When I first walked into an SAL 12 Step meeting, I heard a host of words and terminology that were Greek to me. Among the most foreign concepts I heard amounted to the following:
“I called my sponsor to surrender…”
I came home from group those first few weeks and told my husband that I really liked the meeting, but that the women seemed to have gotten their sponsor mixed up with their Heavenly Father. I thought I could be a good example to them.
“How sad,” I thought, “that these women are turning to one another instead of God.”
The more I listened, the more I realized that the women who kept talking about their sponsors had a deep and abiding faith in their Higher Power, deeper than I could even really comprehend. They talked about God in a way that was different, deeper, than anyone I had ever met.
I began to stop mentally critiquing and “setting a good example for them,” and I started considering the idea of trying things their way. I got a sponsor.
My first call to my sponsor was fraught with my own ego and insecurities. I bumbled through a clumsy “first-date” kind of proposal, and once she accepted I was even more clueless. Now what?!
My first self-conscious surrenders were full of fear that I was doing it wrong, that she would see right through me, and that she would definitely think I was over-reacting…or under-reacting. I wasn’t even sure where I stood.
Initially, I would call when I felt emotionally out of control, when I felt confused, when I was unsure of how to handle a situation.
My sponsor listened to me, and she helped me identify the emotions I was really feeling and the fears that might be underneath them.
She helped me see when I was trying to control things, and helped me identify when I needed another boundary in place.
These talks gave me the confidence to stand my ground with my husband when I needed to set a boundary, because I had already talked it out with her. I was much less likely to second-guess myself or allow myself to be manipulated, because I had already worked out the kinks with her. I could stand in my truth and then lovingly detach, because I felt her love and discernment buoying me up like a gigantic blue and red recovery bounce house.
Step 5 brought an even deeper connection. Now she there for me not only in my most vulnerable moments, but she knew me…really knew me…and could give me better, clearer feedback. She knew my strengths and weaknesses, she knew my story. She could more easily see through my tricks and self-deception. And never once did I feel her love for me waver. She simply became a better mirror.
When Full Disclosure hit, I officially become an HMS. High-Maintenance-Sponsee. I was leaving voicemails at 4 in the morning and leaving surrenders multiple times a day.
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop thinking. I couldn’t stop crying.
I was so afraid. So afraid that if I handled this wrong, if I didn’t hold the right boundaries or respond the right way, my whole marriage would crumble, my husband would go straight back to his addiction, and it would all be my fault.
Over and over again, my sponsor assured me, “You can’t screw things up bigger than He can fix it. No matter what you do. You can go in screaming with your hair on fire like a crazy lunatic, and still, He is bigger than that. Breathe. Slow down. Trust Him. This is not all on you.”
I only had to hear that one hundred and twenty times before my heart-pounding started to slow down and I began to believe her.
I began to live this recovery thing one moment at a time, with curiosity instead of fear.
How does this boundary feel? What does that choice feel like?
My sponsor invited me into a world of yoga and meditation that I didn’t know existed and I was introduced to a God who healed in ways I had never experienced.
As I look back at my journey of recovery thus far, I cannot overstate the impact my sponsor has had on the person I am today.
When I couldn’t hear God because the fear was so loud, I could hear her words.
When I couldn’t feel Him because my pain was so all-enveloping, I could feel her hands on my back, supporting me.
When I couldn’t find Him because my brain was fighting and flighting and freezing, I could find her number.
Although I could have talked to God about all the things I talked to my sponsor about, the fact is, I just didn’t. My sponsor became the flesh-and-blood, physically-present tool I needed to find God in this mess. She became the instrument He worked through to bring clarity into my life. My relationship with her got me asking the questions and sharing the concerns I didn’t even know that I had. And then I could take them to God.
The God I know today is so different than the God I thought I needed to teach everybody about when I came to 12 Step.
I didn’t find Him by being opinionated, self-righteous, or by being right.
I found Him by opening my heart to a Sponsor who had found Him the same way I have.
I found Him by being broken and allowing someone else to see me that way. When I could feel her love for me still, I could finally trust in His.
I found Him by finally choosing to want Him more than I wanted anything else in this world. And how did I even know how to make that choice? Because my sponsor had already made it, and I could feel it emanate through everything she did and said.
Today, my sponsor is still one of my most cherished gifts in this life. She continues to be the person I reach out to when I am unmanageable. I still can’t wait to hear what she is going to say next.
One of my greatest joys is when I see one of her gifts in me. When I am able to be in somebody else’s life what she has been in mine. When I am able to offer something that is only there because she gave it to me.
Having a sponsor and being a sponsor are some of the deepest and greatest gifts of this program. This is where the rubber meets the road for me. These are the daily interactions that create the foundation of my One-Day-At-A-Time recovery. These are the personal connections that really ground me into remembrance, that make this recovery life something more than showing up at a meeting once a week.
And that is the point of it all, don’t you think? We are, each one of us, given gifts and strengths and talents and experience. Even…maybe especially… experience we didn’t ask for. And why are we given these things?
To bring light into this world, I think. And my light came from my rock bottom. It was given to me in my darkness. It came from God, my sponsor, and others who shared their light with me.
And now I can shine that light out into the world and it is amazing to see some people grasp onto it. Not everyone does. Not everyone gets it.
My light is not the same frequency as theirs. And that’s okay. There will be somebody else on their road with the right light for them. My job is to shine my light, from my own battles, through my own wounds, out into the world, and see who needs it.
And that will be enough. That will be my gift. And their gift to me. To need. And be needed.
What a beautiful life. What a beautiful plan. What a wonderful world.
We would love to hear how having a sponsor and being a sponsor has blessed your life. Please share with us in the comments below!
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