, relying on God for identity, purpose, direction, and supply, and maybe lots of meetings and service. The sponsee then complains of being misunderstood, and reiterates either the content or the asserted significance of the question, like the sponsor is a little deaf and of below average intelligence.
I have been on both sides of this conversation, many times.
Let me share three stories I have heard.
Bill talks about going to his sponsor with a complex problem, and the sponsor saying, ‘You need to go to God on this one’. Bill says, ‘You need to give me something more concrete, more specific. You need to give me something else.’ The sponsor says, ‘There is nothing else.’ Bill is sober a very long time.
Marilyn talks about trailing around after her sponsor at meetings trying to get her to stop for a moment so she could talk about her depression. The sponsor was always busily and cheerfully engaged in helping or organising or suchlike, and just when Marilyn thought she had her chance, in the parking lot, the sponsor got in the car and said, ‘See you tomorrow at the meeting!’ Marilyn is now over forty years sober, I think, or not far off.
Paul talks about going to his sponsor, complaining about his wife. His sponsor said, ‘Why don’t you stop thinking about it for a couple of days?’ He remonstrated, ‘Not think about it?! But then I’ll forget all about it!’ Paul died sober after several decades of happy sobriety.
Here are some ideas from AA literature:
The Twelve and Twelve talks about self-forgetting, in the St Francis prayer. That’s how we ultimately find ourselves, God, others, and the truth.
Bill’s Story talks about work and self-sacrifice for others and abandonment of self in the task of helping others as the way to survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.
Chapter Five talks about trying to arrange the rest of the world to suit oneself, and how selfishness and self-centredness is the problem. (This is why, aside from the Step Three decision itself, it’s a good idea not to make big decisions until Step Nine is completed, one is sponsoring a few people, and one is a good few months clear into really living the last three Steps and basing life on serving God by serving others: only once self is destroyed will we see whether the sought-after change in job, marriage, address, friends, physical gender, or religion is intended to enable us to serve God better or whether the change is to alleviate emotional discomfort stemming from wrong perception.)
Chapter Five goes on to say that we get everything we need if we stay close to God and perform His work well.
Once Step Three is taken, these are the only two questions that are worth discussing: how to stay close to God, and how to perform His work well.
This is all there is to discuss.